THE $30,000 BEQUEST and Other Stories by Mark Twain

Angels will hover round my bed,

To waft my spirit home.

The following is apparently the customary form for heads of families:

Burns.–On the 20th inst., Michael Burns, aged 40 years.

Dearest father, thou hast left us,

Hear thy loss we deeply feel;

But ’tis God that has bereft us,

He can all our sorrows heal.

Funeral at 2 o’clock sharp.

There is something very simple and pleasant about the following,

which, in Philadelphia, seems to be the usual form for consumptives

of long standing. (It deplores four distinct cases in the single

copy of the LEDGER which lies on the Memoranda editorial table):

Bromley.–On the 29th inst., of consumption, Philip Bromley,

in the 50th year of his age.

Affliction sore long time he bore,

Physicians were in vain–

Till God at last did hear him mourn,

And eased him of his pain.

That friend whom death from us has torn,

We did not think so soon to part;

An anxious care now sinks the thorn

Still deeper in our bleeding heart.

This beautiful creation loses nothing by repetition. On the contrary,

the oftener one sees it in the LEDGER, the more grand and awe-inspiring

it seems.

With one more extract I will close:

Doble.–On the 4th inst., Samuel Pervil Worthington Doble,

aged 4 days.

Our little Sammy’s gone,

His tiny spirit’s fled;

Our little boy we loved so dear

Lies sleeping with the dead.

A tear within a father’s eye,

A mother’s aching heart,

Can only tell the agony

How hard it is to part.

Could anything be more plaintive than that, without requiring further

concessions of grammar? Could anything be likely to do more toward

reconciling deceased to circumstances, and making him willing to go?

Perhaps not. The power of song can hardly be estimated. There is

an element about some poetry which is able to make even physical

suffering and death cheerful things to contemplate and consummations

to be desired. This element is present in the mortuary poetry

of Philadelphia degree of development.

The custom I have been treating of is one that should be adopted

in all the cities of the land.

It is said that once a man of small consequence died, and the

Rev. T. K. Beecher was asked to preach the funeral sermon–

a man who abhors the lauding of people, either dead or alive,

except in dignified and simple language, and then only for merits

which they actually possessed or possess, not merits which they

merely ought to have possessed. The friends of the deceased got

up a stately funeral. They must have had misgivings that the

corpse might not be praised strongly enough, for they prepared

some manuscript headings and notes in which nothing was left

unsaid on that subject that a fervid imagination and an unabridged

dictionary could compile, and these they handed to the minister

as he entered the pulpit. They were merely intended as suggestions,

and so the friends were filled with consternation when the minister

stood in the pulpit and proceeded to read off the curious odds

and ends in ghastly detail and in a loud voice! And their

consternation solidified to petrification when he paused at the end,

contemplated the multitude reflectively, and then said, impressively:

“The man would be a fool who tried to add anything to that.

Let us pray!”

And with the same strict adhesion to truth it can be said that the

man would be a fool who tried to add anything to the following

transcendent obituary poem. There is something so innocent,

so guileless, so complacent, so unearthly serene and self-satisfied

about this peerless “hog-wash,” that the man must be made of stone

who can read it without a dulcet ecstasy creeping along his backbone

and quivering in his marrow. There is no need to say that this

poem is genuine and in earnest, for its proofs are written all

over its face. An ingenious scribbler might imitate it after

a fashion, but Shakespeare himself could not counterfeit it.

It is noticeable that the country editor who published it did

not know that it was a treasure and the most perfect thing of its

kind that the storehouses and museums of literature could show.

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Categories: Twain, Mark