Friday, September 23, 2011

Epitaph: ...and rested at noon

When I read the name on the gravestone, Salma Hyde (d. 1833), I guessed that Salma was a woman. The epitaph reveals the true gender: Salma was a man.

Memory of
who departed this life
August 5th 1831: Aged 33
years 1 month & 4 days

Weep not that so soon he has gone to be blest,
He gave to his God the first hours and the best;
[C]an the labourer cease from his labour to soon.
He wrought all the morning and [rested at noon.]

The epitaph is from the poem “On a Similar Occasion” by Rev. Cornelius Neale (b. 1789, d. 1823). Neale wrote the poem to console his mother when his brother, Benjamin Neale, died as a young man.

Oh, weep not for him, ’tis unkindness to weep;
The weary weak body hath fallen asleep;
No more of fatigue or endurance it knows;—
Oh, weep not, oh, break not the gentle repose.

He sleeps,—oh, how kindly on Jesus’s breast!
Never more the sick dreamings shall trouble his rest;
And her lips, that would healing and comfort restore,
Shall burn his cold lips and cold cheeks never more.

Weep not that so soon he is gone to be blest;
He gave to his God the first hours and the best:
Can the labourer cease from his labour too soon?
He wrought all the morning, and rested at noon.

Short, short was the circuit his sun journey’d through,
But the air was unruffled, the heaven was blue;
And the clouds, the thick clouds, that hung round him at night,
Only caught, and more richly reflected his light.

We gather the flower when full in its bloom,
While brightest in colour and best in perfume:
And the victim was given to God in old time,
Without spot, without blemish, a male in his prime.

Then weep not.—Ah me, as I say it, I weep;
The wound is too cutting, the sorrow too deep:
Weep on, it is nature will have it, weep on;
We speak of his graces;—those graces are gone.

Dear mother! I turn to each birth-day of thine;
What sorrowful chances have mark’d thy decline!
The winds blow sad music, the yellow leaves fall,
And winter comes gloomily, wrapt in a pall.

Yet murmur not, murmur not; His the decree,
Who is better, far better, than ten sons to thee:
Though writhing and smarting, yet welcome the rod,
Though in doubt and in darkness, oh, lean on thy God.

Cheshire Cemetery, Townhouse Section, Delaware County, Ohio

1 comment:

  1. I did a quick google search on Salma and was surprised to discover that he was born in Lenox, MA. His wife was Sally Clark. Clark is a very prevalent old name in my area. Interesting the connections we can make!


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