Literary Representations of Epitaph and Burial from the 19th Century through the Great War
Introduction. Arriving at the Cemetery 1
• I N T R O D U C T I O N • Arriving at the Cemetery Here in this grave there lyes a Cave, We call a Cave a Grave; If Cave be Grave and Grave be Cave, Then, reader! judge, I crave, Whether doth Cave lye here in Grave, Or Grave doth lye in Cave? If Grave and Cave here buried lye, Then Grave where is thy victorie? Go, reader, and report here lyes a Cave Who conquers death and buries his own Grave. —Charles Northend, Churchyard Literature (1874) harles Northend includes this ten-line epitaph for a man named “Cave” in his1874 collection of epitaphs called Churchyard Literature or Light Reading on Grave Subjects. Northend’s book is one of many collections of epitaphs published during the nineteenth century. This epitaph raises particular questions about the presence and absence of bodies and the audience for memorializing writing. The writer of this riddle emphasizes his proximity to the tombstone and beckons the reader to look “here” in “this grave,” although reading this epitaph on the pages of Northend’s book would have been quite a different experience than reading the text on the tombstone itself. The reader could, however, imagine himself standing next to the gravestone in the cemetery; indeed, the opening lines invite intimacy and draw the reader into the riddle. The if-then question posed in the next four lines presents a common epitaphic request: the voice from the stone directly addresses the reader and asks for judgment and consideration. The...
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