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If the sight of grave yards in most of our towns ruise in us emotions of gloom and horror, they spring not less from the neg. lected and naked condition of the places themselves, than from the consciousness of the solemn end for which they are intended. It requires no ordinary effort of fortitude even in our old men to pass these silent mansions without shuddering from the fear of enconntering some ghostly stranger. The half falling tombstones, the ridiculous, though piously intended devices inscribed on them, death's heads horribly grinning, human bones, bour-glasses, willows and all the woful emblems of our mortality, are enough in themselves to alarm the stoutest heart. The neglect and inattention paid to the man. agement of these sacred enclosures and the dreary and gloomy appearance they make, from the bushes and weeds starting up in wild disorder, increase, if possible, the horrors of the tomb.
Nothing, it is believed, would be more consonant with good laste than to see our burial grounds ornamented with walks and beautiful shade trees. The expense of such arrangement and the keeping them under proper cultivation would be but trifling, and instead of being objects of disgust and terror as they now are, they would be the resort of the pious and good in holy time and become enduring monuments of the purest moral and religious feeling. For coutemplation and indulgence in those reflections created by a walk among the cities of the silent, nothing can be conceived more appropriate than the funeral grove. While on the one hand they would become an ornament, on the other, they would be regarded as praiseworthy for the exhibition of that noblest feeling of our dature, respect for the dead.
The custom of planting trees in places of interment prevails to a considerable extent in different parts of Europe. The burial grounds among the Mabommedans are frequently noticed by trarellers. Many of them are under the same cultivation as gardens. Beautiful plants are made to grow on the graves and garlands of roses are hung about the tombs. It was anciently the practice, and yet continues in some of the retired villages in England, to strex the graves of recently buried persons with roses, especially those who die young. In the warmer climates the inhabitants skirt the walks in their church yards with rows of orange trees and palms and border the graves with the sweetest plants. A recent traveller in Germany, in speaking of the cemeteries about Berlin, observes, that almost every grave is a flower bed.
There is something in the shade of trees that ever fits us for
serious thought. The stillness and silence of the grore fill us insensibly with a pleasing melancholy. The gloom inspired by a dense foliage, with the graves of those we once loved before us, refines and elevates the mind. The objects about us are all emblematic of human life. The deceased, whose bones are mouldering beneath our feet, are assimulated with the most beautiful parts of the scene around. Youth is seen in the tender and delicate plants and maturer years in the giant members of the grove. The beautiful analogy subsisting between the human and vegetable creation is traced with eagerness by those in affliction from the loss of friends. The virtues of the dead re-appear in the quiet scene before us, and a recollection of them revived from contemplating the beauties of nature.
The disposition of the body after death cannot but interest the living. To hold in respect and preserve inviolate the bones of our deceased friends is enjoined by the law of nature and sanctioned by universal usage. It was not less a practice with the people of antiquity than it is with those of the present age, to consecrate certain grounds for the burial of the dead. The American savage holds in most sacred estimation the remains of a deceased connexion. The pyramids of Egypt, the tumuli of the Scythians, and the teocalli of Mexico, are but the offspring of this humane sentiment.
The people in the different parts of the globe, although uniform in their attention and respect for the dead, have devised various modes of burial. The practice of burning the body and preserving in urns the ashes, has found many advocates even in this country. The last instance of it among Christians was that of Henry Laurens, the first President of the American Congress. He directed in his will, that his body should be burnt and enjoined the execution of it on his children as a duty. He was undoubtedly led into the belief of the propriety of this custom, from the circumstance that a daughter of his was once laid out for dead who bad been ill of the small pox; but, on being placed in fresh air she revived. The possibility of being buried alive, filled him with horror and dread of the ordinary mode of interment. He maintained the reasonableness of this practice from certain texts of scripture, which he adduced, under the impression of the purifying nature of fire.
The Jews have some very whimsical notions regarding interments. It is an opinion of theirs that unless the body be buried in the Promised Land, there can be no resurrection of it, and there
fore, they who have the 'misfortune to be deposited in a foreign country, will be under the painful necessity of digging their way to Palestine under ground. Many of the wealthy Jews residing in Italy, have been known to import real Jerusalem soil thither to line their graves with. Whole church yards have, in some instanstances, been thus transported. Some who have been more particular than others and feared that their remains might, by possibility, come in contact with reprobate earth, bave ordered their bones after death to be boxed up and carried to Jerusalem, and there deposited in soil holding all the desired virtues.
The people of Persia entertain similar notions on this subject with the superstitious Jews. So strong is their inclination for good company atter death, that the Angel of the grave will not permit the body of a true Moslem to rest among unbelievers, but will straightway order it home to the land of the faithful.
The Caffres are the most negligent of the remains of the dead. The King alone enjoys the privilege of burial. The bodies of the common people are thrown to the hyenas; but this treatment in no case results from a feeling of disrespect to the deceased. It is a belief.with them that if a person is suffered to die a natural death, the event will entail on the family future calamities, and for this reason the old men are all slain at a certain age, and those who are dangerously sick. The savages inhabiting the banks of the Oronoco held the bones of the dead sacred, and to preserve them, suspended the body in the river that the fish might eat off the fesh. The Moxo tribes pulverize the bones and mixing the dust with meal make it into cakes, and the eating them was regarded as an act of piety and testimony of friendship. The Hindoos burn the body because they consider the flesh as a clog upon the soul; and on the other hand the Egyptians kept it because they considered it as essential in the day of the resurrection; for then the immore tal part would come back to take possession of its former mansion, and would expect to find it in a habitable condition. In this, how. ever, it is to be feared that many of them will be disappointed, inasmuch as European merchants with in a few years bave been pretty industrious in moving the old tenements to England. How these difficulties are to be got over, it is impossible to tell. It is the custom in many places to deposit corn or fruit, and sometimes both in the grave of the deceased. This was the custom with the lodians in this country, an instance of which was not long since exhibited in a body disinterred in Boylston in this county, the skele
ton of which is now in the keeping of Dr. Smith. A Spaniard in speaking of this practice, as seen in the natives of South America, gravely observes that the devil makes them believe that they are to live again in a kingdom which he has prepared for them, and that they must take with them provisions for the journey, as if hell were a long way off.”
Among the legendary tales of ecclesiastical history, circulated in Catholic countries, are those representing the earth as casting from its bosom the bodies of excommunicated persons. Those who had conducted thus unworthily were deemed incapable of being buried in consecrated grounds; and even should they be so fortunate as to get possession of a grave in these sacred enclosures, there was no certainty of their keeping it. St. Gothard once gave orders for all the excommunicated persons in his cathedral to rise and walk out, which was accordingly done in sight of the whole congregation. The priests procured an order from the synod of Fribur, in the time of Charlemagne, to prohibit the burial of laymen within the church. This was afterwards repealed and any might be interred there by paying for it. This gave great offence to the clergy as might have been expected, and but a short time elapsed before the profanity of the measure was fully evinced. A son of Harold, a layman, was buried in the church grounds and near to him was laid the body of St. Dunstan. The Saint persisting in the correctness of his doctrine, with the same assurance after death as when alive, arose from his grave twice to tell his opponents that he could not rest there with any degree of peace on account of the terrible 4 stench of the young pagan.” The other saints, however, kept still, and nothing was heard from them against this breach of their privilege.
Private burials seem to have been regarded as improper from the beginning. An estimate appears to be instinctively put upon the worth of society even after death. The danger there is that family tombs when erected apart from the public place of interment will be profaned and appropriated to some other purpose than that designed, ought to deter all from the practice. Examples are not wanting in different parts of the country of the unfeeling and brutal disregard paid to those sacred habitations. Instances have occurred where the dust of the quiet tenants has been scattered to the winds and the bones removed to give place to things of tempo.
It is believed this mode is practised to a less extent in the
New England States than in other parts of the Union; and it is to be wished that it was entirely abolished.
The custom prevailing in this country, so universally, of erect. ing monuments over the dead is a most commendable one. Though they may sometimes be as much the result of vanity as of grief, yet there is so much kind charity and benevolence in the buman
JE breast, that the motives of those incurring the expense, are seldom, if ever, questioned. The grave yard at New Haven, Conn. is laid out on the plan esteemed most proper. Ample walks bordered with shade trees pass in different directions among the monuments It is here the people resort in the pleasant Sabbath evenings of a summer to escape from the living, and commune with the dead. It is here the virtues and good deeds of the departed alone are called to recollection, while their vices are wiped out of all remembrance. It is here man forgets his resentments, and indulges those nobler feelings of his nature, ascribed to a higher order of beings
The political feuds that so long agitated our country, bare at length happily subsided. The mental energies that heretofore were employed in questions of party, are now free to follow their own inclinations, and pursue more pleasing and more useful paths We begin to witness a more actire and stirring spirit, in the vari. ous departments of literature and science, in plans for improving our social condition, in devising means for promoting education in all its branches and adapting it, to an improved state of society Undue attachments to foreign nations have given way to the good feelings which every one should cherish for the land of his birth.
Among other benefits, we would particularly take notice of this new order of things, as it regards our own history. Hitherto we venture to say, the history of our country has been less known by the great mass of our scholars than that of almost any other nation. We have not been true to ourselves in this instance.We hare shamefully neglected the means we possess. It is no excuse to say that the books from which the knowledge is to be gained, are rude and unpolished :=true they are so in many respects--and po American Tacitus has yet risen up within our borders to set forth with graphical and philosophical power, our history, a it should be set forth. We confess that the.