Mausoleum: The House of Rest
There is the life of the flesh and there is the life of the spirit, and both want homes. The spirit is borne from the universe into a body at conception, there to make itself at home practically and beautifully before returning to the universe, “Heaven”, you might say. The body is borne from that first life in the tradition of DNA into traditions of family, into the houses of society, of “Civilization”, you might say. How else to understand the nature of our homes in the here-and-now and in the ever-after.
How best to understand our ever-after home, the house of eternal rest. The house of “Eternal Rest” might be a great pyramid, might be a simple stone that notes name and date in rhyme, might be a Mausoleum alike that first mausoleum, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Usually, our house of rest is in the neighborhood of a cemetery, a place of other restful houses simple or grand, plain or picturesque, aligned alike a grid of blocks or wandering in lanes that gently follow the swells of hills and lows.
The fashion of our houses has little changed in the 3,000 years since first we settled into the pattern of Classive civilization. The house for activity was a simple symmetrical structure with gabled roof, proportioned doors and windows scaled to a family, a house much alike a temple to Athena or Zeus, beautiful in simplicity and suited to its use. The house for rest, much like today, might be a stone monolith pictured with a portrait, a name and verse, or might be a tomb within which ash or bone keep company with the treasures of life, notes, rings, heirlooms, and honors.
When his soul and life abandon him, send Hades and Sweet-Sleep to carry him away to where his brothers and kinsfolk shall give him burial with mound and pillar, for this is what is due to those who pass into shade. Paraphrased from Iliad, Homer.
The Greek Mausoleum and Memorial
More beautifully than photographs, Athenian vases picture ceremonies of passing, the rituals, costumes, and memorials lost to time and neglect. Archeologists have recovered some of our civilization’s funerary wealth, and these we find in museums or restored to original locations. The funereal monuments and memorials of Athens’ Kerameikos might be mistaken for the monuments of Concord’s Sleepy Hollow, if the Kerameikos was more sentimental, Sleepy Hollow more ambitious.
Even so, the Sleepy Hollow and Kerameikos cemeteries share traditions consistent these three millennia. At Sleepy Hollow, authors, artists, soldiers, Hawthorn, Thoreau, the Alcotts, Emerson, et alia, and Daniel Chester French whose Minute Man statue at The Old North Bridge (near Sleepy Hollow) was designed in the style of Leochares’ Apollo (the Belvedere). If you do not remember the address delivered at Sleepy Hollow’s dedication, “The Usefull and the Beautiful”, you might remember the lines spoken in dedication to the patriots who first defended our homes and families.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood, / Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, / Here once the embattled farmers stood / And fired the shot heard round the world … Spirit, that made those heroes dare / To die, and leave their children free, / Bid Time and Nature gently spare / The shaft we raise to them and thee. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Concord Hymn”, sung at the completion of the Battle Monument, July 4, 1837.
At Kerameikos, shafts, columns, urns, stele (gravestones) of loving husbands and wives, dear children, politicians and heroes, and war memorials with names of the departed hoplites (soldiers) inscribed upon stone slabs. The temple stele of the hero Dexios, and the stele to Hegeso, daughter of Proxenios, are especially memorable, starkly beautiful, much alike the best of the Sleepy Hollow monuments, “the Melvin Memorial”, for instance.
Tombs of the Macedonians were much alike houses, temple fronted as in our Greek Revival, divided into rooms as in our “shotgun” houses, each room specific in purpose, entrance, storage (treasure), and rest, and each was decorated with fine moldings, with pictured walls, and there was statuary, even golden crowns. One such golden crown, the crown of Philip II, father of Alexander (the Great), we know to be Philip’s by the wound in the skull at the eye socket (right), record of the arrow lodged there when in battle.
Then, as now, an oration or prayer was offered; then, as now, much in the manner that Platon (4th Century BC) describes: “A proper speech fittingly eulogizes the dead and gives kindly exhortation to the living, urges children and brethren to follow the hero in virtue, and offers to fathers, mothers, extended family, consolation.” And there was music, as in the Seikilos fragment (circa 100 AD), a stele that is our first musically notated verse: While yet you live, shine / above your grief, / for life is brief / and Time demands its due.
The epitaph too is common to a house of rest. Among our earliest, The Stele of Arniadas (6th Century BC) composed in the manner of Homer: This the verse of Arniadas: / destroyed by fire-eyed Ares / fighting close to ships on Arachthos; / Arniadas who excelled in uproar / the battle that brought lament. A typical American epitaph, “Here in honor rests a soldier, brave defender of The Constitution.” As often I have occasion to say, “We Americans are Greek, hos epi to polu.”
Roman Cemeteries and Memorials
The various manners of Roman rest were more varied and diverse than our own: pictured stele, translucent wax masks, encaustic portraits, narrative sarcophagi, decorated urns, cenotaphs, mummies, lifelike busts of polychromed stone, catacombs, tombs, mausolea, et cetera, which served plebian and patrician, senator and equestrian, pagan and christian. For 1,000 years, Rome and its great cities saw generations borne into life, pass into rest, at peace in monuments that were sometimes reborn. A funerary monument might be used for spare block in civic buildings and private houses, a mausoleum or catacomb might serve as home to both the living and the dead. The Roman family of our Classive civilization moved easily between life and rest, and reimagination.
In the Roman manner of rest, the house-tomb, which, as you would guess, was a tomb of numerous rooms to entertain the living and to shelter familial ghosts, the spirits of the ancestors. These attractive, prettily decorated house-tombs were often bordered with a low-wall, constructed of masonry, subdivided into semi-public rooms and rooms for family, private and removed. There was a lobby, storerooms for objects of ceremony and feast, there was a frescoed banqueting room with convenient shelves, stove, and couches for dining guests, sarcophagi and urns for the spirits; there were private, inner rooms for the use of visiting family who soon would join ancestors in permanent residence.**
Typically, the house-tomb interior was rich in wall-painting, statuary, floor mosaics, and ornaments. The house-tomb’s temple-like exterior might list generations of extended family, including those slaves privileged to boast the family name. Generation after generation, individuals endowed the tomb, by will providing funds sufficient to host banquets, to sponsor festivals in honor of ancestors, those events which sanctified family. The Via Appia (Appian Way) and the Via Latina were lined stade-after-stade with house-tombs, monuments, and memorial statuary, as were all Roman roads, Judea through Africa to Hispania, Arabia through Gallia to Britannia.
The Roman mausolea were great houses, public and prominent. Some mausolea were temple formed, others were round houses, the greatest of these, the Mausoleum of Augustus, the Mausoleum of Hadrian (later named, Castel Sant’Angelo, “Castle of the Holy Angel”, in honor of Saint Michael who appeared there), the Tomb of Caecilia Metella (wife of Marcus Licinius Crassus [First Triumvirate]). These mausolea were, and are, enormous, alike a little town of family, of generations active and in rest.
A mausoleum would often sport vineyards, groves, orchards, gardens of flowers, a cottage or two for caretakers who would serve the place, provide security, and sell the excess of harvests; there were the reception rooms, kitchens, service rooms, sleeping rooms for the living, living rooms for the dead; there were rooms for craft in trade, crematoria, treasure rooms, et cetera. And here were the great sarcophagi, the memorial statuary, elaborate urns, and all those treasures of wealth that accompany world supremacy.
As we suppose—perhaps rightly so—the soul survives death … Romans assumed so, and in respect labored to assure that ancestors were comfortable in homey tomb or fitting monument. Sure, some souls will achieve Elysium while others will descend to Tartarus, yet, somehow, the family spirit lives on, much in the way of DNA, as we now presume. Though in truth, few have a true notion of reality, and most have less knowledge of the empirical metaphysical. Julius Caesar in the eulogy for Aunt Julia describes his understanding of the question (as recorded by Suetonius):
The family of my aunt Julia is descended by her mother from the kings; by her father’s side is akin to the immortal gods, for the Marcii Reges go back to Ancus Marcius. And our family, the Iulii, is a branch of Venus’ line. Therefore, our stock has both the sanctity of kings, whose power is supreme among mortal men, and the claim to reverence which attaches to the gods, who hold sway over the kings themselves. And for this merging of the mortal and immortal, the material and immaterial, the body and soul, the Roman house was shared by a family of those in activity and those at rest.
Medieval Cemeteries and Memorials
With the rise of the sons of Ishmael, conquest of Rome, its fall in the loss of the Mediterranean Sea, Classive Civilization fractured, subdividing into numerous customs, dialects, factions, not unlike the chaos that followed the Fall of Babel. This was in truth a Dark Age, a time of illiteracy, barbarity, and desperation, that parent of hope, spur to achievement. In truth, we then had little rest in life, little remembrance in death. Then, our houses of rest might be a cave, a sepulchre, might be an ossuary, a house of bones, a charnel house, might be a church monument, an effigy beneath which, a tomb.
In Sanai, at the sight of the burning bush (which yet lives), is Saint Catherine’s Monastery*** and its chapel ossuary, a charnel house for the bones of monks. This oldest of the world’s monasteries holds many treasures, including the earliest representation of Christ Pantocrator, Christ of the Dual Nature, man & God, mutable and immutable. In Jerusalem, at the Crusader’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, within the church a cave tomb, Christ’s sepulchre, precedent for entombments within the walls of the many houses of God.****
The church monument in crypt or nave was common to notables and nobles. Westminster Abbey, rebuilt by Henry III, contains his monument and tomb. From Henry III, other English kings and queens almost without exception, that nation’s poets, Her architects, painters, sculptors, Her prime ministers and national heroes. Within the state church, the state’s foremost citizens, each in statuary above a little building that might have columns and cornice, that might be a cenotaph in façade, that might be an architectural frame alike a window within which a verse, the ephemeral spirit in words.
You might remember the call, “The king is dead. Long live the king.” when two caskets were paraded through the streets, a reminder that while the individual has passed to rest, the institution continues in life and activity. And though the church promised a spiritual resurrection (hos epi to polu), most people assumed that the body too would enjoy resurrection, as did Christ’s body, and cemeteries were often places where joy in life was celebrated with drink and dice, love and sex, parade and picnic, a place where the barrier between one world and the next was a veil thin as gossamer.
Renaissance Cemeteries and Memorials
As like you know, “renaissance” is a French word meaning “born again”, a reference to the rebirth of Classive Civilization, the classical Greek and the neoclassical Roman. In truth, what was reborn was learning, the Greek paideia, those necessaries of good citizenship, of well-rounded humanity; the forming of a person literate, fit, ethical, and judgmental, in the best possible way. These disciplines were, to the Roman, humanitas, our “humanities”, the humane practices that refine a person, that make one fit for citizenship, rhetoric, grammar, philosophy; for humanity, music and poetry; for practical employment, the methods of science, its techniques and manufactures.
And something more was reborn during the Renaissance, (beginning in the quattrocento, the “15th Century AD”), Platonism, the philosophy of Platon, the supposition that there is one ideal, eternal object, a divine Form from which all earthly forms derive. The best of our earthly forms approximate the divine, a divinity seen and felt in the ideal classical building, sturdy, beautiful, well-measured, fitting to humanity. Artists of the Renaissance, whether painters, sculptors, architects, or poets, composed in the ambitious Roman manner with a muscular exactitude, creating noble houses for living and for rest.
Among the remarkable Renaissance houses of rest, the baldachin, a canopy for altar, passage, or tomb. At Saint Peter’s Basilica is Bernini’s Baldacchino which shelters Saint Peter’s altar and Peter’s crypt below. Nearly 100 feet high from papal, bee-herald base to world supreme cross (symbol of salvation), Saint Peter’s baldachin reaches Heavenward, there summited by gaurdian angels and delighted putti. In whole, the structure remembers Solomon’s Temple, Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, the promise of scripture fulfilled. You might like to know: Constantine I (the Great) removed the spiralling columns from Solomon’s Temple (the Second Temple, we are told) to Old Saint Peter’s, where in New Saint Peter’s, Bernini fashioned his own spiralling Solomonic columns, gargantuan at 66’, dwarfing the original Solomon columns that are raised into a niche and built into a wall nearby (see the illustration, above left).
More common than the baldachin, the chapel tomb, of which Michelangelo’s ambitious Medici Chapel, the mausoleum of the Medici, is the most famous. Intended as four mausolea, unfinished, later conjoined into one*****, the Medici mausoleum shelters the tombs of Dukes Giuliano and Lorenzo de’ Medici. The more famous de’ Medici brothers, Giuliano and Lorenzo, are in modesty interred beneath the chapel’s altar. Here, within the mausoleum, the Roman is merged with the Florentine, the corporeal is at home with the incorporeal, the Dukes in dignity commune with the pagan gods Day & Night, Dawn & Dusk who busy themselves in a quiet Christian chapel.
The Pazzi Chapel, an architectural masterpiece, humanely scaled, divinely ordered and beautifully appointed, was designed as a mausoleum for the Pazzi family, though after the Pazzi murdered Giuliano de’ Medici, the Pazzi were chased from Florence or were murdered by enraged Florentines, their Pazzi bodies disposed, their bones abandoned, considered a desecration to the chapel. Filippo Brunelleschi, architect of the chapel, when conceiving, internalized a system of perfect forms, Platonic Forms, cube, globe, pyramid, and square, circle, triangle, visible positives that shape invisible negative space; these the chapel’s structure, its inception and meaning.
Best to understand the Pazzi Chapel and its Platonic Forms in this way … with pencil or pen draw a triangle. And there, see, the triangle is imperfect, its sides inexact, its lines varied in thickness, in weight, et cetera. Now, with your mind’s eye imagine the perfect triangle, draw it white in the vastness of your infinitely black mind; yes, by measured balance you can imagine the triangle, exact. Now, by metamorphosis, transform the triangle into a pyramid, white; now turn it around and around, slowly, and see there the Perfect Form, a thing existing beyond the physical realm, intangible and metaphysical, your suprareal “imagination”, that place of reality preceding all that is merely physical, the mind of God seeing and living through you. Really? Imagine yourself living into the future. See yourself there, three years into the future. Now. How did you do that. The future does not exist. And yet, you created a future, a future that might, likely might, come to exist. And that, not mere physical reality.
The funerary chapels and wall tombs of Santa Croce Basilica are excellent, each in its way interesting and beautiful. Here, the tombs of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, of Alberti the architect, Ghiberti the sculptor, of Leonardo Bruni, historian, statesman, inventor of the tripartite division of history, “Antiquity, Middle Ages, Modern” (a division no longer descriptive, no longer useful because the Modern was the Renaissance), a Ciceronian stylist who translated Plato and Plutarch, an insightful biographer of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, is remembered in his tomb on Santa Croce’s south aisle. His tomb includes a tondo of the Virgin & Child, innocent angels in prayer, noble eagles, and his laurel crowned effigy rests upon a tomb supported by lions. Very much Roman, very much Florentine, fully Classive, and most memorable in lines finely engraved upon the banner supported by angels in flight:
When Leonardo departed from life, History wept, Eloquence mourned, and the Muses, both Latin and Greek, were unable to hold back their tears.
And that, a “rebirth” of Greece and Rome … perhaps, though as I see it, a continuation of Classive Civilization, a civilization unbroken, strengthening or weakening as fealty to Goodness, Beauty, Truth, waxes or wanes. Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494) posits, in Oration on the Dignity of Man, “Man’s place in the universe is poised somewhere between the beasts and the angels, yet, because of the divine image planted within him, there are no limits to what man can accomplish.” a proposition which if true describes your, mine, our transcendent value, offers hope, offers cause to strive toward excellence in God-like things, both when in activity, and when in rest.
Enlightenment Cemeteries and Memorials
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, / The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea, / The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, / And leaves the world to darkness and to me. Perhaps you know William Blake’s illustration to this first stanza of Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1750). The illustration pictures what we know to be Saint Giles parish church at Stoke Poges, the ploughman, the plough, the spirit of night descending over the poet. The illustration, alike the poem, means what it feels, a meditation on death, on remembrance, yet more than this, the knowledge of the measurement of birth, life, death, rebirth, ad infinitum.
The parish church cemeteries of Europe and the Americas were much the same as Saint Giles Church, generations of stones crowding one upon another until those at rest attended church in greater numbers than those in activity. Causes one to consider the generations of man, the universe, life and, well, the meaning of it all. The final lines: No more, with reason and thyself at strife, / Give anxious cares and endless wishes room; / But through the cool sequester’d vale of life / Pursue the silent tenour of thy doom … and that we did, so much so that all of life became preparation for death, most inconvenient to the vicissitudes of getting and spending. At the beginning of our 18th Century, we began to remove cemeteries from busy church and town to idle country and park, those in activity to have their city, those in rest, theirs.
You will notice the picturesque character of the great cemeteries of the great cities and respectable towns, places that might seem to spring from the imagination of Emerson, the verses of Goethe, places where we transcend the ordinary, places poignantly punctuated with scenes of sentiment and loveliness. On Sunday afternoons we would take ourselves by boot or carriage to picnic, to recreate with those of our family on the other side, and there contemplate the unity of all Creation. And here were neighborhoods of rest organized alike neighborhoods of activity, the simple square house of address, the stately mausoleum alike that white house upon the hill, the noble column, proud person of stone standing in for the person of bone no longer standing.
Each and alike, pleased with life, satisfied in death, honored to be among other fine persons who achieved their reward. And these stones of slab, of crypt, of obelisk were each a building of tradition within tradition, a gift to the living, the inheritance of the best that has been thought, said, done. These cities of rest were Greek and Roman, French and English, Jewish and German, and of all styles in all forms of our Classive civilization. For example, we might visit Mount Auburn, Boston, the Woodlawn Cemeteries of Detroit and The Bronx, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Oakhill Cemetery, The District of Columbia, each and all, and more, are neighborhoods for monument and mausoleum, measured and polite, correct and considerate, good and proper and fine, in that easy friendliness of the American way.
Mount Auburn Cemetery, Boston (1831), earliest of the American transcendental type, was founded by a horticulturalist, designed in the picturesque manner with gently winding lanes where unique mausolea tuck themselves into tree, bush, hill. Here are Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and other style mausolea, quaint masterpieces of the architect’s art.
To choose but one for example, must say, “the Mary Baker Eddy Memorial”, a Greek American mausoleum in the Corinthian Order, a circular tempietto alike the Tholos of Delphi, though humane, restrained, scaled to human comprehension. This mausoleum, this “temple”, we might more truly say, is open to Heaven, is composed of a columned forest that shelters a bush which offers forth fresh roses, is a crown atop the crypt where M.B. Eddy rests … perhaps you remember Eddy, Mother of Christian Science, the transcendental spiritualism, belief that becomes real atheism.
“Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal.” said Eddy, “God is Mind, and God is infinite; hence all is Mind.” true enough, though someone must bruise his knuckles when fashioning a memorial to genius.
Something of American mausolea worth noting: the familial quality, both of the long Classive tradition, and of near relations, the justified pride in congruity, celebration of consistency, which is spur to all virtue.
At Oakhill Cemetery, D.C., the Corcoran-Eustis Family Mausoleum, a stout tholos of the Greek Doric Order; Corcoran, founder of Riggs Bank, of the Corcoran (the first American art museum), of other business and philanthropic projects built by him and his family to make themselves and the nation, strong.
At Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, many monuments, memorials, mausolea, finest of the type, and a few eager in emulation, the Pickett Monument (Pickett of the doomed charge at Gettysburg, fulcrum of the South’s Lost Cause) in the family of Athens’ Lysicrates Monument; President James Monroe’s Tomb, “The Birdcage”, exquisite in Gothic detail, picturesque in conception, more florid than the living bush of Eddy’s mausoleum.
At Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit, mausolea of the families who built a city whose industrial might won WWII, saved us all from the tyrannies of Progressive socialism: the Couzens, manufacturers and philanthropists; the Whitneys, builders and producers; the Hudsons, merchants and industrialists; the Dodges, industrialists, patrons, philanthropists.
As in Detroit, New York’s Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx; Bache, bankers, patrons, philanthropists whose Egyptian style mausoleum rivals Trajan Caesar’s Kiosk (“Pharaoh’s Bed”, Philae, Egypt); Manger, builder and hotelier (Renaissance style, largest mausoleum in the United States); Belmont-Vanderbilt, bankers, publishers, philanthropists (flamboyantly Gothic, rich in statuary); Woolworth, entrepreneurs and retailers (an Egyptian style mausoleum masterpiece, John Russell Pope, architect).
Aahh … must mention: Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, city of the dead, a beautiful place of rest, garden cemetery established by Emperor Napoleon I (1804). Each year three-and-a-half million people tour the cemetery, visit with relatives, pay compliment to the famous and the infamous, respect the great and experience the awe that magnificent art draws forth, that recollections of mortality inspires. The mausolea here might offer a history of the world, of humanity’s striving toward the good, the beautiful, the true. Each mausoleum seems a person, in shape, character, personality unique. To begin a list of those who rest at Père Lachaise is to admit the impossibility of comprehending humanity.
Some of you will remember the singer, Jim Morrison, a Dionysian, gorgeous and ill-fated, lyricist in the Greek style, though not a Simonides or Anacreon, yet, worthy of remembrance. At Père Lachaise, below his bust, on the stele of his tomb, a recording of his name, his dates (1943 – 1971), and this phrase in Attic Greek, KATA TON DAIMONA EAUTOU, “True to his own spirit.” Not long ago we were a people who valued liberty over submission, expression over compliance, the hero over the slave.
The Modern Mausoleum and Memorial
Contemporary mausolea, mausolea of this 21st Century of Christ, are Progressive, faddish, tacky, forgetful and forgettable, for the most part, though mausolea of Asia’s and Islam’s national leaders are large and impressive, some, well-designed. Likely, you have heard of PC, political coercion and passive capitulation, consequences of Progressive policies political and aesthetic, though you are unlikely to see the consequences, soon, because things follow long after ideas … ideas occur in the moment, things need funding, designing, making.
What now you see are the products of ignorance, computer copies of Classive styles tapped out by persons who ape high architecture, who inaccurately trace outlines, who gape when they should peer, who have little knowledge of history, less knowledge of arts, no knowledge of the metaphysical, and so the mausolea that seem Classical are ignorant holes of no taste in granite or plastic composite, things little suited to a noble human body reposed in a home of eternal rest.
The Progressive progressive mausoleum is most often nihilist. How not, nihilism and progressivism are one-in-the-same, a philosophy of nothingness, a belief without religious principles, a policy without morals, a practice that makes a life meaningless, makes a memorial, absurd, and so the Progressive mausoleum looks like a shopping-center office-building, much as a Progressive bank looks like a Progressive gas-station, itself looking alike a new house in Hermosa Beach, glassy and steelie and crooked. The Progressive is a style without meaning, a meaning that means “meaninglessness”. And if meaningless, why bother with mausolea of remembrance. Well … politics … the Culture War … destruction of the Classive in envy, anger, spite.
Likely, you have heard of human composting, a practice alike the composting of leaves and table scraps. Lately, U.S. states have eased restrictions on human composting, some states encouraging the compost in a manner promoted by the Green Burial Council, a Progressive organization based in California. Soon, you can anticipate nation-states committed to after-death options, taxes on non-composted persons, et cetera.
Perhaps you noticed the tedious vogue of biodegradables and recyclables, apart from expense and added costs in production and processing, fine things in their way. And yet, the philosophical conception built into the bioble is anti-human, aggressively genocidal. You will notice in the Progressive bioable, whether in the realms of architecture, art, literature, music, an attack upon a person, all persons, their bodies, their senses, their being.
To confuse, a Progressive building will hide its door; to harm, will crooked a stair to trip the innocent; to unbalance, a sharp Progressive droning note will pinion a brain; in attack, pounding notes will disrupt a heart’s measured beat; a Progressive painting will mirror a man in broken glass, strip a woman of her flesh; a Progressive sentence will unreason words, grammar itself insanity; and you will notice that never in the Progressive is there a noble statue of man, exemplary citizen, hero or body beautiful to behold; no, never a statue: a sculpture monstrous or nothing at all.
Nothing in the Progressive mausoleum, neither bloom nor blossom, vine nor leaf, nowhere the birth decay rebirth, for only we men know things for what they were before they were, what they are, and what they will come to be. The Progressive denies being, especially the being after being, as being is nothing, nonbeing, no man, darkened dirt unknown when all men come to nothingness. The Progressive mausoleum is steel and glass and dumb stone and emptiness devoid of man, material unimagined. Where once in mausolea were the mourning angel or patient sentinel, the song of sentimental verse that lives from man to man, now there is the void, noplace where the humane shall not exist. You are being erased.
Kipling begins his “Recessional” (1897) with these lines: God of our fathers, known of old, / Lord of our far-flung battle-line, / Beneath whose awful Hand we hold / Dominion over palm and pine— / Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, / Lest we forget—lest we forget! Over 50% of those polled (about the percentage who vote Progressive Democrat) think human composting a welcome option, and by implication would seem to think that there is nothing more to remember of a person than darkened dirt. Of the soul, well…
As Democritus (circa 460 – 370 Before Christ; the first Progressive, an Athenian contemporary of Platon) said, “Nothing exists except atoms and the void.”, as many assume, and he said, “Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.”, a nihilism succinctly stated. I wonder: what might our civilization have been if we had become Democritean Progressive nihilists rather than Socratically Classive optimists. We would not be, I suppose. All for the better that we are Classives … for instance: I think the Pazzi Mausoleum a fine thing, reasoned in design, purposed, soulful, worthy of existence, even though the Pazzi were themselves imperfect murders. God love us all.
Perhaps you know that a recessional is the hymn of parting from a Mass, alike our Classive Greek songs of lamentation, those poignant songs of grieving females for loved ones departed from life. Kipling concludes Recessional: For heathen heart that puts her trust / In reeking tube and iron shard, / All valiant dust that builds on dust, / And guarding, calls not Thee to guard, / For frantic boast and foolish word— / Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!
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Platon’s Phaedo (“On the Soul”) has Socrates say, “The soul is in the very likeness of the divine, immortal, intelligible, uniform and indissoluble, and unchangeable. The body is in the very likeness of the human, mortal, unintelligible, multiform and dissoluble, and changeable.” Yes, we might be Judeo-Christian in practice, yet we are Classive in conception. Now we rest, actively prepare for our soul’s Heaven.
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* Two axioms here: “The universe knows itself by the mind of man”; “Each man is a new civilization”.
** When a tomb-house was inherited or sold, the new owner acquired its graves, its monuments and resident deities, the Manes and Lares of a family’s ancestors; and yet, by contract the original family retained rights of access and care to allow for continued observance of duties and of rites.
*** Sacred Autonomous Royal Monastery of Saint Katherine of the Holy and God-Trodden Mount Sinai
**** We might remember that Constantinople’s Church of Holy Wisdom (Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia since the fall of Rome, 1453) was the tomb of Justinian I, the Great. When acknowledging his achievement, Justinian said, “Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών” (“Salomon, I have surpassed thee.”)
***** A second Medici Mausoleum, the Cappella dei Principi, was completed in the 17th Century AD; six of the Medici dynasty rest here.
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Among the Seven Wonders of the World, “The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus” that memorializes the Hellenistic King Mausolus (ruler of Caria, 377-353), a memorial dedicated by his loving widow, Queen Artemisia.
From the Latin, “sit tibi terra levis” (abbr. S·T·T·L), “May the earth rest lightly upon you.”
The translations of verse and prose are mine; sometimes exact, sometimes sympathetic.
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