Figure 1. Reidy monument. Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

Maurice Reidy died far too young (why, at my age, come to think of it! Far, far, too young), at 58 and was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C. by his beloved wife, Catharine. His monument is quite interesting for the epigram below the anagraphic details. The latter run thus:

IN MEMORY OF
MAURICE T. REIDY
DIED APRIL 16 1888
AGED 58 YEARS
RIP

Figure 2. Reidy monument. Detail: inscription. Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The epigram is an imagined conversation, written, it seems to me clear, by Catharine. First Maurice speaks; then his children reply, not to him, but to the reader (figure 2):

1 Farewell, my wife dear, farewell,
2 Adieu, farewell to thee,
3 And you my dear children all
4 Farewell, farewell to you.
5 Our father is gone and we are left
6 The loss of him to mourn,
7 But may we hope to meet with him
8 With Christ before God’s throne.

The punctuation is kind of dicey (I may not have transcribed everything correctly, to boot). I think that ‘God’s’ in verse 8 is carved ‘God,s’, for example.

The meter of this poem is iambic, a mixture of trimeters (verses 2, 4, 6, 8) and a tetrameter (verse 7). An anapest has been substituted for the middle iamb in trimeters in verses 1 and 3; and in verse 5, an anapest substitutes for the second iamb of a tetrameter. There are no syncopations or other adjustments of rhythm.

The verses of the husband are reasonably regular: trimeter, trimeter with central anapest, trimeter, trimeter with central anapest. The notional verses of the children have iambic trimeters in the even verses, but the odd verses are the tetrameter with anapest in position 2, followed by an iambic tetrameter. Schematically:

1 u- uu- u-
2 u- u- u-
3 u- uu- u-
4 u- u- u-

5 u- uu- u- u-
6 u- u- u-
7 u- u- u- u-
8 u- u- u-

Here u is an unstressed syllable, – stressed.

It’s vernacular but not bad, and Catharine could blame the youth of the children for the irregularities in their odd-numbered verses! At the end of the inscription she takes credit for erecting his monument:

ERECTED BY HIS BELOVED WIFE,
CATHARINE REIDY.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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