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of grief? that they might there realize, in its full force, the affecting beatitude of the Scriptures; “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted "?
Surely, surely, we have not done all our duty, if there yet remains a single incentive to human virtue, without its due play in the action of life, or a single stream of happiness, which has not been made to flow in
the waters of affliction. Considerations, like those which have been suggested, have, for a long time, turned the thoughts of many distinguished citizens to the importance of some more appropriate places of sepulture. There is a growing sense in the community of the inconveniences and painful associations, not to speak of the unhealthiness, of interments beneath our churches. The tide, which is Aowing, with such a steady and widening current, into the narrow peninsula of our metropolis, not only forbids the enlargement of the common limits, but admonishes us of the increasing dangers to the ashes of the dead from its disturbing movements. Already, in other cities, the church-yards are closing against the admission of new incumbents, and begin to exbibit the sad spectacle of promiscuous ruins and intermingled graves. We are therefore but anticipating, at the present moment,
the desires, nay the necessities, of the next generation. We are but exercising a decent anxiety to secure an inviolable home for ourselves and our posterity. We are but inviting our children and their descendants, to what the Moravian Brothers have, with such exquisite propriety, designated as “ The Field of Peace.”
A rural cemetery seems to combine in itself all the advantages, which can be proposed, to gratify human feelings, or tranquillize human fears; to secure the best religious influences, and to cherish all those associations, which cast a cheerful light over the darkness
of the grave.
And what spot can be more appropriate than this, for such a purpose ? Nature seems to point it out, withi significant energy, as the favorite retirement for the dead. There are around us all the varied features of her beauty and grandeur ; - the forest-crowned height; the abrupt acclivity ; the sheltered valley; the deep glen ; the grassy glade; and the silent grove. Here are the lofty oak, the beach, that “wreaths its old, fantastic roots so high," the rustling pine, and the drooping willow ; – the tree, that sheds its pale leaves with every autumn, a fit emblem of our own transitory bloom; and the evergeen, with its perennial shoots, instructing
us, that “the wintry blast of death kills not the buds of virtue.” Here is the thick shrubbery, to protect and conceal the new-made grave; and there is the wild flower, creeping along the narrow path, and planting its seeds in the upturned earth. All around us there breathes a solemn calm, as if we were in the bosom of a wilderness, broken only by the breeze, as it murmurs through the tops of the forest, or by the notes of the warbler, pouring forth his matin or his evening song.
Ascend but a few steps, and what a change of scenery to surprise and delight us! We seem, as it were, in an instant, to pass from the confines of death, to the bright and balmy regions of life. Below us flows the winding Charles, with its rippling current, like the stream of time hastening to the ocean of eternity. In the distance, the city — at once the object of our admiration and our love — rears its proud eminences, its glittering spires, its lofty towers, its graceful mansions, its curling smoke, its crowded haunts of business and pleasure, which speak to the eye, and yet leave a noiseless loneliness on the ear. Again we turn, and the walls of our venerable University rise before us, with many a recollection of happy days passed there in the interchange of study and friendship, and many a grateful thought of the affluence of its learning, which has adorned and nourished the literature of our country. Again we turn, and the cultivated farm, the neat cottage, the village church, the sparkling lake, the rich valley, and the distant hills, are before us, through opening vistas; and we breathe amidst the fresh and varied labors of man.
There is, therefore, within our reach, every variety of natural and artificial scenery, which is fitted to awaken emotions of the highest and most affecting character. We stand, as it were, upon the borders of two worlds; and, as the mood of our minds may be, we may gather lessons of profound wisdom by contrasting the one with the other, or indulge in the dreams of hope and ambition, or solace our hearts by melancholy meditations.
Who is there, that, in the contemplation of such a scene, is not ready to exclaim, with the enthusiasm of the poet,
“ Mine be the breezy hill, that skirts the down,
Where a green, grassy turf is all I crave,
Fast by a brook, or fountain's murmuring wave;
And many an evening sun shine sweetly on my grave”? And we are met here to consecrate this spot, by these solemn ceremonies, to such a purpose. The Legislature of this Common
wealth, with a parental foresight, has clothed the Horticultural Society with authority (if I may use its own language) to make a perpetual dedication of it, as a Rural Cemetery, or Burying-Ground, and to plant and embellish it with shrubbery, and flowers, and trees, and walks, and other rural ornaments. And I stand bere, by the order and in behalf of this Society, to declare, that, by these services, it is to be deemed, henceforth and for ever, so dedicated. Mount Auburn, in the noblest sense, belongs no longer to the living, but to the dead. It is a sacred, it is an eternal trust. It is consecrated ground. May it remain for ever in violate !
What a multitude of thoughts crowd upon the mind, in the contemplation of such a scene! How much of the future, even in its far distant reaches, rises before us, with all its persuasive realities! Take but one little narrow space of time, and how affecting are its associations ! Within the flight of one half century, how many of the great, the good, and the wise will be gathered here ! How many, in the loveliness of infancy, the beauty of youth, the vigor of manhood, and the maturity of age, will lie down here, and dwell in the bosom of their mother earth! The rich and the poor, the gay and the wretched, the favorites of thousands, and the forsaken of the world, the stranger, in bis solitary grave, and the patriarch, surrounded by the kindred of a long lineage! How many will here bury their brightest hopes, or blasted expectations! How many bitter tears will here be shed! How many agonizing sighs will here be heaved ! How many trembling feet will cross the pathways, and, returning, leave behind them the dearest objects of their reverence or their love!
And if this were all, sad, indeed, and funereal would be our thoughts ; gloomy, indeed, would be these shades, and desolate these prospects.
But-tbanks be to God--the evils, which he permits, have their attendant mercies, and are blessings in disguise. The bruised reed will not be laid utterly prostrate. The wounded heart will not always bleed. The voice of consolation will spring up in the midst of the silence of these regions of death. The mourner will revisit these sbades, with a secret, though melancholy pleasure. The hand of friendship will delight to cherish the flowers and the shrubs, that fringe the lowly grave, or the sculptured monument. The earliest beams of the morning will play upon these summits with a refreshing cheerfulness; and the lingering tints of evening hover on them with a tranquillizing glow. Spring will invite hither the foot
steps of the young by its opening foliage; and Autumn detain the contemplative by its latest bloom. The votary of learning and science will here learn to elevate his genius by the boliest studies. The devout will here offer up the silent tribute of piety, or the prayer of gratitude. The rivalries of the world will here drop from the heart ; the spirit of forgiveness will gather new impulses ; the selfishness of avarice will be checked; the restlessness of ambition will be rebuked; vanity will let fall its plumes; and pride, as it sees “what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue," will acknowledge the value of virtue, as far, immeasurably far, beyond that of fame.
But that, which will be ever present, pervading these shades, like the noon-day sun, and shedding cheerfulness around, is the consciousness, the irrepressible consciousness, amidst all these lessons of human mortality, of the higher truth, that we are beings, not of time, but of eternity; that “ this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality;” that this is but the threshold and starting point of an existence, compared with whose duration the ocean is but as a drop, nay the whole creation an evanescent quantity.
Let us banish, then, the thought, that this is to be the abode of a gloom, which will haunt the imagination by its terrors, or chill the heart by its solitude. Let us cultivate feelings and sentiments more worthy of ourselves, and more worthy of Christianity. Here let us erect the memorials of our love, and our gratitude, and our glory. Here let the brave repose, who have died in the cause of their country. Here let the statesman rest, who has achieved the victories of peace, not less renowned than war. Here let genius find a home, that has sung immortal strains, or has instructed with still diviner eloquence. Here let learning and science, the votaries of inventive art, and the teacher of the philosophy of nature come. Here let youth and beauty, blighted by premature decay, drop, like tender blossoms, into the virgin earth; and here let age retire, ripened for the harvest. Above all, here let the benefactors of mankind, the good, the merciful, the meek, the pure in heart, be congregated; for to them belongs an undying praise. And let us take confort, nay, let us rejoice, that, in future ages, long after we are gathered to the generations of other days, thousands of kindling hearts will here repeat the sublime declaration, " Blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord, for they rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”
PRONOUNCED, APRIL 5, 1833, AT THE OBSEQUIES OF JOHN HOOKER ASH
MUN, Esq., ROYALL PROFESSOR OF LAW IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY.
THE occasion, which has brought us together, is full of melancholy interest. It is not, that it is new; for the annals of time are crowded with memorials of the dead; with repetitions of sorrows, which know no end ; and with renewals of anguish, which continually find utterance upon the departure of the good, the wise, and the great. It is not, that there is even any thing unusual in the present event, or beside the general course of human experience ; for when has the time been, in which youth and manhood have not dropped into the grave, in all the pride of their power, and the affluence of their hopes ? We have seen the aged linger on to the last syllable of their recorded time; and we have seen the bud of beauty nipped and withered, in the first faint blushes of its dawn. These are common events; so common, indeed, that they scarcely attract more than a transient notice ; and, so that they strike not within our own immediate circle of friends, we gaze on them, for a moment, with subdued thoughtfulness, and then press on to our own accustomed duties; we return to our homes, and the sadness has passed away from our hearts.
Such is human life. I will not say, such is human infirmity. It is, doubtless, in the wisdom of Providence, that it should be so. If, with such constantly recurring scenes of death on every side, our sympathy should always hover round the mourners; if we should partake of all their agonized feelings, and dwell, as they dwell, on the vanity of all human pursuits, and the desolateness of all human hopes; if we should take counsel, like them, only from our own dark meditations upon the frail tenure of our existence, and the utter worthlessness of every thing on this side of the grave; who does not perceive, that we should be unfit for all the