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It was the verger, who came to inform me that it was time to close the library. I sought to have a parting word with the quarto, but the worthy little tome was silent; the clasps were closed; and it looked perfectly unconscious of all that had passed. I have been to the library two or three times since, and have endeavored to draw it into further conversation, but in vain ; and whether all this rambling colloquy actually took place, or whether it was another of those odd day-dreams to which I am subject, I have never to this moment been able to discover.
Here's a few flowers! but about midnight more:
customs of rural life which still linger in some parts of England, are those of strewing flowers before the funerals, and planting them at the graves of departed friends. These, it is said, are the remains of some of the rites of the primitive church; but they are of still higher antiquity, having been observed among the Greeks and Romans, and frequently mentioned by their writers, and were, no doubt, the spontaneous tributes of unlettered affection, originating long before art had tasked itself to modulate sorrow into song, or story it on the monument. They are now only to be met with in the most distant and retired places of the kingdom, where fashion and innovation have not been able to throng in and trample out all the curious and interesting traces of the olden time.
In Glamorganshire, we are told, the bed whereon the corpse lies is covered with flowers, a custom alluded to in one of the wild and plaintive ditties of Ophelia.
White his shroud as the mountain snow
Larded all with sweet flowers ;
go, With true love showers.
There is also a most delicate and beautiful rite observed in some of the remote villages of the south, at the funeral of a female who has died young and unmarried. A chaplet of white flowers is borne before the corpse by a young girl nearest in age, size, and resemblance, and is afterwards hung up in the church over the accustomed seat of the deceased. These chaplets are sometimes made of white paper, in imitation of flowers, and inside of them is generally a pair of white gloves. They are intended as emblems of the purity of the deceased, and the crown of glory which she has received in heaven.
In some parts of the country, also, the dead are carried to the grave with the singing of psalms and hymns: a kind of triumph, “to show,” says Bourne, “that they have finished their course with joy, and are become conquerors.”
This, I am informed, is observed in some of the northern counties, particularly in Northumberland; and it has a pleasing though melancholy effect, to hear, of a still evening, in some lonely country scene, the mournful melody of a funeral dirge swelling from a distance, and to see the train slowly moving along the landscape.
Thus, thus, and thus, we compass round
HERRICK. There is also a solemn respect paid by the traveller to the passing funeral in these sequestered places ; for such spectacles, occurring among the quiet abodes of nature, sink deep into the soul. As the mourning train approaches, he pauses, uncovered, to let it go by ; he then follows silently in the rear; sometimes quite to the grave, at other times for a few hundred yards, and, having paid this tribute of respect to the deceased, turns and resumes his journey.
The rich vein of melancholy which runs through the English character, and gives it some of its most touching and ennobling graces, is finely evidenced in these pathetic customs, and in the solicitude shown by the common people for an honored and a peaceful grave. The humblest peasant, whatever may be his lowly lot while living, is anxious that some little respect may be paid to his remains. Sir Thomas Overbury, describing the “faire and happy milkmaid,” observes : “Thus lives she, and all her care is, that she may die in the spring-time, to have store of flowers stucke upon her winding-sheet.” The poets, too, who always breathe the feeling of a nation, continually advert to this fond solicitude about the grave. In “The Maid's Tragedy,” by Beaumont and Fletcher, there is a beautiful instance of the kind, describing the capricious me ncho of a brokenhearted girl :
When she sees a bank
The custom of decorating graves was once universally prevalent: osiers were carefully bent over them to keep the turf uninjured, and about them were planted evergreens and flow“We adorn their graves,”
says Evelyn, in his “Sylva,” “with flowers and redolent plants, just emblems of the life of man, which has been compared in Holy Scriptures to those fading