Home » Mourning Literature & Custom » The Grave. by Washington Irving.

The Grave. by Washington Irving.

I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog. 

Washington Irving a highly respected writer of the early 19th century wrote the following piece of prose, which I believe comes from the published work The Sketch Book first published in 1819.

The Grave. by Washington Irving.

OH, the grave, the grave ! It buries every error, covers every defect, extinguishes every resentment. From this peaceful bosom spring none but fond regrets and tender recollections. Who can look down even upon the grave of an enemy, and not feel a compunctious throb that ever he should have warred with the poor handful of earth that lies mouldering before him ! But the grave of those we loved, — what a place for meditation ! There it is we call up in long review the whole history of the truth and gentleness, and a thousand endearments lavished upon us almost unheard in the daily course of intimacy. There it is we dwell upon the tenderness of the parting scene ; the bed of death, with all its stifled grief, its noiseless attendants, its mute, watchful assiduities ; the last testimonial of expiring love, the feeble, fluttering feeling. Oh, how thrilling is the pressure of the hand, the last fond look of the glaring eye, turning upon us even from the threshold of existence ; the faint, faltering accent struggling in death to give one more assurance of affection. Ay, go to the grave of buried love, and meditate ! There settle your account with your conscience, of past endearments unregarded of that departed being, who never can return to be soothed by contrition. If thou art a child, and hast ever added a sorrow to the soul, or a furrow to the brow, of an affectionate parent ; if thou art a husband, and hast ever caused the bosom that ventured its whole happiness in thine arms, t doubt one moment of thy truth ; if thou art a friend, and hast wronged by thought, by word or by deed, the spirit that generously confided in thee ; if thou art a lover, and hast ever given one unmerited pang to the true heart that now lies cold and still beneath thy feet, — then be sure that every unkind look, ungracious word, every ungentle action, will come thronging back upon thy memory, and knock dolefully at they soul ; then be sure that thou wilt lie down sorrowing and repentant on the grave, and utter the unheard groans, and pour the unavailing tear, — bitter, because unheard and unavailing.

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