Perhaps not to be is to be without you….

I could name a thousand things I love about Kolkata. But if I had to pick one place as my favourite it would be the South Park Street Cemetery. The reason is the tombstone in the picture. Derozio, William Jones and Rose Aylmer are buried there too. But the glory of the poets and the poet’s muse pale before the touching tribute of the grieving husband. If tears froze into words etched in stone probably something like this would be created. Every time I read it, I cannot but help sigh over the haunting sadness that surrounds this story of this young woman who lived, loved and died in a strange land at twenty three. Maybe Edgar Allan Poe was right. The death of a beautiful woman, is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world. But a thousand florid Annabel Lee and its seraphs could not match this simple poem in its poignant beauty. Find below the text of the epitaph.

 

In Memory of Martha Goodlad

If ever tears deservedly were shed,

If ever grief was due to virtue dead,

Thy merit Martha, and thy spotless ways,

Claims tears from all, for allowed them praise,

Thy strength of mind, we scarce shall meet again,

Shown through a long most agonising pain,

Thy warm affection as a wife or friend,

Make all who knew you weep your cruel end,

Cruel alas, but this one thing were sure,

Those virtues that in life you held so pure,

Will be repaid – this thought and this alone,

Your friends have left, to mitigate their moan,

This latest tribute a kind husband gives,

Whose heart is torn, is wretched whilst he lives,

And only prays one day to reach that shore,

To meet his Martha and to part no more.

It almost feels wrong posting this. As if I have intruded into a three centuries old scene of private sorrow. But it is too beautiful to not be shared. ‘Whose heart is torn, is wretched whilst he lives, And only prays one day to reach that shore, To meet his Martha and to part no more.’ I like to think that he never remarried and remained true to her memory till his dying breath. Like in Neruda’s poem,

‘it follows that I am, because you are:
it follows from ‘you are’, that I am, and we:
and, because of love, you will, I will,
We will, come to be.’

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One comment on “Perhaps not to be is to be without you….

  1. Subit says:

    Seriously, the poem is too good….

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