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BY THE EDITOR.
THIS little treatise, based in a great measure on Kirchmann's learned work, "De Funeribus Romanorum," was at one time much read by literary men. Charles Lamb and Hazlitt admired it. Leigh Hunt also, if I remember rightly, has, in his light and graceful way, paid the author some well-deserved compliments on its beauty and eloquence; and I may add, that whosoever reads and reflects upon it, will not only unite with them in their admiration, but remember ever after with satisfaction the day when the " Urn-Burial" first came into his hands. It is a grand declamation upon death-impressive, but not exaggerated; solemn, yet not uncheerful. The hope of immortality, the Christian's hope, struggles through and softens the gloom. We whisper to ourselves from time to time, as we read, "There is balm in Gilead." Our spirits rise above the fogs and mists of the earth, and the star of religion sheds its golden beams upon us more brightly as we ascend. There is a philosophical method, and very superior art, in the management of the subject. At first everything smells of the earth, earthly. Tombs and dust and charnel-houses, and all the secrets of the grave, rise up before our imagination. It reminds one of an Egyptian necropolis, with all its sublime stillness and beauty. Pensively we read, not without a deep conviction, that “mutato nomine, de nobis fabula narratur." And oh, there is, as too many know, a loveliness in Death! He keeps the keys of those bright and sunny realms, gladdened by some face we love, which not even the offer of earthly immortality could quench the thirst of visiting, "in ordine quo natura permiserit." The grave is the
portal of heaven. All that is spiritual, all that is lovely, all that the soul clings to in life or in death, meets us as we enter. There the sacred dust we value beyond worlds reposes. Down through that narrow gap sunk the sun of our lives, never again to rise, but in heaven. Oh, who would be immortal with his affections in the grave! That Greek poet understood well what we mean, who introduces Aphrodite exclaiming in grief for the loss of a mortal lover,
ἃ δὲ τάλαινα
Ζώω, καὶ θεὸς ἐμμὶ, καὶ οὐ δύναμαὶ σε διώκειν.
"Wretch that I am,
Fettered by immortality, I cannot
But Sir Thomas Browne soon strikes upon another key. He feels, and paints feelingly, the truth that we pass away like a shadow, and have here no abiding place. He carries his thoughts elsewhere-to that place, where neither moth nor rust corrupts and where thieves do not break through and steal. Arrived at this topic, having fixed the mind full upon immortality, having beheld the corruptible put on incorruptibility, he closes the book, and leaves the reader wiser and better than he found him.
TO MY WORTHY AND HONOURED FRIEND,
THOMAS LE GROS, OF CROSTWICK, ESQ.
WHEN the funeral pyre was out, and the last valediction over, men took a lasting adieu of their interred friends, little expecting the curiosity of future ages should comment upon their ashes, and having no old experience of the duration of their relics, held no opinion of such after considerations.
But who knows the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried? Who hath the oracle of his ashes, or whither they are to be scattered? The relics of many lie, like the ruins of Pompey's (1) in all parts of the earth; and when they arrive at your hands, these may seem to have wandered far, who in a direct and meridian travel have but few miles of known earth between yourself and the pole.(2)
the bones of Theseus should be seen again in Athens, (3) was not beyond conjecture and hopeful expectation; but that these should arise so opportunely to serve yourself was a hit of fate and honour beyond prediction.
We cannot but wish these urns might have the effect of theatrical vessels and great Hippodrome urns in Rome, to resound the acclamations and honour due unto you.(4) But these are sad and sepulchral pitchers, which have no joyful voices; silently ex
(1) Pompeios juvenes Asia, atque Europa, sed ipsum terra tegit Lybia.
(2) Little directly but sea between your house and Greenland.
(3) Brought back by Cimon. Plutarch.
(4) The great urns in the Hippodrome at Rome, conceived to resound the voices of people at their shows.
pressing old mortality, the ruins of forgotten times, and can、 only speak with life, how long in this corruptible frame some parts may be uncorrupted, yet able to outlast bones long unborn, and noblest pile among us. (5)
We present not these as any strange sight or spectacle unknown to your eyes, who have beheld the best of urns and noblest variety of ashes; who are yourself no slender master of antiquities, and can daily command the view of so many imperial faces, which raiseth your thoughts unto old things and consideration of times before you, when even living men were antiquities; when the living might exceed the dead, and to depart this world could not be properly said to go unto the greater number; (6) and so run up your thoughts upon the Ancient of Days, the antiquary's truest object, unto whom the eldest parcels are young, and earth itself an infant; and, without Egyptian account, makes but small noise in thousands. (7)
We were hinted by the occasion, not catched the opportunity, to write of old things, or intrude upon the antiquary. We are coldly drawn unto discourses of antiquities, who have scarce time before us to comprehend new things, or make out learned novelties; but seeing they arose as they lay, almost in silence among us, at least in short account suddenly passed over, we were very unwilling they should die again, and be buried twice among us.
Beside, to preserve the living, and make the dead to live, to keep men out of their urns, and discourse of human fragments in them, is not impertinent unto our profession, whose study is life and death, who daily behold examples of mortality, and of all men least need artificial mementoes, or coffins, by our bedside to mind us of our graves.
It is time to observe occurrences, and let nothing remarkable escape us; the supinity of elder days hath left so much in silence, or time hath so martyred the records, that the most industrious heads do find no easy work to erect a new Britannia.($)
(5) Worthily possessed by that true gentleman, Sir Horatio Townshend, my ho
(6) Abiit ad plures.
(7) Which makes the world so many years old.
(8) Wherein M. Dugdale hath excellently well endeavoured, and worthy to be countenanced by ingenuous and noble persons.