First off, what does “Literary Grave Sites” mean? No, I’m not talking about grave-sites that you find in literature…I’m talking about grave sites of literary people; poets, authors, and the like. You know, the people who write, not those that are written about, unless it’s biographical. These are the grave sites…from a literary standpoint…that I want someday to visit.
Next, I know that writing about my the top 5 graves that I want to visit seems rather morbid, and many of you more than likely don’t understand why I’d want to visit these grave sites, but rest assured I’m not too terribly mad. “Pilgrimages” of a sort are very common in this way…you go to a person’s gravesite to pay your respects and, in my case, homage. Each of the people I have listed here hold a very special place in my heart…literarily speaking. It is my hope that I am able to visit these gravesites before I am finally living in my own. So here we go…Izzy’s list of 5 literary gravesites that I want to someday see, in descending order.
5) In Arbor Hill Cemetery, in Dublin, there is a gravesite devoted to the revolutionaries of the 1916 Easter Uprising. Now, why, you might ask, would I include this in my top 5? What does it have to do with the literary world? First, if you look at my Poetry links in my blogroll, you will notice the name Joseph Mary Plunkett. His poetry is absolutely beautiful, and some of my favourites. He is buried here, along with 13 other brave men that willingly were executed in their attempt to gain freedom from the Crown.
And since this is Literary grave sites, I probably should include poetry or something written by each person, right? Here is a poem that Joseph Mary Plunkett wrote for the love of his life, Grace Gifford. He wrote it on the morning of her Baptism, April 7th, 1916. And a bit more background…Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford were wed on May 4th, 1916…only 2 hours before Joseph was executed by British forces for his role in the Easter Uprising. It is truly one of the most beautiful love stories ever…and the best part is that it’s true.
The powerful words that from my heart
Alive and throbbing leap and sing
Shall bind the dragon’s jaws apart
Or bring you back a vanished spring;
They shall unseal and seal again
The fount of wisdom’s awful flow,
So this one guerdon they shall gain
That your wild beauty still they show.
The joy of Spring leaps from your eyes,
The strength of dragons in your hair,
In your young soul we still surprise
The secret wisdom flowing there;
But never word shall speak or sing
Inadequate music where above
Your burning heart now spreads its wing
In the wild beauty of your Love.
4) In the same gravesite as Joseph Mary Plunkett, you will find Pádraic Pearse…a poet in his own right, and a wonderful one at that. Here is his poem Christmas 1915…the Christmas before the Easter Uprising. Very short, but very wonderful:
O King that was born
To set bondsmen free,
In the coming battle,
Help thy Gael!
As I stated previously, he was also buried in the gravesite that Joseph Mary Plunkett was buried, but here is his name I am assuming on the site itself (found at www.findagrave.com…and I am assuming it’s on the actual site because I have never been there, hence this post):
3) One of my literary heroines…Jane Austen. Her writings were what forged my love of English Literature. I know I’ve said it before, but I want to be Jane Austen when I grow up. Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817 at the age of 41. Two days later she was buried in Winchester Cathedral at Winchester in Hampshire, England.
Most people know of Jane Austen’s literary works, which typically comprise of novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, but many of these same people were unaware that she was also a poet. Here is an example of her poetry, written because her friend, Martha Lloyd, could not come to visit because Mr. Best would not take her. It shows a side that wasn’t always as prevalent in her writings…her wit:
Oh! Mr. Best, you’re very bad
And all the world shall know it;
Your base behaviour shall be sung
By me, a tunefull Poet.–
You used to go to Harrowgate
Each summer as it came,
And why I pray should you refuse
To go this year the same?–
The way’s as plain, the road’s as smooth,
The Posting not increased;
You’re scarcely stouter than you were,
Not younger Sir at least.–
If e’er the waters were of use
Why now their use forego?
You may not live another year,
All’s mortal here below.–
It is your duty Mr Best
To give your health repair.
Vain else your Richard’s pills will be,
And vain your Consort’s care.
But yet a nobler Duty calls
You now towards the North.
Arise ennobled–as Escort
Of Martha Lloyd stand forth.
She wants your aid–she honours you
With a distinguished call.
Stand forth to be the friend of her
Who is the friend of all.–
Take her, and wonder at your luck,
In having such a Trust.
Her converse sensible and sweet
Will banish heat and dust.–
So short she’ll make the journey seem
You’ll bid the Chaise stand still.
T’will be like driving at full speed
From Newb’ry to Speen hill.–
Convey her safe to Morton’s wife
And I’ll forget the past,
And write some verses in your praise
As finely and as fast.
But if you still refuse to go
I’ll never let your rest,
Buy haunt you with reproachful song
Oh! wicked Mr. Best!–
2) This is one of my absolute favourites…he’s in my top 2 poets and literary authors, second only to William Butler Yeats. Oscar Wilde. One day…and you can quote me on this…I am going to get to Paris, put on my very best bright red lipstick, and add my lip marks along side of other fanatical fans. Here is a poem he wrote for Keats…called “The Grave of Keats”. It seemed rather appropriate:
RID of the world’s injustice, and his pain,
He rests at last beneath God’s veil of blue:
Taken from life when life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
But gentle violets weeping with the dew
Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
O poet-painter of our English Land!
Thy name was writ in water——it shall stand:
And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
As Isabella did her Basil-tree.
This picture is rather nice…I nicked it from a friend’s website of pictures. You see all those kiss marks? Uh huh….mine is going to be there. Just you wait.
and last, but surely never least…
1) William Butler Yeats. His writings, by far, have to be my favourite of all time. His poetry is one of those things that inspire me to no end…whenever I’m feeling down, I just pick up a book of his writings, and lose myself for as long as the children will allow me to (which isn’t usually too long…). He is buried in Drumecliff, Co. Sligo, Ireland. I fully intend, when I do finally get to Ireland, to lay upon his grave in the hopes that some of his poetic talent will somehow magically float up to the surface and infuse itself into the creative portion of my brain.
His epitaph comes from the last 3 lines of his poem, “Under Ben Bulben”…which means it’s only appropriate to quote that poem here:
Swear by what the sages spoke
Round the Mareotic Lake
That the Witch of Atlas knew,
Spoke and set the cocks a-crow.
Swear by those horsemen, by those women
Complexion and form prove superhuman,
That pale, long-visaged company
That air in immortality
Completeness of their passions won;
Now they ride the wintry dawn
Where Ben Bulben sets the scene.
Here’s the gist of what they mean.
Many times man lives and dies
Between his two eternities,
That of race and that of soul,
And ancient Ireland knew it all.
Whether man die in his bed
Or the rifle knocks him dead,
A brief parting from those dear
Is the worst man has to fear.
Though grave-diggers’ toil is long,
Sharp their spades, their muscles strong.
They but thrust their buried men
Back in the human mind again.
You that Mitchel’s prayer have heard,
‘Send war in our time, O Lord!’
Know that when all words are said
And a man is fighting mad,
Something drops from eyes long blind,
He completes his partial mind,
For an instant stands at ease,
Laughs aloud, his heart at peace.
Even the wisest man grows tense
With some sort of violence
Before he can accomplish fate,
Know his work or choose his mate.
Poet and sculptor, do the work,
Nor let the modish painter shirk
What his great forefathers did.
Bring the soul of man to God,
Make him fill the cradles right.
Measurement began our might:
Forms a stark Egyptian thought,
Forms that gentler phidias wrought.
Michael Angelo left a proof
On the Sistine Chapel roof,
Where but half-awakened Adam
Can disturb globe-trotting Madam
Till her bowels are in heat,
proof that there’s a purpose set
Before the secret working mind:
Profane perfection of mankind.
Quattrocento put in paint
On backgrounds for a God or Saint
Gardens where a soul’s at ease;
Where everything that meets the eye,
Flowers and grass and cloudless sky,
Resemble forms that are or seem
When sleepers wake and yet still dream.
And when it’s vanished still declare,
With only bed and bedstead there,
That heavens had opened.
Gyres run on;
When that greater dream had gone
Calvert and Wilson, Blake and Claude,
Prepared a rest for the people of God,
Palmer’s phrase, but after that
Confusion fell upon our thought.
Irish poets, earn your trade,
Sing whatever is well made,
Scorn the sort now growing up
All out of shape from toe to top,
Their unremembering hearts and heads
Base-born products of base beds.
Sing the peasantry, and then
Hard-riding country gentlemen,
The holiness of monks, and after
Porter-drinkers’ randy laughter;
Sing the lords and ladies gay
That were beaten into the clay
Through seven heroic centuries;
Cast your mind on other days
That we in coming days may be
Still the indomitable Irishry.
Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!
So there you have it! Izzy’s Top 5: Literary Grave Sites. Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to chronicle when I do finally visit each of these places. But until then, I’ll just have to content myself with wishing…