In a Graveyard
“Blessed be God! for He created Death!
And Death is rest and peace,” some bard has sung;
I seem I hear the echo of his breath
Stealing these grim sepulchral stones among.
’Tis music, though, no human voice could sound,
The bondsman poor of Misery and Pain;
A thousand souls would seem to hover round,
And fill the silence with their pregnant strain.
I shiver in this mist so icy cold
That like a pall is spread above the graves,
Dropping its fringes weirdly to enfold,
As in a winding-sheet, the pillared naves.
A breath of that which fills the Infinite
These silent sepulchres in truth inherit;
The premonition further tells aright:
Man joined to flesh, is flesh —to God, is spirit.
O, could we move the compass of our minds
Beyond those bounds which Ignorance imposes!
At every turn her heavy shackle binds;
And her dull sight no vision full discloses!
Some ask: “While Faith so willing points the way,
Shall we despise, and from her hopes withdraw?
Had God decreed for Death eternal day,
Would Christ have rent the veil upon the law?”
They say: “The Lord the earth with days shall fill,
When some shall waken in the trinal birth;
And these with bated breath shall wait His will
To clear the chaos from the bleeding earth.”
Ah! each short day, though shot with beams of ruby,
On Death’s dun breast soon headlong sinking, sleeps:
In-bundled by an undertaker’s booby,
With leaden plumb we sound the loamy deeps.
And thousands sleep within this spreading field —
These twenty acres planted through with bones;
Death every silent brow with dust hath sealed,
And earth once more her borrowed substance owns.
But some will say: “Death lacks to thus consign
The essence that our being all imbues:
The soul, though wrapped in clay, is still divine —
Rare treasure in a crumbling earthen cruse!”
William Blocksidge, Songs o’ the South, London: Watts, 1908, pp. 72-73
bated = restrained, to have reduced the force or intensity of something (the phrase “with bated breath” refers to waiting for something in a anxious, nervous, or worried state, or in an excited manner, or in a state of suspense); (archaic) to have lowered or reduced an amount, estimation, or price
booby = a dull-witted, foolish, or stupid person; someone who is a slow learner; someone who lacks knowledge or skill; can also refer to: the breast of woman; a tropical seabird of the genus Sula (part of the family Sulidae, which comprises gannets and boobies)
bound = boundary or limit, especially of an area (usually used as a plural, “bounds”: boundaries, limits); the boundary of a country, province, state, territory, field, estate; a line or area which is a boundary or forms a boundary; something which confines, limits, or restrains (e.g. the bounds of morality)
clay = in the context of mankind, a reference to the idea that God made man out of clay; from Genesis 2:7 in the Old Testament of the Bible, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”, which has sometimes been referred to as God making man out of clay (e.g. “Man is made out of clay; he is an animal. Into the clay of man God has breathed the spiritual life; he is a son of God.”)
cruse = a small earthenware jar or pot used to hold liquid, such as oil, water, or wine (especially for use in religious ceremonies)
dun = dark, dusky; dull; gloomy (may also refer to a greyish-brown or sandy-grey colour, especially regarding the coat of a horse; may also refer to a horse of such colour)
hath = (archaic) has
loam = soil comprised of a mixture of clay, sand, silt, and organic matter
Lord = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to God or Jesus
pall = a heavy cloth draped over a coffin, hearse, or tomb; a coffin; a cloak, a mantle (can also refer to: a feeling of gloom; a negative mood; a thick cloud of smoke or dust)
rent = split, tear apart, cleave, past tense of “rend” (to tear or break in a violent manner)
sepulchral = relating to a sepulchre [see: sepulchre]
sepulchre = a repository for the dead; a burial place, grave, crypt, or tomb; also a receptacle for sacred relics, especially those placed in an altar (also spelt as sepulcher)
’tis = (archaic) a contraction of “it is”
trinal = something consisting of three parts; threefold; triple (also spelt: trinall)
winding-sheet = a cloth covering for a dead body, which is wrapped or wound around the body prior to burial (also known as a winding-shroud)