Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

A sabbatical project, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

Epitaphs and Symbols on the Painter Gravemarkers

Leave a comment

If you read my post on The Burying Ground of the Painters and Tylers, you may have noted the statement, “Papers document that Jacob Painter designed his own grave marker, as sketches for his grave and drafts of the poetry engraved on both his own tomb and on his brother Minshall’s tomb are found among Jacob’s papers.”  Someone has asked about the text on the gravestones of Minshall and Jacob Painter, so I thought I would provide the text here, for those that cannot make the trip to visit the cemetery.  As you will see, the epitaphs capture their love of nature – and the love one brother had for another.

Minshall Painter tombstoneMinshall Painter was the first of the two brothers to pass away.  He lived from March 6, 1801, to August 21, 1873.  Minshall has three epitaphs carved in his marble tombstone.  This photo looks at the north side of the grave site.

The west side reads:

MY BROTHER ‘ROUND THY PLACE OF REST
WELL MAY THY ONCE LOVED FLOWERS ENTWINE,
NO HEART THAT THROBBED IN MORTAL BREAST
WAS KINDER OR MORE TRUE THAN THINE.

The south side reads:

FOR THEE, NO MORE SHALL VERNAL SPRING
RENEW THE LEAVES ON TREES AND BOWERS;
FOR THEE NO MORE SHALL FLORA BRING
HER CHOICEST GIFTS OF RAREST FLOWERS.

The east side reads:

‘TIS SWEET FOR HIM WHO KNEW THEE BEST,
TO CHERISH THOUGHTS OF THEE THAT KEEP
THY MEM’RY FRESH. WITH HOPE OF REST.
NEARBY THEE IN UNENDING SLEEP.

Minshall Painter tombstone
Minshall’s grave marker has many common tombstone symbols found in cemeteries.  An urn represents a soul, or mortality.  Any object draped on a tombstone, such as this urn, indicates mourning.  In fact, the draped urn is probably the most common 19th-century funerary symbol.  The ivy represents immortality and fidelity.  Ivy clings to a support, which makes it a symbol of attachment, friendship, and undying affection.  The flowers around the base of the urn represent beauty and eternal sleep.

Jacob Painter tombstoneJacob Painter lived from June 22, 1814, to November 3, 1876.  Jacob’s tombstone has many symbols on the north and south sides, with epitaphs carved only on the east and west sides.

The west side reads:

IF FOR HIS KIND SOME GOOD HE WROUGHT,
PERCHANCE REVEALED ANOTHER’S PAIN,
IF HE ONE USEFUL MORAL TAUGHT,
HE HAS NOT LIVED IN VAIN.
IF GRACELESS DEEDS HAVE MARRED HIS FAME,
MADE SAD HIS LIFE THAT ELSE WAS FAIR,
HE SINS NO MORE, WITHHOLD THY BLAME,
IN CHARITY FORBEAR.

The east side reads:

WHEN HE WHO LIES BENEATH THIS TOMB,
FELT LIFE’S WARM CURRENTS THROUGH HIM FLOW
HE WAS THE SPORT OF HOPE AND GLOOM,
OF JOYS THAT COME AND GO.
WHERE TRUTH AND NATURE SEEMED TO LEAD,
THAT PATH IN HOPE AND FAITH HE TROD.
FROM NATURE’S LAWS HE DREW HIS CREED,
AS TAUGHT BY NATURE’S GOD.

Jacob’s grave marker has many more symbols.  I have described some of them here.

Jacob Painter tombstone

The oak leaves and acorns can symbolize strength, endurance, eternity, honor, liberty, hospitality, faith, and virtue, in addition to maturity and “ripe old age.”  The pansy is a symbol of remembrance.  The lily of the valley represents purity, innocence, renewal, and resurrection.
Jacob Painter tombstone

When found on a grave marker, the philodendron is more of a decorative element than being a representative symbol.
Jacob Painter tombstone

The anchor stands for hope.  The hourglass represents the passage of time.
Jacob Painter tombstone

In general, trees represnt life.  The weeping willow tree, in many religions, represents immortality.  The flowers on the left appear to be roses, which represent brevity of life or sorrow.  The flowers on the right may be the morning glory, representing morning, youth, the bonds of love, and the Resurrection since the flower blooms in the morning and is closed by afternoon.

If you are interested in learning more about tombstone styles and symbols, I recommend the following books to further your exploration:

Keister, D. (2004). Stories in Stone: A field guide to cemetery symbolism and iconography.

Cooper, G. (2009). Stories Told in Stone: Cemetery Iconology.

 

Author: Dr. G

Dr. Laura Guertin, Associate Professor of Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine. Learn more at http://about.me/drlauraguertin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers