Figure 1. Pleasant Stith Roach monument. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Pleasant Stith Roach, too-soon-dead son of Pleasant, is commemorated by a great, interesting monument (figure 1).

The slab seems well cut, but the engraved text runs in a fascinating font that wavers between italic and Roman. I find it very handsome, actually, but the production seems vernacular, i.e., homemade.

IN . MEMORY
OF
PLEASENT STITH jr.
Second Son of
PLEASENT & ELIZA ANN
ROACH.
—————————————
Born March 3rd 1859.
Died Jan 8th 1874.
—————————————

You’ll have noticed the misspellings and the backward Z in Eliza. Online records confirm that officially it was Pleasant, not Pleasent.

The gem here is the poem at the bottom (figure 2), assuredly a one-off production of the family (and, as I think, cutter).

Figure 2. Roach monument. Detail: poem. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Farewell Stithy thou hast left us
We thy loss most deeply feel
But tis God that hath bereft us
He . . . . . . . . . our sorrows bear.

This poem, incomplete because I refused to dig at the stone to get at letters, has lines alternating 8 and 7 beats, with caesuras after 3 or 4. Here it is with my punctuation and a conjecture for the missing text:

Fárewell, Stíthy, || thóu hast léft us; [8 4/4]
Wé thy lóss || most déeply féel. [7 3/4]
Bút tis Gód || that háth beréft us; [8 3/5]
Hé [helps ús] || our sórrows béar. [7 3/4]

It’s wonderful, actually, especially the “Stithy.” If I get to Hollywood again, maybe I’ll see if I can just press down the weeds a bit and get the missing letters . . . .

Done and done! 23 May 2020: here’s a photo with the weeds edged out of the way and the colors reduced to grayscale to assist legibility (figure 3):

Figure 3. Roach monument. Detail: entire poem. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

The last verse can now be confidently given as

He can all our sorrows heal.

So I was a fool not to see heal; once you so see that ‘l’, it’s obvious, and of course you have the double rhymes in the alternating verses. I think maybe I can do a little better with the scansion now, too:

Farewell, Stíthy, || thóu hast léft us; [8 4/4]
Wé thy lóss || most déeply féel. [7 3/4]
But tis Gód || that háth beréft us; [8 3/5]
Hé can áll || our sórrows héal. [7 3/4]

See, too, that the rhyme in the odd-numbered verses is a double one, both left-bereft and, of course, us-us. I’m sure there’s a technical tern for when the rhyming element spans more than one word, but we classicists don’t have to worry about rhyming poetry too much!

I’m loathe to place the caesura between the Nazgûl and his prey the relative pronoun and it’s verb, but the poet practically begs us to, for then we’d have a symmetry between verses 1 and 3 as strong as that between 2 and 4, thus:

Fárewell, Stíthy, || thóu hast léft us; [8 4/4]
Wé thy lóss || most déeply féel. [7 3/4]
Bút tis Gód that || háth beréft us; [8 4/4]
Hé can áll || our sórrows héal. [7 3/4]

But modest deliberate asymmetries can actually be the mark of a good poet, to keep the meter from being too jingly regular.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. Interesting that his parents (presumed creators of the stone) called him by a diminutive of their last name. Or is Stith his middle name and Roach their shared family name? I took Roach as Eliza’s birth name. How did you understand it? Did you find Pleasant under Stith or Roach?

    Like

    1. It’s conventional (though hardly common) practice in this period to have the family name separated from the names of the deceased and any parents listed. I looked online, and am sure that Roach is the family name. I don’t know what Eliza’s family name was. See the stone in the Ray Albert Bolen plot I published a week or two ago. I know Bolen is the family name there, too.

      Like

    2. And you know, he was also named Pleasant, and to keep things straight when mom was calling for one or the other, she called him Stith, or by the hypocorism Stithy (like Smitty).

      Like

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: