Sunday, April 4, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: John Payson

John Payson, 1804, Fitchburg, MA, photo by RJO
Regular commenter RJO sent along these pictures from his local graveyard. The verse is in the form of a pattern poem — a poem that is arranged so that the text forms an image. This poem mimics the shape of George Herbert's famous pattern poem, "Easter Wings."

The young man faileth,
his strength ceaseth,
he dieth,
and is no more;
but his hope is in God.

I haven't come across any other pattern poems on New England gravestones. Has anyone else spotted other examples?

photo by RJO


cliff said...

What is the shape suppose to represent? A bell? Or is it just a shape?

Also, does the six-pointed star have a particular symbolic meaning or purpose? It shows up over and over again in your photos, most of the time with a point pointing straight up.

Robert J. said...

I'm glad you found this one interesting. I'd be very interested to know of other pattern-examples, or to know the source of these lines (if they have a literary source--I haven't been able to find one).

As the town's ministerial family I assume they would have been more literate than usual and so might have been drawn to a device of this kind. It could be an original composition, I suppose, but it also seems like it might be a stock verse/expression.

Anonymous said...

I'd have thought it a butterfly, whichc is a symbol of the resurresction.

greginMA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greginMA said...

Is it either a chalice or Chi Rho?