John Wood and his wife Jane have an ordinary looking monument in Washington, D.C.’s Glenwood Cemetery (figure 1). They get some points for working out their ages in days months, and years, as well as specifying places of birth and death:
JOHN BRUCE WOOD
Born Nov. 15, 1831 at Akron, Ohio
Died Feb. 24, 1905 at Boise City Idaho
Aged 73 years 3 months 9 days.
JANE ELIZA WRIGHT
Born Feb. 26, 1831 at Alexandria, Va.
Died March 29, 1915 at Washington, D.C.
Aged 84 years 1 month 3 days.
But on the rear face of the monument we discover that someone (Jane, the longer-lived, is a fair guess) went to the trouble of having eight lines of text incised (figure 2).
The text is a shortened version of John Fawcett’s 1782 hymn, Blest be the tie that binds:
Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love,
The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne, We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes our aims are one, Our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear,
And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain,
But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again.
For typographical purposes short verses in the original have been doubled up so that four-verse stanzas are disguised as couplets. The capital letters at mid-line show the breaks. Here is our poem as Fawcett intended it, with the two final stanzas in italics.
Blest bé the tíe that bínds
Our héarts in Chrístian lóve,
The féllowshíp of kíndred mínds
Is líke to thát abóve.
Befóre our Fáther’s thróne,
We póur our árdent práyers;
Our féars, our hópes our áims are óne,
Our cómforts ánd our cáres.
We sháre our mútual wóes,
Our mútual búrdens béar,
And óften fór each óther flóws
The sýmpathízing téar.
When wé asúnder párt,
It gíves us ínward páin,
But wé shall stíll be jóined in héart,
And hópe to méet agáin.
This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives
and waits to see the day.
From sorrow, toil, and pain,
and sin, we shall be free;
and perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.
As you can see, each stanza consists of two iambic trimeters followed by a tetrameter, and finished by another trimeter. It’s hard to see any reason but the practical one for truncating the hymn at the fourth stanza, although those four stanzas get the point across perfectly well. The poor service of darker granite as a medium for longer texts is quite visible here. The letters are still sharp, but the low contrast and speckled surface make reading the inscription a chore.
The image of Fawcett at the head of this post is from Wikimedia Commons and is from the National Library of Wales.