« ForrigeFortsæt »
My father then rose to speak, but so overpowered was he by his emotion that he could not begin. In a few moments, however, recovering his self-possession, he faltered out these first words of his address : “My friends, the occasion which brings us together has much in it calculated to awaken our sensibilities and cast a solemnity over our thoughts. We are met to consecrate these grounds exclusively to the service and repose of the dead.” Several times, during the delivery of his discourse, he was so much overcome as to be obliged to pause, and his own emotion communicated itself to the audience, who listened in reverential silence and with glistening eyes. Such passages as this were written in his heart's blood, and could not fail to reach the hearts of all who had suffered like himself:
"It is in vain, that philosophy has informed us, that the whole earth is but a point in the eyes of its Creator, - nay, of his own creation; that, wherever we are, — abroad, or at home, on the restless ocean, or the solid land, still under the protection of his providence, and safe, as it were, in the hollow of his hand. It is in vain, that Religion has instructed us, that we are but dust, and to dust we shall return; that, whether our remains are scattered to the corners of the earth, or gathered in sacred urns, there is a sure and certain hope of a resurrection of the body and a life everlasting. These truths, sublime and glorious as they are, leave untouched the feelings, of which I have spoken, or rather, they impart to them a more enduring reality. Dust as we are, the frail tenements, which enclose our spirits but for a season, are dear, are inexpressibly dear to us. We derive solace, nay, pleasure, from the reflection, that, when the hour of separation comes, these earthly remains will still retain the tender regard of those whom we leave behind; that the spot where they shall lie will be remembered with a fond and soothing reverence; that our children will visit it in the midst of their sorrows; and our kindred, in remote generations, feel that a local inspiration hovers round it.
“ Let him speak, who has been on a pilgrimage of health to a foreign land. Let him speak, who has watched at the couch of a dying friend, far from his chosen home. Let him speak, who has committed to the bosom of the deep, with a sudden, startling plunge, the narrow shroud of some relative or companion. Let such speak; and they will tell you, that there is nothing, which wrings the heart of the dying, - ay, and of the surviving, - with sharper agony, than the thought that they are to sleep their last sleep in the land of strangers, or in the unseen depths of the ocean.
4. Bury me not, I pray thee,' said the patriarch Jacob, 'bury me not in Egypt; but I will lie with my fathers. And thou shalt carry me out of Egypt; and bury me in their burying-place. There they buried Abraham, and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac, and Rebecca his wife; and there I buried Leah.'
“ Such are the natural expressions of human feeling, as they fall from the lips of the dying. Such are the reminiscences, that for ever crowd on the confines of the passes to
We seek again to have our home there with our friends, and to be blest by a communion with them. It is a matter of instinct, not of reasoning. It is a spiritual impulse, which supersedes belief, and disdains question.
“ But it is not chiefly in regard to the feelings belonging to our own mortality, however sacred and natural, that we should contemplate the establishment of repositories of this sort. There are higher moral purposes, and more affecting considerations, which belong to the subject. We should accustom ourselves to view them rather as means than as ends; rather as influences to govern human conduct, and to moderate human suffering, than as cares incident to a selfish foresight.
" It is to the living mourner - to the parent, weeping over his dear dead child — to the husband, dwelling in his own solitary desolation — to the widow, whose heart is broken by untimely sorrow - to the friend, who misses, at every turn, the presence of some kindred spirit - it is to these, that the repositories of the dead bring home thoughts full of admonition, of instruction, and slowly, but surely, of consolation also. They admonish us, by their very silence, of our own frail and transitory being. They instruct us in the true value of life, and in its noble purposes, its duties, and its destination. They spread around us, in the reminiscences of the past, sources of pleasing, though melancholy reflection.
“ We dwell with pious fondness on the characters and virtues of the departed; and, as time interposes its growing distances between us and them, we gather up, with more solicitude, the broken fragments of memory, and weave, as it were, into our very hearts, the threads of their history. As we sit down by their graves, we seem to hear the tones of their affection whispering in our ears.
We listen to the voice of their wisdom, speaking in the depths of our souls. We shed our tears; but they are no longer the burning tears of agony. They relieve our drooping spirits, and come no longer over us with a deathly faintness. We return to the world, and we feel ourselves purer, and better, and wiser, for this communion with the dead."
The following picturesque description gives an admirable notion of this beautiful “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, with signifi
cant 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 beech 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 evergreen, 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
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."
In this Cemetery my father always took the greatest interest up to the day of his death, and was for some time President of the Corporation. Here he built him a monument, on the one side of which he caused to be inscribed : “ Sorrow not as those without hope ;” on the other, “ Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Under the turf here sleep all that was mortal of eight children. Here, frequently during the summer months, he came to walk through its silent glades. And here, where in his college days he had dreamed of the future, his earthly body now sleeps its last sleep.