In One of the Woods…

…that I frequent, the trail winds past a clearing. (Sorry. Bad cellphone photo:)

A family cemetery with a dozen graves. The oldest stone was chiseled in 1911. Three infants were buried here in the 1920’s. They trucked a paterfamilias up here as recently as 1982.

Sun setting behind the Blue Ridge. The moist, cold sod carpeted with fallen leaves. Our chop-fallen forebears’ bones mouldering just beneath my bended knees, pullulating with worms warmed by the deeper soil…Can’t think of a more pleasant pastime for a winter’s eve.

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
These rebel powers that thee array;
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? is this thy body’s end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.

(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 146)

One thought on “In One of the Woods…

  1. Father Mark,

    How about Sonnet 71 — No longer mourn for me when I am dead

    No longer mourn for me when I am dead
    Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell
    Give warning to the world that I am fled
    From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
    Nay, if you read this line, remember not
    The hand that writ it; for I love you so
    That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot
    If thinking on me then should make you woe.
    O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
    When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
    Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.
    But let your love even with my life decay,
    Lest the wise world should look into your moan
    And mock you with me after I am gone.

    Many of the same thoughts are elicited by your simple grave yard; but this one urges the lover to forget totally, lest they be mocked for caring. Life, death, love and hate: mankind is such a mixture of all; and “life” is a product of man, not the God-given variety, but the thing men call life, the record, the feelings, the hurley burley, the vanity, and the humility:

    “His life was gentle, and the elements
    So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
    And say to all the world ‘This was a man!'” [Julius Caesar, Act 5, Scene 5].

    But, ah, to walk down a country road by a nearly-forgotten graveyard on a dull, dank, chilly day, and to be aroused to thought by the experience, “tis a consumation devoutly to be wished.” [extra credit is available]

    Thank you for taking us all down the path.



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