Figure 1. Stone monument. Hickory Grove Cemetery, Waverly, PA. Photo: author.

Sacred
to the
Memory of
Susanna wife of
Samual Stone
Who
Died November 29th
1807
aged 20 years & 7 months
and 21 days.

There is much to hold our interest in the admirably well kept Hickory Grove Cemetery in Waverly, Pennsylvania. Let’s spend a moment with one of its earliest monuments, that of Susanna Stone, who died in 1807.

The monument’s anagraphic information hardly prepares us for the home-made poem that follows (figure 2).

Figure 2. Stone monument. Detail: epigram. Hickory Grave Cemetery, Waverly, PA. Photo: author.

Stop friends and drop a teer
While you remember me
Think i like you did once appear
But now no more to be.

Four iambic verses there, three trimeters and a tetrameter as verse 3. The rhyming scheme is ABAB; the choppy internal rhyme in the first verse (stop-drop) is a bug, not a feature.

The cutter appears to have been a weak link. The bold misspelling of ‘teer’ (with ‘appear’ just below) and the crowded letters of ‘appear’ betraying a slight miscalculation of line length both point in that direction. The minuscule ‘i’ for ‘I’ in verse 3 betrays a similarly shaky grasp of orthography, as does the dicey punctuation. Is that a comma after ‘did’ in verse 3?

When Googled, the incipit (even with orthography corrected) does not call up this poem anywhere else, though it does call up the incipit (and only the incipit) of the epigram of William Hartwell (1770-1819), now permanently lodged in the Old Burying Ground of Bedford, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

Stop friends and drop a tear;
Here lies a friend, and partner dear:
God called him to his home;
And laid him silent in the tomb.

The Hartwell poem postdates ours, and notably is composed of two couplets, each consisting of a trimeter followed by a tetrameter. The rhyming scheme is AABB. In any event, the line must have been independently invented twice; with all of the transcriptions of epigrams on the web we’d surely find it if this line were widespread. That both poets landed upon the internal rhyme using ‘stop’-‘drop’ in the first verse appears to show the appeal of ‘stop’ to the nineteenth-century mind. ‘Halt’ immediately suggests itself and would arguably have worked better.

One final observation: this is a fine example of an epigram that addresses the passerby, begging them to engage with the marker (and therefore ‘drop a teer’ over it).

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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