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ROSE-TREES, AND DRESSING THE
GRAVES WITH FLOWERS.
A Singular instance of affection has been observed for time out of mind in the parish of Ockley, in Surrey, of planting Rose-trees
the Graves, especially upon those of Lovers, so that this Church-yard is full of them. This custom is the more remarkable, because we may observe it to have been anciently used, both among
the Greeks and Romans. They were so very religious in it, that we find it often annexed as a Codicil to their Wills,-as appears by an old inscription at Ravenna, and another at Milan, by which they ordered Roses to be yearly strewed and planted upon their graves. Hence the Elegy of PROPERTIUS, implying the usage of burying amidst roses,
Illa meo caros donasset funere crines,
Lib. i eleg. 17. lin. 21. CAMDEN's Britannia, edited by Bishop Gibson. vola i. p. 236.
and ANACREON, speaking of it, says, that the Rose protects the dead from putres
Τάδε και νεκρούς άμυνεί. .
Od. 53. lin. 25.
The Romans were passionately fond of Roses, and were at much expense to procure them in Winter, to float in the Falernian Wine. They called their Mistresses Roses, from tenderness, and crowns of those flowers were tokens of pleasure and gallantry. The Rose was the emblem of a short life, and hence it was strewed over Tombs, -and it also appears in Epitaphs, that relations engaged to strew them annually.
ALEXANDER the Great adorned the Barrow of ACHILLES, whom he regarded as his Ancestor, with choice flowers, anointed the Stela or Pillar upon it with sweet perfumes, and, with his companions, ran naked, as the custom was, round it.3
SUETONIUS informs us, that AUGUSTUS
FOSBROKE's Encyclopedia of Antiquities, p. 748. 3 CHANDLER's Hist. of Ilium, p. 70.
took a view of the Corpse of ALEXANDER in the glass coffin in which it was deposited at Alexandria, and with the utmost veneration scattered flowers over it, and adorned it with a golden Crown.*
The same Historian also acquaints us, that, notwithstanding the detestable crimes of the Tyrant Nero, there were some persons, who, for a long time after his death, continued to deck his Tomb with spring and summer flowers."
It is to this circumstance that Lord Byron alludes,
When Nero perish'd by the justest doom
Which ever the destroyer yet destroy'd, Amidst the roar of liberated Rome,
Of Nations freed, and the World o'erjoy'd, Some hands unseen strew'd flowers upon his tomb;
Perhaps the weakness of a heart not void Of feeling for some kindness done when power Had left the wretch an uncorrupted hour.6
The time when the Women go out at
SUETONIUS, Octavius cap. 18. - SUETONIUS, Nero
сар. . 6 Don Juan Canto 3. Stanza 109:
Cairo, is mostly on Fridays, to the Burialplaces, to adorn with flowers and boughs the Sepulchres of their relations, to hang a lamp over them, and pour water on their graves."
A veneration for deceased friends and relatives is a favourable trait in the character of a people. This taste for decorating the Tombs occurs in very remote Countries, which hold but little communication with each other, - and prevails equally in South Africa, and in China.
And our own sweet SHAKESPEARE, with inimitable tenderness, adds, –
With fairest flowers, Whilst summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele, I'll sweeten thy sad grave: Thou shalt not lack The flower, that's like thy face, pale primrose ; nor The azur'd hare-bell, like thy veins; no, nor The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander, Out-sweeten'd not thy breath.
Cymbeline, Act. iv. Sc. 2.
7 Pococke's Descript. of the East, vol. i.
192. 8 TUCKEY's Narrative, p. 382. • Hall's Voyage to The Great Loo-Choo Island,
In 1652, EDWARD ROSE, by his Will, directed his body to be buried in the church-yard of Barnes, and bequeathed 51. for making a frame or partition of wood in the church-yard where he had appointed his burying-place, and ordered three Rose trees, or more, to be planted about the place where he should be so interred,—and he also bequeathed to the Minister, Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of Barnes, for the use of the poor of that parish, 201. to be laid out, within three years, in the purchase of an acre of land for the use of the poor,—but he willed, that out of the rents and profits of the same, they should cause the frame and partition of wood to be kept in repair, and the rose trees to be preserved, or others planted in their places, from time to time, as they should decay.10
On the outside of the Church of Barnes, in the South wall, is fixed a small tablet of stone between two of the buttresses, to the memory of Mr. Rose. The space
10 Rep. x. p. 589.