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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Succinct Phrases and Flowery Prose

Sandy Bank Cemetery, Spencers Corner, PA

In my blog, I have focused on the symbolism found on American gravestones in the 19th century, but this week, I wanted to share some of the words from tombstones of the past.

Some of the tombstones below feature a typical word or phrase illustrating the Victorian perspective that the deceased was not dead but just sleeping, to be awakened when the Resurrection happened.  It is very common to see "Asleep" or "Resting" on stones.  This was a major change in the way American society viewed death.  In the 18th century, the focus was on death itself:  death was inevitable, and you better prepare for it by getting your life and soul in order.  Typical symbols from that time period include skulls, crossbones and soul effigies (they look similar to cherubs, with a head and wings).  But, with the coming of the 19th century, the focus shifted somewhat from death and the deceased to the emotional mourning of the ones left behind.  Death itself became almost secondary to the mourning that took place afterwards. 

And, in keeping with the Victorian viewpoint of "too much is never enough," I have found tombstones with flowery poems full of deep grief and a tragic sense of loss.  The Civil War and the huge death toll left in its wake really spurred this movement of shifting the focus less on the death and more on the grief and the desperate hope for a beautiful afterlife.  Quite a few of the verses are from the Bible, or take their inspiration from there, as it was the one book that many families owned in common.

It really makes me stop and think about the relationships between the deceased and their loved ones left behind.  Many of the poems also profess the belief that all of the family members would be reunited in Heaven.  Enjoy.

** Some of these are from the 20th century, but they're still cool.

"Beautiful, lovely, He was but given, a fair bud to earth to blossom in heaven."   Rollo VanBuskirk was about 1 1/2 years old when he died.  Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."  Sarah Barkley died in childbirth at age 27, as did her infant son James.  William Penn Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"Esteemed"  Reuben Landis died after his wife, so I wonder if "esteemed" was the idea of his children?  St. Luke's UCC Cemetery, Dublin, PA

"Thy will be done."  Mary Jane Cadwallader was not even 20 when she died.  New Britain Baptist Cemetery, New Britain, PA

"Too pure for earth."  New Britain Baptist Cemetery, New Britain, PA

"Past his suffering, past his pain, Cease to weep for tears are vain, He called him home, He thought it best, For with his Saviour, he's at rest."  John Whitcomb was 86 when he died, perhaps he had a long-time illness.  Whitcomb Family Cemetery, Fort Washington, PA

"He shall gather the lambs, with His arms and carry then in His bosom."  Robert Heard was not yet 2.  East Bangor Cemetery, East Bangor, PA

"Homeward Bound"  Capt. George W. Watson "passed away"  (not the colder, harsher "died") at 52.  Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"Transferred to the heavenly fold."  So much nicer than "kicked the bucket," eh?  Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"Les Douze Amis," which translates to "the twelve friends."  This is on a memorial to a firefighter, erected by his firefighting friends.  Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"Res Non Verba," which is Latin for, loosely, "Actions speak louder than words."  I am still researching the creature, which might be a demi-wolf, and this a family crest.  Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Henry Sutch didn't die, he was "entered into rest."  And his family added their feelings: "We miss thee at home."  Bristol Cemetery, Bristol, PA

"Sleep on."  Bruch's Cemetery, Wind Gap, PA

"Gone Home" at the top.  At the bottom, "Dear child, too, your mother kind, Must go and leave you here behind.  May Jesus deign your soul to raise, Join and sing his lasting praise."  Carversville Cemetery, Carversville, PA

"Killed at Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862, He fell, the noble and the brave; He fell, his country's glory to save; He bled and died now Father near, He died his country's noblest pride, a union Volunteer."  Carversville Cemetery, Carversville, PA

"Sheltered and safe from sorrow."  Chase Cemetery, Fleetville, PA

"Will you meet me there?" Christ Lutheran Cemetery, Harleysville, PA

"Fearless of hell, and ghastly death, I broke through every foe, On wings of love and arms of faith, Christ brought me conqueror through."  Cold Spring Presbyterian Cemetery, Cold Spring, NJ

"Here lies my flesh entombed in clay, Until the resurrection day, Then clad in glory I shall rise, and meet my Saviour in the skies."  Deep Run Presbyterian Cemetery, Bedminster, PA

"Though lost to sight, to memory dear."  This is very commonly found.  Delaware Water Gap Cemetery, Delaware Water Gap, PA

"O, not in cruelty, not in wrath, The Reaper came that day, 'Twas an angel visited the green earth, And took our loved one away."  East Canaan Cemetery, South Canaan, PA

"All things work together for good to them that love God."  Doylestown Cemetery, Doylestown, PA

"It is well."  East Canaan Cemetery, South Canaan, PA

"He died as he lived:  A Christian."  East Canaan Cemetery, South Canaan, PA

"Darling and Precious,"  and below:  Lawson's stone:  "The fairest bud that flowery nature knows oft never unfolds but withers as it blows."  Queena's stone:   "Early, bright, transient chaste as morning dew, She sparkled, was exhaled and went to heaven."  Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

"Our Darling," "I want to be an angel."  Charlie Spangler was not yet 4.  Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA
"A brave soldier.  A good neighbor.  A true friend."  Joseph R. Roberts served in the Civil War, and died in 1923.  Falls Cemetery, Falls, PA

"And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth."  Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

"Love can never lose its own.  Love has found its own."  Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

"The little crib is empty now, the little clothes laid by, a mother's hope, a father's joy, in death's cold arms doth lie. Go little pilgrims to thy home on yonder blissful shore, we miss thee here, but soon will come where those hath gone before."  The Sherwood family buried a 3 month old and a 12 year old.  Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Hellertown Union Cemetery, Hellertown, PA

"Stop friend and drop a tear While you remember me.  Think I like you did once appear, but now no more to be."  Hickory Grove Cemetery, Waverly, PA

"Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint."  Hickory Grove Cemetery, Waverly, PA

"Adieu" which is French for "farewell."  Indian Creek Christ Reformed Cemetery, Indian Valley, PA

"He never courted the rich, nor oppressed the poor."  "Death is a debt to nature due, which I have paid, so must you."  This is an early 18th century stone of a doctor, where death was still a focus.  Jackson Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

"She made home happy."  Kaiserville Cemetery, Kaiserville, PA

"In the twinkling of an eye, Brother Edward was called to die, Here our loss we deeply feel, God can all our sorrows heal."  Keokee Chapel Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

"In loving remembrance of Arthur Freed Moyer, passed to the unseen March 12, 1898.  There is no death."  Lansdale Cemetery, Lansdale, PA

"She has gone to meet her mother."  Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Jervis, NY

"Not ours, for God took him."  Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Jervis, NY

"I'm looking down upon you."  Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"Not here but risen."  Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"Will bloom again."  Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"Only waiting."  Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"Our mother fell asleep...", Lynn Cemetery, Springville, PA

"Beyond the tide."  Maplewood Cemetery, Carbondale, PA

"Until the day dawns."  Milford Cemetery, Milford, PA

"Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep, from which none ever wakes to weep."  Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

"This humble tribute of her parents' love Not only marks the spot where now she lies, But warning gives to all who hither rode To seek in death a home beyond the skies."  Mountain View Cemetery, Upper Exeter, PA

"We Miss Thee."  Newton Cemetery, Newton Ransom, PA
"Angels, ever bright and fair, take, oh take him to thy care."  Norris City Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Norris City Cemetery, Norristown, PA

"Sleep, soldier, sleep, within thy grave.  The strife with thee is o'er.  The war horse dread, the clank of arms shall greet thy ear no more.  Within this tomb, the soldier rests, Honored and blest and brave.  He fell in freedom's sacred cause And fills a freeman's grave."  North Wales Baptist Cemetery, North Wales, PA

"Our bud of promise."  Odd Fellows Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"A patient sufferer at rest."  Orvilla Cemetery, Orvilla, PA

"For the flag."  "After three years' service, died of disease contracted in a rebel the 21st year of his age."  Overfield Cemetery, Meshoppen, PA

"Farewell, dear Father until we meet, Join hands and walk the golden street.  The friendship that we once enjoyed, By death desolved but not destroyed."  Pedrick Thomas Cemetery, Nicholson, PA

"Brief life is our portion here."  Richboro Union Cemetery, Richboro, PA

"Behold, I come quickly."  Riverview Cemetery, Portland, PA

"We loved him."  Frank Deans was almost 19 when he died.  South Montrose Cemetery, South Montrose, PA

"The golden gates were opened wide, a gentle voice said come, and angels from the other side welcomed our loved one home."  St. John's Lutheran Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

St. Paul's Lutheran Blue Church Cemetery, Coopersburg, PA

"Budded on earth to bloom in heaven."  Stone Cemetery, Scott, PA

"No one knew her but to love her."  This is common also.  Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

"She is not dead but sleepeth."  Towamencin Mennonite Cemetery, Harleysville, PA

"The soul is the body's guest hath hence ascended whither neither time nor hope but only love can climb."  Tunkhannock Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

"A good soldier, a real Christian, and an honest man."  Union United Cemetery, Union Lake, PA

Mary apparently wrote her own epitaph, which takes up the whole face of the grave.  Welsh Hill Cemetery, Clifford, PA

"There is rest in heaven."  William Penn Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"One we all loved."  William Penn Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"Sadly missed."  William Penn Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

"For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God."  Zion Cemetery, Newfoundland, PA

And also with you.  :)  Zionhill Cemetery, Zionhill, PA

This is modern, late 1960's, I believe, but I really liked it.  Trinity Episcopal Cemetery, Skippack, PA