Page images
PDF
EPUB

characteristic of the French draws this true and frightful picture of their insensibility.

Eh bien ! nous avons vu beaucoup de ces enterremens, et nous avons remarqué avec surprise, avec indignation, que les personnes qui y assistaient s'y rendaient presque toutes comme à une partie de plaisir. Nous avons même appris, que la coûtume était pour tous ces parens, ces prétendus amis du défunt de se rendre à la fin de la cérémonie funèbre, dans ces guinguettes, et de célébrer à table, et dans un repas souvent commandé d'avance, les vertus et les qualités de la personne enterrée. Nous l'avouerons, nous ne connaissons rien d'aussi scandaleux que cette absurde coûtume, rien qui montre mieux à nos yeux l'excès d'immoralité dans lequel est tombé le peuple Parisien, depuis notre fatale révolution. C'est surtout le dimanche que les habitans de la capitale se rendent aux différens cimetières qui l'entourent. Ils y vont comme à la promenade, et il n'est pas rare de lire et la joie et le contentement sur la figure de ceux qui les visitent.

There is however one day in the year when, we are assured, the Parisians are led to those burial-places by genuine piety,—it is on All Souls' day, which is set apart in the Romish church for the commemoration of the dead, and whole families visit the graves of their relations. Women in mourning repeat the prayers for the dead over the grave, and men are seen prostrate on the ground.

The Spaniards have a custom upon that day almost as loathsome as the feast of the dead among the North American savages, they open the sepulchres in the churches and light them up! This is in the spirit of those Dominicans and Franciscans, who, in various parts of Europe, used to exhibit the dry bodies of their brethren ranged round the walls, and to line chapels with human skulls and thigh bones,-abominable spectacles which tend to make men regard the end of this mortal life with horror, rather than with religious hope. With them the grave is the door of purgatory,the most profitable fiction that was ever invented by priestcraft. One of our own poets (Donne) regards it with a finer and truer feeling,

when he says:

[ocr errors]

Church-yards are our cities, unto which
The most repair that are in goodness rich;
There is the best concourse and confluence;
There are the holy suburbs, and from thence
Begins God's City, new Jerusalem,
Which doth extend her utmost gates to them.
At that gate then, triumphant soul, dost thou

Begin thy triumph!' It appears that the bills of mortality at Paris hold out a tremendous lesson of morals to the Parisians, if, as may be fairly inferred, they agree in their results with the tombstones of the different cemeteries. In the burial-ground of Montmartre, which is the deposit for the gay part of Paris, the purlieus of the Palais Royal, the Rues St.

Honoré,

Honoré, Vivienne, Richelieu, and Montmartre, the Boulevards, and the Chaussée d'Antin, nine tombs in ten are to the memory of persons cut off in the flower of their youth. But in the burialground of Père la Chaise, which serves principally for the sober citizens of Paris, the inhabitants of the Marais, and of the Faubourg St. Antoiue, nine out of ten record persons who had attained a good old age. In both cases this fact relates to subjects in easy or affluent circumstances, and the difference of mortality is solely attributable to the difference between a dissipated and a regular life. If nosological tables had been kept in different places, and in different parts of the world, with the same care as meteorological ones, how many more important results might have been deduced from them! It is said that insanity is seldom known in Spain, and rarely or never among private soldiers or sailors. The latter fact is easily explicable ; military and naval discipline acts upon those who might be disposed to madness, like the perpetual presence of a keeper. To explain the infrequency of this dreadful malady in Spain would require a more intimate knowledge of the people than a stranger can possibly obtain. Something however may be ascribed to general temperance, and to the little use which is made of ardent spirits; and it should be remembered that convents often supply the places of madhouses, and that downright lunacy passes for high devotion and miraculous grace.

The monuments in the new Parisian cemeteries are generally in good taste, better than is usually found in England. The inscriptions are sufficiently French in sentiment. Two in this little volume are worthy of notice for a different cause. person who was the most famous réstaurateur in Paris in his day, and it is said upon his tomb-stone that his whole life was consecrated to the useful arts. The other is upon one of Buonaparte's Generals, who is made to say

Dans toute ma vie

Je n'ai fait tort à personne. One of these burial-grounds is planted with fruit trees, which is objected to as rendering the general effect moins attristante. We are told that a former possessor of Ermenonville planted dead trees in his gardens, pour inspirer la philosophie. But the oddest display of this kind was exhibited by a certain M. de Brunoi, who put his park in mourning for the death of his mother, and had barrels of ink sent from Paris that the jets d'eau night be in mourning also. Count Schimmelmann's monument for his wife was all that was wanting to make the scene complete : that nobleman placed the monument upon a spring, and made the water spout from an eye, that it might be a symbol of his excessive grief. It may still

be

/

One is upon a

be seen not far from Copenhagen, where it is known by the name of the Weeping Eye.'

The Parisians have committed no follies of this kind; but they have acted like themselves in making shew-catacombs and cimetières ornés. A becoming respect to human nature was manifested in removing the remains of the dead with decency, and preparing a receptacle for them ; but it would bave been better to put them out of sight and wall them up in the quarries, than to arrange them in patterns along the wall-skulls and thigh bones, like muskets and pistols in the small armoury at the Tower. Such exhibitions cannot have a salutary tendency, they foster that disease of mind in which melancholy madness bas its foundation; they harden brutal natures, and are more likely to provoke the licentious to impious bravadoes than to reclaim them. Exposures of this kind originated in the spirit of monachism. They are unfeeling and unnatural. Public feeling would not tolerate them in Protestant countries. Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust.

Burial grounds à la pittoresque, laid out for a promenade, are not more consonant to good feeling. This invention is indeed original in the people of Paris, for whom the author of the Promenade claims it with so much satisfaction; but he knows little of the customs of other countries, or he would not have said that a few crosses or tomb-stones are all that is to be seen in other places of interment. The beauty of the Mohammedan burial-grounds has been noticed by all travellers. The Afghauns call their cemeteries the Cities of the Silent; and hang garlands on the tombs and burn incense before them, because they believe that the ghosts of the departed dwell there, and sit each at the end of his own grave, enjoying the fragrance of these offerings. The churchyards in the Reductions in Paraguay were so many gardens. The graves were regularly arranged and bordered with the sweetest plants and flowers, and the walks were planted with orange-trees and palms. The Moravians in their missions observe the same regularity and decency: the name which they give to a burial-place is God's ground. In many parts of Wales the graves are carefully planted with flowers ; and the beauty of this custom is felt by all English travellers. In Gibson's additions to Camden it is noticed, that the custom of planting rose trees upon the graves, anciently used both among the Greeks and Romans, had been observed time out of mind at Okeley, in Surry, especially by the young men and women who have lost their lovers, so that the churchyard was full of them. The graves are planted with flowers in some of the Catholic cantons in Switzerland, and receptacles of water are placed beside, with bunches of hyssop, for sprinkling them; the

sprinkling,

sprinkling, however, is for superstition, not for watering the flowers.

We do not remember to have seen the Swiss churchyards noticed by any traveller. The monuments are of iron, with scrolls, hearts, darts, and crosses : those of the poor wholly black, except the epitaph; the others gilt and painted. At Schwartz they have little pictures of saints, and other religious or emblematic miniatures ; gilt crucifixes are frequent upou these gay and hideous tombs : nothing can be more ugly by day or more ghastly by night. At Lungern and at Saxlen little portraits of the deceased are framed in these scrolls of iron, generally husband and wife together. A few years suffice to destroy these frail memorials; the colours disappear, the features themselves decay, and the perishing outline which remains bears the same resemblance to the picture that a skeleton does to the living body. There is something very frightful and very affecting at the same time in seeing these things in the different stages of the death and dissolution which they also undergo.

The Duc de Levis says, that old families in England usually have their own places of burial in their park. On the contrary, it is rather remarkable that there should be so very few. Wesley notices one in an uncharitable spirit, which, with him, was not usual; but the passage is curious. In our way to Bury,' he says,

we called at Felsham, near which is the seat of the late Mr. Reynolds. The house is, I think, the best contrived and the most beautiful I ever saw. It has-four fronts, and five rooms on a floor, elegantly, though not sumptuously furnished. At a small distance stands a delightful grove. On every side of this, the poor rich man, who had no hope beyond the grave, placed seats to enjoy life as long as he could. But being resolved none of his family should be put into the ground, he built a structure in the midst of the grove, vaulted above and beneath, with niches for coffins, strong enough to last for ages.

In one of these he had soon the satisfaction of laying the remains of his only child; and two years after, those of his wife. After two years more, in the year 1759, having eat and drunk, and forgotten God for eighty-four years, he went himself to give an account of his stewardship.'

On the other hand, if private cemeteries are very unfrequent in England, there is no country in the world where those half madmen, who are styled humourists, have indulged themselves so frequently in what may be called funeral freaks. An old smoker, who died in a workhouse about ten years ago, at the age of 106, desired that his pipe might be laid in his coffin. An old fox hunter would be buried with a fox-pad in each hand; and had the humtsmen and whippers-in of all the packs with which he had hunted for his mourners. A stout electioneer gave directions that his coffin should be painted blue, and the bearers wear blue ribbands. A chaise-driver, who had attained to great eminence in that profession, desired that he might he interred as near the turnpike road as possible, that he might enjoy the satisfaction, he said, of hearing the carriages pass. An odd fellow, in a higher rank of life, left one penny to every child that should attend his funeral, a guinea to seven old navigators (as canal-men are called in the midland counties), for puddling him up in his grave, and half-a-guinea to the ringers, to strike off a peal of grand bobs when they were putting him in. Some daring spirits have chosen to testify their contempt for the national church by rejecting the last of its fine services, testifying also that they rejected the Mediator and Redeemer, and died without hope like the beasts that perish. For souls like these, who would be contented with utter death, (a miserable faith, which proceeds far more frequently from the corruption of the heart than the aberration of intellect) Dante has imagined a tremendous destination—sepulchres in hell, wherein they shall be enclosed alive.

should

• Were the happiness of the next world,' says Sir Thomas Brown, as closely apprehended as the felicities of this, it were a martyrdom to live; and unto such as consider none hereafter, it must be more than death to die; which makes us amazed at those audacities that durst be nothing and return into their chaos again.—It is the heaviest stone that melancholy can throw at a man to tell him he is at the end of his nature, or that there is no farther state to come, unto which this seems progressional, and otherwise made in vain.

We cannot close this article more appropriately than by a churchyard poem, written by a youth who soon afterwards was laid in the grave himself. His life had been eventful and unfortunate, till his extraordinary merits were discovered by persons capable of appreciating, and willing and able to assist him. He was then placed under a kind and able instructor, and arrangements had been made for supporting him at the University; but he had not enjoyed that prospect many weeks before it pleased God to remove him to a better world. The reader will remember that they are the verses of a school-boy, who had not long been taken from one of the lowest stations in life, and he will then judge what might have been expected from one who was capable of writing with such strength and originality upon the tritest of all subjects.

LINES
WRITTEN IN THE CHURCHYARD

OF
RICHMOND, YORKSHIRE,

BY
HERBERT KNOWLES.

« PreviousContinue »