Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Country Burial-Places

The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Nathaniel Shatswell Dodge (John Carver) (1810–1874)

Country Burial-Places

From “Sketches of New England”

IN passing through New England, a stranger will be struck with the variety, in taste and feeling, respecting burial-places. Here and there may be seen a solitary grave, in a desolate and dreary pasture-lot, and anon under the shade of some lone tree, the simple stone reared by affection to the memory of one known and loved by the humble fireside only. There, on that gentle elevation, sloping green and beautiful toward the south, is a family enclosure adorned with trees and filled with the graves of the household. How many breaking hearts have there left the loved till that bright morning! Here in this garden, beside the vine-covered arbor and amid the shrubbery which her own hand planted, is the monument to the faithful wife and loving mother. How appropriate! How beautiful! And to the old landholders of New England, what motive to hold sacred from the hand of lucre so strong as the ground loved by the living as the burial-place of their dead!

Apropos to burying in gardens, I heard a story of an old man who was bent on interring his wife in his garden, despite of the opposition of all his neighbors to his doing so. Indeed, the old fellow avowed this as his chief reason, and to all their entreaties and deprecations and earnest requests he still declared he would do it. Finding everything they could do to be of no avail, the people bethought themselves of a certain physician, who was said to have great influence over the old man, and who owned an orchard adjoining the very garden. So, going to him in a body, they besought him to attempt to change the determination of his obstinate friend. The doctor consented to do so, and went. After offering his condolence on the loss of his wife, and proffering any aid he might be able to render at the funeral, the doctor said, “I understand you intend to bury your deceased wife in your garden.”

“Yes,” answered the old man, “I do. And the more people object, the more I’m determined to do it!”

“Right!” replied the doctor, with an emphatic shake of the head, “Right! I applaud the deed. I’d bury her there, if I was you. The boys are always stealing the pears from my favorite tree that overhangs your garden, and by and by you’ll die, Uncle Diddle, and they’ll bury you there, too, and then I’m sure that the boys will never dare steal another pear.”

“No! I’ll be hanged if I bury her there,” said the old man in great wrath. “I’ll bury her in the graveyard.”

New England can boast her beautiful places of sculpture, but as a common thing they are too much neglected, and attractive only to the lover of oddities and curious old epitaphs. Occasionally you may see a strangely shaped tomb, or, as in a well-known village, a knocker placed on the door of his family vault by some odd specimen of humanity. When asked the reason for doing so singular a thing, he gravely replied that “when the old gentleman should come to claim his own, the tenants might have the pleasure of saying, ‘Not at home,’ or of fleeing out of the back door.”

In passing through these neglected grounds you will often find some touchingly beautiful scriptural allusion—some apt quotation, or some emblem so lovely and instructive that the memory of it will go with you for days. Here in a neglected spot and amid a cluster of raised stones is the grave of the stranger clergyman’s child who died on its journey. The inscription is sweet when taken in connection with the portion of sacred history from which the quotation is made: “Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well.” Again, the only inscription is an emblem—a butterfly rising from the chrysalis. Glorious thought, embodied in emblem so singular! “Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption!”

Then come you to some strangely odd, as, for instance:

  • “Here lies John Auricular,
  • Who in the ways of the Lord walked perpendicular.”
  • Again:

  • “Many a cold wind o’er my body shall roll,
  • While in Abraham’s bosom I’m feasting my soul.”
  • Appropriate certainly, as the grave was on a cold northeast slope of one of our bleak hills.

    Again, a Dutchman’s epitaph for his twin babes:

  • “Here lies two babes, dead as two nits,
  • Who shook to death mit ague fits;
  • They was too good to live mit me,
  • So God He took ’em to live mit He.”
  • There is the grave of a young man who, dying suddenly, was eulogized with this strange aim at the sublime:

  • “He lived,
  • He died!”
  • Not a hundred miles from Boston is a gravestone the epitaph upon which, to all who knew the parties, borders strongly upon the burlesque. A widower who within a few months buried his wife and adopted daughter, the former of whom was all her life long a thorn in his flesh, and whose death could not but have been a relief, wrote thus: “They were lovely and beloved in their lives, and in death were not divided.” Poor man! Well he knew how full of strife and sorrow an evil woman can make life! He was worn to a shadow before her death, and his hair was all gone. Many of the neighbors thought surely that he well knew what had become of it, especially as it disappeared by the handful. But the grave covers all faults; and those who knew her could only hope that she might rest from her labors and her works follow her!

    On a low, sandy mound far down on the Cape rises a tall slate stone, with fitting emblems and epitaphs as follows:

  • “Here lies Judy and John,
  • That lovely pair;
  • John was killed by a whale,
  • And Judy sleeps here.”