Monday, May 9, 2011

Everlasting leaves of laurel

The tall tablet marker at the grave of Daniel Brobst (b. 1802, d. 1844), skillfully carved by J. W. Jungkurth, is a popular subject of cemetery photographers. It is easy to see why.

memory of
born June 11th 1809,
died Septr 10th 1842,
aged 33 years,
2 months and
29 days.

A laurel wreath on a gravestone normally is understood to represent victory and immortality; in particular, triumph over death. Bay laurel is evergreen and may also refer to the memory of the deceased as ever green in the hearts of those he left behind.

The epitaph continues the positive theme:

It’s heav’n alone can make thee blest;
   Can ev’ry wish and want supply;
Thy joy, thy crown, thy endless rest,
   Are all above the lofty sky.

The Philadelphia hymn book 1 by Abner Kneeland shows that the epitaph is a verse from its Hymn 480, “The Happiness of Heaven.” It attributes the hymn to Bowden, although exactly who Bowden is must be left as a topic for another day.

Glick-Brick Church-Hoy Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

1. I have written an abbreviated version of the book’s title. The full title of this 1819 book is quite impressive: The Philadelphia hymn book; or, a selection of sacred poetry, consisting of Psalms and Hymns from Watts, Doddridge, Merrick, Scott, Cowper, Barbauld, Steele, and others.

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