Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Albany Rural Cemetery by Alfred B. Street

Grave of Elizabeth Weed, Wife of Alfred Billings Street, ca. 1993

The following sentimental verses were written for the Cemetery's consecration ceremony in 1844.  On that occasion, poet Alfred Billings Street read his composition to the crowd assembled in a small, natural amphitheater overlooking one of the Cemetery's scenic lakes.  The poem was reprinted in the local newspapers in the following days, as well as in two collections of Street's poetry and in Henry P. Phelps' book, The Albany Rural Cemetery - Its Beauties, Its Memories.

Alfred B. Street - who is profiled here - is buried in a section of the South Ridge known as Greenleaf Forest.  His grave is unmarked, but lies next to that of his wife, Elizabeth Weed Street.

When life's last breath has faintly ebbed away,
And naught is left but cold unconscious clay,
Still doth Affection bend in anguish deep ,
O'er the pale brow to fondly gaze and weep.
What though the soul hath soared in chainless flight;
Round the spurned frame still plays a sacred light,
A hallowed radiance never to depart,
Poured from its solemn source, the stricken heart.
Not to the air should then be given the dead,
Not to the flame, nor yet cold ocean's bed,
But to the earth, -- the earth from whence it rose,
There should the frame be left to its repose.
There our great mother guards her holy trust,
Spreads her green mantle o'er the sleeping dust;
There glows the sunshine – there the branches wave,
And birds yield song flowers fragrance round the
There oft to hold communion do we stray,
There droops our mourning memory when away,
And e'en when years have passed, our homeward feet
Seek first with eager haste that spot to greet;
And the fond hope lives ever in our breast
When death, too, claims us there, our dust shall rest.
All these fair grounds with lavish beauties spread,
Nature's sweet charms – we yield them to the dead.
Those swelling uplands whence the raptured sight
Drinks in the landscape smiling rich and bright,
Woodlands and meadows trees and roofs and rills,
The glittering river and the fronting hills;
That nestling dell with bowery limbs o'erhead,
And this its brother opening to the tread,
Each with its naiad tripping low along,
Striving to hide but freely offering song;
These old deep woods where Nature wild and rude
Has built a throne for musing solitude,
Where sunshine scarce finds way to shrub and moss,
And lies the fractured trunk the earth across;
These winding paths that lead the wandering feet
Through minster aisles and arbors dim and sweet;
To soothe thy discord into harmony,
0 solemn, solemn Death, we dedicate to thee.

Here will his steps the mourning husband
With sympathizing Nature for his friend;
In the low murmur of the pine he'll hear
The voice that once was music to his ear;
In the light waving of the bough will view
The form that sunshine once around him threw.
As the lone mother threads each leafy bower
Her infant's looks will smile from every flower,
Its laugh will echo in the warbling glee,
Of every bird that flits from tree to tree;
In the dead trunk laid prostrate by the storm,
The child will see its perished parent's form,
And in the sighing of the evening breath
Will hear those faltering tones late hushed in death.

Through these branched paths will Contemplation wind,
And stamp wise Nature's teachings on his mind;
As the white grave stones glimmer to his eye,
A solemn voice will thrill him, “Thou must die;”
When Autumn's tints are glittering in the air,
That voice will whisper to his soul, “Prepare;”
When Winter's snows are spread o'er knoll and dell,
“Oh this is death,” that solemn voice will swell;
But when with Spring, streams leap and blossoms
“Hope, Christian, hope,” 't will say, “there s life be-
yond the grave.”

No comments:

Post a Comment