No, not the beer, though we may lick our lips as we see that prospect fade away. Rather, today’s sermon is on the topic of the monument of Donald L. Miller in the IOOF Cemetery in Danville, Pennsylvania (figure 1).

Figure 1. Miller monument. IOOF Cemetery, Danville, PA. Photo: author.

The Miller monument is a good example of the ‘cutesy-clever’ style that has been growing in popularity since maybe about 1980, and really, since about 2000. This is to be distinguished from the often heartbreaking ‘personal-sincere’ style. There is some overlap; not every cutesy-clever monument summons forth guffaws, nor does every personal sincere monument compel us to be awash in tears.

In fact, the front of the Miller monument is in the ‘simple sincere’ mold one sees in monuments going back to the nineteenth century: anagraphic data with a verse (here not of poetry but from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 2:9). The shape of the monument (a coffee cup?), the wedding bands (not interlocked, note) and the papillon are garnishes on the simple style, of course.

Figure 2. Miller monument rear. IOOF Cemetery, Danville, PA. Photo: author.

The rear, by contrast, imbibes a bit in the personal-sincere style by mentioning the children (for whom there is no room for commemoration on the stone), but falls mostly into the cutesy-clever style thanks to the first-person statement:

I am at rest and it’s heavenly.
You can rest too—sit here. It’s free
No tax, no gratuity. It’s on me.

The verse plays on the fact that the monument is functionally a bench. “Heavenly” makes a claim to the final disposition of Miller’s soul, and also makes the claim that the rest is pleasant or maybe well earned. The final verse and a half must summon forth Miller’s view on taxes and gratuities, but also shows its clever side by once again pressing words, here “on me”, to work within the conceit of freedom from taxation but also in a literal description of the bench-sitter’s act, since Miller’s body must lie approximately under the stone.

From early times we find tombs fashioned so as to attract a passerby to come up and read about the deceased. One of my favorite Roman epitaphs begins “Hey you with the roving eye!” (Heus oculo errante, CIL VI 10096). In the Miller monument a nice bench fulfills that purpose, though, as in the project commemoration of Julian S. Carr for his wife Nannie, the bench is probably intended for family members who visit the tomb, too. But I will attest to how welcome the Miller bench was after a long trek through the cemetery, and look, the reward for providing this amenity is a post here!

But consider this, that for the use of the bench I had to pay the gratuity of reading the epitaph. Miller time!

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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