Monday, October 12, 2009

Mehetabel Blanchard and the Aeneid

Could the mystery gravestone in Malden be a footstone?

Footstones usually bear the deceased person's initials or name and, rarely, the year. Some footstones are a bit wordier.

Example:
Mehetable Blanchard, d. 1742, Malden, MA

According to the internet, that inscription is lines 606-610 of Book 1 the Aeneid.

In Latin:
In freta dum fluvii current, dum montibus umbrae
lustrabunt convexa, polus dum sidera pascet,
semper honos nomenque tuum laudesque manebunt,
quae me cumque vocant terrae.


In English:
While rivers run to ocean, while on the mountains shadows move over slopes, while heaven feeds the stars, ever shall your honour, your name, and your praises abide, whatever be the lands that summon me!

Joshua Blanchard, Mehetabel's husband, appears to have been a carpenter and, perhaps, a lover of Virgil.


3 comments:

RJO said...

I'd agree he was probably a lover of Virgil. But he was certainly a lover of Mehetable. We should all be so lucky to be given such a verse.

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

This verse is an interesting counterpoint to the "her price is above rubies" verse (Proverbs 31:10-28) that is more commonly quoted on women's gravestones from this era. This verse says nothing about wifely duties and household management — just love and devotion.

Also, I'm always interested to know what Americans were reading.

BobWebber said...

Another funny thing about this verse is that in it, Aeneas is speaking to Dido, Queen of Carthage.

Although Aeneas (Joshua?) apparently loves Dido (Mehetabel?) he does eventually follow the summons of other lands (and the gods) an leaves her behind. Thereupon, she commits suicide, stabbing herself through the heart atop a pyre of his belongings she has ordered gathered and set alight.

I wonder if there is still more to the story: did Joshua feel the summons of other lands?