This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
II. It is also befitting that a permanent and ornate cemetery should aim at fulness and accuracy in its historical expression. Every burial-place is a repository of unorganized history. An Indian grave-mound that carries neither epitaph, name, or date, will furnish crude materials for the historian's use. Unearth the martial and domestic implements buried with the Indian warrior, and they will give glimpses of information, more or less reliable, about his habits, wealth, social standing, and the superstitions of his tribe. From the sepulchral monuments of the ancients we infer many ideas, not elsewhere preserved, respecting their domestic usages, civil institutions, and their progress in esthetic arts. A large share of what we know about the Pharaohs is embalmed with them in the dark cerements of the tomb. The gravestone of a civilized people perpetuate multitudes of special facts in the history of families and individuals, which we are prone to undervalue, partly because familiarity brings indifference, partly because we cannot anticipate the coming events that may cause these facts to be eagerly Sought after and organized into history.
There is an immense fund of crude material for biography spread out over the uncounted and too often uncared-for gravestones of the generations gone before us. The merriment sometimes indulged in over the inscriptions in our early burial-places is a mark neither of reverence or of wisdom. We may smile, if we will, at bad latinity and worse anglicisms, at wretched puns and halt verses, false rhymes and mis-spellings; but, beyond such verbal faults, there is a fulness of detail in these old quaint epitaphs that gives them a high historical value, to be enhanced with each succeeding year. As autographs of national character and unintended records of primitive society, they hold up a mirror to traits of picturesque simplicity and massive strength, which neither Macaulay nor Bancroft could more faithfully exhibit.
At the present time, the tendency of our monumental literature is to barrenness and reticence. In shunning one error, another has been fallen into equally censurable. Costly and durable shafts are often erected without the fulness of epitaph, the accurate dates, and the analysis of character, by which their historical value would be largely enhanced. Apparently it is overlooked, in such cases, that the literature of cemeteries is addressed to strangers as well as to Mends and acquaintances, to coming generations as well as to the living. Completeness without garrulity, deserved praise untainted by flattery, grief and solemnity lighted up by Christian hope, are qualities of style appropriate to a tombstone. The difficulty of composing faultless epitaphs is not a sufficient reason why such tributes to the memory of departed worth should be withheld.
III. It deserves to be added that the decorations of a rural cemetery should be appropriately emblematic and typical of Christian sentiment. Ornament introduced for its own sake, that solicits admiration and seeks to dazzle, is wholly out of keeping. The embellishments should be such as will harmonize with subdued feelings and serious frames of mind. They should not please the eye simply, but touch the heart. A landscape artist can so select and group his trees and shrubs, a sculptor can so conceive and execute his designs, that they shall invest the idea of death with sweet suggestions of repose and comforted sorrow and a better life.
In the fitly chosen words of another,* "Here let there be trees, with their grateful, soul-subduing shade; there let us see the open lawn and cheerful sunshine; around us, on every hand, let us behold the open bud and springing seed, types of the resurrection; and in the distance, let there be, if possible, glimpses of the blue hills, suggestive of the mountains where the departed walk".
To what extent trees, so multitudinous in their differences of habit, tissue, foliage, color, flowering, fruit, and final use, might be planted as commemorative types of individual character, is a question belonging less to the comprehensive design of this article than to the aesthetic details and ideal possibilities of sepulchral gardening.
Numerous as are the varieties of moral and intellectual attribute, most of them could be fitted with a living emblem from the countless growths of the forest. The language of trees is universal, like that of a statue or a painting, and needs no translation. In portrayals of scriptural character, inspiration frequently retreats from the insufficiency of dry statement into the live language of typical trees. History presses a volume into a word when the unbending hickory is taken to represent the hero whose will is enthusiasm to an army, and law to a nation. The fitness of a tree to symbolize and commemorate a character should not be distrusted, until we cease repeating and admiring that requiem-toned outburst of Shenandoah's rustic oratory: " I am an aged hemlock. The winds of a hundred winters have whistled through my branches. I am dead at the top".
* Rev. A D. Gridley, Horticulturist, June, 1855.
In the adorning and keeping of a grave-garden, everything impertinent and offensive, everything at variance with severe, taste and the Christian's hopeful sorrowing at the loss of friends, will be carefully excluded. No tipsy, reeling monuments will offend the sight, no rank weeds or tangled briers, no neglected walks or unshaven lawns, will force the suggestion that the buried are farther away from memory than from sight. It is to be hoped that the time is coming when no bin-like unsightly fences, or hard iron palisades will surround the lots appropriated to families; such close unrural circumvallations, with their pickets, padlocks, and paint, have an unsocial expression. They look as if neighbors were suspicious of each other, even in their graves; while those having lived, suffered, and rejoiced together as kindred, finally sleep together in family groups, the divisions of the ground, marked possibly by low evergreen hedges, should be such as to recognize a brotherhood in Christian faith and a common humanity.