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النشر الإلكتروني

RURAL FUNERALS.

Here's a few flowers! but about midnight more :
The herbs that have on them cold dew o' the night
Are strewings fitt'st for graves -
You were as flowers now withered; even so
These herb'lets shall, which we upon you strow.

CYMBELINE.

Among the beautiful and simple-hearted customs of rural life which still linger in some parts of England, are those of strewing flowers before the funerals and planting them at the graves of departed friends. These, it is said, are the remains of some of the rites of the primitive church; but they are of still higher antiquity, having been observed among the Greeks and Romans, and frequently mentioned by their writers, and were, no doubt, the spontaneous tributes of unlettered affection, originating long before art had tasked itself to modulate sorrow

into song, or story it on the monument. They are now only to be met with in the most distant and retired places of the kingdom, where fashion and innovation have not been able to throng in, and trample out all the curious and interesting traces of the olden time.

In Glamorganshire, we are told, the bed whereon the corpse lies is covered with flowers, a custom alluded to in one of the wild and plaintive ditties of Ophelia:

- White bis shroud as the mountain snow,

Larded all with sweet flowers ;
Which be-wept to the grave did go,

With true love showers.

There is also a most delicate and beautiful rite observed in some of the remote villages of the south, at the funeral of a female who has died young and unmarried. A chaplet of white flowers is borne before the corpse by a young girl nearest in age, size, and resemblance, and is afterwards hung up in the church over the accustomed seat of the deceased. These chaplets are sometimes made of white paper, in imitation of flowers, and inside of them is generally a pair of white gloves. They are intended as emblems of the purity of the deceased, and the crown of glory which she has received in heaven.

In some parts of the country, also, the dead are carried to the grave with the singing of psalms and hymns: a kind of triumph, “ to show,” says Bourne, “ that they have finished their course with joy, and are become conquerors.” This, I am informed, is observed in some of the northern counties, particularly in Northumberland, and it has a pleasing, though melancholy effect, to hear, of a still evening, in some lonely country scene, the mournful melody of a funeral dirge swelling from a distance, and to see the train slowly moving along the land

N

scape.

Thus, thus, and thus, we compass round
Thy harmlesse and unhaunted ground,
And as we sing thy dirge, we will

The Daffodill,
And other flowers lay upon
The altar of our love, thy stone.Herrick.

There is also a solemn respect paid by the traveller to the passing funeral in these sequestered . places; for such spectacles, occurring among the quiet abodes of nature, sink deep into the soul. As the mourning train approaches, he pauses, uncovered, to let it go by; he then follows silently in the rear; sometimes quite to the grave, at other times for a few hundred yards, and having paid this tribute of respect to the deceased, turns and resumes his journey.

The rich vein of melancholy which runs through the English character, and gives it some of its most touching and ennobling graces, is finely evidenced in these pathetic customs, and in the solicitude shown by the common people for an honoured and a peaceful grave. The humblest peasant, whatever may be his lowly lot while living, is anxious that some little respect may be paid to his remains. Sir Thomas Overbury, describing the “ faire and happy milkmaid,” observes, “ thus lives she, and all her care is, that she may die in the

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