Funeral Oration on Ephraim Simonds
August, 1801
Source: W&S v. 15 487-493

No one ever ascended the stage to speak on a more delicate subject than the loss of a companion. It is a subject that admits not the flights of fancy, nor the charms of eloquence.

Little,indeed,is he fitted to cull the flowers of rhetoric,whose bosom still bleeds for the loss of its inmate; whose powers are overwhelmed in a flood of sensibility.

To eulogize kings and heroes, to swell the pomp of courtly oratory, by building up paragraphs of shining and unmeaning panegyric were an easy and an insignificant task; but it is unnatural to aim at brilliant imagery, or elegant diction, "when grief sits heavy at the heart;" hard is it to be formal when we feel, to declaim when we would weep.

We are at this time assembled for one of those solemn purposes,imposed on us by the common lot of our nature. To ham the dull, funeral toll, to mark the vestiges and recount the triumphs of death ever have been, and ever lllUSt be, the mourn ful business of mortals. In consequence of that eternal, uni- versal destiny, from whiell man in vain pleads exemption, we now deplore a loss, too recent to need the powers of recollection, and too deeply pencilled on the tablets in our bosoms, to have its colorings heightened by the dashes of imagination. Simonds, our brother, our fellow traveller to the temple of science, our morning friend, and our evening companion, where is he ? He sits not within these walls; his countenance cheers not the speaker. Il:e walks not the aisles of yonder building; he is heard no more in our halls! We approach his late abode on yonder eminence, but no voice bids Us welcome ! Desolate, and hung with his garments, it is a sad remembrance of our loss. Where then shall we seek for him ? In the cool of the evening, when grey twilight shrouds the hamlet, shall we find him arm in arm with a brother? Alas! his brothers are no more to feel the warmth of his hand ! Shall we see him hereafter around the board of phil- osophy, or meet him at the altar of the Muses ? He appears there no more forever ! Shall we behold him in some seques- tered glade, retired from the world, and wrapped in religious contemplation? He is not there,—he has gone, and we see him not again ! The storm has overtaken him, it has beaten hard on his temples, and he has fallen !

In the solemn hour of midnight, when the darkness is ter- rible, and deep sleep falleth oil man, the commissioned angel descended from the throne of Jehovah and bore him up to the presence of his Judge.

All of him that was mortal now lies in the charnels of yonder cemetery. By the grass that nods over the mounds of Sumner, Merrill, and Cook, now rests a fourth son of Dartmouth, constituting another monument of man's mor- tality. The sun as it sinks to the ocean, plats its departing beams on his tomb, but they reanimate him not. The cold sod presses on his bosom, his hands hang down in weakness The bird of the evening shouts a melancholy air on the poplar, but her voice is stillness to his ears. While his pencil was draw- ing scenes of future felicity, while his soul fluttered on the gay breezes of hope, an unseen hand drew the curtain, and shut him from our view. The laurels of manhood were just ripening on his brow, the principles of future greatness were fast collecting in his bosom, when death, who, like the spouse of Nabis, embraces only to destroy, folded him in its iron arms. With lflm life's visionary scenes are over, its fancies are fled. The incidents, that chequer our human existence, produce no alteration in his being.

He seeks the land that no disturbance known Where the faint slumber, and the tired repose; Where none at partial fortune can repine, For slave and master on one couch recline; Where heroes' vanity and monarchs' pride Are humble as the beggar at their side; Where death impartial spreads a gloom profound, And right, and peace and silence reign around!
We saw disease stretch him in tortures. With sight half prophetic from the agitation of our feelings, we half perceived the issue. We saw, that the black wing of death must ere long extend over him, that he soon must leave us—
" And scarce our tongues could say, Farewell I "
In vain our attention, in vain our solicitude ! Though anxiety hovered round his bed, and watched the motion of his lips; though brotherly love strewed the couch and softened the pillow, it availed not; on the page of the Eternal Will tvas it written, and Simonds dies !

Thus is man, and thus are his days, weak and helpless— few and transient. He rises in the morn of life, health flushes his cheek, and dances in his veins; nature salutes him, her lord, and offers him the sceptre, he builds his airy castle, and weaves a web for future years; but, ere he is aware, the mandate comes and he has but just time to gather his garments, and depart where the great and good have gone before him.

Our friend, therefore, has only trodden the path that all must pursue. He has entered the innermost of the temple of eternity, and left us treading in the vestibule. With the reflection, then, that we soon must follow him, let us resign him into the hands of his Maker. But let us not bury his example with his body. May his virtues ever live in our practice, as his memory ever must in our minds.

Simonds shall never be forgotten. The future child of Dartmouth, as he treads o'er the mansions of the dead, with his hand on his bosom shall poillt, "There lies Simonds!" and however careless of his eternal being, however immersed in dissipation or frozen in apathy, he shall check, for a moment, the tide of his mirth, and while an involuntary tear startles in his eye, shall read,

" Hic jacet, qem religio et scientia condecoraverunt."
The annalist of our institution shall not deem it beneath the dignity of his story, to turn aside from the details of seientific improvement, and to record, that on the 18th of June, 1801, died Ephraim Simonds; whom all loved, against whom the forked tongue of envy was silent, and the arrows of malignity harmless.

It is not our business elaborately to eulogize, nor our wish to emblazon the memory of the dead with the glare of applause. To those who knew our departed friend panegyric were insipid; to those who knew him not, it might appear vain. Suffice it to say, that his acquaintances recognized, in his person, the gentleman, the scholar and the Christian; in the commerce of life, free and affable; in the walks of literature, inquisitive and sagacious; in the truths of religion, firm and inflexible—looking forward to the high and exalted merit of serving his country and his God. As his religion inculcated the exercise of a noble and ingenuous frankness, the vile sons of craft and duplicity inherited neither part nor lot in his affections.

To surviving friends, gladdening is the reflection that he died, as he had lived, a firn1 believer in the sublime doctrines of Christianity. He died not like Voltaire, the champion of infidelity, in the anguish of his soul, and with a hell in his bosom; he died not uttering imprecations and blasphemies; he died not in the agonizing tortures of a criminating con science; but when the lamp of life quivered in its socket, when he perceived the days of his years were completed, the last rational moment of his life was occupied in prayer to Him, whose blood streamed on C1alvary, the Immanuel, the Prince of Peace. Whoever knew him in life, and saw him in death, will cordially address this honorable testimony to his memory:

" He taught us how to live, and, O too high
The price of knowledge, taught us how to die."
The dignity that invested his character in his late hour, was the endowment of that religion, which ever proves a faithful director in life and a powerful friend in death. When the pride of science, the pageantry of philosophy, the wily arts of cunning and subterfuge, and the parade of hypocrisy all vanish away, religion thell, like a protecting seraph, shields her votary from harm, drives from his presence the pale, terrifying spectres of death and despair, and serenely lays him to repose in the bosom of Providence. Religion dissevers the chain that binds man to the dust, and bids him be immortal. It enables the soul to recline on the arm of the Almighty, and the tempest beats harmless around her. " In the smooth seasons and the calms of life," the worth of religion is not estimated. Like everything else, which has in it the genuine marks of greatness, it is not captivated by the allurements of worldly grandeur, nor the soft, silken scenes of luxury. Amidst the gaiety and frivolity of a Parisian Court, the philosopher of Fernay could curse religion without a blush; Hume, proud of that reputation which his talents acquired him, could play it off in a metaphysical jargon; and Paine disposes of it, with a sneer and a lie. But let religion be estimated by him, who is just walking to the stake of the martyr; by him who is soon to suffer the terrors of the inquisition; by him who isproseribed and banished from his family, from his friends, and from his country. These will tell you that religion is invaluable; and that it gives them comfort here; that it is the earnest of life eternal, the warrant that gives possession of endless felicity.

Whoever, therefore, possesses and practices the pure principles of Christianity, leaves, at his decease, a turbulent, vicious world, for the society of sanetified and glorified beings. E[ow salutary then is the balm of Gilead—how fair the roses that bud on Zion !

While we mourn, let us not mourn for ourselves alone. In sympathy there is nothing selfish nor contracted; animated and benevolent, its rays are diffused as widely as the strokes of aRlietion are felt. There are scenes still more affectinD than we have witnessed, there are bosoms, whose sorrow is greater than our oven. Is any one here whose tears have fallen for a son, or for a brother ? Any one, who has felt the heart-rending pangs of a separation of those ties, which nature forms and love corroborates? Go to the shades of Templeton, to the bosom of a family surprised by the tidings of death ! Your feelings shall there be arrested by eloquence that nothing can resist, the eloquence of nature, the eloquence of grief. A brother's tears, a sister's sighs shall there waken the sympathetic emotions in every heart that is not steeled in insensibility. Robed in the sable attire of afflietion, you shall there behold a mother, whose bosom throbs—You shall see a father—but you have seen. Lowly bending over yonder balustrade you have seen the tear of age trickle down the cheek of a venerable parent. With eyes turned towards Heaven, you have seen the struggle between fortitude and affection shake his frame. You saw, and did you not pity? Did not the manliness of silent grief heave a sigh from your breasts, that ascended with your morning aspirations, and mingled with the hallowed incense of a parent's prayers at the throne of Grace ?

But sighs, and tears, and grief are unavailing; they enter not the chambers of death, they resuseitate not from the grave!—To that God, then, in whose hands are life and death, whose throne is established in justice, and the beams of whose mercy illuminate universal being, let us commit our much loved friend, and bid him a cordial and final Farewell !

Peace to his shades! and when the general doom
Shall raise him renovated from the tomb,
Be Grace's white mantle o'er his shoulders spread,
And the Saint's triumph blaze around his head I

This day completes the Course of our Collegiate studies, and gives us to the world. The hour of separation, ever mournful among friends, whose hearts are united, to us is doubly mourr,ful from the loss of a highly respected Class-mate. Before to-morrow's sun shall go down, we are dispersed. We part, however, with the ardent and consoling hope of meeting once more, and of taking a more solemn adieu on the day of our Anniversary. But with Simonds we meet not again ! The parting moment is over ! He has already pronounced his Valedictory; he flitted on the wings of a seraph; he has commenced his Eternity ! Impressed with this reflection, let us retire from this mournful business of the present occasion, and as the last, best tribute we can pay to his ashes, let us subscribe our names, as he did his, to the catalogue of virtue's friends. Let his memory be embalmed on our bosoms, and through every period of our future life, let his image be constantly with us, a monitor to our actions.

May those guardian Spirits, that watch around the just, guide and protect us, together and apart: may Almighty Grate secure us from evil, and energize all our talents in the exercise of Christian morality; and when it shall be said of us, that earth embosomsl her sons, may we then be united with our Simonds in that far better country, where the solemn dirge shall be exchanged for the symphonies of Gabriel's harp, and the voice of funeral Eulogy be heard no more !

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