The Matthews Monument at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Indeed, It Doth Pass Quickly

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

"Time flies, death urges, knells call, Heaven invites, Hell threatens."
                                    Night Thoughts, Edward Young, (1683-1765)

Edward Young was an English poet who wrote Night Thoughts in 1742.  Even though it is a more of a collection of "stream of consciousness" thoughts, some of them are very insightful.  His work was very popular in his time, and received a new audience when it was mentioned by Edmund Blunden's WWI memoir,  Undertones of War in 1928.  Blunden said he read it while in the trenches, and it brought him comfort.  Some other lines that still hold true today:

      “Tired nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep”!
      “Procrastination is the thief of time.”
      “All men think all men mortal but themselves.”
      “At thirty, man suspects himself a fool.  Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan.”
      “A death bed’s a detector of the heart.”

I so understand the fourth one at this point in my life.  But I am most interested in the first line I copied from Young, starting with "time flies."  I would have thought that phrase was more modern, but Young penned it in the middle of the 18th century.  In the late 18th century and early-to-mid-19th century, a symbol of that phrase, "time flies," appeared on tombstones to illustrate the swiftness of human life as it passes through the universe.  The hourglass filled with a finite amount of sand depicts the passage of time in a mortal's life.  Add the angelic wings from the Divine, and time does fly, past the man who is unable to stop its flight, and with God overseeing its course.  

I haven't found a bounty of the hourglass, winged or plain, but I have uncovered some examples.  I hope you enjoy them, and keep in mind something Edward Young almost 300 years ago:  "Wishing, of all employments, is the worst."  And it wastes that most precious thing--the time we have left.

Hourglass on the base, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Dr. Sidney Phoenix Williams, born in Mass., died in Philadelphia at age 35, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Close-up of last photo, also note the sycthe of the Grim Reaper/Father Time, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Zinc Tombstone, Bethany Presybeterian Cemetery, Bethany, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Zinc Tombstone, Bethany Presbyterian Cemetery, Bethany, PA

David D. Wagener was the president of Easton National Bank, and served 4 terms in Congress.  In 1860, the year he died, the census estimated his estate at $300,000.  Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Similar to above...same carver?, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Hourglass above angel, mother and child, Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

From Mausoleum, West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

From Mausoleum, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

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