Saturday, August 27, 2011

Epitaph: And oh i panted for the skies

The tall sandstone tablet marker at the grave of Martha Cook is mottled from age, making it difficult to read from a distance. Step closer and the inscription and epitaph are still clear and easy to read—and certainly worth a look.


wife of
Benajah S. Cook
died Aug. 19, 1829;
Aged 25 years 7 mo. & 18 da.

I viewed the change with sweet surprize,
And oh i panted for the skies,
Thanked heaven that e,er i drew my breath,
And triumphed in the thought of death.

The epitaph is taken from the poem “Death” by Nathaniel Cook (b. 1707, d. 1788), an English physician and poet. Here are the final lines of the long poem, including the Cook epitaph:

When the stern Monarch of the grave
With haughty strides approach’d—Amazed
I stood, and trembled as I gazed.
The Seraph calm’d each anxious fear,
And kindly wiped the falling tear;
Then hasten’d, with expanded wing,
To meet the pale terrific King.
      But now, what milder scene arise!
The tyrant drops his hostile guise.
He seems a youth divinely fair;
In graceful ringlets waves his hair:
His wings their whitening plumes display,
His burnish’d plumes reflect the day.
Light flows his shining azure vest,
And all the angel stands confess’d.
      I view’d the change with sweet surprise,
And oh! I panted for the skies;
Thank’d Heaven, that e’er I drew my breath,
And triumph’d in the thought of death!

“Benajah Cook” may sound familiar. Martha’s Benajah is the son of Benajah and Cassandra Cook, who are buried steps away.

Fancher Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

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