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point out a score of exquisite passages where the old writers “ fondle and dally” over this ancient English flower as if “ they loved it.” Withers, after a very fanciful description of the marigold's love for the sun-light, says,
" methinks the flowers Have spirits far more generous than ours.”
Ivy is the ancient representative of friendship, the poppy of sleep and death; and the yew-tree is no doubt one of the first monuments which our forefathers reared above the dead. An interesting and very beautiful work might becompiled by one well versed in our old poetry, pointing out the “spiritual meanings," which our great writers gave to the flowers of death. Such a work ought not to be “ pearls at random strung," for what they did was well done; they lived in an age when men walked hand-in-hand with Nature ; and if from their closer communication with these “outward and visible signs," and wanting that light which time only throws upon the growth of its wonders, they wandered too far into the mazes of superstition, still their very errors plunged them into a world of poetry. They attributed to heaven and its "winged messengers," what we perhaps, too rashly, seek for in the simplest causes—they walked as if in the presence of God, where we dare even to doubt the existence of His shadow. They saw the work of a Mighty Hand, in what we too vainly attribute to man-in place of our clearer judgment, they had a stronger faith—a holiness of purpose, which covered a multitude of errors. Peace to their spirits !
We have seen one or two remarks on Monuments to Let," which we do not altogether coincide with. Houses are built on speculation for the living, what harm is there in doing the same for the deadBetter this than a second funeral, as was the case with the late Duke of Sussex. We
do not like to see builders at work above the dead! And yet how is this to be prevented, unless the work is already erected ? As for a second interment, we would fain be absent from the ceremony, although it was the funeral of an entire stranger. Family vaults must have a commencement in cemeteries; yet we think there are very few, even of the oldest heads of families, who would like to discuss such a subject beforehand. Such a scene in the hands of Hook or Hood, would have been a rich turning “of the silver lining to the light,” of the vanity of poor human nature. And yet when we think of what they are, we are not
sorry that the “merry tale” is left untold. We never read an account of death in our lives that made us smile beyond the moment. Pope's lady who wished for a little more paint, lest she should “die a fright;” Swift's cardplayer who exclaims in a breath, “The dean is dead !pray what is trumps ?” and Scott's inimitable creation of old Dumbedikes, “who could see to die with smaller candles," have ever read to us like satires, too solemn to be laughed at-matters too full of painful truth-the ruling passion strong in death, yet nevertheless death itself. Yorick's monument is more to our taste, and the melancholy pleasure Sterne supposed the spirit of the departed to have felt, in hearing the inscription read over with such a variety of plaintive tones, as denoted a general esteem and pity,—not a passenger went by without stopping to cast a look upon it, and sighing as he walked along,
ALAS, POOR YORICK !”
In some of our cemeteries stand monuments, sacred to the memory of “ Mary,” “Maria,” “Julia,' and so on : all, excepting perhaps their age, is a mystery; we see the Christian name and nothing more; whether it be maid, wife, or widow, who sleep beneath, there is no record to tell! It may be a hallowed feeling which suggested the erection of these nameless tombs, as if those who knew the dead wished for no sympathy in their sorrow, and craved not the passing stranger's sigh ; that some living heart had shut in that image for ever, and wanted not the world to know how much that was lovely and beloved had borne that half-told name: We look on death with charitable eyes, and are loath to think that it was only a wish to be unlike others, that gave rise to the erection of these singular monuments : nor will we believe that they are copied only from the French; that the foreign fashions too many are fond of following while living, are kept up even in death, If the survivors affect only mystery for the dead, they have obtained it; and a few busy years will blot out the whole of the scanty record: for it is startling to see the inroads the elements make amongst inscriptions, several, that have scarcely stood ten years, are all but obliterated. We have thought sometimes that these are the graves of blighted hopes and broken hearts, of those who loved not wisely but too well,” for most of them are like
“A winter's day, that's dark before it's noon.” They tell where youth, and beauty, and loveliness in all its richest bloom, unnamed and unknown, repose. In the full flower of life were most of them cut down; from twenty to thirty (and but few have reached the latter age) are the periods that Death selected to carry off his prey :
They were not made
BYRON. On several tombs were hung garlands of everlasting flowers, which looked, at a distance in the sunshine, like coronets of
gold. Others were there brown and withered, the offerings of former years : sacred and untouched they remained as when placed there by the mourners; no sacrilegious hand had disturbed them. We pictured the home in which those wreaths were woven, to hang on “ The Tomb of a beloved Mother;" and as the scene rose before us, we turned away with a sigh: it was an unconscious tribute Pity paid to the sorrows of the living, more than the memory of the dead; for we knew that she had gained that harbour where “ the storm-beat vessel safely rides.”
A few monuments had blank spaces, which merely left the age and year in which the survivor might die to be filled up; for the name of the living was already lettered below that of the dead. It seemed as if the Angel of Death held the pen in his cold hand, and was only waiting to make the entry-the few simple figures that balanced the account.
One worthy lady, after having recorded her name below that of her departed husband's as “ Also of A. B., his affectionate Wife, who only lived to deplore his Loss until the
year of her Age,” so far recovered herself as to enter again into the holy banns of matrimony. There is no necessity for these rash resolutions: and we are told the only obstacle the new wooer had to surmount was “ what would the people say when they saw her record on the monument?” The lady was a foreigner. Again, we think, unless with the very aged or very infirm indeed, these are rash and unnecessary resolves. Grief is a shy, retiring creature; every one respects her solitude, and all are glad when she again "makes sunshine in a shady place." True sorrow is too sacred to be trifled with ; and if it will run into the very extreme, as in the above instance, it is not the less to be pitied. We are too fond of judging upon matters as they are, without properly weighing and looking
at what they once were; forgetting that human nature, in its most perfect state, is never without a portion of the old leaven of human weakness.
In one compartment of the catacombs we saw a small brass plate, fastened in the front of the bars; and on it was engraved the name of the inhabitant who slept within. The plate looked as if it had been removed from the door of the house where the dead had once dwelt. What a difference in those two houses! No postman, with inquiring eye, compares the address with the engraved name now. The busy maid-servant has long missed it from its accustomed place;" it reflects her shining face no longer. The owner cares not what visitors may think now; dim, dull, and tarnished, it tells how altered is the inhabitant, though still always " at home."
A strange effect do those catacombs underground on the hill side produce on such as have never before visited them. At the end of the long, dark gateway, the sunshine streams down beyond the wide passage which you traverse, with its gloomy doorways—all occupied, or ready prepared for the dead. Your path lies between the houses of the dead, all up hill, shadowy, steep, and silent. It is like passing through the grave; and the sunshine that brightens beyond, looks as if it belonged to another world. The difference between these and the higher range on the utmost summit, is very striking; for there you can command a view of the wide, open country, and feel the free air blowing cheerfully upon your cheek. Here you might fancy yourself amongst those subterraneous tombs where the bandaged mummies of Egypt sleep. No one can now say that,
“The rich, the poor, the base, the brave,
In death without distinction lie.”