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17 January 2013

Death, Rigid Lord, Hath Claimed the Lifeless Clay (Today's Epitaph)

Photo © 2013 S. Lincecum
Martha, daughter of George and Martha S. Walker, was born 4 November 1828. She died less than twenty-one years later on 25 May 1849. "She was amiable, pious, and beloved in her life, and deeply lamented in her death."

Another portion of Martha's epitaph on her tombstone at Walker Cemetery in Bleckley County, Georgia reads, "Death, rigid Lord, hath claimed the lifeless clay; While joyously the youthful soul hath gone to take its heritage."

I found this same couplet in a book entitled New Cyclopaedia of Poetical Illustrations (pub 1872). The book was divided into categories, and the above lines were part of a writing by M. F. Tupper under "DEATH, Physical." I found it interesting, if a bit graphic:

Martha Walker tombstone, © 2013 S. Lincecum
Death is here in spirit, watcher of a marble corpse,
That eye is fixed, that heart is still, -- how dreadful in its stillness!
Death, new tenant of the house, pervadeth all the fabric;
He waiteth at the head, and he standeth at the feet, and hideth in the caverns of the breast:
Death, subtle leech, hath anatomized soul from body,
Dissecting well in every nerve its spirit from its substance:
Death, rigid lord, hath claimed the heliot clay,
While joyously the youthful soul hath gone to take his heritage:
Death, cold usurer, hath seized his bonded debtor;
Death, savage despot, hath caught his forfeit serf;
Death, blind foe, wreaketh petty vengeance on the flesh:
Death, fell cannibal, gloateth on his victim,
And carrieth it with him to the grave, that dismal banquet-hall,
Where in foul state the Royal Ghoul holdeth secret orgies.

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