Grave contemplation

May 14th, 2011 | By | Category: Spirituality

Zephyrs? Would ‘zephyrs’ have been the right word?  It conjures up images of a 1960s Ford motor car, but perhaps it might have also described the gentle breezes that barely more than rustled the leaves, but moved them enough to create patterns of light and shadow on the earth at our feet.

The long procession walked in silence from the church, the pall bearers, four male and two female, walked with careful tread towards the medieval churchyard. A moment that created a feeling of a need for music, something to capture the sombreness but also irrepressible hope of the occasion.

How many thousands of mourners had accompanied their loved ones on their final journey along this grassy avenue, the interlocking trees at either side providing a silent wall of protection.

The remains of the ancient church seem welcoming, friendlier than the institution had been to generations of Irish people. The thought occurs that when the last church building is covered in moss, the church itself may have recovered its true identity.

This is a place of mortality, but a place where mortality is acceptable, where it can be accommodated.  If I had ever had the ability to retain lines of poetry, it would have been the occasion for silent recitation of appropriate lines.  Thomas Gray comes to mind, he would have understood this place of death and beauty.

Beneath those rugged Elms, that Yew-Tree’s Shade,
Where heaves the Turf in many a mould’ring Heap,
Each in his narrow Cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the Hamlet sleep.
The breezy Call of Incense-breathing Morn,
The Swallow twitt’ring from the Straw-built Shed,
The Cock’s shrill Clarion, or the ecchoing Horn,
No more shall wake them from their lowly Bed.
For them no more the blazing Hearth shall burn,
Or busy Houswife ply her Evening Care:
No Children run to lisp their Sire’s Return,
Or climb his Knees the envied Kiss to share.
Oft did the Harvest to their Sickle yield,
Their Furrow oft the stubborn Glebe has broke;
How jocund did they they drive their Team afield!
How bow’d the Woods beneath their sturdy Stroke!
Let not Ambition mock their useful Toil,
Their homely Joys and Destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful Smile,
The short and simple Annals of the Poor.
The Boast of Heraldry, the Pomp of Pow’r,
And all that Beauty, all that Wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable Hour.
The Paths of Glory lead but to the Grave.


Death is the ultimate democrat.  All lie equal in this place.


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