Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tales From A Country Graveyard.

A week ago today, we were on our way to South Wales for a 3 day trip which included a visit to Swansea Theatre to see a friend in the title role of Piaf in a play of the same name.

Once settled in our rooms in the North Gower Hotel in the village of Llanrhidian, Daphne and I went for a short walk before supper and not knowing the local area at all, we just went wherever the road took us. After a walk down the very steep Mill Lane, we came to the wonderfully named St. Rhidian and St. llltyd Church which was founded by St. Rhidian in the 6th century.

So it was pretty old !

Sadly the church was locked and as we didn't then know we could've borrowed the keys from the petrol station at the top of the road, we spent some time walking around the graveyard which had many really old and interesting graves and headstones with several containing several generations of families.

On the side of the church, just to the right of the door porch, we found a few headstones that had presumably been removed from their graves at some point in time and fastened to the outer wall, held in place by suitably rusting hooks. The largest of these headstones was very easy to read, in the sense that the actual words were so clear that they could've been etched within the last few years. For this reason alone I'm not sure how original this stone was and the fact that the wording was a strange mix of modern and peculiar olde English is a puzzle too. Anyway it claimed that the body it represented was one Robert Harry, who died on the 21st of September 1646 at the very old age (for the time) of 65. These details were etched around the sides so you may have to move the photo, or your head, around to read them.

You'll get into the swing of the 'poem' if you work out that it starts with.....here lyeth my lifeless corpse relieved of living breath.......and you can take it from there. Click to enlarge.

Ok for those who can't make it out, the wording around the border of the stone reads.....

Here lieth the body of Robert Harry who deceased the xxi day of September aged 65 anno Domini 1646 who maried two wives and had issve by them x children.

......and the rest of the wording is as follows.......

Here lyeth my lifeles corps bereved of liveinge breath
Not slaine by sinne which is the cavse of death
But my decree which God hath said all men shall dy
And come to ivdgement to know how they shall try

And now o heavenly God that liveing breath thov gavest to mee
That mortall life and sovle I yeeld and give againe to thee
My corps to earth for short time I doe give
My sovle vnto my saviovr Christ eternally to live

I'm not sure why it's 'liveinge breath' at the start and then 'liveing breath' further along which only adds to my feeling that this was a relatively modern etching and whoever did it just made a mistake that someone from 1646 would never have made.

Don't you just love a good mystery ?? Verily.


rhymeswithplague said...

Sorry...I can't make it out even with the enlargement. Can you add the wording of the epitaph to your post?

Silverback said...

Consider it done, Bob.

Daphne said...

I suspect it was just that a lot of spelling wasn't as fixed in 1646 as it is now - though you're right, I do think whoever engraved it could have been a bit more consistent! But hey, don't listen to me, I thought that there were two letter l's in Rhossili.

Debby said...

I being more of a romantic than you, would of course believe it is the original.

You know I'd have been running my hands over each of those letters!

jay said...

I think the stone is newer but the language is origynalle. As Daphne says, spelling wasn't .. um .. set in stone, in those days, and it's entirely possible that it was customary to vary the spelling if a word was repeated within a short tyme.

Olli said...

Looks to me like when it was moved, the antiquarian responsible gave the lettering a bit of enhancement with his chisel. This antiquarian was probably Victorian, with all the connotations that carries for messing with the archaeological record.

Why on earth would the stone itself be newer? It's stone. Most kinds are reasonably tough. Anyway, it's a bit crumbly round the edges and covered in lichen, which takes a good while to grow.

The words themselves? Reasonably bog-standard - and, while c17th spelling had rules, the "liveinge" and "liveing" wasn't significant enough to even comment upon then. It wasn't a mistake, because it wasn't a problem.

Why would anyone now go to the time and effort of faking a C17th memorial of some very middle-class bloke called Robert Harry? You could find five similar ones in practically any parish church.

...yes, it's the purpose of archaeologists to ruin everyone's fun :-p (The pyramids weren't built by aliens, too, incidentally :-p)

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