Monday, November 21, 2011


Meditation on Death

From Eric Thomson:
Thanks for the Drummond, which sent me back to his A Cypresse Grove (1623), a wordy meditation on death reminiscent of Sir Thomas Browne's Urn Burial but, undeservedly, not as well known. I actually quite like its wordiness, which operates almost as if it could forestall the dreaded 'finis'.

'Death is the sade Estranger of acquantance, the eternall Diuorcer of Mariage, the Rauisher of the Children from their Parentes, the stealer of Parents from the Children, the Interrer of Fame, the sole cause of Forgetfulnesse, by which the liuing talke of those gone away as of so manie Shadowes, or fabulous Paladines: all Strength by it is enfeebled, Beautie turned in deformitie and rottennesse, Honour in contempt, Glorie into basenesse, it is the vnreasonable breaker off of all the actions of Vertue; by which wee enjoye no more the sweete pleasures on Earth, neither contemplate the statelie reuolutions of the Heauens; Sunne perpetuallie setteth, Starres neuer rise vnto vs; It in one moment depriueth vs of what with so great toyle and care in manie yeeres wee haue heaped together: By this are Successions of Linages cut short, Kingdomes left Heirelesse, and greatest States orphaned: It is not ouercome by Pride, smoothed by gawdie Flatterie, tamed by Intreaties, bribed by Benefites, softned by Lamentations, diuerted by Time, Wisedome, saue this, can alter and helpe anie thing. By Death wee are exiled from this faire Citie of the World; it is no more a World vnto vs, nor wee anie more People into it. The Ruines of Phanes, Palaces, and other magnificent Frames, yeeld a sad Prospect to the Soule: And how should it consider the wracke of such a wonderfull Maister-piece as is the Bodie without Horrour?'
Maybe it's just the gorgeous prose, but my predominant emotion is not "horrour" but cheerfulness when I read this. Perhaps I'm in a Brahmsian mood. Joseph Hellmesberger said, "When Brahms is in good spirits, he sings 'The grave is my joy'."

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