07 August 2013

Midnight in the City of the Dead, Pt 2

...We could but listen. Thoughts, for which neither reason nor training are responsible, at times flash over the mind, and so we stood there with all this night tremulous with this strange rapture, there came a dream, that this weird melody, born out of the silence of death, was chastened grief turned to joy, and made immortal in melody. It came and passed, casting a fleeting shadow on Belief, as the shadow of a bird falls upon the upturned face of an infant that watches, and leaves its mark only upon the memory.

Just out of the line of these aisles our companion pointed to a group of pines, whose trunks and branches wove themselves into the semblance of a ruined cathedral. The columns were standing, and the rotten roof, across whose opening the white moon was swiftly gliding, seemed just ready to drop downward. A low, murmurous breeze shook the foliage, and like the far, faint chanting of a hymn, we heard its whispers. This low-voiced breeze, this only sound which reaches us from eternity (DeQuincy), heard through this temple of the pines above the graves of many thousand, spoke its message not in vain.

On we pass, up the river, turning once to look into the hollow aisle we have forsaken. The deep, transparent shadows, lie within. It is the back ground Correggio loved, the
shades Rembrandt learned so well. It only needed a fair face beside the scarred beech, to make the picture perfect, and who can doubt but there have been wanderers there, who, turning from a flower-decked tomb, have paused to look upon the perfect picture wrought by Memory's potent touch.

And so lingering no more, we continue the journey. White robed forms stand back among the trees pointing to heaven: a child sleeping upon a marble bed with upturned face at rest; a boy kneeling forever with hands clasped in prayer, and silent crosses keep watch. Into the light, into the shadow, we pass back and forth, as these slumberers had passed through joys and sorrows. The river is far away behind us, the broad entrance before. As we pass out we think if all the grief that has sobbed beneath that arch could return and find voice, the walls of heaven itself would tremble and the angels' song be hushed.

[Author of text unknown. Item published in the 7 October 1881 "Georgia Weekly Telegraph" (Macon, GA). Photos © 2009-2013 S. Lincecum.]

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