In Honesdale, Pennsylvania, seat of Wayne County, is a cemetery complex of which the chief member is the Glen Dyberry Cemetery. There we find the monument of the Sherwood family (figure 1).

Figure 1. Sherwood monument. Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA. Photo: author.

Born April 15, 1827
Died Aug. 24, 1864
Age 37 years 4 mos 9 days

Wife of
Lemuel B. Sherwood
Born Nov. 24, 1830

Another link is broken
In our household band
But a chain is forming
In a better land.

Figure 2. Sherwood U.S.-issue monument. Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA. Photo: author.

Sherwood served in Company I of the 84th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment in the Civil War (figure 2). I do not find an explicit note that he died in action, but his unit was in the Petersburg campaign in July and August 1864. Of course, the demographics of the Civil War suggest that he died of disease rather than directly of wounds received in combat.

The poem is doggerel of the sort that morticians or cemetery personnel or monument sellers had available for use collected in pamphlets. It appears to be two couplets, with only the second and fourth verses rhyming. The meter seems to be trochaic, with 6-5-6-5. The ‘A’ in the initial ‘Another’ seems not to be stressed, as though it were a schwa. Technically, though, verse one has seven beats.

The poem is found all over in the latter years of the nineteenth and early years of the twentieth centuries: 1876, Tennessee; 1903, Mississippi; 1908, Alabama; 1911, Texas; 1915, Texas; 1929, North Carolina; undated, New Hampshire.

Speaking of demographics, we once again find a grim picture of the nineteenth century on the left side of the monument (figure 3).

Figure 3. Sherwood monument, left side. Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA. Photo: author.

Children of
Lemuel B. and
Olive I. Sherwood

Sarah A. Sherwood
Born Oct. 10, 1847
Died Dec. 14, 1848
Age 1 year 2 months 4 days

Rozilla Sherwood
Born Nov. 2, 1854
Died April 5, 1855
Age 5 months 3 days

Augusta A. Sherwood
Born Aug. 7, 1859
Died Dec. 5, 1871
Age 12 years 3 months 29 days

The little crib is empty now
The little clothes laid by
A mother’s hope a father’s joy
In death’s cold arms doth lie

Go little pilgrims to thy home
on yonder blissful shore
We miss thee here
But soon will come
Where those hath gone before

We have four iambic couplets in 8/6 beats divided into two stanzas. Epigraphical exigency forced the cutter to divide the final, eight-beat verse of the second stanza into two four-beat half verses. Done right, with punctuation added, it would look something like this (stresses marked):

The líttle críb is émpty nów,
The líttle clóthes laid bý;
A móther’s hópe, a fáther’s jóy
In deáth’s cold árms doth lié.

Go líttle pílgrims tó thy hóme
on yónder blíssful shóre;
We míss thee hére but soón will cóme
Where thóse hath góne befóre.

The rhyming pattern appears to be ABAB CDCD, except that even with poetic license I can’t make ‘now’ rhyme with ‘joy’.

This is doggerel, too, as its widespread use reveals. Credit to Call Me Taphy who got to both of these poems first and even posted an image of the second poem here at Engraved: Succinct Phrases and Flowery Prose. We find the first half, for example, in 1915 in Prince Edward’s Island and undated in Missouri. In 1903, in Jasper, Alabama, we have the same two verses but adapted for the dead child Clinton Scott:

The little crib is empty now,
 The little clothes laid by;
A mother’s hope, a father’s joy
 In death’s cold arm doth lie.

Go, little Clinton, to the home
 On yonder blissful shore;
We miss thee here, but soon will come
 Where thou hast gone before.

In fact, the Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, December, 1906, prints a poem of five stanzas from which the various commemorators, in consultation with space-pressed cutters, have cherry picked the most useful verses:

Another little soul has gone
 To dwell with Him who gave;
Another little darling babe
 Is sheltered in the grave.

God needed one more angel child
 Amidst his shining band,
And so He bent with beaming smile
 And clasped their darling’s hand.

The little crib is empty now,
 The little clothes laid by;
A mother’s hope, a father’s joy
 In death’s cold arm doth lie.

O! little pilgrim to thy home
 On yonder blissful shore;
We miss thee here, but soon will come
 Where thou hast gone before.

Dearest loved one, we have laid thee
 In the peaceful grave’s embrace,
But thy memory will be cherished
 Till we see thy heavenly face.

Aside from showing that the tetrameters in each stanza need not rhyme (but that the poet has on two occasions been at pains to try to make them do so), I am perplexed by the fifth stanza, which has a completely different metrical pattern. I wonder if its four verses were not added by the person who assembled them to console a fellow union member who had lost a child.

Again, as with doggerel on gravestones generally, we have no right to assume that the verses on the Sherwood monument were not chosen because they precisely exemplified the feelings of the bereaved; and in this case, Olive, who had buried three children and a husband (the death of the last child, Augusta, having occasioned the raising of the monument in 1871), might well be excused for having made some easy but comforting choices.

But man, is that bad poetry.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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  1. Looks like Olive wasn’t buried here with her family …. or at least her death date wasn’t added to this monument. Perhaps she remarried?


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