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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Teaching of the Grave

By Mather Byles (1707–1788)

[Born in Boston, Mass., Died there, 1788. To his Excellency Governor Belcher, on the Death of his Lady. 1736.]

AH! what avail the sable velvet spread

And golden ornaments, amidst the dead?

No beam smiles there, no eye can there discern

The vulgar coffin from the marble urn:

The costly honors, preaching, seem to say,

“Magnificence must mingle with the clay.”

Learn here, ye Fair, the frailty of your face,

Ravished by death, or nature’s slow decays:

Ye great, must so resign your transient power,

Heroes of dust, and monarchs of an hour!

So must each pleasing air, each gentle fire,

And all that’s soft, and all that’s sweet expire.