December 1 1815: Churchyards

church-in-the-wood_hollington_hastings_churchyard

“MR. EDITOR, MUCH has been lately said in your valuable publication on the subject of epitaphs, burying-places, &c.; and I generally agree with the sentiments expressed by your correspondents on this head; but am at the same time by no means convinced of the necessity for altering the present appearance of our church-yards by introducing that monumental gradation so much recommended. The solemn irregularity which reigns triumphant within those precincts of the departed suggests a very important moral lesson, namely, that death levels and in fact completely annihilates all those glittering distinctions so ardently coveted by mortals.

Here, divested of his coronet, the peer is content to share a dozen feet of earth with his poorest tenant; the man of wit reposes silently by the idiot, and the lovely female “calls the worm her sister” stretched beneath the cold green sod, these mute occupants of the tomb speak loudly to passers-by, without the aid of ornamental trees, shrubs, or neatly cut walks, which must thrust themselves obtrusively, as works of art, between the spectator and his meditations on “life, death, and immortality.” for the truly serious mind is invariably conducted from the death of the body to the life of the soul, and if the general aspect of outward testimonials, such as tombstones, &c. at all influence his thoughts, it can be only by introducing the idea of our indiscriminate appearance before the bar of God to answer for the deeds done in the body, when the Judge of all shall pronounce the irrevocable sentence of eternal happiness or endless misery. Let us not, then, by the intervention of superfluous embellishment, either check or suppress those religious feelings which ought to be elicited whenever we tread on “the houses appointed for all living.” A love of simplicity invariably accompanies these sensations, and I am persuaded they have been produced in greater abundance at the peasant’s lowly bier than amidst the sepulchral pyramids of Egypt, or within the stately mausoleum of Hephestion. Your correspondent Omega (last mag.) does not quote Chatterton but a much higher authority while introducing the words “Man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?” They are to be found in Job, chap. xiv. v. 10. W. S. Greenwich, Oct. 17.”

New Monthly Magazine, December 1 1815.

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