Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

GRAVE YARDS.*

'The grave! — let us break its awful spell, its dread dominion.' — Dewev.

It should be a theme of general regret, that so much apparent indifference and neglect are shown to the repositories of the dead, in our country. It was not thus among the Greeks and other nations of antiquity, nor is it thus among some of the modern nations of Europe. The Greeks, the creatures of genius and sensibility, ornamented the last resting places of their departed relatives and friends with tombs, trees, shrubs, and flowers, and visited them frequently with feelings of the deepest veneration and respect. Though placed on the highways, and unenclosed, they were held sacred, and no one presumed or dared to violate the sanctuaries of the dead. To bury within the walls of cities, was strictly prohibited by the laws both of the Greeks and Romans; and the Emperor Constantine was the first who introduced the custom of interring in temples, churches, etc. Nor would those nations allow too many bodies to be deposited in one grave, or tomb, from a respect for the dead, as well as a regard for the health of the living. The Greeks honored their dead by public festivals, called Nemesia, during which they were wont to repair in crowds to the burial place of their deceased relatives and friends, to lament their loss, and dwell in sad remembrance on their former virtues. The females tore out their long hair, an ornament to which they were strongly attached, and cast it upon the graves of their parents and kindred.f strewed over them garlands of the lily, jasmine, rose, and myrtle, and perfumed the tombs and grave stones with sweet ointments. 'Why,' says Anacreon,

'Why do we precious ointments shower,
Noble wines why do we pour?
Beauteous flowers why do we spread
Upon the monuments of the dead T

The ancient Greeks ornamented their burial gTounds with the cypress and elm, and the modern Greeks and Armenians, according to M. Guy, do the same; and these elms, after a long succession of ages, have formed in their cemeteries the most delightful groves, through which it is a melancholy pleasure to stroll.

Andromache says to her father yEtion:

'The mountain nymphs the rural tomb adorn'd,
Jove's sylvan daughters bade their elms bestow
A barren shade, and in his honor grow.'

In Europe, from the most remote antiquity, and among the oriental

* Late movements in some of our principal cities, in relation to ornamental cemeteries, impart are added interest to the subject of the present paper. The views of the writer are shared by numerous enlightened and influential minds — singular as it may appear to the mere utilitarian. Eds. Knickerbocker.

t Autrefois elles coupoient leur Iongues tresses sur la tombe de leurs parens, ou de leurs amis, et leur sacrifioient ainsi l'ornement dont elles ftoient le plus jalouses. O vue delicieuse des tombeaux de la Greco ! — combien de momens j si passes a vous contempler. Mes pensees erroient sur ees monumens comme les oiseaux fune'bres qui voltigent autour. Lit. or, La Grece: M. Got.

Vol. Vii. 48

nations of the present age, the elm has been selected to ornament the repositories of the dead, as the most appropriate symbol of sorrow. It is preferred, because it bears no fruit, ana affords a fine shade; andshould, with the cypress, be introduced into our burial grounds. The cypress, especially, that

'Fidtle ami des morts, protecteur de leur cendre,'

should be planted, wherever it will thrive, in the burial grounds of America. It has, in every age, and almost in every country, been cultivated as the symbol of mourning. Every classical reader will remember that Cyparissus, the favorite of Apollo, was transformed into this tree, from the sorrow he indulged, in consequence of having accidentally killed a cherished stag of that god:

1 Apollo sad. look'd on, and sighing cried,
Then be forever what thy prayer implied;
Bemoan'd by me, in others grief excite,
And still preside at every funeral rite.'

Among the Athenians, it was the custom to collect the bodies of those of their countrymen who fell in battle, consume them on the funeral pile, deposite their bones or ashes in cypress coffins, and convey them to Athens, where they were exposed for three days, to give their relations an opportunity to perform the libations which affection and religion required. These coffins were then placed on cars, and, accompanied by a long procession, borne through the city to the Ceramicus, where funeral games were exhibited, and an eulogium on the dead pronounced by an orator appointed for the purpose. The Ceramicus was a public cemetery, beyond the walls of Athens, on the road which led to Thria. It was embellished with ornamental trees, and formed a beautiful promenade. It also contained the academy of Plato, with which was connected a gymnasium and a garden, through which flowed the waters of the Cephisus. Among the Turks, it is considered as a religious duty to plant trees around the graves of their deceased relatives and friends; and they are particularly attached to the cypress, as a grave-yard ornament, believing that the nature of its growth indicates the condition of the souls of their departed friends. The burial ground of Scutari, called the ' City of the Dead,' is an object of peculiar attraction, as well from its lovely locality, as the forest of beautiful and majestic trees with which it is garnished. The mounful cypress is, however, as ornamental to lawns as to burial grounds, and it sets off white stone or stuccoed buildings to great advantage. The arbor vita) is another funeral tree which, by its sombre appearance, gives a fine effect to the scene. It is used extensively in the beautiful burial grounds of Pere la Chaise, near Paris. 'In a few years more,' says Phillips, 'thisburial ground will become a mountain filled with dead bodies, and a forest composed of trees of life.' I come now to the sacred yew, so celebrated by poets as the gloomy ornament of cemeteries:

'Beneath those rugged elms, that yew tree's shade,

Where heaves tne turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell forever laid,

The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.'

This tree was originally planted in church-yards, because it is an evergreen, and the symbol of immortality. The dark foliage, long duration, and out-spreading branches of the yew, render it a fit companion for the mouldering dead, and give solemnity to grave-yard scenery:

'Cheerless and unsocial plant, that loves to dwell
Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms,
Where light-heel'd ghosts and visionary shades,
Beneath the won cold moon, as fame reports,
Embodied thick, performed their mystic rounds:
No other merriment, dull tree, is thine'

These trees attain to great size in England. In the church-yard at Aberystwith, there are eleven yew trees, the largest of which is twentyfour feet round, and in Fontingal church-yard, in Scotland, there was one which measured fifty-six feet in circumference. The people of that country held it sacred, and were accustomed to carry its branches in solemn procession to the graves of their friends and kindred, and deposit them under their bodies The 'funeral yew,' where it will grow, should be employed to decorate American burial grounds; it would add to the beauty of the scenery, by throwing its dark shadows over the last resting places of mortality. But the finest grave-yard ornament, and at the same time the most beautiful emblem of affection and tenderness, is the rose. This shrub was early used for this purpose by the Greeks and Romans, who frequently made it their dying request that roses should be yearly planted and strewed upon their graves:

1 Et tenera poneret ossa rosa.'

They conceived that this custom had a power over the dead. Anacreon declares that it

'Preserves the cold inhumed clay,
And marks the vestige of decay:'

and Propertius speaks of the custom of burying among roses. The Turks sculpture a rose on the tombs of all unmarried ladies, and in Poland, the coffins of children are covered with these beautiful flowers. In the burial ground of Pere la Chaise, near Paris, they have renewed this fine old custom, which, as it tends to strip death and the grave of some of their gloom and terror, should be imitated by every nation. How delightful to behold filial affection thus employed in decorating and beautifying the spot where the ashes of a tender parent repose! How pleasing to think, that even here we shall not be wholly forgotten — that our memory will be cherished by those who once loved us, and that the spot where we rest will be sometimes bedewed by the tear of sorrowing love, and decorated by the hand of tenderness — that flowers will fringe the pathways leading to our lowly resting place, and their fragrance, mingled with the holiest aspirations, ascend toward the throne of the Eternal. 'I would,' says an eloquent writer, speaking of burial-grounds, 'render such scenes more alluring, more familiar, and imposing, by the aid of rural embellishments. The skill and taste of the architect should be exerted in the construction of the requisite departments and avenues; and appropriate trees and plants should decorate its borders: the weeping willow, waving its graceful drapery over the monumental marble, and the sombre foliage of the cypress, should shade it, and the undying daisy should mingle its bright and glowing tints with the native laurels of our forests. It is there I should desire to see the taste of the florist manifested in the collection and arrangement of beautiful and fragrant flowers, that in their budding, and bloom, and decay, they should be the silent but expressive teachers of morality, and remind us that although, like the flowers of autumn, the race of man is fading from off the earth, yet like them his root will not perish in the ground, but will rise again in a renewed existence, to shed the sweet influence of a useful life, in gardens of unfading beauty.1* In the general charge of indifference and neglect shown to the repositories of our dead, the writer would not include the people of Boston. The beautiful cemetery of Mount Auburn reflects honor upon their sensibility and taste. This burial ground is judiciously and beautifully located. Nature has done much for it, and art has, so far, not been backward in contributing to its embellishment. It gives every promise to rival, in a few years, even Pere la Chaise. As this celebrated burial ground furnishes a fine model for similar establishments, it may not be amiss to conclude this brief and imperfect paper with a succinct account of it, from the graphic pen of Phillips. 'It is impossible,' says he, 'to visit this vast sanctuary of the dead, where the rose and the cypress encircle each tomb, and the arbor vita? and eglantine shade the marble obelisk, without feeling a solemn yet sweet and soothing emotion steal over the senses, as we wander over this variegated scene of hill and dale, columns and temples interspersed with luxuriant flowering shrubs, and fragrant herbs, that seem to defy the most profane hand to pluck them. We ascended a height, where our attention was attracted by a grave covered with fresh moss, and thickly strown with the most odorous white flowers, such as the orange blossoms, jasmine, myrtle, and white rose. At each corner stood white porcelain vases, filled with similar flowers, all of pure white; the whole was covered with a fence of wire-work, and the monument was without a name, and had only this simple and pathetic inscription:

'Pille chlrie! — avec toi mes beaux jours som passes.'

We were told that the afflicted parent still continued to indulge in the sad duty of replenishing the grave with fresh flowers, at the earliest opening of the gates of this melancholy garden of graves,1 o. W.

fTatkingtm, February, 1630,

PEACE.

See where she stoops from yonder snowy cloud,
Rich sunlight streaming from her waving wings;
Hark to the pecans of the leaping crowd
Who throng to grasp the priceless gifts she brings!
Where'er she sets her foot, fresh verdure springs;
Scarce wins the reaper through the bending grain,
Thick to the vine the clustered fruitage clings,
Glad sings the peasant to the groaning wain,
And to thelip of love the bright smile comes again.

* Addreu before the MuuchuutU Horticultural Society: by Z. Cook.

THE BREATH OF SPRING.

How blessedly it steals my lattice through!

From the' sweet South' it comes, where Summer weaves Eternal garlands. Laugh, ye waters blue — Rejoicing burst, ye bud-imprisoned leaves! Ye blossoms— Nature's censers — ope and fling Your incense forth, on the first breath of Spring!

11. Sweet wooer of the flowers! — thy kiss of balm Shall wake them, blushing, to the shower and beam:Through wood and vale thou wendest like a charm, Mantling each slope, and fringing every stream:O'er quickened pastures bound the frolick herd, And all things living seem with rapture stirred.

in. Nature's elixir! — the exulting earth, Drinking thy freshness, is no longer sere, And, in the glory of its vernal birth,

Seems but coeval with the opening year:Who could believe six thousand years had flown, Since Spring's first garland in her lap was thrown?

IT.

Welcome — most welcome! Now no longer creeps
The half-chilled blood reluctant through each vein,

But with wild glee my wakened heart upleaps,
As springs the troutlet to the summer rain:

And forth my spirit sends its greeting lay.

As Memnon s harp its tones at blush of day.

A world of wings is bursting from the brake.

And twinkling, darting, soaring through the air:Love's dimples circling in the silver lake, Tell that thy pinion light is dallying there:While a soft film of warm and dreamy haze— Half beams, half mist — o'er dell ana mountain plays.

VI.

Sweet courier of May ! — sent forth to dress
With leaves the bowers she soon shall beautify,

E'en as man's spirit o'er life's wilderness
Sends Hope to vivify futurity:

I would that like thee / the world might rove,

Enkindling all things into life and love!

Our least sensations are a mystery,
Feeding that mightier mystery— the mind!

In fancy, now, a far-off shore I see:
There seems a fragrance on thy wings, sweet wind,

Like the young violet's, when its leaves expand

In the green valleys of my native land!

VIII.

And lo! uprise, of that sweet odor born,
My cottage-home, and its far-shadowing trees—

The leaping rivulet, the daisied lawn.
And cowslip'd meadow —beautiful are these!

And though they be but phantoms of the mind,

I thank thee for their presence, gentle wind.

« AnteriorContinuar »