Written on visiting the grave yard at New Haven, Ct.
When we contemplate the close of life, the termination of man’s designs and hopes; the silence that now reigns among those who, a little while ago, were so busy or so gay; who can avoid being touched with sensations at once awful and tender? What heart but then warms with the glow of humanity? In whose eye does not the tear gather, on revolving the fate of passing short lived man?”
The graves before me, and all around me, are thickly deposited. The marble that speak the names, bid us prepare for Death . How solemn is the thought that soon we, too, must lay low in the grave. The generations that now exist must pass away; and more arise in their stead, to fill the places which they now occupy, and do effectual good.
Some of the marble speaks of those who have not long since died; others appear quite ancient. Yet, memory can never fill the places of most of these, who slumber here in tombs. Trace back—their relations are not among the living. Ere a day they slumbered in the silent grave.
In the grave by my side sleeps some sainted priest; the marble speaks his fame. Perhaps he has undergone the fatigues of life; he has been an eminent servant in his Master’s calling, and now has his reward in heaven. He has died the death of the righteous; he has given up this world “with joy and not with grief.” He has had different stations in life; he has, perhaps, been in various parts of the world, has proclaimed the gospel to the heathen, he has experienced prosperity and adversity; he has seen families and kindred rise and fall; and he has now closed his eyes upon this world forever more.
Methinks I see before me the family burying ground. At the head sleeps the father and the mother. The children are deposited within the ground. The words about seem to say, live and die as did this family; upon this saying I did relent.
As I walked on, I seated myself down upon a grave; it was the grave of an infant. It seemed to be sleeping on until the resurrection “of both great and small.” I said, before this day shall close, I too may sleep in death. Have I preserved that cheerful, and innocent countenance which this infant has shown? Then I prayed to the Lord to shelter me, and to deliver me from all evil.
I saw a countless number of trees. Among them was a willow. I thought of what a child once said. “Tree, why art thou always sad and drooping? Am I not kind unto thee? Do not the showers visit thee, and sink deep to refresh thy root? Hast thou sorrow at thy heart?” Then said an author—“but it answered not. And as it grew on, it drooped lower and lower; for it was a weeping willow.”
I stooped myself down over the grave of an aged sire. I said to him, tell me of this grave! Methought that he answered—“ask him who rose again for me.” Noble sire, thou hast seen peace and war succeeding in their turn; the face of thy country undergoing many alterations; and the very city in which thou dwelt, rising in a manner new around thee.
After all thou hast beheld, thine eyes are now closed forever. Thou wast becoming a stranger amidst a new succession of men. A race who knew thee not, had arisen to fill the earth. Thus passeth the world away; “and this great inn is by turns evacuated and replenished, by troops of succeeding pilgrims.”
“O vain and inconstant world! O fleeting and transient life. When will the sons of men learn to think of thee as they ought? When will they learn humanity from the affliction of their brethren; or moderation and wisdom, from a sense of their own fugitive state?”
The very felicity of life itself, which depends upon the tranquillity and contentment of a well-descended spirit, and the resolution and assurance of a well-ordered soul, ought never to be attributed to any man till he has first been seen to play the last, and, doubtless, the hardest act of his part.
Turn sunward from the north, and shadows come to life, and are themselves the life, the action, and the transparence of their day.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.