Gray refers to John Milton, the famous English poet of the 17th century in his remarkable poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. Milton was cornered with the political development of his time. He was a puritan throughout his life. He pursued truth for which he had to suffer a lot. He did not receive any loyal favor. For all these reasons, he did not come to limelight during his life.
Gray here compares the unknown villagers with Milton to suggest his hidden fame. By this reference, Gray implies that the rural people were as mute, grave, and dignified as Milton. At their death, the country suffered positive losses. This reference glorifies the poor villagers and creates a sense of pathos.