Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Epitaph: Forgive, blest shade, the tributary tear

As in many older cemeteries, there is a tidy pile of broken and displaced gravestones at the back of Darby Township Cemetery. One of the stones in the pile, the name mostly obscured, has a particularly beautiful epitaph.

Forgive, blest shade, the tributary tear;
That mourns thy exit from a world like this,
Forgive the wish that would have kept thee here,
And stayed thy progress to the seats of bliss.



The epitaph is an adaptation of an elegy, “On the Death of Mr. Hervey,” by Anne Steele, published in 1780:

O Hervey, honoured name, forgive the tear,
That mourns thy exit from a world like this;
Forgive the wish that would have kept thee here,
Fond wish! have kept thee from the seats of bliss.

No more confin’d to these low scenes of night
Pent in a feeble tenement of clay:
Should we not rather hail thy glorious flight,
And trace thy journey to the realms of day.


Here is another adaptation, as inscribed on the gravestone of Mrs. Ann Berry (d. 1790), buried in Brading Churchyard on the Isle of Wight. For more than 60 years Mrs. Berry’s “celebrated epitaph” was incorrectly attributed to the Rev. John Gill, who nonetheless is most likely responsible for the adaptation of the Steele poem:

Forgive, blest shade, the tributary tear,
That mourns thy exit from a world like this:
Forgive the wish that would have kept thee here,
And stayed thy progress to tho realms of bliss.

No more confin’d to grovelling scenes of night,
No more a tenant pent in mortal clay;
We rather now should hail thy glorious flight,
And trace thy journey to the realms of day. 



As for our Ohio stone, here is what is visible today above the epitaph:
[Soph?]ronia
[Wi]fe of
[ ???] GRAHAM
[DI]ED
[???] 16, 1850
[Aged] 30 Y’rs
[?? mo]s 4 D’s

This may be the gravestone for Sophronia Loofborrow, who married W.H.H. Graham in Madison County, Ohio in 1837.

Whoever she is, she has a beautifully poetic epitaph. 


  
Darby Township Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio

Sources
“The Epigrammatists: a Selection from ...” Google Books. Web. 22 Aug. 2011. <http://books.google.com/books?id=_x0XAAAAYAAJ>.
Brannon, George. “Sketches of Scenes in the Isle of ...” Google Books. Web. 22 Aug. 2011. <http://books.google.com/books?id=cNkHAAAAQAAJ>.

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