If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Our reason for creating WWK originated as an outlet for our love of reading and writing mystery fiction. We hope you love it, too, and will enjoy our holiday gifts to our readers with original short stories to celebrate the season. Starting on 11/16 stories by Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Paula Gail Benson, Linda Rodriguez, KM Rockwood, Gloria Alden, and E. B. Davis will appear every Thursday into the New Year.


Our November Author Interviews: 11/8--Ellen Byron, and 11/15--Sujata Massey. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


November Saturday Bloggers: 11/4 Margaret S. Hamilton and 11/11 Cheryl Hollon.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," just published, will appear in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

OF GRAVEYARDS AND GRAVESONES

  
Continuing with the topic I started last week, gravestones in the 17th and 18th centuries carried a message not only with epitaphs, but also with symbolism; a finger pointing up, a weeping willow, a death's head with wings or a skeleton. The early stones were slender tablets of slate, limestone or marble, but by the early 20th century the stones became blocks of granite. The 19th century brought the most variety in tombstones; mausoleums, fancy tombs of the wealthy, family plots with a high monument and sometimes even fencing for middle class families and simple, sometimes hand carved, stones for poorer people.

                                             
                                                      Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland

Not only did the stones evolve and change, epitaphs changed, too. The latter part of the 19th century saw epitaphs almost completely religious in nature, while the first half carried over the traditions of earlier often quaint epitaphs and sometimes recorded something about the person or how they died like Sebra Day's stone. She died in 1823:

                                                      Her death was occasioned by
                                                      The sting of a yellow wasp up-
                                                      On the right arm within 20
                                                      Minutes from time of
                                                      Receiving the wound.

Many of the stonecutters were less than professional. They misspelled words, squeezed words together or cut with no regard for syllabication. In more than one cemetery I've found husbands and wives with their last names spelled differently. Of course, there were professional stone cutters, too, who left their trademarks with certain distinguishing designs or their names at the bottom for advertising purposes.


                                                       Cemetery in Mesopotamia, Ohio

Epitaphs came from many sources. Some were Biblical, some words the dying wanted on their stone, and some from a friend or family member who wrote poetry. There were even books like The Epitaph Writer: Consisting of Upwards of Six Hundred Original Epitaphs, Moral, Admonitory, Humorous . . . Many were copied from other stones like this common epitaph on Julie Lynn's grave found in almost every old cemetery:

                                                          Behold wanderer as you pass by
                                                          As you are now so once was I
                                                          As I am now so you must be
                                                          Prepare for death and follow me.

Another variation of the dire warning type of epitaph is on the stone of Lucinda, the daughter of Elisha and Thankfull Farnam, who died in 1820 at age 26.

                                                          O fellow youth, I'm call'd by death
                                                          To bid adieu to earthly fears;
                                                          You now may read my epitaph
                                                          But soon you may be somond here.

Even grimmer poetry that doesn't gloss over death is that in memory of Eumis Roose, wife of Elijah, who departed this life March 7, 1877:

                                                          When in the grave my bed I have
                                                           And thare my body rotten
                                                           This you may see least
                                                           I should be by all my friends
                                                                                         Forgotten.

Sometimes there's humor whether it's intentional or not like on John G. Evans stone:

                                                          Our father lies beneath the sod;
                                                          His spirit's gone up to his God,
                                                          We never more shall hear his tread,
                                                          Nor see the wen upon his head.

Before the industrial revolution made books and other reading material more accessible to the average person, a common pastime was visiting cemeteries and reading the gravestones. Courting couples wandered through them and families often had picnics there. In the 1830s, cemeteries started moving away from churchyards to areas further out along with insane asylums, prisons and other undesirable elements. Also, there was a growing awareness of the part germs played in epidemics. Following is an epitaph for three sisters who probably died in an epidemic:

                                                         Strange as it is, but it is so,
                                                         Here are three sisters in a row
                                                         We were cut down all in our prime
                                                         The daughters of I and M Sirine
                                                         We gave paid the debt you plainly see
                                                         Left to be paid my friends by thee.

Later Isaac Sirine had his tombstone made with the following inscription except for the date:

                                                         Here at last the old man lies,
                                                         Nobody laughs and nobody cries.
                                                         Where he's gone and how he fares,
                                                         Nobody knows and nobody cares.

Poor old guy. But when his stone was placed after his death, his brother added:

                                                        But his brother James and his wife Emmaline,
                                                        They were his friends all of the time.

Unfortunately old gravestones are not holding up against the effects of pollution. And those still legible are becoming more and more difficult to decipher. Although the granite stones show no sign of weathering, of what interest can these generic cemetery allotments be to any reader of epitaphs? When my son died of cancer at eighteen, I decided he'd have an epitaph so future visitors to the cemetery where he's buried, would know a little more about him. The three rings stand not only for the Trinity, but also because my son was a magician in addition to his other talents. The linking rings was one of his favorite tricks. I wish more people today would memorialize their loved ones this way.



Okay, your assignment: Write and post the epitaph you'd want on your tombstone.

    
  
                                                                                                                                                          

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

First of all let me be perfectly clear, I want to be cremated. But if I'm to play around with the idea of an epitaph, I like Dorothy Parker's: "Excuse My Dust". Emily Dickinson's is beautifully simple: "E.D. Called Back". While this is not an epitaph, Ambrose Bierce's autobiography title is appealing: "Alone in Bad Company".
Without massive contemplation, I'd just take this quote from Emerson: "The earth laughs in flowers."

Gloria Alden said...

Love it anoymous. :-) All are simple and bring smiles, something the readers of epitaphs appreciate.

Anonymous said...

"That's all she wrote." :)

Pauline Alldred said...

I failed to make everything clear.
At last I can stop trying.

I'd also seek cremation.

Pauline

June Shaw said...

What an interesting post and great tribute to your son.

I want my epitaph to say She loved.

Kaye George said...

I, too, want to be cremated and to ultimately push up daisies. I love daisies. I've planted flowering plants over my pets' ashes and would love for someone to do the same for me.

Patg said...

Cremation, no grave. Probably thrown into the ocean, but would love to be shot into space. No epitaphs, cemeteries may have to go as we progress toward 7 then 8 billion.
In Cairo, a modern cemetery already has people living in the tombs.
Patg

Gloria Alden said...

Anoymous Two, I love it, especially for a writer.

Pauline, that would be a good epitaph for me, too.

Thanks, June. Yours is short and says a lot about you. There was one in a cemetery near by that I didn't like very well at first, but the more I thought about it, it was quite complimentary. It was "She did what she could."

Kaye, I had my beloved collie, Miss Molly, buried in one of my flower gardens close to the house. She has flowers on her grave, too.

Linda Rodriguez said...

I, also, want cremation. Between the growing city suburbs and cemeteries, there'll soon be no more farmland to feed us, at all.

I tell my husband in jest that he can put on my tombstone (which I won't have, he knows)--"Here lies a lazy woman."

This goes back to the days when I had two bosses back-to-back who always wanted the impossible and had no boundaries, making demanding phone calls to my home at all hours of the day and night, as if I was a machine just stored in waiting for their next demand.

Warren Bull said...

The Epitaph of Young Benjamin Franklin

The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, I have the soul of a lazy person and the guilt of a person, who feels they need to get things down, ASAP. I'd love to spend hours doing nothing but reading.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, if I'd read that before, and I know I read a really thick bio of B. Franklin, I've either not read it or forgot it. Thanks for sharing that.

Alyx Morgan said...

I definitely choose cremation & no gravestone. But, a friend & I concocted a cute epitaph years ago using the word "epitaph" as an acronym:

E very
P erson's
I ntimate
T ruths
A re
P ut
H ere

Gloria Alden said...

I like that, Alyx. Acronyms are fun.

Unknown said...

Being an unrepentent punster, perhaps mine would be "he deserved enternal PUNishment"

Unknown said...

Sarah Orne Jewett's "Missing" would be a perfect epitaph:

You walked beside me, quick and free;
With lingering touch you grasped my hand;
Your eyes looked laughingly in mine;
And now – I can not understand.
I long for you, I mourn for you,
Through all the dark and lonely hours.
Heavy the weight the pallmen* lift,
And cover silently with flowers.

Gloria Alden said...

Unknown #1 I love it. I have a feeling I know who you are, and soon I'll be hearing lots of your puns.

Unknown #2 - perhaps the wife of #1? I love that. It's so beautiful and sad, too.