Poesie: Webster’s Call for the Robin Readbreast and the Wren

They say John Webster always saw “the skull beneath the skin”.

Call for the Robin Redbreast and the Wren

Call for the Robin Redbreast and the Wren,
Since o’er shady groves they hover,
And with leaves and flowers do cover
The friendless bodies of unburied men.
Call onto his funeral Dole
The Ante, the field-mouse, and the mole
To rear him hillocks, that shall keep him warm,
And (when gay tombs are robb’d) sustain no harm,
But keep the wolf far thence, that’s foe to men,
For with his nails he’ll dig them up again.

John Webster (~1578 – ~1632), from The White Devil

Which reminds me of this:

In order that the soul might be confined to this subterranean abode, which was suited to its second life, it was necessary that the body to which it remained attached should be covered with earth.  The soul that had no tomb had no dwelling place.  It was a wandering spirit.  In vain it sought the repose which it would naturally desire after the agitation and labor of this life; it must wander forever under the form of a larva, or phantom, without ever stopping, without ever receiving the offerings and the food which it had need of.  Unfortunately, it soon became a malevolent spirit; it tormented the living; it brought diseases upon them, ravaged their harvests, and frightened them by gloomy apparitions, to warn them to give sepulture to its body and to itself.  From this came the belief in ghosts.  All antiquity was persuaded that without burial the soul was miserable, and that by burial it became forever happy.

Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges: The Ancient City, 1864.  Translated by Willard Small, 1874.

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Author: Anne

~ In the right order of nature, the flesh is subject to the spirit and not the reverse. ~ The Cloud of Unknowing

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