The used graveyard

Sunday, 2 November, 2014

Today is All Souls’ Day, an observance that dates back to the 11th century, when Odilo, Abbot of Cluny in Saône-et-Loire, decreed that all monasteries should offer prayers for the Dead on 2 November, the day after the feast of All Saints. The custom spread and was adopted throughout the Catholic Church.

A New England graveyard is no longer used because the local community has died out, but visitors still come to read the tombstones, out of curiosity. The inscriptions, however, warn those reading them that they must eventually join the dead. In this poem, Robert Frost gently mocks our unwillingness to face this fact.

In A Disused Graveyard

The living come with grassy tread
To read the gravestones on the hill;
The graveyard draws the living still,
But never anymore the dead.
The verses in it say and say:
“The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay.”
So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
Yet can’t help marking all the time
How no one dead will seem to come.
What is it men are shrinking from?
It would be easy to be clever
And tell the stones: Men hate to die
And have stopped dying now forever.
I think they would believe the lie.

Robert Frost (1874 — 1963)


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