Abigail Cumings’ white bronze monument (figure 1) in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska, dates to 1867. At any rate, that’s the date given for her death, and if this monument was erected close to that date it would make Cumings’ commemorators early adopters of the medium. It’s a handsome basic design, all mid-Victorian curlicues and ornaments. The drapery, notionally suspended from three pegs, alludes to her having crossed to the other side of the veil between life and death.
Most interesting to me is the text on the back of the monument (figure 2):
DEATH CAME AS A MES
SENGER OF PEACE,AND
BROUGHT THE WEARY
SPIRIT, SWEET RELEASE
AND CLOSED THE TIRED
EYES, IN HAPPY SLEEP.
I take this text to be an attempt at a poem of three ‘verses’ of about 10 syllables each (9-10-10). Cleaned up, I think it would be:
Death cáme as a méssengér of peáce,
And broúght the weáry spírit sweét releáse,
And clósed the tíred éyes in háppy sleép.
At any rate, those can be read as iambic verses, one tetrameter followed by two pentameters, respecting the rhyme ‘peace-release’.
The typesetting is a mes. The crazy left-justified text, the oddly spaced commas, and apparent failure to divide the text into its natural ‘verses’ seem to me to be the fault of the monument company. As to the dicey versification and odd punctuation choices, my hesitant guess is that these stem from a commemorator without a lot of education.