Sunday, May 11, 2014

"A Plea for the Dead" by B. D. Romaine (1845)



Move not the dead—Oh! let their resting place

Be holy, and no finger touch the earth

That fell, all mingled thro' with tears, perhaps,

Upon their coffin homes. Breathe not removal,

For it wrongs the dead, but wrongs the living more.

I saw an aged man stand up, and plead

With all the moving eloquence of years—

Yet must not sell a place that to the dead

Was given; ye must not barter for a lump

Of shining gold, the last repose of friends,—

Then paused, unable to proceed; his heart

Was full of love, and burning tears coursed down

His face, as his deep eyes seemed searching out

The little spot of ground that held his friend.

A touching sight enough to draw warm tears

From every eye.

        And would you throw a pall

Of sadness over thousand hearts?—move their dead.

Throw back the gates—tear up the flowering shrubs

Planted out there by love, and wet with tears,

That bloom and spread their fragrance o'er some graves—

Cut down the grass—throw off the sod and earth,

And raise above the ground the coffined ones.

You cannot! No—for if their dust could speak

'Twould say, disturb us not, our brother dust,

But ask thyself if thou couldst calmly die,

And know thy form would be removed as oft

As fancy, avarice or pride might will?

Bear off the dead, and when some wanderer come

To cast himself and weep upon the grave

'Neath which his mother lies, he'll find it not.

He'll come to talk with her again, and there

Recall his childhood's hours, all the pure love

His mother bore him—the prayers she offered

For her darling boy; and the last embrace,

When weeping much, she bade him serve her God,

And meet her in the upper hand. But, no—

His mother is not there, her grave is gone.

None will remove our city of the dead:

Perhaps 'tis meet that it should be so near,

To tell the living where they soon must lie,

Then let it not to cold neglect be left;

Have we no wish to see its gloom removed?

To see its grounds laid out with taste, adorned

And beautified? Oh! shall the stranger come

From Eastern lands that own the Moslem's rule,

And tell us we are far behind the Turks,

Who clothe with beauty every burial spot?

We will not be behind our age; e'en now

The hand of enterprise and taste is seen,

In many winding walks, in trees and plants;

And to complete the work so well begun,

Let all united, and give a tribute thus

To our loved Dead, and to our Capital.

        ALBANY, July, 1845.

Albany Argus. September 2, 1845: 1 col 2.

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