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.
IN the course of our last volume we offered a few suggestions on the laying out and arrangement of cemetery grounds, and promised to follow up the subject with remarks on trees suitable for their embellishment We have been reminded of this promise by several letters now on our table, and we proceed to redeem it.
First of all, we must observe that there are people who seem to regard trees as not being among the appropriate and indispensable ornaments of the cemetery. They erect massive vaults and monuments of granite or marble, and plant neither tree, shrub, nor flower near them. This taste, if we may so call it, we can not admire. Trees, it seems to us, are of all others the most appropriate ornaments for the tomb; the shade and shelter which they impart are soothing and agreeable, and there are ideas suggested by their outward forms and moral and historical associations, which address themselves to the reflecting, intelligent mind, quite as forcibly and distinctly as do lettered inscriptions on marble. The literature of all nations has given a language to trees and plants and flowers, and made them symbolize in one way or another nearly every feeling and sentiment of the human heart. Especially is life, death, and immortality, represented by their varied forms and characters, and ever-changing aspects and conditions.
As gardening and arboricultural taste increases among us, the literature of trees and plants - the most refining and delightful of studies - will receive more attention, and the work of planting and embellishing grounds will become much more of an intellectual and poetical labor than it now is.
The man who values his trees or plantations merely for their contributions to his physical wants or luxuries, is to be pitied, even in this eminently utilitarian age. For our own part, we love the trees we have planted, as we love our children; and when we gather their fruit, or loiter beneath their branches, we are carried back through the days that have passed since we committed their roots to the earth, and set them out on their journey of life. We think how they and ourselves have jogged along and grown old together, and we almost hear them speak to us with the affection of a brother or a sister. Who can look upon the tree planted by the tomb of a friend, without reading in it the history and recollections of the past, and becoming attached.
We repeat that there can be no more fitting ornament or memorial placed beside the grave; than suitable trees. And here we call to mind Grace Greenwood's allusion to the grave of the poet Keats, in the Protestant burying-ground at Rome.
"I was pained, says she, "to find the grave of Keats in a bare and shadowless place. He, whose heart was so full of music, who loved beauty so passionately, has not a tree to shelter a bird over his lonely rest - not a flower to breathe a perfumed sigh over his lonely pillow." Many a grave is in the same shadowless condition; not from necessity alone, but from neglect and choice.
It is very painful to see the bare and desolate aspect of the quarter set apart for the graves of the poor, in some of our cemeteries. The trifling expenditure of a few dollars in planting a tree here and there over it, would be a wonderful improvement, and would at least show that the authorities considered that these poor, who had no friend behind to raise a monument or plant a tree by their grave, were nevertheless human beings.
In what we have said we do not wish to be understood as raising objections to the practice of erecting monuments to the memory of the dead; far from it. We care not how costly and magnificent they may be, provided they are appropriate to the place and the purpose, and do not convey the idea of a vulgar and heartless exhibition of vanity, as we regret to say they sometimes do. The finest tombstones or monuments strike us as bare and unfinished, without the accompaniment of trees, and especially such trees as in their form and character harmonize with their style. We have a very simple illustration of the effect of trees in the vignette at the head of this article. Take away the tapering trees which support it, and we would have a square block, formal and shadowless, without a line of beauty.
There is something about the memorials which genuine affection places around the grave, so touching and so beautiful as to be readily distinguished from the mere display of wealth, or the eold, formal discharge of a duty imposed by the customs of society. A handful of fresh flowers scattered over a grave - the planting of a bunch of Violets, or a Rose bush - never fails to strike us as a sincere and delicate tribute of affection; while we often, though perhaps uncharitably, question the motives that have raised a splendid monument, and inscribed the fulsome and flattering epitaph.
We have said more on this head than we intended, and must come to the more immediate purpose we set out with.
The selection of trees for the embellishment of a cemetery, calls for the exercise of much taste and discrimination, and should never be undertaken by persons who have but little knowledge of the subject. Fitness is every where one of the chief sources of beauty. The burial place has a character and expression peculiarly its own; and whoever undertakes to improve or embellish it, either with objects of nalure or art, should be very careful to avoid anything out of harmony with that expression. How we would be shocked to see people visit the house of mourning in the gay costume of the ball-room. So the embellishments of a lawn, pleasure-ground, or flower-garden, would not be a becoming drapery for the tomb. People are very apt to select such trees as they happen to be acquainted with; and therefore we find Elms, Maples, Horse Chestnuts, and other like treer, such as are commonly planted on streets and lawns, crowded together on small cemetery lots, where they are entirely out of place We lately saw no less than sixteen Mountain Ash planted in parallel rows on a lo about thirty or forty feet square.