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This is a cemetery poem but I haven't really known what to make of it, knowing little of Masters:

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Edgar Lee Masters

My father who owned the wagon-shop
And grew rich shoeing horses
Sent me to the University of Montreal.
I learned nothing and returned home,
Roaming the fields with Bert Kessler,
Hunting quail and snipe.
At Thompson’s Lake the trigger of my gun
Caught in the side of the boat
And a great hole was shot through my heart.
Over me a fond father erected this marble shaft,
On which stands the figure of a woman
Carved by an Italian artist.
They say the ashes of my namesake
Were scattered near the pyramid of Caius Cestius
Somewhere near Rome.

The idea's that it's touching a horseshoe guy would love Shelley? And/or the notion that we're all Shelley to some extent? What's common to people seems to be a theme of Spoon River.

Anyway, surely a tribute, among whatever other things it is.
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Goethe in a letter, on his son's grave:

After a few days he was carried to his rest near the Pyramid of Cestius, in the place his father used to long for in poetic dreams before he was born.

He mentions these longings in Roman Elegy 7 (sometimes 9), where he's thankful to be in Rome and hopes to die there:

Here put up with me, Jove, and let Hermes escort me down later, / Past the Cestian tomb, softly to Orcus below. (Hamburger)

And in Italian Journey:

The poems on Hans Sachs and on Mieding's death conclude the eighth volume, and so, for the present, my writings. If in the meantime I am laid to rest next to the pyramid, these two poems can serve as my biographical data and funeral oration.

In a 1788 letter:

Some evenings ago when I was melancholic I drew [my grave] by Cestius' pyramid.


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And did I ever mention Daisy Miller is buried there? And, more easily located, Gramsci, Goethe's poor son August, and (if I remember correctly) Wilhelm von Homboldt.
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Another one--in Stendhal's will, in fact a series of them he wrote between 1832 and '34:

Testament de M. H. M. Beyle, consul de France.

Je donne et legue tout ce que je possede a Rome, a M. Abraham Constantin. Je meurs dans la religion protestante, confession d'Augsbourg, et demande a etre enterre pres de mon ami Shelley (Piramide de Cestius) Rome le dix decembre 1832. H. Beyle. En marge H. Beyle.

Testament de M. Beyle.

Je donne tout ce que je possede a Rome a M. Ab. Constantin, chevalier de la Legion d'honneur. Je meurs protestant dans la communion d'Augsbourg et demande a etre enterre a cote de M. Shelley (Piramide de Cestius). Rome le onze decembre 1832. M. Beyle. En marge. M Beyle.


Was Henri ("The only excuse for God is that he doesn't exist") Beyle going to pretend to be protestant just to be pres de son ami Shelley? It may be the most beautiful place to be dead in the whole world, granted, but there's no evidence they ever met. This was quite a gesture. If gesture's even the word--commitment, perhaps, but for the pun. Where you're buried tends to be sacred even for atheists (e.g. Shelley).

He quotes Shelley briefly in Memoirs of an Egoist and briefly mentions the drowning in a letter, but there's nothing else that would have led one to expect that. They say his long short story The Cenci shows no influence of Shelley's treatment from ten years before, though he would have known it existed.
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Another cemetery poem I hadn't known about:

At Lulworth Cove a Century Back, Hardy

Had I but lived a hundred years ago
I might have gone, as I have gone this year,
By Warmwell Cross on to a Cove I know,
And Time have placed his finger on me there:

"You see that man?" — I might have looked, and said,
"O yes: I see him. One that boat has brought
Which dropped down Channel round Saint Alban's Head.
So commonplace a youth calls not my thought."

"You see that man?" — "Why yes; I told you; yes:
Of an idling town-sort; thin; hair brown in hue;
And as the evening light scants less and less
He looks up at a star, as many do."

"You see that man?" — "Nay, leave me!" then I plead,
"I have fifteen miles to vamp across the lea,
And it grows dark, and I am weary-kneed:
I have said the third time; yes, that man I see!"

"Good. That man goes to Rome — to death, despair;
And no one notes him now but you and I:
A hundred years, and the world will follow him there,
And bend with reverence where his ashes lie."

The star was this one:

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
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A couple descriptions (capturing it perfectly, and its suddenness) of the pyramid in his notebooks--Hawthorne defers seeing the graves. Defers deliberately, and apparently twice--why? "Earth's Holocaust" pays a lovely tribute to Shelley and, which was it, "P's Correspondence" (?) expresses a Browningesque desire to claim him into religion. Something in them feels similar to me so often, though Melville, Emerson, Dickinson, Whitman and Thoreau (and Stevens and Crane and) are all much closer to his thought, much better candidates for the American Shelley, might we be so lucky. Still..."Young Goodman Brown" parallels "Triumph of Life" down to its length, hell, down to its ambiguous breakoff. Hawthorne's Miriam/Beatrice obviously owes much to Shelley's. Hawthorne cordoned off so much of himself, had that strange, conservative's gift of opening gates only as needed. I suppose Shelley was behind one.

I walked quite round the hill, and saw, at no great distance from it, the enclosure of the Protestant burial-ground, which lies so close to the pyramid of Caius Cestius that the latter may serve as a general monument to the dead. Deferring, for the present, a visit to the cemetery, or to the interior of the pyramid, I returned to the gateway of San Paolo, and, passing through it, took a view of it from the outside of the city wall. It is itself a portion of the wall, having been built into it by the Emperor Aurelian, so that about half of it lies within and half without. The brick or red stone material of the wall being so unlike the marble of the pyramid, the latter is as distinct, and seems as insulated, as if it stood alone in the centre of a plain; and really I do not think there is a more striking architectural object in Rome. It is in perfect condition, just as little ruined or decayed as on the day when the builder put the last peak on the summit; and it ascends steeply from its base, with a point so sharp that it looks as if it would hardly afford foothold to a bird. The marble was once white, but is now covered with a gray coating like that which has gathered upon the statues of Castor and Pollux on Monte Cavallo. Not one of the great blocks is displaced, nor seems likely to be through all time to come. They rest one upon another, in straight and even lines, and present a vast smooth triangle, ascending from a base of a hundred feet, and narrowing to an apex at the height of a hundred and twenty-five, the junctures of the marble slabs being so close that, in all these twenty centuries, only a few little tufts of grass, and a trailing plant or two, have succeeded in rooting themselves into the interstices. It is good and satisfactory to see anything which, being built for an enduring monument, has endured so faithfully, and has a prospect of such an interminable futurity before it. Once, indeed, it seemed likely to be buried; for three hundred years ago it had become covered to the depth of sixteen feet, but the soil has since been dug away from its base, which is now lower than that of the road which passes through the neighboring gate of San Paolo. Midway up the pyramid, cut in the marble, is an inscription in large Roman letters, still almost as legible as when first wrought.

Maybe he's a little too surprised at the pyramid, needs it to be a general monument, wanders off in a hurry. Maybe not? Look on my works ye mighty and defer. Even the pyramid, strikingest architectural object in Rome, doesn't make it into his novel--admittedly, not at first glance of much importance to his theme.

In the state of mind in which I now stand towards Rome, there is very little advantage to be gained by staying here longer. And yet I had a pleasant stroll enough yesterday afternoon, all by myself, from the Corso down past the Church of St. Andrea della Valle,—the site where Caesar was murdered,—and thence to the Farnese Palace, the noble court of which I entered; hence to the Piazza Cenci, where I looked at one or two ugly old palaces, and fixed on one of them as the residence of Beatrice's father; then past the Temple of Vesta, and skirting along the Tiber, and beneath the Aventine, till I somewhat unexpectedly came in sight of the gray pyramid of Caius Cestius. I went out of the city gate, and leaned on the parapet that encloses the pyramid, advancing its high, unbroken slope and peak, where the great blocks of marble still fit almost as closely to one another as when they were first laid; though, indeed, there are crevices just large enough for plants to root themselves, and flaunt and trail over the face of this great tomb; only a little verdure, however, over a vast space of marble, still white in spots, but pervadingly turned gray, by two thousand years' action of the atmosphere.

Stopping, what, thirty yards from Shelley's grave? And Keats' too, but I don't remember Hawthorne ever mentioning him.

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Rome: At The Pyramid Of Cestius
Near The Graves Of Shelley And Keats (1887)

Who, then, was Cestius,
And what is he to me?--
Amid thick thoughts and memories multitudinous
One thought alone brings he.

I can recall no word
Of anything he did;
For me he is a man who died and was interred
To leave a pyramid

Whose purpose was exprest
Not with its first design,
Nor till, far down in Time, beside it found their rest
Two countrymen of mine.

Cestius in life, maybe,
Slew, breathed out threatening;
I know not. This I know: in death all silently
He does a kindlier thing,

In beckoning pilgrim feet
With marble finger high
To where, by shadowy wall and history-haunted street,
Those matchless singers lie...

--Say, then, he lived and died
That stones which bear his name
Should mark, through Time, where two immortal Shades abide;
It is an ample fame.
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His notes to Exiles (under Nora's initials):

13 Nov. 1913

Moon: Shelley's grave in Rome. He is rising from it: blond she weeps for him. He has fought in vain for an ideal and died killed by the world. Yet he rises. Graveyard at Rahoon by moonlight where Bodkin's grave is. He lies in the grave. She sees his tomb (family vault) and weeps. The name is homely. Shelley's is strange and wild. He is dark, unrisen, killed by love and life, young. The earth holds him.
Bodkin died. Kearns died. In the convent they called her the man-killer: (woman-killer was one of her names for me). I live in soul and body.
She is the earth, dark, formless, mother, made beautiful by the moonlit night, darkly conscious of her instincts. Shelley whom she has held in her womb or grave rises: the part of Richard which neither love nor life can do away with; the part for which she loves him: the part she must try to kill, never be able to kill and rejoice at her impotence.

From somebody on the web:

'The Dead' was written in Rome, a city in which the presence of the dead and of the past is uniquely overpowering. Joyce visited Shelley's tomb there with Nora, who 'responded with a string of morbid romantic associations that moved him deeply' (Maddox, 75). These concerned her dead sweetheart, the model for Michael Furey in 'The Dead'.

There aren't enough exclamation points. Right there that moment happened. And then the play too. Ibsen's horns and now this.
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George Eliot:

A spot that touched me deeply was Shelley's grave. The English cemetery in which he lies is the most attractive burying-place I have seen. It lies against the old city walls, close to the Porta San Paolo and the pyramid of Caius Cestius--one of the quietest spots of old Rome. And there, under the shadow of the old walls on one side, and cypresses on the other, lies the Cor cordium, forever at rest from the unloving cavillers of this world, whether or not he may have entered on other purifying struggles in some world unseen by us. The grave of Keats lies far off from Shelley's, unshaded by wall or trees. It is painful to look upon, because of the inscription upon the stone, which seems to make him still speak in bitterness from his grave.


Yesterday we went to see dear Shelley's tomb, and it was like a personal consolation to me to see that simple outward sign that he is at rest, where no hatred can ever reach him again. Poor Keats's tombstone, with that despairing, bitter inscription, is almost as painful to think of as Swift's.

Hesitating, like Wilde, at the idea of rest being appropriate for him.
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Wilde on Shelley's grave:

Like burnt-out torches by a sick man's bed
Gaunt cypress-trees stand round the sun-bleached stone;
Here doth the little night-owl make her throne,
And the slight lizard show his jewelled head.
And, where the chaliced poppies flame to red,
In the still chamber of yon pyramid
Surely some Old-World Sphinx lurks darkly hid,
Grim warder of this pleasaunce of the dead.

Ah! sweet indeed to rest within the womb
Of Earth, great mother of eternal sleep,
But sweeter far for thee a restless tomb
In the blue cavern of an echoing deep,
Or where the tall ships founder in the gloom
Against the rocks of some wave-shattered steep.

Why tomb for one and grave for other? "Sun-bleached stone"--clearly neither had a subscription monument yet. This tribute is slightly sillier but much more professional, less personal, lacking the movingly inappropriate identification AND objectification lavished on Keats. How often are these combined?
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Wilde on Keats' tomb:

As I stood beside the mean grave of this divine boy, I thought of him as of a Priest of Beauty slain before his time; and the vision of Guido's St. Sebastian came before my eyes as I saw him at Genoa, a lovely brown boy, with crisp, clustering hair and red lips, bound by his evil enemies to a tree, and though pierced by arrows, raising his eyes with divine, impassioned gaze towards the Eternal Beauty of the opening heavens. And thus my thoughts shaped themselves to rhyme:


Rid of the world's injustice and its pain,
He rests at last beneath God's veil of blue;
Taken from life while life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian and as foully slain.
No cypress shades his grave, nor funeral yew,
But red-lipped daisies, violets drenched with dew,
And sleepy poppies, catch the evening rain.
O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O saddest poet that the world hath seen!
O sweetest singer of the English land!
Thy name was writ in water on the sand,
But our tears shall keep thy memory green,
And make it flourish like a Basil-tree.

Borne, 1877.

Water used to write in sand, rather than petals used to write in water.
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In View of the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, James Wright

It is idle to say
The wind will blow your fingers all away
And scatter small blue knucklebones upon
The ground from hell to breakfast and beyond.
You will sit listening till I am gone
To seed among the pear trees. For my voice
Sprinkles a few light petals on this pond,
And you nod sagely, saying I am wise.
Your fingers toss their white cocoons and rise
Lightly and lightly brush against my face:
Alive still, in this violated place,
Idle as any deed that Cestius did,
Vanished beneath his perfect pyramid.

Almost seems like he's addressing a Keats/Shelley hybrid: Shelley told the wind to scatter his thoughts to seed something better. Keats said his name would be dispersed by water. Shelley's friend, quoting Shakespeare, said Shelley was changed into something else under a sea.

But I assume it is Keats he means: Keats was wrong and is still there, will be sitting there when Wright is gone to seed, whose voice left only petals in water (spelling his name at first?), rather than seeds in earth like the ones his body will nourish. Keats tells him he is wise--why? About Keats' name and work living on? But everyone knows that. About knowing that he, Wright, will disappear?

New Keats, out of his pale body, brushes Wright's face with his fingers: he is a presence Wright feels intimately--one with compassion for him (a trust Keats would have had some? another need?). Wright is alive, and idle (surely it is Wright and not Keats that is idle? or is idle some Whitmanian compliment? surely not that?) as Cestius. Does he damn with faint praise his own art by associating it with the pyramid? Perfect, but (ouch) pointless?

Weird how many ambiguities you need to straighten out with this one--though it seems to me you can. As though he really was convinced he shouldn't be read, that there was really no point. Who else directly addressed the graves? Shelley Keats', of course; Wilde; I'm convinced Dickinson without having seen them. I think I've read a number of others for Keats, popular, popular kid that he is.

Cats, statue. I found a feather by his stone, but pigeon I think.
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...strength alone though of the Muses born
is like a fallen angel: trees uptorn,
Darkness, and worms, and shrouds, and sepulchres
Delight it; for it feeds upon the burrs,
And thorns of life; forgetting the great end
Of poesy, that it should be a friend
To soothe the cares, and lift the thoughts of man.

I wonder if this spurred Dickinson to write poems specifically about arboreal uptear and darkness and worms and shrouds and sepulchres.

As for this:

Where is thy misty pestilence to creep
Into the dwellings, through the door crannies
Of all mock lyrists, large self-worshippers
And careless Hectorers in proud bad verse?
Though I breathe death with them it will be life
To see them sprawl before me into graves.

A misty pestilence sure got Byron, as well as his kid and a couple of Shelley's; but for the second part, the curse might seem to have redounded--with the cursed even getting to miswrite Keats' epitaph.

Fall of Hyperion was published right when Dickinson started writing. New work by your favorite poet will get your close attention, and these passages fed the thoughts that became her tomb poem, I think. As did, perhaps, the "loading rifts with ore": with Shelley following the advice a year or so on. At any rate she'd appreciate the conceit.
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I died for Beauty — but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining room —

He questioned softly "Why I failed"?
"For Beauty", I replied —
"And I — for Truth — Themself are One —
We Brethren, are", He said —

And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night — We talked between the Rooms —
Until the Moss had reached our lips —
And covered up — our names —

I can't possibly be the first to have noticed that this is clearly a tribute to Keats and Shelley. Keats ("load your rifts with ore") dies for beauty in the sense of dying while still living for it, Shelley likewise truth. Keats is, what, a year in the ground at Rome's Protestant Cemetery when Shelley is buried nearby. They don't recognize each other at first, being dead and in the dark--and personality is somewhat less important there. Shelley politely quotes Keats' own poem to him when he realizes who he's with--Dickinson knows what an influence Hymn to Intellectual Beauty had on Keats' Odes, clearly. They talk till their names are covered up, lips stifled, meaning: their poetry is in dialogue, our memories of them intertwined, until that time when they shall be forgotten. See Westminster Abbey, the plaques joined by a flourish, above Shakespeare's bust. As for the "why they failed," see perhaps Browning's Childe Roland.

Kinsmen met a night.

Dickinson's heart is more with Keats, hence her speaking his part.

Bloom links Strange Meeting to a passage in Revolt of Islam. I can't remember the details, perhaps Dickinson's working off that too.

The teacher had some other explanation. I had to shut my mouth because it's an invasion to go into all that.

(See Mamet's The Edge, last line, for a differently ironic twist on dying "for" something.)


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