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Cotton Mather himself is characteristically described as distinguished for

« Care to guide his flock and feed his lambs

By words, works, prayers, psalms, alms, and — anagrams!» One of the anagrams upon the name of Mather makes out of Cottonus Matherus, Tu tantum Conors es, another Tuos tecum ornasti, etc.; and on the death of the Rev. John Wilson, Shepard wrote:

« JOHN WILSON, Anagr. John Wilson
O change it not! no sweeter name or thing
Throughout the world within our ears shall ring!”

We have collected a few specimens of the epitaphs of our first century, which, from their ingenuity or quaintness, cannot fail to amuse the reader. The first is on Samuel Danforth, a minister of Roxbury, who died in 1674, a few days after the completion of a new meetinghouse, and was written by Thomas Welde, a poet of considerable reputation in his day:

“Our new-built church now suffers by this —
Larger its Windows, but its Lights one less.”

Thomas Dudley, who came to Massachusetts in 1630 as deputy governor, was subsequently chief magistrate of the colony for several years. He died on the last day of July, 1653, in the seventy-third year of his age, and was buried in Roxbury, where, in the records of the Congregational Church, is preserved an anagram said to have been sent to him by some anonymous writer, in 1645.


"Ah, old must dye!
A death's head on your hand you need not weare —
A dying head you on your shoulders beare.
You need not one to mynd you you must dye -
You in your name may spell mortalitye.
Young men may dye, but old men, they dye must,
'Twill not be long before you turn to dust.
Before you turn to dust! Ah! must old dye?-
What shall young doe, when old in dust doe lye?
When old in dust lye, what New England doe?
When old in dust doe lye, it's best dye too.”

The following was found in his pocket after his death:

«Farewell, dear wife, children, and friends!
Hate heresy, make blessed ends,
Bear povertye, live with good men,
So shall we live with joy agen.
Let men of God in courts and churches watch
O'er such as doe a Toleration hatch,
Lest that ill egg bring forth a cockatrice
To poison all with heresy and vice.
If men be left and otherwise combine,
My epitaph's - I dyed no Libertyne!”

This is characteristic of the Puritans. The reader should, however, understand that the old meaning of the word Libertine was tolerant or liberal, so that the governor merely designed to enjoin conformity to his doctrines. Dudley was a narrow-minded man, as much distinguished for his miserly propensities as for his bigotry. Among the epitaphs proposed for his monument was one by Governor Belcher:

«Here lies Thomas Dudley, that trusty old stud —

A bargain's a bargain, and must be made good ! »

Donne nor Cowley ever produced anything more full of quaint conceits, antitheses, and puns, than the elegy written by Benjamin Woodbridge, in 1654, on John Cotton:

“Here lies magnanimous humility,
Majesty, meekness, Christian apathy,
On soft affections; liberty, in thrall —
A simple serpent, or serpentine dove.-
Neatness embroidered with itself alone,
And devils canonized in a gown,-
A living, breathing Bible; table where
Both covenants at large engraven are;
Gospel and law, in's heart, had each its column;
His head an index to the sacred volume;
His very name's a title-page, and next
His life a commentary on the text.
Oh, what a monument of glorious worth,
Where, in a new edition, he comes forth,
Without errata, may we think he'll be
In leaves and covers of eternity.”

The celebrated epitaph of Dr. Franklin is supposed to have been suggested by this; but the lines of Joseph Capen, a minister of Topsfield, on Mr. John Foster, an ingenious mathematician and printer, bear to it a still closer resemblance:

« Thy body which no activeness did lack,
Now's laid aside, like an old almanack;
But for the present only's out of date;
'Twill have at length a far more active state;
Yea, though with dust thy body soiled be,
Yet at the resurrection we shall see
A fair edition, and of matchless worth.
Free from errata, new in heaven set forth;
'Tis but a word from God, the great Creator,

It shall be done when he saith Imprimatur.” One of the most poetical of the epitaphs of this period is that by Cotton Mather on the Rev. Thomas Shepard, before mentioned, who died in 1649:

«Heare lies intombed a heavenly orator,

From the great King of kings Ambassador-
Mirrour of virtues, magazine of artes,

Crown to our heads, and loadstone to our heartes.” The following lines are from the monument of the Rev. Richard Mather, who died in Dorchester, in 1669, aged seventy-three:

Richardus hic dormit Matherus,
Sed nec totus nec mora diu tuma,
Lætatus genuisse pares.
Incertum est utrum doctior an melior
Anima et gloria non queunt humani.

« Divinely rich and learned Richard Mather,
Sons like him, prophets great, rejoiced his father.
Short time his sleeping dust here's cover'd down;

Nor his ascended spirit or renown.”
The Rev. Edward Thompson, a preacher of considerable repu-
tation in his day, died at Marshfield, Massachusetts, in 1705.
His epitaph is preserved by Alden:-

« Here, in a tyrant's hand, doth captive lye

A rare synopsis of divinitye.
Old patriarchs, prophets, gospel bishop meet
Under deep silence in their winding sheet.

All rest awhile, in hopes and full intent,
When their King calls, to sit in Parliament.”

Governor Theophilus Eaton, of New Haven, died at an advanced age, on the seventh of January, 1657. His son-in-law, Deputy-Governor William Jones, and his daughter, are buried near him, and are alluded to in the lines upon the monument erected to his memory:

«Eaton, so famed, so wise, so meek, so just -
The phoenix of our world - here lies in dust.
His name forget New England never must.
T'attend you syr, undr these framed stones
Are come yr honrd son and daughter Jones,

On each hand to repose yr weary bones.”
The next is from an old monument in Dorchester:-

« Heare lyes our captaine, who major

Of Suffolk was withall,
A goodly magistrate was he,

And major generall!
Two troops of horse with him here come,

Such worth his love did crave,
Ten companyes of foot, also,

Mourning marcht to his grave.
Let all who read be sure to keep

The faith as he has don;
With Christ he now lives crown'd; his name

Was Humphrey Atherton.

He died the 16th of November, 1661." In the same cemetery «lies the body of James Humfrey, one · of the ruling elders of Dorchester, who departed this life May 12th, 1686, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.” His epitaph, like many of that period, is in the form of an acrostic:

«Inclosed within this shrine is precious dust,

And only waits the rising of the just;
Most useful while he lived, adorn'd his station,
Even to old age he served his generation;
Since his decease, thought of with veneration.
How great a blessing this ruling elder, he
Unto this church and town, and pastors three;
Mather the first did by him help receive,
Flint he did next his burden much relieve.

Renowned Danforth did he assist with skill;
Esteemed high by all, bearing fruit until
Yielding to death, his glorious seat did fill.”

The most ingenious of the Puritan poets was the Rev. Michael Wigglesworth, whose “Day of Doom” is the most remarkable curiosity in American literature. «He was as skilled,” says one of his biographers, «in physic and surgery as in diviner things,” and when he could neither preach nor prescribe for the physical sufferings of his neighbors, –

«In costly verse, and most laborious rhymes,

He dish'd up truths right worthy our regard.” He was buried in Malden, near Boston, and his epitaph was written by Mather:


«Remembered by some good tokens
«His pen did once meat from the eater fetch;
And now he's gone beyond the eater's reach.
His body, once so thin, was next to none;
From hence he's to unbodied spirits flown.
Once his rare skill did all diseases heal;
And he does nothing now uneasy feel.
He to his Paradise is joyful come,

And waits with joy to see his Day of Doom.) »
The last epitaph we shall give is from the monument of Dr.
Clark, a grandson of the celebrated Dr. John Clark, who came to
New England in 1630:-

“He who among physicians shone so late,
And by his wise prescriptions conquer'd Fate,
Now lies extended in the silent grave,
Nor him alive would his vast merit save.
But still his fame shall last, his virtues live,
And all sepulchral monuments survive.
Still flourish shall his name; nor shall this stone

Long as his piety and love be known.” Many of the elegies preserved in the « Magnalia,” Morton's «New England Memorial,” and other works of the time, are not less curious than the briefer tributes engraven upon the tombstones of the Pilgrims.

From “Curiosities of American


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