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thinking gaiety or liveliness of animal spirits with which the lamb in the meadow, or any other irrational creature, is endowed; who should ascribe it, in short, to blank ignorance in the child, to an inability, arising from the imperfect state of his faculties, to come, in any point of his being, into contact with a notion of death, or to an unreflecting acquiescence in what had been instilled into him! Has such an unfolder of the mysteries of nature, though he may have forgotten his former self, ever noticed the early, obstinate, and unappeasable inquisitiveness of children upon the subject of origination? This single fact proves outwardly the monstrousness of those suppositions ; for, if we had no direct external testimony that the minds of very young children meditate feelingly upon death and immortality, these inquiries, which we all know they are perpetually making concerning the whence, do necessarily include correspondent habits of interrogation concerning the whither. Origin and tendency are notions inseparably co-relative. Never did a child stand by the side of a running stream, pondering within himself what power was the feeder of the perpetual current, from what never-wearied sources the body of water was supplied, but he must have been inevitably propelled to follow this question by another: " towards what abyss is it in progress? what receptacle can contain the mighty influx ?” And the spirit of the answer must have been, though the word might be sea or ocean, accompanied, perhaps, with an image gathered from a map, or from the real object in nature—these might have been the letter, but the spirit of the answer must have been as inevitably—a receptacle without bounds or dimensions ;-nothing less than infinity. We may, then, be justified in asserting, that the sense of immortality, if not a co-existent and twin-birth with reason, is among the earliest of her offspring: and we may further assert, that from these conjoined, and under their countenance, the human affections are gradually formed and opened out. This is not the place to enter into the recesses of these investigations; but the subject requires me here to make a plain avowal, that, for my own part, it is to me inconceivable, that the sympathies of love towards each other, which grow with our growth, could ever attain any new strength, or even preserve the old, after we have received from the outward senses the impression of death, and were in the habit of having that impression daily renewed, and its accompanying feeling brought home to ourselves and to those we love, if the same were not counteracted by those communications with our internal being, which are anterior to all these experiences, and with which revelation coincides, and has through that coincidence alone (for otherwise it could not possess it) a power to affect us. I confess, with me the conviction is absolute, that, if the impression and sense of death were not thus counterbalanced, such a hollowness would pervade the whole system of things, such a want of correspondence and consistency, a disproportion so astounding betwixt means and ends, that there could be no repose, no joy. Were we to grow up unfostered by this genial warmth, a frost would chill the spirit, so penetrating and powerful, that there could be no motions of the life of love; and infinitely less could we have any wish to be remembered after we had passed away from a world in which each man had moved about like a shadow. If, then, in a creature endowed with the faculties of foresight and reason, the social affections could not have unfolded themselves uncountenanced by the faith that man is an immortal being; and if, consequently, neither could the individual dying have had a desire to survive in the remembrance of his fellows, nor on their side could they have felt a wish to preserve for future times vestiges of the departed; it follows, as a final inference, that without the belief in immortality, wherein these several desires originate, neither monuments nor epitaphs, in affectionate or laudatory commemoration of the deceased, could have existed in the world.
Simonides, it is related, upon landing in a strange country, found the corpse of an unknown person, lying by the sea-side ; he buried it, and was honoured throughout Greece for the piety of that act. Another ancient philosopher, chancing to fix his eyes upon a dead body, regarded the same with slight, if not with contempt; saying, “See the shell of the flown bird !” But it is not to be supposed that the moral and tender-hearted Simonides was incapable of the lofty movements of thought, to which that other sage gave way at the moment while his soul was intent only upon the indestructible being; nor, on the other hand, that he, in whose sight a lifeless human body was of no more value than the worthless shell from which the living fowl had departed, would not, in different mood of mind, have been affected by those earthly considerations which had incited the philosophic poet to the performance of that pious duty. And with regard to this latter we may be assured that, if he had been destitute of the capability of communing with the more exalted thoughts that appertain to human nature, he would have cared no more for the corpse of the stranger than for the dead body of a seal or porpoise which might have been cast up by the waves. We respect the corporeal frame of man, not merely because it is the habitation of a rational, but of an immortal soul. Each of these sages was in sympathy with the best feelings of our nature; feelings, which, though they seem opposite to each other, have another and a finer connection than that of contrast. It is a connection formed through the subtle progress by which, both in the natural and the moral world, qualities pass insensibly into their contraries, and things revolve upon each other. As, in sailing upon the orb of this planet, a voyage towards the regions where the sun sets, conducts gradually to the quarter where we have been accustomed to behold it come forth at its rising; and, in like manner, a voyage towards the east, the birth-place in our imagination of the morning, leads finally to the quarter where the sun is last seen when he departs from our eyes; so the contemplative soul, travelling in the direction of mortality, advances to the country of everlasting life; and, in like manner, may she continue to explore those cheerful tracts, till she is brought back, for her advantage and benefit, to the land of transitory things—of sorrow and of tears.
Recurring to the twofold desire of guarding the remains of the deceased and preserving their memory, it may be said that a sepulchral monument is a tribute to a man as a human being; and that an epitaph (in the ordinary meaning attached to the word) includes this general feeling and something more; and is a record to preserve the memory of the dead, as a tribute due to his individual worth, for a satisfaction to the sorrowing hearts of the survivors, and for the common benefit of the living: which record is to be accomplished, not in a general manner, but, where it can, in close connection with the bodily remains of the deceased ; and these, it may be added, among the modern nations of Europe are deposited within, or contiguous to their places of worship. In ancient times, as is well known, it was the custom to bury the dead beyond the walls of towns and cities; and among the Greeks and Romans they were frequently interred by the way-sides.
I could here pause with pleasure, and invite the reader to indulge with me in contemplation of the advantages which must have attended such a practice. We might ruminate upon the beauty which the monuments, thus placed, must have borrowed from the surrounding
images of nature—from the trees, the wild flowers, from a stream running perhaps within sight or hearing, from the beaten road stretching its weary length hard by. Many tender similitudes must these objects have presented to the mind of the traveller leaning upon one of the tombs, or reposing in the coolness of its shade, whether he had halted from weariness or in compliance with the invitation, “ Pause, Traveller!" so often found upon the monuments. And to its epitaph also must have been supplied strong appeals to visible appearances or immediate impressions, lively and affecting analogies of life as a journey--death as a sleep overcoming the tired wayfarer-of misfortune as a storm that falls suddenly upon him-of beauty as a flower that passeth away, or of innocent pleasure as one that may be gatheredof virtue that standeth firm as a rock against the beating waves—of hope “ undermined insensibly like the poplar by the side of the river that fed it,” or blasted in a moment like a pine-tree by the stroke of lightning on the mountain-top-of admonitions and heart-stirring remembrances, like a refreshing breeze that comes without warning, or the taste of the waters of an unexpected fountain. These and similar suggestions must have given, formerly, to the language of the senseless stone a voice enforced and endeared by the benignity of that nature with which was in unison. We, in modern times, have lost much of these advantages; and they are but in a small degree counterbalanced, to the inhabitants of large towns and cities, by the custom of depositing the dead within or contiguous to their places of worship, however splendid or imposing may be the appearance of those edifices, or however interesting or salutary the recollections associated with them. Even were it not true that tombs lose their monitory value when thus obtruded upon the notice of men occupied with the cares of the world, and too often sullied and defiled by those cares, yet still, when death is in our thoughts, nothing can make amends for the want of the soothing influences of nature, and for the absence of those types of renovation and decay which the fields and woods offer to the notice of a serious and contemplative mind. To feel the force of this sentiment, let a man only compare in imagination the unsightly manner in which our monuments are crowded together in the busy, noisy, unclean, and almost grassless church-yard of a large town, with the still seclusion of a Turkish cemetery, in some remote place, and yet further sanctified by the grove of cypress in which it is embosomed.
A village church-yard, lying as it does in the lap of nature, may indeed be most favourably contrasted with that of a town of crowded population ;. and sepulture therein combines many of the best tendencies which belong to the mode practised by the ancients with others peculiar to itself. The sensations of pious cheerfulness which attend the celebration of the Sabbath-day in rural places are profitably chastised by the sight of the graves of kindred and friends, gathered together in that general home towards which the thoughtful yet happy spectators themselves are journeying. Hence a parish church in the stillness of the country is a visible centre of a community of the living aud the dead; a point to which are habitually referred the nearest concerns of both.
As, then, both in cities and in villages, the dead are deposited in close connection with our places of worship, with us the composition of an epitaph naturally turns, still more than among the
tions of antiquity, upon the most serious and solemn affections of the human mind; upon departed worth-upon personal or social sorrow and admiration—upon religion, individual and social—upon time, and upon eternity. Accordingly it suffices, in ordinary cases, to secure a composition of this kind from censure, that it contains nothing that shall shock or be inconsistent with this spirit. But to entitle an epitaph to praise more than this is necessary. It ought to contain some thought or feeling belonging to the mortal or immortal part of our nature touchingly expressed; and if that be done, however general or even trite the sentiment may be, every man of pure mind will read the words with sensations of pleasure and gratitude. A husband bewails a wife; a parent breathes a sigh of disappointed hope over a lost child ; a son utters a sentiment of filial reverence over a departed father or mother; a friend perhaps inscribes an encomium recording the companionable qualities or the solid virtues of the tenant of the grave, whose departure has left a sadness upon his memory. This, and a pious admonition to the living, and a humble expression of Christian confidence in immortality, is the language of a thousand
urch-yards; and it does not often happen that any thing in a greater degree discriminate or appropriate to the dead or to the living is to be found in them.