By Thomas D’Agostino
This is the final installment of curious and amusing epitaphs that are found about New England. It can be assured there are countless that are not so well known. Perhaps you may wander a local burial ground and find a stone that catches your eye and a bit of prose chiseled upon it that will make you think.
This turf has drunk a widow’s tear,
Three of her husbands slumber here.
This one tells a lot:
Listen, Mother, Aunt, and me
were killed, here we be.
We should not had time to missle
Had they blown the engine whistle.
This is also a mouthful:
Here lies a man who all his mortal life
spent mending clocks, but he could not mend his wife.
The larum of his bell was ne’er so shrill
As was her tongue, aye, clacking like a mill.
But now he’s gone-oh wither none can tell
But hope beyond the sound of Matty’s bell.
Some prefer to be short and simple such as the epitaph of Historian Charles Knight.
Or of a generous doctor who often treated patients for free and chose a boulder for a monument:
This is on me.
This one is for Thomas Merrett who was a barber.
Though only stone salutes the reader’s eye,
Here in deep silence precious dust doth lie,
Obscurely sleeping in death’s mighty store,
Mingled with common earth till time’s no more,
Against death’s stubborn laws, who dare repine.
Since so much Merritt did his life resigne.
Murmurs and teares are useless in the grave,
Else hee whole vollies at his tomb might have.
Rest in peace; who like a faithful steward,
Repaired the church, the poore, and needy cur’d;
Eternall mansions do attend the just,
To cloth with immortality their dust,
Tainted whilst underground with worms and rust.
These are not so poetic, but the simple rhymes tell it like it was:
A bird, a man, a loaded gun.
No bird, dead man, thy will be done.
Beneath these stones repose the bones of Theodosious Grimm.
He took his beer year to year and then the bier took him.
A Bier was the board that the coffin was placed on and used to carry the deceased to the burying yard. Of course, this would be replaced by a herse or hearse.
There are many epitaphs that are extremely lengthy and tell much of the person’s life or how they met their demise. These can take up a whole stone in some cases such as the stone of Caroline Cutter in New Hampshire. Take time to read the epitaphs when wandering old burial grounds. You never know what you might learn from the writings set in stone.