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He told our carpenter to come his way:
The latter shew'd his lease and grumbled well :
Made thirty, for they reckon'd so in hell,
Poor Christopher look'd sorrowful; requiring
His utmost haste, for he must call hard nigh
Go, take that candle," said a half-drunk priest,
Till it be out, and leave to me the rest."-
While Boniface some holy water brought
And in a trap the thoughtless Devil caught,
ON BEING SHEWN SOME BEAUTIFUL SPECIMENS OF ORNAMENTAL PORCELAIN.
SINCE to clay we must turn, 'tis consoling to know
That to objects as lovely as these they can mould us ;
In its relics our friends need not fear to behold us.
So faithful to nature, when living composed
Where tenderness sigh'd or affection reposed.
Which the blind little god in his archery uses,
May be play'd with unhurt till the moment she chooses.
The verses he destined to live are unknown;
And as idly are dreaming the bards of our own.
Which seem as if breathing their odours around,
And rear'd her young sweets as they sprang from the ground.
The lamp that some nymph loves to read by at night!
In her eyes, as the lines of the minstrel they trace,
"Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs." SHAKSPEARE.
SOBER Subjects, Mr. Editor, but yet of universal concernment, and on that account, perhaps, adapted for a magazine. What individual gazes upon the most obscure cemetery without feeling the uncertain tenure of human existence-without a thought respecting the time when" dusty death" shall number him with those that lie low!--the period when the warm tide of life shall cease to career through his veins, and the glories of nature no more expand themselves before his delighted vision! Even the callous-hearted sexton, who sings at grave-digging, and with whom "custom hath made it a matter of easiness"-he who tosses about the jowls of many who were his potcompanions forty years ago, in the days of his youth; this white-haired, hard-featured man is sometimes visited while at his vocation with an unbidden thought, as to who the trusty brother of the trade may be that will do for him what he has done for thousands." The soldier, apprenticed to carnage, has also felt forebodings of his own doom steal across his mind, however careless he may appear on the subject ;—in short, who has not?
For my own part, I am fond of communing with the dead: they have the start of me a little while; are more advanced in knowledge than the living; and if they had the gift of utterance, would, probably, testify to me how little knowledge is, after all, really worth. There are times when their speaking silence communicates unutterable feelings to the heart-feelings that flow back to the very sources of existence, prompting strange thoughts and imaginings. Though in the full flush of health and manhood, I can find pleasure in visiting the last abodes of mortality, and in conning over the "hoary text," that "teaches the rustic moralist to die." The habitations of the dead, though forsaken by the world in general, are not wholly so: I am accustomed to visit them often, and to regard them as the dwellings of friends with whom I must soon abide. I have a great admiration for beautiful church-yards, and a fastidious taste in choosing situations for sepulchres; oftentimes setting at nought certain ceremonies of consecration, and other common-place essentials to the quiet repose of the defunct in the view of mother church. My taste for a place of sepulture is like his who exclaims
"Mine be the breezy hill that skirts the down;
Fast by a brook, or fountain's murmuring wave,
or the wild and picturesque grave-ground of Ossian, even more congenial than that of the "Minstrel" to one of my disposition-" A rock with its head of heath; three aged pines bend from its base; green is the narrow plain at its feet; there the flower of the mountain grows and shakes its white head in the breeze. The thistle is there alone shedding its aged beard. Two stones half sunk in the ground shew their heads of moss."
The mouldy vaults of Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's may be occupied for me in all their " night and desolation," until they are
themselves entombed in the ruins of their superstructures, leave me undisturbed but a few feet of ground on such a spot as is described above. I have no freehold of my own that will answer my views for a burial-place, nor shall I be able to spare 5007. from my family, like Lord Camelford, to be buried on the shores of the Leman or the banks of the Arno. I am, therefore, fond of visiting the church-yards in the vicinity of the metropolis, in one of which I may by and by " set up my everlasting rest;" for I wish to repose out of the authority of city churchwardens, who would speedily retake the little space I might occupy in their smoky domains to accommodate a new tenant, and gather a fresh fee by scattering my half-decayed members to the winds. In London, where I see
"Much that I love, and more that I admire,
in London, people are more regardless and negligent of their places of interment than in any other great city of the civilized world. With reason and philosophy, strictly speaking, the feeling of respect for a lifeless body amounts to little; it is but ashes and dust. Still there are associations connected with the resting-places of the dead, pleasing melancholy associations, ranking with those sensations that fling the richest colouring over our existence, and are too amiable and virtuous to perish. It seems a sort of sacrilege to treat the dead with disrespect, and regard them as sources of profit. Purse-pride, sordid purse-pride, is the presiding deity in this vast city. Here it literally
From the Lord Mayor to the sexton-from the Gog and Magog of the Guildhall to the remotest corner of the charnel-house, where mortality is corrupting and the fungus springs loathsome from the festering carcase-it pervades, directs, and governs. Can they have time to consider the dead, who are absorbed in trafficking with the living, in overreaching each other, calculating profit and loss, and worshipping Mammon with soul-destroying idolatry? Hence death has become a source of public and private revenue, as well as every thing besides; and relatives, too often friends, undertakers, attorneys, sextons, and the government, share in the spoils of the destroyer. The poor man in his decease and interment exhibits the same picture every where; and the few tears shed for him who had no means of purchasing them, may be safely pronounced genuine. The noble is conveyed to the mausoleum of his ancestors with indifference; for the mimic mourning which attends him may be bought in every street, and the heir is already exulting in the possessions of the individual to whom, perhaps, he owes his being. But the decease of the majority of substantial people, as they are called, or persons of some property, is in London, more than in other places, linked with long-cherished hopes dependant upon the event. Scarcely is life extinct, when dutiful friends and relatives hasten to satisfy the cravings of curiosity, and realize the thirst of profit. The group assembles near the chamber of death, in which some solitary individual may now and then be found with anguish at the heart's core, while the rest only keep up a decent solemnity to sanctify appearances. The officious attorney, who, in these days,
viper-like, worms himself into the most secret recesses of families, opens and reads the will with a grave and important air. A visible grief begins to shew itself in the legatees, in proportion to the accomplishment of their pecuniary expectations. Those who are disappointed look sullen, and soon steal off. The undertakers and their hirelings, the gouls of a christian land, are ordered to make an ostentatious display, which may save trouble by shewing in open day the sorrow of surviving friends, the virtues of the deceased, and, above all, the wealth he has left behind him. Plumes are multiplied on plumes, and escutcheon upon escutcheon, and mourners hired to "bear about the mockery of woe." To some obscure and dingy spot, partly surrounded by dwellings, or walls easy of access to the resurrection-men, (who do their best, like carrion-flies, to remove the causes of foetid exhalations,) the body is conveyed in theatrical state-feathers, tinsel, and gold leaf, waving and glittering among the sables. In the mean time the sexton issues orders to his deputies; for he himself is not the "Goodman Delver" of Shakspeare, bearing the image and superscription of his art about him, but a man of importance in his parish; he points out the spot where the strata of coffins is supposed to be most decayed. Their actual state is ascertained by an iron rod, which is thrust into the earth as a grocer uses a "cheesetaster." There, deep or shallow, in proportion to the decay of the former possessors, the employés dig the grave. The procession arrives at the same moment with half a dozen others, and the minister consigns them to the soil, with a hurried repetition of the authorized service. If the executors omit to place a hic jacet over the body, it rests for a year, or perhaps two, till the progress of decomposition, which is said to be rapid pid in the plethoric corses of well-fed citizens, allows it to be turned up to make room for one who was once a next-door neighbour. Such are the ceremonies of a London interment. Who would not declare for an undisturbed rest on "the breezy hill that skirts the down," or on " the rock with its head of heath?"
Fortunately, in this climate the summer heat rarely endures long enough to concoct fevers from the putrid exhalations of crowded burying-grounds. A lady of strong good sense and high family, who died some years ago, desired that her remains might be burned and her ashes placed in her tomb, as an example to lead the way in this salutary reform. Her monument recording her motives for so acting, may be seen in the burying-ground of St. George's, Hanover-square. Nothing but a legislative enactment, forced by some horrible evidence of its effects, will change the present mode of burying almost in the houses of a crowded city. The dread of iron coffins, lately exhibited by certain parish officials, is easily accounted for-they keep corruption close, and retard the exhumation of the bodies for fresh interments; thus, by using them generally, a means of supporting an extra-parochial dinner now and then would be lost, and larger and more decent receptacles for the dead must be provided. We therefore despair of seeing extensive cemeteries formed at a distance from its crowded dwellings until a plague has once more devastated the capital.†
Beings supposed in Eastern romance to feed on dead corpses.
The burying-place of the Innocents in Paris was, like those of London, situated in the midst of a crowded neighbourhood. Fevers broke out around it, and were
In the vicinity of London there are several cemeteries kept in decent order, and far different from the ruinous-looking repulsive enclosures within the precincts of its labyrinth of buildings in which "black melancholy dwells;" the melancholy of horror, and not of chastened and saddened recollection; but even these shew that the dead are indeed soon forgotten. No hands are observed in them suspending garlands on the tombstones, or plucking obtrusive weeds from the graves. They remain unstrewed with symbols of affection, and no "rosemary" is offered" for remembrance" there. The sod is pressed, indeed, by the footstep of the passenger whose path to business or pleasure lies over it, but visits of regard to the tombs of the departed, very common in some parts of England, are unknown. There is such a change of men and things constantly passing before the eyes of the living; there is so much care and such a number of those collisions which blunt the more exquisite sensibilities of our natures always harassing us, that the early indifference manifested towards the dead in the memory of survivors, is easily accounted for. The flowery feelings of life are fading away fast before the withering influences of money-getting and corruption. In the country the loss of a friend inflicts a wound which it will take years to heal; in town, friends are easily replaced, because town friendships do not make parts of ourselves-the things of the heart, which those in the country in some measure do. The sight of the church-tower, beneath which a beloved relative or friend reposes there, brings before us a regretful remembrance of him; but in London we have no passing mementos of the dead, for the living absorb all our faculties, and the soil that sounds hollow on the coffin too often buries the memory of town friendships with the body it covers.
It may seem harsh thus to accuse a civilized people of neglecting the dead, when their memory is preserved in some countries with a religious veneration, and when even unenlightened nations exhibit an affectionate regard for them. The morais of the South Sea Islanders, and the observations lately made by our countrymen among the amiable people of the Loo Choo Islands, prove this. The American savage never forgets the tomb of his fathers. In his trackless woods he scoops out the pit in which he inters the body; and though drawn by war or hunting hundreds of miles distant, though years may have elapsed and age paralyzed his limbs, he can even then direct the enquirer to the spot again, and can recal with filial respect the number of moons which have passed away since he committed the parental reliques to the earth; he remembers too the exact height of the sun that marked
observed to be very fatal during the hot months of summer. In 1780, the soil had arisen eight feet above the height of the neighbouring streets. Vaults stuffed full with corrupting bodies; pits, in which the dead were piled in layers on each other; and fresh graves daily opening in the midst of putrefaction, easily explained the causes of the disorders which raged in their vicinity; and the council of state, in spite of the resistance made to it for a long time by the church, issued an order in 1786 to abate the nuisance. The remains of human beings, equal in number to the population of the city, were removed to the stone quarries situated under Paris, and the site of the cemetery was changed into a market. Masses of human flesh were found converted into spermaceti, from the want of the necessary air to complete the process of decay. Four large cemeteries, one of them 80 acres, were allotted at a distance from the city, where the air cannot stagnate, to inter the dead.
* For an account of one of these, see Vol. iv. p. 155, New Monthly Magazine.