A marvelously crisp image of a willow stands upon the marble monument of Thomas Bevan in Forty Fort Cemetery in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania (figure 1).

Figure 1. Bevan monument. Forty Fort Cemetery, Forty Fort, PA. Photo: author.

The face of the stone has not fared as well as the recessed relief; it’s best to get the inscription down now before too many more years render it illegible.

THOMAS
Son of
PHILIP & RACHEL
BEVAN
Born in Blaenavon
Monmouthshire

S. Wales

Quietly sleep, beloved one,
Rest from thy toils, thy labor is done;
Rest till the trump from the opening skies
Bids thee from dust to glory arise.

The poem is the third stanza of Theodore E. Perkins’ hymn, Peacefully Sleep, published in about 1860. The text on the stone does some damage to the meter by writing out contracted forms. The original, in 6/8 time, goes:

Quietly sleep, beloved one,
Rest from thy toil, thy labor’s done;
Rest till the trump from th’opening skies
Bids thee from dust to glory arise!

There is what I think is a conscious connection between the uninscribed second stanza of the hymn and the gracious weeping willow on the stone:

Close to his lone and narrow house,
Gracefully wave, ye willow boughs;
Flow’rs of the wildwood odors shed
Over the holy, beautiful dead.

The “narrow house” is the coffin, of course.

Figure 2. Willow relief on Bevan monument. Forty Fort Cemetery, Forty Fort, PA. Photo: author.

The relief is notable mostly for its crispness; typologically, it’s eight-lobed with close-set parallel striations indicating branches, with no urn or obelisk to modify it. One of the tree’s main branches is shown broken, a symbol of the loss of the son sustained by the two surviving parents.

A final observation: in the heart of Pennsylvania coal country it is no surprise to find a family from one of the world’s other great coal-mining regions, South Wales.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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