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117 CHAPTER XIX. Some hours in an old New-York church-yard; where I am led to investigations and meditations. in the earliest chapter of my life, speaking of Wigglesworth , I alluded to the melancholy spectacle of old age, down at the heel, which we so often see in New York—the aged remnants of former respectability and vigor—the seedy clothes, the forlorn and half-starved aspect, the lonesome mode of life, when wealth and kindred had alike decayed or deserted. Such thoughts recurred naturally again to my mind as I and the old landlord descended from the hired hack, and entered the gates of Trinity Church, to pay the last honors to the body of poor Wigglesworth, who, at a heavy cost, had the one engrossing wish to be buried there with his mother. For his family, particularly on the maternal side, was of considerable rank, reduced as the old man had become. May the aged clerk rest in peace there, in that vault in the midst of the clang and hubbub of the mighty city, which surrounds him on all sides! For his was a good nature; and 118 from first to last, he had proved my firm friend. I often imagine him, even now that time has mellowed down his appearance—I often imagine him to be again shuffling around—his lips caved in upon a mouth bereft of teeth; his white, thin hair, his bent shoulders, his spectacles, and his dismally warm clothes. Again I say, may he rest in peace there in the venerable church-yard. The better feeling of our times has created ample and tasteful cemeteries, at a proper distance from the turmoil of the town; the elegant and sombre Greenwood, unsurpassed probably in the world for its chaste and appropriately sober beauty; the varied and wooded slopes of the cemetery of the Evergreens; and the elevated and classic simplicity of Cypress Hills. And correct sanitary notions have properly made interments in the city limits illegal, prohibiting them by a fine which is heavy enough to form an effectual bar, except in cases, as occasionally happens even yet, of a strong desire to be buried in a spot hallowed by past associations and the presence of ancestors; with an ability to pay the fine. Still, the few old grave-yards that lie in some of the busiest parts of our city, are not without their lesson; and a valuable one. On the occasion of the old man’s scanty funeral, after the others had departed, and I was left alone, I spent the rest of that pleasant, golden forenoon, one of the finest days in our American autumn, wandering slowly through the Trinity grave-yard. I felt in the humor, serious without deep sadness, and I went from spot to spot, 119 and sometimes copied the inscriptions. Long, rank grass covered my face. Over me was the verdure, touched with brown, of trees nourished from the decay of the bodies of men. The tomb-stone nearest me held this inscription: “JAMES M. BALDWIN, “Aged 22 years, “Wounded on Lake Champlain.” By the date of the time of his wound, and also that of his death, both of which were given on the stone, I knew that the latter took place about a year after the first. Here, then, lay one of the republic’s faithful children—faithful to death. Was it—for I felt in a musing vein—hard for him to die? Hung round about his prospects a gay-colored future? Twenty-two: that was my own age—and, of Death, I shuddered instinctively at the thought! For I felt that life, matter of fact as it was and is in reality—I felt that to me it opened enjoyment and pleasure on every side. I was happy in my friends—happy in having Ephraim and Violet and Tom and Martha and Inez—every one of them! I was happy that I lived in this glorious New York, where, if one goes without activity and enjoyment, it must be his own fault in the main. Truly, life is sweet to the young man.—Such bounding and swelling capacities for joy reside within him, and such ambitious yearnings. Health and unfettered spirits are his staff and mantle. He learns unthinkingly to love—that 120 glorious privilege of youth! Out of the tiny fractions of his experience, he builds beautiful imaginings, and confidently looks for the future to realize them. And then he...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781609385118
Related ISBN
9781609385125
MARC Record
OCLC
970693688
Pages
180
Launched on MUSE
2017-03-14
Language
English
Open Access
No
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