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Mark that youth of fair but melancholy countenance, courteous in manners, yet proud and solitary. He seems lost in thought. If you would speak, he soon turns away and disappears among the tombs. It is some poet, some other Guido Cavalcanti, the bosom friend of Dante, who used to be so much alone among the marble sepulchres about the Church of St. John. Look again at that pale mourner with clasped hands standing by a fresh grave. She seems to be saying,
"I weep-my tears revive him not!
I sigh-he breathes no more on me;
Caligula's saying, implying a disregard for all memorial of the dead
ἐμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μιχθήτω πυρί,
argues an unnatural as well as selfish disposition of mind. As we observed already, the desire of a tomb, whatever Diogenes might say, forms even a distinctive attribute of our nature, Catholicism, however, once escaped from the catacombs, taught men to prefer the green earth to any vaulted solitude of Egyptian art; and in fact, to nature's eye also, as Cyrus said, the ground which produces flowers and fruits constitutes the most magnificent of all sepulchres. Neither Cyrus, nor Alexander, nor Cæsar had a tomb-in the sense of heathen or of Jewish antiquity. During the middle ages, it is true, men were frequently entombed in vaults beneath the sacred edifices; Constantine the Great chose to be buried thus in the church of the Twelve Apostles, in order as he said to have part after his death in the prayers of the faithful offered there†; which however he might have had without taking such steps to secure them; but the general practice of the early Church was different. The Jews always buried their dead without the city, except those of the family of David. The Romans placed the sepulchres of the most illustrious houses, as those of the Metelli, Claudii, Scipios, Servilii, and Valerii along the highways, which thence derived their names of the Via Aurelia, Flaminia, Lucilia, Appia, Laviniana, and Julia. In the environs of ancient Rome there were more than forty cemeteries, the names of which ecclesiastical history has preserved. Burial out of cities was an obligation upon the three nations who composed the primitive church, and the early Christians followed that wise practice. It was deemed criminal to allow the dead to be buried under churches ‡; and
+ De Vit. Constant. iv. 60. Marten, de Antiq. Monac. Rit. v. c. 10.
St. Chrysostom says cemeteries should be always placed beyond the gates of cities. The Christian emperors censured and prohibited burial within cities *. Theodosius the Great, in his celebrated constitution called the Theodosian Code, renewed preceding edicts, and on sanitary grounds forbade the interment of the dead in the interior of cities. The ancient ecclesiastical constitution and the bulls of the popes all concurred to preserve towns and churches from being invaded by the dead; but in the sixth century, abuses relative to sepulchres being very prevalent, not only synods but even councils endeavoured to abolish them, and to restore the ancient discipline of the Church. council of Bracar and that of Auxerre published celebrated canons on this head. Charlemagne lent all the force of his influence and of his laws to promote the same end; Theodolphus at that time having complained that the churches of France had almost become cemeteries. Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, followed in endeavouring wholly to eradicate the abuse by cutting off all possibility of its being favourable to the material interest of the clergy. The councils of Meaux, of Nantes, and of Tribur, and Erasdus, archbishop of Tours, required the adoption of the same measures. Interment in churches was in fact prohibited by almost every council held in France, and in accordance with the capitularies which declare "Nullus in ecclesia mortuus sepeliatur." The Bishop of Avranches in 1600, of St. Malo in 1620, of Lizieux in 1650, of La Rochelle in 1655, of Chalons in 1661, of Amiens in 1662, of Orleans in 1664, of Aleth in 1670, of Cahors in 1673, of Senez in 1673, of Grenoble in 1690, of Noyon in 1691, of Soissons in 1700, and of Rouen in 1721, promulgated ordinances against burial in churches or towns. The most remarkable, perhaps, of all these statutes was that of De Lomenie de Brienne, archbishop of Toulouse, created a cardinal by Pope Pius VI., in which the learned and eloquent prelate, after speaking of the duty of attending to the public health, makes the remark that " such is the harmony always existing between religion and sound policy, that what is acknowledged as decorous and useful by the one, is also commanded and prescribed by the other." In fine, the royal decrees of Louis XV. and Louis XVI. concurring with these ecclesiastical enactments, a total end was put to burials within churches and cities in France; and cemeteries were established beyond the gates of cities, as in primitive times. Catholicism thus evinces its affinity with what social legislation now endeavours to enforce, providing for all cities those public cemeteries which are recommended by the Church, both on grounds of respect for ancient discipline, and of regard for the health of the living, which
* Van Epsen, T. N. sect. 4, tit. 7, c. 2.
latter motive alone had induced the two celebrated physicians, Simon Pierre, of Paris, and Verbeyen, of Louvain, to order themselves to be interred under the open sky, as was attested on their epitaphs. This custom, too, seems to form an attraction in regard to the natural sentiment of men, which, as we observed above, if left to itself, would recoil from those mediaval crypts, those dreary caverns in which so many of noble races were inurned. That custom, as we have seen, originating, it is true, in a pious though not well-directed mind, was merely an abuse which frequently was maintained in consequence of interests that are entitled to no respect; and Catholicism, in reprobating and abrogating it, presents itself again favourably to the notice of all observers whose attention is called to this point of view. In fact, besides that the plan of a public cemetery is essentially Christian, which it undoubtedly is, since at no Pagan time were there universal burial places for all classes, but each rich family had its own spot, while only the slaves and the poor had their burial ground in common, there is something agreeable to the heart and soothing to the imagination in the thought of being inhumed under the canopy of heaven with the common people, so that those persons whom perhaps in life we could only be friends with secretly, though most entitled to affection as being unlike even in social position, the vain, affected, supercilious rich, who cannot even attain to the native grace and propriety of mien which so often distinguish the lowly, may find our grave, when visiting the resting-place of their own humble relatives. Perhaps, too, even on religious grounds, it is well to be buried near the penitents of the world, as Lacordaire calls them, near the common people, near those who knew what was hardship, and what was practical, cheerful humility; what it was to work for their daily bread, and to take the last place in public, and who were familiar with all the devices to which the lower classes are obliged to have recourse for their recreation, for their decent appearance abroad, and even for their subsistence. But, independent of all such considerations, one may repeat it, rather than choose the grim solitude of those dismal vaults, repulsive, in spite of philosophy and ancestral pride, to every beholder, every poet, at least, we may believe would prefer being buried in a garden like a public cemetery, with
"Two grey stones at the head and feet,
Lucian represents some one in the shades laughing at Mausolus for boasting of his own great monument, which, however the Halicarnassians might like as a magnificent object to show to strangers, could only affect him as so much dead weight placed over his remains. "I cannot see," he says, "what advantage
you derive from such an edifice, unless that you sustain a greater weight of stones over you than any other dead person." Though one may not, like the cynic, be wholly indifferent as to having a grave or not, one cannot I think but feel that it is desirable to strip the thought of death of all needless associations with the idea of confinement. "I have never seen death but once," says Hazlitt, recognizing this sentiment, "and that was in an infant. The look was calm and placid, and the face was fair and firm. It was as if a waxen image had been laid out, and strewed with innocent flowers. It was not like death, but more like an image of life! While I looked at it I saw no pain was there; it seemed to smile at the short pang which was over; but I could not bear the closing down-it seemed to stifle me; but as the flowers wave over his little grave, the welcome breeze helps to refresh me, and ease the tightness at my breast!" So every one finds it here; and though in this we think how we should feel, not how the dead perhaps feel, it is something to have even the illusion gratified.
This return, at all events, to the ancient Christian custom of having open cemeteries brings with it associations of basilicas and Catholic processions rather than those of modern sextons, parish beadles, and ministers, fattening their sheep. By means of it central attractions also evidently revive for some of all classes. We have already noticed some of the characters that can be met wandering here. See again that young maid who walks with eyes attentive to each name inscribed upon the tombs. She too represents an ancient class.
The unfrequented woods
Are her delight; and when she sees a bank
A recent writer speaks of the harmony of beautiful places with our feelings for the beloved dead; the flowers planted by the hand of affection upon the graves, with the sun shining, the trees
waving, the song of the bird, the murmur of the bee, and the sky overspanning all, like the great blue eye of heaven ever over them, keeping silent watch. Turn from this picture to a vault or intermural yard, to the black mould, the coarse, rank, poisonous grass and nettles, the decayed monuments, and the dark shadows of the dismal walls, where the sunshine never sleeps, but where death and gloom ever dwell together. To the cemetery without the town the living can be easily induced to repair without reluctance, and there each one may gaze for a moment upon the grave of some dear friend,—
"While lost to sight, th' ecstatic lark above
Sings like a soul beatified of love."
This place of rest in cowslipped lawns resembles, too, those happy fields where lovers first twined their youthful hearts together, and may serve, therefore, as the dying Zelica says, to enhance the earnestness of prayer:
That meets thee here, fresh from the well-known flowers
Back to thy soul, and thou may'st feel again
For thy poor lover as thou didst then ;
So shall thy orisons, like dew that flies
To heav'n upon the morning's sunshine, rise
It is natural to wish that one may be buried in such a place, and be visited thus from time to time by those who come to sigh and to admire; for who knows after all but that, as the poet says, deprecating any scorn of a tomb,
"Nonnihil ad verum conscia terra sapit."
It is natural to say in the words of our old dramatist: "Raise no oppressing pile to load my ashes, but let from my flesh the violets spring, and let my dust moulder where those who knew me once can breathe a prayer full in the smile of the blue firmament."
Socrates, alluding to the question of Crito, who had asked how he should be buried, said, "Let him not talk of burying Socrates for you should know, my dear Crito, that to express one's self improperly is not only wrong in itself, but is besides a kind of injury inflicted upon souls. You must have more courage then, and say, that you bury my body; and as for that, I answer that you may do as you like *." In conformity with