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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


Stanzas on the Cemetery at Ditchling

By Gideon Algernon Mantell (1790–1852)

  • The graves in the Dissenters’ burial-ground at Ditchling have no monumental stones, but are covered with evergreens and flowering shrubs.

  • WHAT though no marbles mark this hallowed spot,

    Where youth and age and worth and beauty sleep,

    Nor epitaphs declare the mortal lot

    Of those who here eternal silence keep,

    Yet o’er these mossy beds the willows weep,

    And yew and cypress shed a solemn gloom,

    And morning’s mists with dew their tresses steep,

    Diffusing freshness o’er the verdant tomb.

    Mute but expressive emblems! well ye teach

    The fate of those whose relics here repose;

    More forcibly than moralist can preach,

    Their present, past, and future state disclose.

    For who that views yon fragrant blushing rose,

    Shedding its sweetness through the balmy air,

    Nor deems that loveliness from all its woes

    And all its wrongs hath found a shelter there!

    Yes, that fair flower blooms o’er a brother’s boast,

    A mother’s joy, a doating father’s pride;

    Brief is the tale: her fondest hopes were crossed,—

    She loved,—was slighted,—murmured not,—but died!

    And sweetly by that flower is typified

    Her loveliness and spotless purity;

    And the green myrtle, waving by its side,

    Her certain hope of immortality!

    The sable yew-tree throws its solemn shade

    O’er yon green mound in dreary loneliness,

    And tells that he who there in death is laid,

    While living was the victim of distress;

    His youth was folly, and his age no less;—

    But let that pass: his was the lot of all

    Who seek in vanity for happiness,

    And when too late their hours would fain recall.

    Beneath those cedars rest a gentle pair,

    Of lowly station and of humble name;

    Their peaceful course was free from pain and care;—

    In life they were but one, in death the same:

    And well their virtues may the tribute claim

    With which affection has adorned the spot.

    Ah! who would covet wealth or power or fame,

    If happiness like theirs could be his lot?

    Where yonder bay erects his graceful form,

    There sleeps the hapless, gifted child of song;

    No more exposed to envy’s bitter storm,

    Nor longer keenly feeling every wrong:

    And there is one who loves to linger long

    Where the green turf his hallowed dust enshrines;

    And, hiding from the giddy, senseless throng

    Her hopeless misery, o’er his fate repines!

    Yon holly marks the village lawyer’s grave,

    Those oaks the patriot’s ashes canopy,

    The laurels o’er the sleeping warrior wave,

    And yonder spring flowers shelter infancy.

    Lady! when in the dust this form shall lie,

    If then thy breast my memory would recall,

    Let the dark cypress tell my destiny,

    And the green ivy form my funeral pall.