Jacob Bigelow.

A history of the cemetery of Mount Auburn online

. (page 9 of 14)
Online LibraryJacob BigelowA history of the cemetery of Mount Auburn → online text (page 9 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and better, and wiser, from Uiis communion with
tlie dead.

I have spoken but of feelings and associations
common to all ages, and all generations of men —
to the rude and the ]>olislied — to tlio barbarian
and the civilized — to tlio bond and the free — to
the inhabitant of the dreary forests of the north,
and the sultry regions of the south — to tho wor-
shipiier of the sun, and the worsh!p|)er of idols —
to tho Ileatlien, dwelling in the darkness of his
coltl mytholog}', and to tho Christian, rejoicing in
the light of the true God. Everj'wherc wo trace
them in the characteristic remains of tho most
distant ages and nations, and as far back as hu-
man history carries its traditionary outlines.
They arc found in tho barrows, and cairns, and
mounds of olden times, reared by the uninstructed
affection of savago tribes; and, everywhere, tlie
spots seem to have been ^elected with tlio same
tender regard to tlio living and tlio dead ; tliat tlie
magnificence of nature might administer comfort
I to human sorrow, and incite human sympatliy.
H The aboriginal Germans buried their dead in
groves consecrated by tlieir priests. The Egyp-
tians gratified their pride and sootlied their grief,


hy interring them in tlieir Elysian fields, or em- ^
balming tliem in their vast eatacombs, or enelosing
tliem in their stupendous pjnramids, the wonder of
all sueeeeding ages. TIic Hebrews watched with
religious care over tlieir places of burial. Thcj ^
selected, far this puqiose, ornamented gardens and
deep forests, and fertile valleys, and lofty moun-
tains ; and tliey still designate them with a sad
empliasis, as the ** House of the Living.*' The
ancient Asiatics lined the approaches to their cities
with sculptured sarcoplugi, and mausoleums, and
other ornaments, embowered in shrubbery, traces of
which may be seen among their magnificent ruins.
[Tlie Greeks exliausted the iQcsources of their ex-
quisite art in adorning the habitations of the -J
dead* Tliey discouraged interments within the
limits of their cities; and consigned their relics
to shady groves, in the neighborhood of murmuiv
ing streams and mossy fountains, close by the
£ivorite resorts of tliose who were engaged in the
study of philosophy and naturej and called them,
with tlic elegant expressiveness of their own .beau^
tiful language, Cemxteries,* or ** Places- of
Repose.** The Romans, fiiithiul to the example




of Greece, erected tlic montiraents to the dead in
tlie suburbs of die eternal city, (as they proudly
denominated it,) on the sides of tlieir s|)acious
road-s in the niidsit of trees and ornamental walks,
and ever-van-ing flowers. Ilie Appian Way was
crowded with columns, and obelisks, and cenotaplis
to the memory of her heroes and sages ; and, at
every turn, the short but touching inscription met
the eye, — Siste Viator, — Pause Traveller, — '
inviting at once to sym|»athy and thoughtful ness*
Even the humblest Roman could read on the
liumblest gravestone the kind oftcring — **May
the earth lie lightly on these remains ! "• 'And
the Moslem Successors of the emiK*rors, indifTercnt
as they may be to the ordlnar}* exhibitions of the
fine arts, place their burying-grounds in rural
retreats, and embellish them with studious taste
as a religious duty. The cypress is planted at
the head and foot of every grave, and waves with
a mouniful solemnity over it. These devoted
grounds possess an inviolable sanctity. The rav-
ages of war never reach them ; and victory and
defeat equally respect the limits of their domain.
So tliat it has been remarked, with equal truth

• •« Sit Ubi terra teTii.*'


GooQ k


^ ,


And beauty, that wliilo the cities of tlio living are
subject to all tlio desolations and vicissitudes inci-
dent to human aflfairs, tlie cities of tlie dead enjoj
an undisturbed repose, witliout oven the shadow
of change*

But I will not dwell upon facts of tliis nature.
They demonstrate, however, the truth, of which I
have spoken. Tliey do more; they furnish re-
flections siritable for our own thoughts on the
present occasion.

If tliis tender regard for tlio dead be so abso-
lutely universal, and so deeply founded in human
aiTection, why is it not made to exert a more pro-
found influence on our lives? Why do we not
enlist it with more persuasive energy in tlie cause
of human improvement ? Why do we not en-
large it as a source of religious consolation ? Why
do wo not make it a more efficient instrufnent to
! elevate Ambition, to stimulate Genius, and to

dignify Ix^aming? Why do we not connect it
indissolubly with associations, which charm us in
Naturo and engross us in Art ? Why do we not
dispel from it tliat unlovely gloom, from which
our hearts turn as from a darkness that ensnarcst
and a horror that appals our thoughts ?

To many, nay, to most of the heathen, the


Digitized by VjOOQiC




7 burying-plnce was tlio end of all tilings. Tlicy

indulged no ho\xi^ at least, no solid hope, of anj
future intercourse or re-union with their friends.
The fiirewell at tlie grave was a long, and an
everlasting farewell. At the moment, when they
breathed it, it brought to their hearts a startling
sense of their own wretchedness. Yet, when Uie
first tunmlts of anguish were passed, thej visited
the spot, and strewed flowers, and garlands, and
crowns around it, to assuage their grief, and nour-
ish their piety. Tliey delighted to make it tlie
abode of the varying beauties of Nature ; to give
it attractions, which should invite the busy and
the Uioughtful ; and yet, at the same time, afford
ample scope for the secret indulgence of sorrow.

Why should not Christians imitate such exam-
ples? They liave fiir nobler motives to cultivate
moral sentiments and sensibilities ; to make cheer*
ful the pathways to the grave ; to combine with
deep meditations on human mortality the sublime
consolations of religion. We know, indeed, as
they did of old, that *^man goeth to his long
home, and the mourners go about the streets.'*
But that home is not an everlasting home ; and
the mourners, may not weep as those who are
without hope. Wliat is the grave to Us, but a

Digitized by VjjOOQIC



tliin barrier dividing Timo from Eternity, and
Eartli from Heaven? Wliat Li it but «'tlie ap-
pointed place of rendezvous, where all the travel-
lers on life's journey meet *' for a single night of

** *TIs but a tiiglit — a long and moonless night,
Wo make llio Qravo o«r Dcd, and tlioa art goat.**

Know we not

-^ •• The time draws on
When not a fingte spot of burUl earth, •

Whether on Uml, or in tlio s;>acioiis sea.
Hat must gWe np its long committed dust

Why tlien should we darken with systematic
caution all the avenues to tliese rej)Ositories ?
j Why should wo deiiosit tlie remains of our friends
in loathsome vaults, or beneath the gloomy crj-pts
and cells of our churches, where the htiman foot
is never heard, save when tlie sickly taper lights
some new guest to his appointed a^iartment, and
** lets fall a supernumerary horror ** on Uic passing ,

r procession ? Why should we measure out a nar- /
-row portion of earth for our graveyards in the
midst of our cities, and heap the dead upon each
otlier with a cold, calculating parnmony, disturb-
ing their ashes, and wounding the sensibilities of

Digitized by VjiOOQlC


slioulcl wc cx|K>sc our burjnng-
id glare of Jay, to tlic unfeeling
> the noisy |>ress of businesn, to
>uts of merriment, or to the
»f the dissolute ? Why should
>roaches against real mourners,
»u]d slirink from observation,
,*ss would be soothed by secret
S and holding converse there
joys ? Wliy all tliis unnatural
s}*mpathies and sorrows, which
to the grave to tlic only time,
in wliicli it must be utterly useless — when the
heart is bleeding with fre^h anguish, and is too
weak to feel, and too desolate to dcsiro conso-

It is i^ainful to reflect, that the Cemeteries in
our cities, crowded on all sides by the overluing-
ing liabitatlons of the living, arc walled in only to
preserve them from violation. And that in our
country towns they are left in a sad, neglected
state, exposed to every sort of intrusion, with
scarcely a tree to shelter their barrenness, or a
shrub to spread a grateful shade over the new-
made hillock.

These tilings were not always so among Chris-

mds J



tians. Tlicy aro not worthjof us. ,Tlicy arc not ^
wortlij of Cliristianitj in our day. There is
• • much in these tTiings, that casts a just reproach

upon us in tlie past. There is much that de-
mands for the future a more spiritual discliarge
of our duties.

•Our Cemeteries rightly selected, and properly
arranged| may bo made subservient to some of
tlie highest purposes of religion and human duty.

I'They may preach lessons, to which none may
refuse to listen, and which all, that live, must hoar.
Truths may bo there felt and taught in the silence
of our own meditations, more i)ersuasive, and
more enduring, than ever flowed from human /

* lips. The grave hatli a voice of eloquence, nay, V
of superhuman eloquence, which speaks at once to
tliq tlioughtlessness of the rash, and the devotion
of tlie good ; which addresses all timcMS and all
ages, and all sexes ; which tells of wisdom to the
wise, and of comfort to tlie afHicted ; which warns
us of our follies and our dangers ; which whispers
to us in accents of peace, and alarms us in tones

-of terror; which steals with a healing balm into
the stricken heart, and lifts up and supports the
broken spirit ; which awakens a new enthusiasm
for virtue, and disciplines us for its severer trials

Digitized by VjOOQIC


and duties ; ivhicli calb up Uio imngcs of tlio illus-
trious dead, with an animating presence for our
example antl glory ; and which demands of us, as
men, as ^mtriots, as Christians, as immortals, that
the powers given by God should bo devoted to his
^rvicc, and the minds created by his love, should
return to him with larger capacities for virtuous
enjoyment, and witli more spiritiud and intel-
lectual brightness.

It should not be for tlie poor purpose of grati-
fying our vanity or pride, that wo should erect
columns, and obelisks, and monuments, to the
dead ; but that we may read thereon much of our
own destiny and duty. We know, that man is
tlie ci-eature of associations and excitements. Ex-
perience may instruct, but habit, and appetite, and
passion, and imagination, will exercise a strong
dominion over him. These are the Fates, which
weave the thread of his character, and unravel
tlie mvsteries of his conduct The truth, which
strikes home, must not only have the approbation
of his reason, but it must be embodied in a visible,
tangible, practical form. It must be felt, as well
as seen. It must warm, as well as convince.

It was a saying of Themistocles, that the tro-
phies of Aliltiades would not suffer him to sleep.

Digitized by VjOOQiC



Tlic feeling, thus expressed, has a ^pcp foundation
in the human mind ; and, as it is well or ill di-
rected, it will cover us with shame, or exalt us
to glory. The deeds of the great attract but a
cold and listless admiration, when they [>ass in
historical order before us like moving shadows.
It is the trophy and the monument, which invest
them with a substance of local reality. Who,
that has stood by the tomb of Washington on the
quiet Potomac, has not felt his heart more pure,
his wishes more aspiring, his gratitude more warm,
and his love of country touched by a holier flame ?
Who, that should see erected in shades, like
these, even a cenotaph to the memory of a man,
like Buckminster, that prodigy of early genius,
would not feel, that there is an excellence over
which death hatli no power, but which lives on
through all time, still freshening with the lapse
of ages.

But passing from those, who by their talents
and virtues have shed lustre on the annals of man-
kind, to cases of mere private bereavement, who,
that should deposit in shades, like these, . th^
remains of a beloved friend, would not feel a
secret pleasure in the thought, that the simple
inscription to bis worth would receive the passing

Digitized by VjiOOQ IC



triUute of a sigli from tliousands of kiiulrcd hearts?
Tliat the stranger and the traveller wonhl linger
on the spot with a feeling of reverence ? Tliat
they, tlio very mourners tliemselves, when tlicy
should revisit it. would find there the verdant sod,
and tlie fragrant flower, and tlie breezy shade?
Tliat they might there, unseen, except of God,
offer up their prayers, or Indulge the luxury of
grief? That they might there realise, in its full
force, the affecting beatitude of tlie Scriptures :
*^ Blessed are tliey tliat mourn, for Uiey shall bo
comforted ?'•

Surely, surely, we have not done all our duty,
if tliere 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 upon tlio waters of affliction.

Considerations, like Uiose, which have been sug-
gested, have for a long time turned the tlioughts
of many distinguished citizens to the importance of
some more appropriate places of sepulture. Tlicre
is a growing sense in the community of the in-
conveniences, and painful associa tions, not to speak
of the wJi^iIilunett. oCJnterments, beneath our
.churches. The tide, which is flowing with such
a steady and widening current into tlie narrow

Digitized by VjOOQiC


peninsula of our Mctroixilis, not only forbids the
enlargement of the common limits, but admonishes
us of the increasing dangers to tfio aslies of the
dead from its disturbing movements. Already in
other cities, tlio churchyards are closing against
tlie admission of new incumbents, and begin to
exhibit tlie sad spectacle of promiscuous ruins and
intermingled graves.

We arc, therefore, but anticipating at the pres-
ent moment, the desires, nay, the necessities of
the next generation. Wo are but exercising a
decent anxiety to secure an inviolable home for
ourselves and our posterity. We ai*e but inviting
our children and their descendants, to \\*hat the
Moravian Brothers have, MV'ith such exquisite pro-
priety, 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
cheerAd light over the darkness of the grave.

And what siK>t can be more appropriate tlmn
this, for such a purpose? Nature seems to point
it out with significant energy, as the favorite ro>
tirement for the dead. There are around us all

Digitized by VjOOQiC



the Vftric<l features of her beauty ami grandeur—
the forest-erowncil hei«;ht; the abrupt acclivity;
the sheltered valley ; the deep ;;len ; the jrrawy
glado; and the silent grove. Here are the lofty
oak, the beech, that ** wreaths its old fantantic
roots so high,** the ruHtliug ]»ine, and the drooping
willow ; — the tree, that sheds its pale leaves witli
every autumn, a fit emblem of our own transitory
bloom ; an<l the evergreen, with its perennial
shoots, instructing us, that *^ the wintry blast of
death kilU not the buds of virtue/* Here is the
thick shrubbery to protect and jconccal tlicjjcw- \
made grave ; and there is the wild-flower creeping
along the narrow path, and planting its seeds in
tlie uptume<l earth. All around us there breathes
a solemn calm, as if we were in the bosom of a,
wilderness, broken only by the bi-eez/s as it mur-
murs through the tops of the forest, or by the notes
of the warbler pouring forth his matin or his even-
ing song.

Ascend but a few steps, and what a change of
scenery to surprise and delight us. Wc seem, as
it were in an instant, to pass fi*om the confines of
death, to the bright and balmy regions of lifo.
Below us flows tho winding Charles with its rip*
pling current, like tho stream of time hastening

Digitized by VjOOQiC



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 lol\y towers, its graceful mansions, its
curling smoke, its crowded haunts of business and
pleasure, which s]ieak to tho eye, and yet leave a
noiseless loneliness on tho ear. Again we turn,
and the walls of our venerable University rise
before us, with many a recollection of happy days
passed there in tho interchange of study and friend-
ship, and many a grateful thought of the affluence
of its learning, which has adorncil and nourished
the literature of our country. Again wo turn, and
Uie cultivated fann, the ni*at cottage, the village
church, the sparkling lake, the rich valley, and
.tlie distant hills, arc before us through oi)ening
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
aflTocting character. We stand, as it were, upon
tho bor ders of two w orhls.; and as the mood of our
minds may be, we may gatlier lessons of profound
wisdom by contrasting tlie one with tlie other, or
indulge in tlie dreams of hope and ambition, or
solace oar hearts by melancholy meditations.

Digitized by VjOOQiC


Wlio 18 tlicrc, tliat in the contcin|iIation of such
a scene, is not ready to exclaim with the cntliiisi-
asm of tlie Poet,

** Mine be the brees/ kill, that skirts the down,
Where a green, grosuij turf is all [ crave,
With here and there a fiolet bestruwn,
Fajtt hj a brook, or fi>untain*9 murmuring ware.
And man/ an evening's sun vhiiie swecti/ on my grave? **

And we are met here to consecrate tln'i spot, by
these solemn ceremonies, to such a purpose. The
Legislature of this Commonwealth, with a parental
foresiglit, has clotlied the Horticultural Society
with authority (if I may use its own language)
to make a peqietual dedication of it, as a Uural
Cemetery or ]>ur)'ing-G round, and to plant and
embellish it with shrubbery, and flowers, and
trees, and walks, and other mral ornaments.
And I stand here by the order and in behalf of
this Society, to declare that, by these services, it
is to be deemed henceforth and forever so dedi-
cated. Alount Auburn, in tho noblest sense,
belongs no longer to tlie living, but to tho dead.
It is a sacred, it is an eternal trust It is con-
secrated ground. I^Iay it remain forever invio-
late I

What a multitude of thoughts crowd upon the

Digitized by VjOOQiC


mind in tho contemplation of such a scene. How

I much of tlio future, even in its far distant reaches,

rises before us with all its persuasive realities.

1 Take but one little narrow s[iace of time, and how

I aifecting are its associations I Within tho flight

of one half century, how many of tho great, tho

good, and tlie wise, will be gathered here I How

I many in tho loveliness of infancy, the beauty of

< youth, tho vigor of manhood, and the maturity of

I <^« ^>I1 1>^ down here, and dwell in the bosom

; of their mother earth t The rich and the i)oor,

1 tlie gay and the wretched, the favorites of thou*

sands, and the forsaken of tlie world, the stranger

in his solitary grave, and the patriarch surrounded

by tho kindred of a long lineage I How many

will hero bury their brightest hopes, or blasted

expectations ! How many bitter tears will here

be shed I How many agonizing sighs will here be

heaved I How many trembling feet will cross tho

pathways, and returning, leavo behind them tho

dearest objects of their reverence or their love I

And if this were all, sad indeed, and funereal

would be our tlioughts; gloomy, indeed, would

be these shades, and desolate these prospects.

But— thanks be to God— the evils, which ho

I permits, have their attendant mercies, and are

Digitized by VjOOQiC


. blessings in disguiflc. Tlie bruised reed will not
bo 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 theso
shades with a secret, though melancholy pleasure.
The liand of friendship will delight to cherish tho
flowers, and the shruljff, that fringe the lowly
grave, or the sculptured monument. Tho earliest
beams of tho morning will play upon these sum-
mits with a refreshing cheerfulness; and the
lingering tints of evening hover on them with a
tranquillizing glow. Spring will invite thither
the footsteps of the young by its opening foliage ;
and Autumn detain the contemplative by its latest
bloom. Tho votary of learning and science will
here learn to elevate his genius by the holiest of
studies. The devout will here offer up tho silent
tribute of pity, or the prayer of gratitude. Tho
J rivalries of tho world will hero drop from tho
heart ; tho spirit of forgiveness will gather now
impulses; the selfishness of avarice will be
checked ; tho restlessness of ambition will be re-
buked ; vanity will let fall its plumes ; and pride,
as it sees ** what shadows we are, and what shad-
ows we pursue," will acknowledge the value of

Digitized by VjOOQiC


Tirtuo as far, immcafturaUy far, beyond tliat of

But tliat, which will bo over present, pervading
these sliades, like tlio noonday sun, and sliedding
cheerfulness around, is the consciousness, the irro-
pressiblo consciousness, amidst all tlieso lessons of
human morttility, of the higher truth, that we arc
beings, not of time but of eternity — ** That this
corruptible must put on incomiption, and tliis j
mortal must put on immortality/' That this is-^
but the threshold and starting ])oint of an exist-
ence, com|)ared with whose duration the ocean is
but as a drop, nay, the whole creation an evanes-
cent quantity.

Let us banish, then, the thouglit, that tliis 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 wortliy of ourselves, and moro 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 tlie cause
of their country. Here let tlie statesman rest,
who has achieved the victories of peace, not less
renowned tlian war. Hero let genius find a home,
that lias sung immortal strains, or has instructod

Digitized by VjOOQiC


with Still diviner eloquence. Here let learning
and science, the votaries of inventive art, and the
teacher of the philosophy of nature come. Hero
let youth and beauty, blighted by preniature decay,
drop, like tender blossoms, into the virgin earth ;
and hero let ago retire, riiK!netl for the Iiarvest.
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 comfort, nay,
let us rejoice, that in future ages, long after wo are
gathered to tho generations of other days, tliou-
sands of kindling hearts will hero re|X!at tho
sublime declaration, ** Blessed are the dead, tliat
die in the Lord, for they rest from tlieir labors ;
and their works do follow them.**

Digitized by VjOOQIC



I; liY 11. A. S. Dearborn.

I, At tke Aniimil McetiDg of lh« lloiiiciiltiinil Society, Scptenw

j! ber SOlli, 1831, the CoinuiittM od Ujiiiff out ibegruttnUa and

!| ftirming tbo pUn of the KxpcrimonUl Gankn »ttd GooMteiy mi

Y Mount Attbarn, made Um fullowiDg


I ** That mcoAtircft were promptly tAken for aceom-
J' p]U]iing those objects, and altliough considerable
l| progress has been made, it will require further

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryJacob BigelowA history of the cemetery of Mount Auburn → online text (page 9 of 14)