Figure 1. Luther Campbell monument, 1870. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The saddest thing in a cemetery is the monument of a dead child. Actually, even worse is a monument with mother and baby having died together or on successive days. For me, that’s the nadir.

But if in the course of human events it was fated to little Luther Campbell to die, he could have done worse than to be buried in this beautiful setting in Glenwood Cemetery (figure 1).

The astounding portrait (figure 2), life-sized, is one of the finest monuments to a prematurely dead child I’ve seen.

Figure 2. Luther Campbell monument. Portrait. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

I suppose it’s an idealized portrait, though you do see those Victorian photographs of posed dead babies, so it’s not impossible that this image is from, er, life. The modeling and outline of the child are quite good and realistic; only the right hand, on the breast, seems to me drawn from an adult body (figure 3).

Figure 3. Luther Campbell monument. Profile of portrait. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

In memory of
Son of William H. and Louisa F. Campbell,
who departed this life April 4th 1870,
in the 4th year of his age.

Figure 4. Luther Campbell monument. Inscription. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

A lot comes together once we look closely at the hymn below the anagraphic data. It is the Moravian hymn Weil ich Jesu Schäflein bin, by Henrietta Louise von Hayn, “daughter of the master of the hounds to the Duke of Nassau (1724-1782).” Moravian Christianity is a close forerunner of Lutheranism, and in North America they have effectively unified. So we can check off the doctrinal purity on little Luther’s monument.

There are many Germans buried in Glenwood. The Campbell monument gives no sign of any Teutonic leanings (besides Lutheranism), and indeed, the hymn appears on the monument in a translation by Catharine Winkworth (1827-1878), published in The Chorale Book For England of 1863. The Campbells’ church clearly imported this book and drew at least this hymn from it.

Í am Jésus’ líttle lámb,
Thérefore glád and gáy I ám;
Jésus lóves me, Jésus knóws me,
Áll that’s góod and fáir he shóws me,
Ténds me évery dáy the sáme,     [ev’ry]
Éven cálls me bý my náme.

There are three stanzas, the middle two of each being longer and rising for an extra trochee. Auf Deutsch:

Wéil ich Jésu Schä’flein bín
Fréu ich mích nur ímmerhín
ü’ber méinen gúten Hírten,
dér mich schö’n weiß zú bewírthen,
dér mich líebet, dér mich kénnt,
únd bei méinen Námen nénnt.

And as a last treat, we discover that the monument cutters were the Flannery Brothers. Well done, Flannerys!

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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