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Hast year by year renew'd thy flowers,
Thou green and venerable tree!
Remember that a rhymester brought
THE CEMETERY OF PERE LA CHAISE,
Quid sis, esse velis, nihilque malis ;
Summum nec metuas diem, nec optes.
I AM half disposed to admit the assertion of a lively authoress, that the French are a grave people, and absolutely determined upon contradicting the received opinion in England, that in the volatility of their character their sympathies, however easily excited, are generally evanescent; and that the claims of kindred or friendship, so far from awakening any permanent sensibility, are quickly superseded by the paramount dominion of frivolity and amusement. Let any man who is labouring under this mistaken impression pay a visit to the Cemetery of Père La Chaise; and if he do not hate France more than
falsehood, he will admit that in the precincts of this beautiful and affecting spot there is not only a more striking assemblage of tasteful decorations and appropriate monumental sculpture, but more pervading evidences of deep, lingering, heart-rending affection for the dead, than could be paralleled in England or any other country of Europe. The tombs elsewhere seem to be monuments of oblivion, not remembrance; they designate spots to be avoided, not visited, unless by the idle curiosity of strangers: here they seem built up with the heart as well as with the hands; they are hallowed by the frequent presence of sorrowing survivors, who, by various devices of ingenious and elegant offerings, still testify their grief and their respect for the departed, and keep up by these pious visitings a sort of holy communion. between the living and the dead. Never, never shall I forget the solemn yet sweet and soothing emotions that thrilled my bosom at the first visit to Père La Chaise. Women were in attendance as we approached the gate, offering for sale elegant crowns, crosses, and wreaths of orange-blossoms, xereanthemum, amaranth, and other everlasting flowers, which the mourning relatives and friends are accustomed to suspend upon the monument, or throw down upon the grave, or entwine among the shrubs with which every enclosure is decorated. Congratulating myself that I had no such melancholy office to perform, I passed into this vast sanctuary of the dead, and found myself in a variegated and wide-spreading garden, consisting of hill and dale, redolent with flowers, and thickly
planted with luxuriant shrubs and trees, from the midst of which monumental stones, columns, obelisks, pyramids, and temples, shot up in such profusion, that I was undecided which path to explore first, and stood some time in silent contemplation of the whole scene, which occupies a space of from sixty to eighty acres. A lofty Gothic monument on the right first claimed my attention, and on approaching it I found that it contained the tomb in which are the ashes of Abelard and Eloisa, united at last in death, but even then denied that rest and repose to which they were strangers in their unhappy and passionate lives. Interred, after various removals, at Soissons, in the year 1820, they were transported in the year eight of the Republic from Chalons-sur-Saone to the Museum of French Monuments at Paris, and thence to the romantic spot which they at present occupy. We learn from the inscription, that with all his talents Abelard could not comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity, and on this account incurred the censure of contemporary hierarchs. Subsequently, however, he seems to have seen the wisdom of a more accommodating faith; and having evinced his orthodoxy by the irrefragable argument of causing three figures to be sculptured upon one stone, which is still visible, being let into the side of his tomb, he was restored to the confidence and protection of the church. I had seen at Paris the dilapidated house in which he is stated to have resided; and now to be standing above the very dust which once contributed to form the fine intellect and throbbing hearts of these
celebrated lovers, seemed to be an annihilation of intervening centuries, throwing the mind back to that remote period when Eloisa, from the "deep solitudes and awful cells" of her convent, indited those lovebreathing epistles which have spread through the world the fame of her unhappy attachment. Quitting this interesting spot, a wilderness of little enclosures presented itself, almost every one profusely planted with flowers, and overshadowed by poplar, cypress, weeping willow, and arbor vitæ, interspersed among flowering shrubs and fruit-trees; for the ground, before its present appropriation, had been laid out as a pleasure-garden. Many of the tombs were provided with a watering-pot for the refreshment of the flowers, and the majority had a stone seat for the accommodation of those who came hither to indulge in melancholy retrospection, as they stationed themselves upon the grave in which their affections were deposited. Here and there the sufferers, from filial, parental, or conjugal deprivation, were seen trimming the foliage or flowers that sprung up from the remains of their kindred flesh; and as they handled the shrubs, whose roots struck down into the very grave, one could almost imagine that the dead stretched forth their leafy arms from the earth to embrace once more those whom they had so fondly encircled when alive. In many instances, however, it must be confessed that this pious duty was deputed to the keepers of the ground, who for a small stipend maintained the tombs in a perpetual greenness. Some contented themselves with hanging a funeral garland on the
monuments of their friends, by the number and freshness of which tributes we were enabled to judge, in some degree, of the merits of the deceased, and of the recency with which sad bosoms and glistening eyes had occupied the spot on which we then stood. Some were blooming all over with those flowery offerings, while others, with a single forlorn and withered chaplet, or absolutely bare, showed that their mouldering tenants had left no friends behind, or that time had wrought his usual effect, and either brought them to the same appointed house, or "steeped their senses in forgetfulness."
In ascending the hill, extensive family vaults are seen, excavated in its side in the style of the ancients, with numerous recesses for coffins, the whole enclosed by bronze gates of exquisite taste and workmanship, through which might be seen the chairs for those who wish to shut themselves up and meditate in the sepulchre which they are permanently to occupy; while the yellow wreath upon the ground, or coffin, pointed out the latest occupant of the chamber of death. Some well-known name was perpetually presenting itself to our notice. In one place we encountered the tomb of the unfortunate Labedoyère, who was the first to join Napoleon when he advanced to Grenoble in 1815, and expiated his offence with his life. The spot in which the hapless Ney was deposited was also shown to us, but his monument had been removed. A lofty and elegant pyramid on the height bore the name of the celebrated Massena; and as we roamed about, we trod over the