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A Few Sundays ago, while strolling in one of the suburbs of the city, I entered an old Catholic burying-ground, in the neighborhood of which I used to live, and within the precincts of which I had spent many an hour. Inside of the enclosure is a small church, which then was occupied by a regular congregation, but now is used only as a chapel for the burial-service for the dead. From a distance the spot has a neat and romantic appearance, being situated on a green slope, with its little chapel of brick nearly hidden from view by a cluster of fine old trees, whose dark foliage throws a sombre hue over
scene, in unison with the purpose to which the place is consecrated. A closer inspection, however, will disappoint one, for signs of slovenliness and the grossest neglect are every where seen, and the visitor cannot help contrasting it unfavorably with the Protestant cemeteries in the neighborhood, where wealth and taste have been lavished until they have become literally gardens and pleasure-grounds for the living, as well as burial-places for the dead." Indeed, the condition of too many of our Catholic burying-grounds reflects no little discredit on those who are responsible for it. This, however, I am fully persuaded, is not chargeable to the people. They, the children of Exile and Poverty, have done what they could, as the
numerous monuments, some of them tasteful and highly ornamental, sufficiently testify. The fault lies rather in the authorities of the church, who from the sale of burial privileges draw a lucrative revenue, no part of which is expended, as it should be, to keep the grounds in repair. Consequently, in quite too many instances, the consecrated ground' in our country is but a naked, dreary enclosure, without tree or shrub to hide its ghastliness ; with grave-stones broken and prostrate, dilapidated walls, and a sickening stench ; in fact, a place altogether repulsive in its appearance, and too often a downright nuisance to the neighborhood.
And yet no people perhaps excel the Irish in their affectionate remembrance of the dead. This sentiment is a national trait in their character; and there are few families among them in our comm
munity, however poor they may be, that cannot point to the monument, either of granite or marble, or the humbler one of slate or wood, beneath which sleeps the dust of some of their kindred. The enclosure of which I have spoken is wholly blocked up with these memorials; and there is hardly one of them which has not connected with its history some tale of touching self-denial in the survivors who erected it; of privations and toil undergone for weeks and months, and sometimes years, while scraping together the means to pay for it.
At the bottom of this little field, in one corner, is a tall granite obelisk, the loftiest and costliest in the yard. Since I last saw it, however, it has been somewhat disfigured by a trellis which has been raised against it- the suggestion of affectionate remembrance rather than of taste-over which an evergreen has climbed to the very top. This stone marks the spot where sleeps a mother and her son. The former, who was a widow with only this one child, died first; and the boy, then but eighteen, and an apprentice to a stone-cutter, immediately on the burial of his mother formed the resolution of erecting a monument to her memory that should mark out her grave above all others. He was but an apprentice, as already stated, with scarcely the means to keep himself in food and decently clad ; but, under the impulse of that beautiful sentiment to which I have already alluded as a national trait, he set himself to the pious task with a resolute will, and pursued it with indomitable perseverance. His evenings and holidays were all devoted to this one object, and the hours of sleep often entrenched upon; and yet nearly two years were consumed before he approached the termination of his task. He reached it at last. The tall obelisk stood in his master's yard, and the marble block inserted in it was already inscribed with the name and virtues of the deceased, and his own filial remembrance of them, when Death laid his hand also upon the sculptor. In less than a fortnight from the time when he put the last chisel-touch to his labor of love, he was himself borne to the
grave, and his cold form laid side by side with that of his mother; and another name was added, and other hands than his lifted the monument of his toil and affection over the remains of both parent and child.
A short distance from this obelisk, a little to the right, is a spot to me of peculiar interest. It is the grave of a young woman who, as the simple stone cross at the head tells us, was from the county of Wexford, Ireland, and who was buried in the twentieth year of her age. She had been in this country but a few months when she died; and, as I learned from one who knew her, if she had lived but four weeks longer she would have been married to a young man to whom she was betrothed long before in their native land. With what singleness of heart he had loved her was told in the affectionate care he bestowed
upon her grave. Every weed was sedulously plucked from its vicinity; the rank grass waved not near it; while the choicest flowers bloomed, it seemed in almost perpetual verdure, over the little mound that covered her remains. Nor did this appear enough to the survivor. In the season of flowers, every Sunday morning a fresh bouquet of the loveliest, which he knew so well how to cultivate, was tied to a wooden stake at the foot, and a green wreath hung on an arm of the little stone cross at the head. And later still, when the garniture of summer had faded, and out-door flower and leaf were swept away, the hot-house yielded its treasures, and it was not uncommon then to see the rich dies of summer contrasted with the glittering frost around that favored spot. Yet, choice as were these offerings in their beauty and fragrance, no one was ever molested, and they remained sacred from human touch until each recurring Sabbath-morning brought fresher ones to take their places. But a sad change is now visible here. What has become of the lover — whether he be living or dead—I have not been able to learn. Certain it is, the little grave, once guarded and decked with such pious care, is now utterly neglected. The tread of the living has nearly obliterated the land-marks; weeds and rank grass have sprung up around and covered it; but the stone cross is there, and at its foot the little round stake, with the withered stems of the last bou. quet still tied to it, though nearly two seasons have passed since flower and leaf were scattered on the ground, or floated with their fragrance away with the autumn winds.
In one corner of this yard I noticed, some years ago, a bit of board, scarcely bigger than a shingle, stuck at the head of an humble grave, in which was buried a young Swiss emigrant. The material and the execution of this little memorial indicated a condition in the survivors of the most helpless poverty. At the top were cut, in the rudest characters, evidently with a dull knife, the mystic letters ‘I. H. S;' and underneath, · Wilhelmina, Basle, Switz.: aged fifteen.' On this humble grave, too, I have seen flowers scattered, in their season; not, it is true, of cultured beauty, like those which bloomed over the gardener's love, but only such simple wild ones as affectionate Poverty could gather in fields not its own.
The wooden monuments are quite a peculiarity in this yard. They may be seen of all shapes-slabs, crosses, urns, and obelisks; the inscriptions on some of them, “this stone,' etc., exemplifying another trait in the Irish character, which will readily recur to the reader. A few of these wooden stones are lettered with some little taste and care, but too many are disfigured by the rudest scrawls and the most ludicrous blunders. In this respect, however, they but share in common with their more ambitious neighbors.
While alluding to inscriptions, I will copy a few that may be found here, and which are noticeable; some for their simplicity or beauty, and others for entirely different qualities. Many of the epitaphs are new to me, though they may all be familiar to the reader. One of the most beautiful marble slabs in the field was erected by a sister to an only brother. After enumerating his virtues, the inscription closes with a beautiful quatrain, the first line of which I presume was intended to be read thus :
"Farewell, sweet brother of my heart! Unfortunately, however, the sculptor has left out the r in the first syllable of the word brother, thus giving to the whole quite a roguish and Tom. Mooreish expression.
Near by is a memorial of filial affection, closing with the following neat epitaph :
• A HUSBAND kind, a father dear,
Or breaks his peaceful slumbers now.' Close to this may be seen a stone erected by a wife in gratitude for the death of her beloved husband, Patrick ;' and scarcely a step farther on, a'weeping husband' has placed a monument over his departed spouse, as a memorial of his grief, love, and respects!' A rod from this a slab marks the spot where rest an aged couple, and invokes Heaven to have mercy on their ósoles.' And side by side with it stands another, on which the sculptor seems to have made an attempt to suit the orthography to the Hibernian brogue. The beginning of the inscription, taking the words in the order in which they occur, will make a very passable couplet, though it does not appear in that form on the stone. It commences thus :
Christian brethren, of your charity,
Pray for the soule of Thomas GARETY.' In another part of the yard I find the following epitaph, which strikes me as being very felicitous :
"HERE to thy bosom, Mother EARTH,
Take back what thou hast given,
Recall, O God! in peace to Heaven.' A stone over the remains of a young girl, who died in the hope of a blessed resurrection,' contains the following old but exquisite lines :
Dust to its narrow house beneath,
Soul to its God on high :
No more may fear to die.'
On the grave-stone of Mr. Thomas Murray may be found the following rare specimen of the double negative:
"No friends nor physicians could not save
I shall notice at present but one more of these inscriptions, and that is on the monument of a distinguished doctor of the church, and a most accomplished linguist, whose eloquence, piety and learning were widely known and honored by all sects in his lifetime, and are not forgotten
His virtues, and they were many, are duly commemorated on this stone, which, as we are told near the close of the inscription, was