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Custis, who died (illegible], aged 77 years, and yet lived but seven, being the time of his keeping a bachelor's house at A- on the eastern shore of Virginia.”
In the same book is a brace of others, nearly as quaint, although not acrimonious in nature. Their raciness is extremely refreshing. One is on a New England clergyman, who died in 1705 :
“Here, in a tyrant's hand, doth captive lie,
A rare synopsis of divinity.
When their King calls, to sit in Parliament.” Observe what a respectable company the worthy gentleman musters up; his predilections evidently were nicely aristocratic. The other of the twain strikes the ear with a measured military tramp-a roll of muffled drums, and a soul-piercing clang of band-metal:
“ Heare lyes our Captaine, and Major of Suffolk was withal,
A goodly Magistrate was he, and Major Generall.
In the book of Judges, the stone of Abel is spoken of; from which an imaginative writer adduces the belief that it was a monument to the memory of the first martyr. He furthermore suggests the probability that the stone in question was inscribed with the epitaph, “Here was shed the blood of righteous Abel” (Matt. 23 : 35). On this text he grounds his theory, but we have vainly sought for any authorization of it, either in this passage or elsewhere in Scripture. The poet Cowley may have been struck by a similarly brilliant idea; for, in treating of the death of Abel, he says of Cain :
“I saw him fling the stone, as if he meant,
At once his murther and his monument. The allusion contained in these lines may, however, bear another interpretation. Throughout the principality of Wales are scattered many huge piles of stones, or tumuli, called the Carneddan or Carnan ; among the most curious of which are those on Pumlumon, the Carneddan Hevgwn, and Carneddan y Gawres (the Giantess' Heaps), in Merionethshire, with some in Anglesea. An eminent antiquarian, Rowland, author of Mona Antiqua, opened one of the latter, and found therein deposited an urn, which led him to believe that the Carnedd examined was a sepulchral monument. It is generally believed by those versed in archæological lore, that, previous to the establishment of Christianity in Great Britain, stone-heaps were not merely thrown together to confirm and commemorate a covenant, but were also frequently erected over the graves of persons of distinction; and that, in conformity with a Scottish custom, every passenger, imbued with a decent respect for quiescent mortality, cast a stone on the pile, in lieu of the muttered Requiescat in pace of the Crusaders, and later adventure-seekers. It appears, that after the Christian practice of inhumation had been generally adopted, the Carnedd, instead of being a mark of honor and grateful homage, was appropriated to murderers and criminals. A writer on the subject says that the origin of this custom, among the Welch and the Highlanders of Scotland, is to be traced far away into the darkness of antiquity, probably to the earliest period of Druidism. In the book of Joshua, we learn that Achan, for his theft of the Babylonish spoil, was stoned to death by the Israelites, and buried underneath a great heap of those missiles in the valley of Achor; and the same writer suggests that the resemblance between the Hebrew word Garnaid and the ancient British Carnedd (both signifying a heap of stones) may tend to establish the identity of the usage thus adopted by the two nations. It is, moreover, probable that the custom of burying malefactors in this manner, as well as individuals of celebrity, may have originally prevailed in England, and that upon the introduction of Christianity the former description alone were buried in this
way. “Nor was the usage confined to the Hebrews and Britains. Homer obviously alludes to a similar practice in the following passage, in a speech of Hector to Paris, when the former is haughtily predicting the fall of his adversary, in the contest that was about to ensue between them :
For surely shalt thou now,
For thy misdeeds, thy garb of stone assume: which seems to imply that the tumuli under consideration were also among the Greeks appropriated to persons of infamous character."
The first monumental stone for the dead mentioned, is the one erected over Rachel by her husband, Jacob. The cave of Macpelah was, undoubtedly, of the simplest construction, more the work of nature than of art; and it is interesting to note, that in negotiating for it, Abraham was careful to include the trees which shaded and ornamented the environs. Purely the creation of art were those royal tombs, the Pyramids; and from them, to keep pace with the growth of pomp and magnificence, down through the lapse of ages, the rage for splendid mausolea became so great, and the honors lavished upon the dead so extravagant, as to be attended with no slight inconvenience to the surviving friends. There is in Agra a tomb over a queen, which employed in its erection, during the space of twenty-two years, twenty thousand workmen and artists. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans exceeded all other nations in the honors and tender care which they bestowed upon their dead. To their repose were consecrated the most beautiful and picturesque spots without the limits of the cities, which were embellished by every charm that skill could devise. Murmuring fountains, forests of superb trees and ornamental shrubbery, and ever-varying blossoms, attested the might of nature's handicraft; while magnificent sculptures, and stately mausolea and cenotaphs, showed the power of art. “ Šit tibi terra levis” (May the earth rest light on thee!) was, with the Romans, a favorite inscription; and on one very ancient tomb was inscribed “Quietorium" (resting-place). Dr. Johnson affirms, that one of the first distinctions of the primitive Christians was their neglect of bestowing garlands and other funeral honors on the dead; “ for," said one of their apologists, “we lavish no flowers nor odors on the dead, because they have no sense of fragrance or of beauty." One of the most eminent of the early fathers of the Church-St. Augustine-taking the view of the subject which is most commonly entertained, says : “The care of funerals, the place of sepulture, and the pomp of obsequies, are rather consolations to the living, than any benefit to the dead.”
The burial customs of different nations are possessed of singular interest; and the grand pageant, moving by torchlight to the ancestral yault, or the simple village train, bearing, with songs of holy resignation, a companion to his silent home, are, to a reverential spirit, equally invested with deep solemnity. As we are told in classic story, even the rudest nations cherished within their hearts the sentiment aptly expressed by Young
“The dead, how sacred ! Sacred is the dust of this Heaven-labored form,
Erect, divine;" and regarded the relics of their friends with a veneration not seldom amounting to idolatry, and a tenderness frequently refused to the living. “He that hath the ashes of his friend,” says Sir Thomas Browne,“ hath an everlasting treasure;" and the Scandinavians believed that severe sufferings to the departed spirit were the consequences of any profanation of the sepulchre. The most beautiful votive offerings to the manes of the deceased have ever been fresh flowers and odorous shrubs. Flowers, “ the illuminated scriptures of the prairie” and mountain, have always been considered the sweetest emblems of love and memory. The asphodel was used in funeral solemnities, because it was believed that the shades of the departed walked in vast groves of it, where they quaffed from the fountain of oblivion. Chaplets of amaranth were bestowed upon the quiet sleepers, as that flower was sacred to immortality. The ancients were also wont to burn the berries of the juniper at their obsequies, in order to drive away any evil spirits that might be hovering nigh, that plant being supposed to be peculiarly obnoxious to demons. The Troglodytes attached branches of the hawthorn—the symbol of hope to the dead bodies of their friends, and also threw boughs of it into the grave, at interment. Irving tells us, that at Latium it is customary to place a branch of cypress before the door of a house where there is one dead. A very pretty custom prevails among the natives of Bengal and the coast of Malabar. The mourners bring cages filled with birds to the graves of their friends, over which they set the winged captives at liberty.
66 The Jews,” says Camden, "anointed the dead bodies, wrapped them in sindon, layed them on covered sepulchres, hewed out of stone; the Egyptians embalmed and filled them with odoriferous spices, preserving them in glasse or coffins; the Assyrians in wax or honey; the Scythians carried about the cleansed carkases to the friends of the deceased for forty dais, with solemn banquet. And that wee may not particulate, the Romans so far exceeded in funeral honours and ceremonies, with oyntments, images, bonfires of most precious woods, sacrifices and banquets, burning their dead bodies untill about the time of Theodosius, that laws were enacted to restraine the excesse."
Three methods of burial, mummification, incineration, and inhumation, have been in use from the earliest ages, and have, perhaps, equally prevailed among different nations. The first was practised by the Egyptians, with a view to the resurrection or resumption of the body, which they believed would take place at the expiration of three thousand years. The antiquity of the second method, that of burning the dead, reaches as high as the Theban War, when sundry of its defunct heroes were consumed with vast solemnities. In the interior nations of Asia, the practice of cremation is of very ancient date, and the custom extended to many of the Western countries. It was held in such repute, that some were precluded from the privilege ; as young infants, those who were killed by lightning, and suicides. The Romans, in the most ancient times, appear to have practised inhumation, or burial of the dead; but having, from the Sybaritic Greeks, borrowed the revolting custom of burning, soon the blazing Bustum and its fragrant fumes disputed favor with the fresh, calm grave. For either ceremony, the deceased was crowned with flowers, and arrayed in his richest habit. The Greeks and Romans had funeral games, which, in the former nation, consisted chiefly of horse-races; and the garlands given to victors on the occasion were usually made of parsley, which was thought to have some relation to the dead. The rites of the Romans were of a fiercer and sterner kind, for sometimes mortal combats of gladiators took place around the funeral pyra. After the burning, the ashes were gathered, and the officiating priest, sprinkling the assembly thrice with clean water, while the eldest of the Præfacæ cried aloud Ilicet, dismissed the people, who took their leave of the deceased in this form : Vale, vale, vale ; nos te ordine quo natura permiserit cuncti sequemur. Could any thing be more touching and impressive! Both burning and burial prevailed until the introduction and adoption of Christianity, and the former fell into disuse about the end of the fourth century. Burning was so revolting to the ideas of the Persians and Egyptians, that the keenest insult which Cambyses could offer to the memory of Amasis, king of Egypt, and the manner in which he could best manifest his rage against him, was to cause his remains to be taken from the royal tomb, and, after savage indignities, to be burnt in his presence.