Further Notes on
"My Dearest Dust" by
Lady Catherine Dyer

One of our readers in England, Victor Perry, has corresponded with us over the last month about Lady Catherine Dyer's poem from the 17th Century, "My Dearest Dust" which RALPH had reproduced several years ago. The poem is inscribed on a tomb in the church at Colmworth, England. (Perry's first letter to us appears in Issue #128 --- Early Spring, 2005.)

    Dear Lolita:

    As we do not live too far from Colmworth, I determined to visit the village and see [the tomb] for myself. I got in touch with the vicar, who told me that someone had written a history of the village. But I have not yet managed the trip. Currently I am very busy, but, who knows, I may yet manage it.

We recently received another e-mail from Mr. Perry:

    Dear Lolita,

    Today we have been over to Colmworth. Our son took photos of the Dyer monument. Here are copies of the epitaph at the back above the lying down statues of Sir William and Lady Katherine Dyer.

    The colour of the images is false. The first verse on the left is not printed in the books we have seen, so, if you publish it, you may well be a first.

    I shall write again with transcriptions.

Mr. Perry then continued:

    It is in a poor state, and the parishioners can't afford the cost of conservation. I hope to write a letter to the Times Literary Supplement, where I shall make this point!

    I am no computer expert, so, if the photo is no good, let me know, and I'll get our son, who is, to put things right.

Finally, Mr. Perry offered us his transcription with a caveat:

    I am not an English scholar, and there is one thing I am uncertain of. When I read an edition of a C16 book, the editor sometimes makes a remark about the punctuation.

    Apparently 400+ years ago they did things differently. Add to that the state of the inscription and the punctuation becomes more uncertain, though the words themselves are legible.

If a large heart, joined with a noble mind
Showing true worth unto all good inclined
If faith in friendship, justice unto all,
Leave such a memory as we may call
Happy, thine is; then pious marble keep
His just fame waking, though his loved dust sleep.
And though death can devour all that hath breath,
And monuments themselves have had a death,
Nature shan't suffer this, to ruinate,
Nor time demolish it, nor an envious fate,
Raised by a just hand, not vain glorious pride,
Who'd be concealed, were it modesty to hide
Such an affection did so long survive
The object of it, yet loved it as alive.
And this great blessing to his name does give
To make it by his tomb, and issue live.

My dearest dust, could not thy hasty day
Afford thy drowsy patience leave to stay
One hour longer: so that we might either
     Sit up, or gone to bed together?
But since thy finished labour hath possessed
     Thy weary limbs with early rest,
Enjoy it sweetly; and thy widow bride
Shall soon repose her by thy slumbering side;
Whose business, now, is only to prepare
     My nightly dress, and call to prayer:
Mine eyes wax heavy and the day grows old,
     The dew falls thick, my blood grows cold.
Draw, draw the closed curtains: and make room:
My dear, my dearest dust; I come, I come.

§     §     §

Our final correspondence with Mr. Perry was,

    Dear Victor:

    We have finally mounted the full version of Lady Dyer's epitaph --- with your fine photographs --- at

    http://www.ralphmag.org/DG/dyer.html

    Unfortunately, our reproduction equipment comes from the Dark Ages of Computer Science (about five years ago) so the colors turned a bit weird, but I think readers will be able to make out most of the words.

    Thank you again for your detective work.

    --- Lolita Lark
    Editor
    RALPH
    The Review of the Arts,
    Literature, Philosophy,
    and the Humanities
    Box 16719
    San Diego CA 92176
    poo@cts.com
    www.ralphmag.org

    Readers who want to correspond directly
    with Mr. Perry may do so at:

    vic@vicphyl.co.uk


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