Page images

repulsed from our own cherished Mount Auburn, by circumstances to which we can only bring ourselves thus indirectly to refer. * Tombs, moreover, as ordinarily built, are so liable to interfere with the beauty of the scene, that in the cemetery of Green Mount, at Baltimore, where, as we have said, this mode of burial peculiarly and most unhappily prevails, the board of managers have restricted, by certain regulations, what they did not feel authorized wholly to interdict, allowing no vault to be erected of more than three feet in height. They have also employed their architect to design a model for tombs, that shall be less unsightly, and better adapted to the rural aspect of the place, than those in common use in Baltimore." Their language in their report is, “ To cover Green Mount with the vaults common around our city, would be to deprive it wholly of its rural character, to make that gloomy which is now bright, to destroy the cheerful visage which nature has given to the spot, and substitute in its place one of sombre melancholy. We only add on this part of the subject, that, by the establishment of rural cemeteries, the only excuse that has any speciousness in it in favor of tombs and vaults, that of gathering into proximity and preserving together the remains of families and friends, is done away, since the “secure possession" of a lot for a burialplace affords every facility for this purpose that can be desired. On the whole, we cannot but think, upon consideration of all the facts, that the comparatively modern, and in many respects objectionable practice of entombment will be done away, and that the ancient, and on all accounts preferable method of inhumation, or interment in graves, will take its place.t

* Since writing the above, we have been greatly gratified to learn that the trustees of the cemetery have passed an order, prohibiting, except under certain specified circumstances, the erection of tombs therein. This regulation is another proof of the enlightened vigilance they exercise over the important trust committed to their keeping. We cannot persuade ourselves to believe that the proprietors will not heartily respond to it. If they do not, we hesitate not to say, that the place will ere long be comparatively deserted.

† As we wish to render our remarks practically useful, and leave noth. ing unsaid, by which the painful circumstances attending the last rites may be alleviated, we observe that the practice of enclosing the coffin in a case of simple brick work, at the bottom of the grave, and covering it with a flat stone or marble slab, with or without an inscription, thus keeping it from direct contact with the earth around it, is, in every respect, an improvement on the common mode of shovelling the earth directly upon the coffin. And while speaking on this point, we earnestly beseech all sextons 10 pause, in this last office, until the mourners are out of hearing, at least.


Another important circumstance to be regarded in our burial-places, is the Epitaphs or Inscriptions on the monuments, which are there erected, if indeed any thing beyond names and dates be desired or tolerated. "'Or all funeral honors," (says the venerable Weever, quoting from Camden,) “ epitaphs haue alwayes beene most respectiue ; for in them loue was shewed to the deceased, memorie was continued to posteritie, friends were comforted, and the reader put in mind of human frailtie : and indeed the frequent visiting, and aduised reuiewing of the tombes and monuments of the dead, (but without all touch of superstition) with the often reading, serious perusall, and diligent meditation of wise and religious epitaphs or inscriptions, found upon the tombes or monuments of persons of approued vertue, merit, and honour, is a great motive to bring us to repentance.

("A Discourse of Funerall Monuments," p. 47). But to secure any of these worthy purposes, epitaphs or inscriptions should be brief, condensed, solemn, suggestive, and above all, deeply and thoroughly religious in their tone. How grossly all these requisitions are constantly sinned against, is known to all. Among the millions of epitaphs that have been devised and carved on solid stone, there are a very few that are barely tolerable, while many are marked with decided silliness and affectation, and many others are so quaint and ridiculous as to find their more appropriate place in jest-books. We have before us a thick folio volume devoted to "ancient funeral monuments of Great Britain, Ireland, and the islands adjacent," " which is filled with their inscriptions, and we have not seen a single one of the whole that is entitled to any special commendation, while there are not a few which fall under the categories last stated. We remember to have seen, many years ago, five whole volumes full of American epitaphs, collected by a countryman of ours, which is open to a similar remark. Of the multitude of inscriptions of the various cemeteries near Paris, including that of Père la Chaise, there are very few, as it seems to us, that are unexceptionable. They comprise, not unfrequently, touching expressions of human tenderness, love, and disappointed hope; are full of what the French call “la plus touchante émotion,” and of “ une expression aussi douce que consolatrice,” and “empreint d'une douce mélancolie" ; but among many hundreds, there is scarcely a distinct recognition of a Christian's hopes, or so much as an allusion to the great verities of a Christian's faith. The French language seems to be eminently adapted to give point, brevity, and terseness to this species of composition ; and it is the more to be regretted, therefore, that it should be so often used only to ring changes on such topics as mere earthly emotions, the sleep of the grave, the frailty of human life, and the night of death. Indeed, in thinking on this subject, we are ready to respond to the sentiment of Byron, who, when he wrote it, little thought what an epitaph bis “pame alone” would be.

* This book is by the worthy Weever, above referred to. It is a curious volume, and is ornamented by the “ vera effigies " of the author, with his hand upon a skull, all of which is in beautiful consonance with the subject and book, and appears to be a “ vera effigies " of his mind, as well as per

His biography is summed up in the following lines affixed to his portrait

“ Lancashire gave him breath,

And Cambridge education;
His studies are of death,

Of heaven his meditation."


“O! may my shade behold no sculptured urns

To mark the spot, where earth to earth returns;
No lengthened scroll, no praise-encumbered stone;
My epitaph shull be my name alone."

In the cemetery of Mount Auburn a better taste prevails, not only with regard to inscriptions, but also in the general style and structure of the monuments on which they are inscribed. They are for the most part, in good taste, and singularly free from conceit, prettiness, and affectation.

We would further add, in reference to the adornment of our final resting-places, that not only should the graves be carefully guarded and protected, all weeds and brambles removed, and the turf kept close and green, but that they may be appropriately adorned with flowers and shrubs. We do not sympathize with some late writers who regard the planting of Rowers as out of place in a grave-yard. On the contrary, we think with Mr. Irving, that it is a “beautiful and simple-hearted custom,"* and appreciate the justness of the analogy which has been selt in all ages, and happily expressed by Evelyn in his “ Sylva.” “ We adorn,” says he, “ their graves with flowers and redolent plants, just emblems of the life of man, which has been compared in Holy Scripture to those fading beauties, whose roots being buried in dishonor, rise again in glory.” And again, 66 This sweet flower," (the rose,)“ borne on a branch set with thorns, and accompanied with the lily, are natural hieroglyphics of our fugitive, umbratile, anxious, and transitory life, which, making so fair a show for a time, is not yet without its thorns and crosses.' Why should not flowers and flowering shrubs, which are among the most beautiful and wonderful creations of God, and are among the most express tokens of His beneficence, since, as has been noted by others, they are provisions for human happiness, as an ultimate purpose, — why should they not, we ask, be placed to mark the spot, where the mortal relics of those who were once most lovely and endeared to us repose ? They may be, indeed, clustered there in too great profusion ; they may be injudiciously arranged ; they may be of a 100 common, flaunting, and gay character; and thus give to the grave a finical and frivolous aspect ; -- but still, when fitly chosen, and duly placed, they are among the most appropriate, and, we will add, the most suggestive adornments of the place. The very general practice of men in all ages shows too, that it is founded in a natural, and not in a casual association. The Greeks and Romans scattered them, not only over the funeral pile and tomb, but also over the body and bier of the departed.* The rose, first in beauty as in estimation, was employed by both these ancient nations for this purpose, but was particularly valued by the Romans. They sometimes made it a condition of inheriting their property after death, that their monuments should be strewed with roses.t The amaranth, the emblem of immortality, was held peculiarly sacred to funeral rites among the Greeks. The Thessalians, according to Philostratus, crowned the tomb of Achilles with roses. The white pothos, the parsley, and the myrtle, were in like manner employed. The urn of Philopemen was covered with garlands. The grave of Sophocles was decorated, according to Simonides, with roses and ivy;

* See his delightful Essay on “Rural Funerals." Sketch Book, Vol. I,

* Plin. Lib. xxi. c. 3.
+ This appears from monumental inscriptions remaining.


“Wind gentle evergreen to form a shade

Around the tomb where Sophocles is laid.
Sweet Ivy, wind thy boughs, and intertwine
With blushing roses and the clustering vine;
Thus will thy lasting leaves, with beauty hung,

Prove grateful emblems of the lays he sung.'
The same tribute was paid to the tomb of Anacreon ;

" This tomb be thine, Anacreon; all around

Let ivy wreathe ; let flowerets deck the ground," Virgil strews over the corpse of Pallas, the leaves of the arbutus and other funeral evergreens.* The pine and cypress were held to be peculiarly funereal trees. The latter, according 10 Pliny, t was held sacred to Pluto ; and both were thought to be emblematical of the death of men, because when once cut off, they will not spring up again. A different but not less apt reason is suggested by Sir Thomas Browne. “In trees,” says he, “perpetually verdant, lie silent expressions of surviving hopes.' The tonib of Hafiz stands beneath a cypress which he planted with his own hand. Sadi asks his friends to

“ rifle every floweret's bloom, To deck the turf that binds my tomb." The earliest Christians discountenanced the practice, probably on account of their dislike to every thing belonging to the heathen ; but in subsequent ages, when this cause was removed, they adopted it. [ Shakspeare, as we should expect, often refers to the same beautiful analogies. “There 's rosemary,” says Ophelia,“ that's for remembrance, pray you love, remember; and there's pansies, that 's for thoughts.

[ocr errors]

* How beautiful is the following passage ;

“Qualem virgineo demessum pollice florem,

Seu mollis violæ, seu languentis hyacinthi;
Cui neque fulgor adhuc, necdum sua forma recessit;

Non jam mater alit tellus, viresque ministrat." — Æn. xi. + Lib. v. 10.

1 Thus St. Jerome says, “ Ceteri mariti super tumulos conjugum spargunt violas, rosas, lilia, purpureosque flores, et dolorem pectoris his officiis consolantur." And in a hymn of Prudentius, the following stanza occurs ;

“Nos tecta fovebimus ossa

Violis et fronde frequenti." We may add on the authority of Bucke, (“ Beauties, &c. of Nature,") to whose third chapter we have been much indebted in this part of the sub. ject, that the practice of placing flowers on graves prevails in Morocco, Java, China, Surat, Lapland, the South Seas, the Liew Kiew Islands, Japan, among the Indians of North America, and in Africa.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »