Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On rather morbid things

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
   The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
   And leaves the world to darkness and to me. 

~Thomas Gray, Stanza 1 from Elegy in a Country Churchyard

The above poet, Thomas Gray, was a member of a group of poets referred to as The Graveyard poets.  They were English poets writing in the eighteenth century focusing on themes of mortality, melancholy, and the grave.  This Graveyard School proved to be both popular and important to their contemporaries and in particular, to the Romantics.

When I learned of this period of literature, I, of course, was immediately swept up in the romanticism of such poets.  I have long enjoyed my own bouts of melancholy (and, for the most part, I do mean enjoy), and also happen to find cemeteries to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I cannot pass one but want to stop for a closer look.  My preferred spot for a picnic would be on these hallowed grounds, and I have long maintained, much my mother's chagrin, that I should like to be married in a graveyard.  I realize that it is an idea that will not go over well-- after all, I'm not a goth.  I am just a wee bit eccentric girl, who most people think is pretty normal.  My solution to that is to find a quaint, old church that happens to have beautiful, aging graveyard out front.  I'll get my wish, and no one will be the wiser.

After watching episode 15 of The Tudors on Showtime, I have now come up with a new idea.  This relates to my death, and it is now my wish to be buried in a wedding dress.  A character in the miniseries is sentenced to death by beheading as a result of not signing an oath that states that King Henry VIII is the supreme head of the church.  As this newly-minted cardinal is led up the scaffold minutes before his death, he proclaims, "You see that I am wearing my finest clothes, for today is my wedding day."  What he refers to is the Christian belief that the church is the bride of Christ and that when we die and ascend to heaven we shall take part in a grand wedding feast.  

As I think of myself as a bride of Christ (albeit a very unfaithful and disobedient fiance), I think it is extremely practical to be married in a wedding gown.  While I believe it is of no importance what we are buried in as far as eternity is concerned, I love the symbolic nature of this gesture, as well as its ability to minister to others.  On a historical note, it seems that people in the past were buried in their wedding dresses-- perhaps it was the best thing they owned, but to me, better a wedding dress, whether your own or picked up somewhere (Goodwill will do just fine for me), than the most expensive garment from Chanel. 

I have another request for my funeral: I would like all or part of Faure's Requiem performed at my funeral.  Now, I realize that it requires a full chorus as well as some strings, but I'll take whatever I can get.  In particular, I love the last part entitled, In Paradisum.  Part of the lyrics read:
Chorus angelrum te suscipiat

which translates to a chorus of angels shall sing you to your sleep.  How beautiful a sentiment, and definitely something I would want at my funeral.  I would also love Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.  That is a perfect, perfect song.

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