The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery - Old Graves


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The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery --Old Graves

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1. (11) THE S…

(11)

THE SLEEPY HOLLOW CEMETERY ---- OLD GRAVES

My arrival to reside in Concord was at the time
when old customs were changing for new ones. The settlement of Waldo Emerson here in 1834, after his return from Europe, and
his first acquaintance with Thomas Carlyle, had
something to do with these changes, especially after his friends began to gather
round him here--the Thoreaus, John and Henry, in 1836; Alcott in 1840; Hawthorne
in 1842; Ellery Channing in 1843; Margaret Fuller from 1836 to 1845 (though she never
resided but only visited in Concord); and the Ripley
family in 1845, inheriting the Old
Manse, and receiving there Mrs. Ripley’s
brother, George Bradford, who had been with
Hawthorne at Brook
Farm, and at Plymouth with Marston Watson at his garden and nursery of “Hillside,” which Thoreau
surveyed and mapped for the Watsons in 1854.
Mrs. Marston Watson (Mary
Russell, a sister of William and
Thomas Russell, Boston lawyers) had also lived
in the Emerson family before her marriage, and was
‘“The Maiden in the East”’ to whom Thoreau inscribed
an early poem. These friends and among the Concord residents, the Hoar,
Whiting and Bartlett
families, and Edmund Hosmer, a sturdy farmer, with
his daughters and kindred, all made up a circle especially intimate with
Emerson, Alcott
and Thoreau, though by no means all agreeing with
the social, religious and political reformers, to which class belonged Garrison, Phillips,
Theodore Parker, the Brook
Farm and Fruitlands residents,
and many visitors from America and Europe. [Page 15] Among these soon appeared
Henry James, Charles
Newcomb, the May family, Frederick Douglass, and other fugitive slaves, whom
Mrs. Brooks, the
Thoreaus, and other anti-slavery households received and
cherished--helping them on their way to freedom, when pursued, as they sometimes
were. My school grew in numbers during its first term, and much more in its
first full year, 1855-56, near the beginning of which, in September, 1855, I was
called on to make my first public appearance as a citizen--not as a voter; for I
still had a voting residence in New Hampshire, where my brother and I had aided
in voting down the pro-slavery Democratic party, whose leader at the time was
Hawthorne’s college friend, Gen.
Pierce, then President of the United States.

One evening, early in September, I was sitting in our
Channing apartment with my sister, when Mr.
Emerson called for an errand surprising to me. The
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery had been purchased and was to
be dedicated, and Emerson was to give the address. He was
also on the Town Committee to arrange for the exercises at
the grove, where the prayers, hymns and poems were read and sung; and it was in
that capacity he called on me. He said, ‘“I asked Mr.
Channing for a poem on this occasion, and he has sent me a good poem,
but they tell me it cannot be sung. Now will you not write for us verses that
will go to some familiar tune?”’ He had seen some of my college verses, and
others which were made to be sung, and had been sung, and he inferred from that,
a capacity to do the same for Concord. I assented, and presently showed him
these lines:

2. Ode. (September 29, 1855)

Shine kindly forth, September sun,
From heavens calm and clear,
That no untimely cloud may run
Before thy golden sphere,
To vex our simple rites today
With one prophetic tear.
With steady voices let us raise
The fitting psalm and prayer;--
Remembered grief of other days
Breathes softening in the air:
Who knows not Death—who mourns no loss,--
He has with us no share.
To holy sorrow, solemn joy,
We consecrate the place
Where soon shall sleep the maid and boy,
The father and his race,
The mother with her tender babe,
The venerable face.
These waving woods, these valleys low,
Between the tufted knolls,
Year after year shall dearer grow
To many loving souls;
And flowers be sweeter here than blow
Elsewhere between the poles.
For deathless Love and blessed Grief
Shall guard these wooded aisles,
When either Autumn casts the leaf,
Or blushing Summer smiles,
Or Winter whitens o’er the land,
Or Spring the buds uncoils.

3. The day pr…

The day proved to be that prayed for; these lines were sweetly sung to the tune
of St. Martin’s; and in the choir I recognized the voices of some of my new
friends. Mr. Emerson liked them, and printed them afterward
in his “Parnassus,” as he did Channing’s poem, which as
poetry was much better, and which also appears in “Parnassus,” and in the XIth
volume of the Centenary edition of Emerson, as here:

4. Sleepy Hollow. (By W. E. Channing)

No abbeys gloom, no dark cathedral stoops,
No winding torches paint the midnight air;
Here the green pine delights, the aspen droops
Along the modest pathways, and those fair
Pale asters of the season spread their plumes
Around this field, fit garden for our tombs.
And thou shalt pause to hear some funeral bell
Slow stealing o’er thy heart in this calm place;
Not with a throb of pain, a feverish knell,
But in its kind and supplicating grace
It says, “Go, Pilgrim, on thy march! be more
Friend to the friendless than thou wast before:”
Learn from the loved one’s rest, serenity!
Tomorrow that soft bell for thee shall sound,
And thou repose beneath the whispering tree,
One tribute more to this submissive ground:--
Prison thy soul from malice, bar out pride!
Nor these pale flowers, nor this still field deride.
Rather to those accents of Being turn,
Where a ne’er-setting sun illumes the year
Eternal: and the incessant watch-fires burn
Of unspent holiness and goodness clear,--
Forget man’s littleness,--deserve the best,--
God’s mercy in thy thought and life confest!

5. Seldom has…

Seldom has a finer poem been read on such an occasion. My own verses were
favorably received, and the late Judge Keyes, whose
daughter Annie had become one of my pupils, said that I was
now a citizen of Concord, and, like some French poet whom
he named, as rewarded with a grave at Pere la Chaise, ought to have a burial lot
granted me wherever I chose. Long afterward I bought my present lot, in which my
poet-son is buried with a slab of Pentelie marble from Athens above him,
inscribed with a Greek line from a Roman tomb in Beotia, of the early Christian
period.

Franklin Benjamin Sanborn.
Date: 2006
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