Friday, November 7, 2008


Epitaph... who remembers the King Crimson song by that name ?... which was on one of the greatest albums ever produced : In the Court of the Crimson King ... may just have to go put it on... Greg Lake's voice is unreal here. I will never forget the solo concert he did at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, in 1982.
But that is not what I set out to say. The creation of this blog has been causing me to sift through large amounts of material accumulated over the years, photographs, poems, paintings from various sources, an historical excavation of sorts. But daily life goes on for archeologists, even if each present moment rapidly becomes history.
Today I had to go to the dentist, which took me to a town not far from where I live, but one which I hadn't ever really visited before. After the appointment I had a little time to spare, so I took a good long walk around Pont Saint Maxence. I had never visited the cemetery there, an activity which is one of my many recidivist passions. I was surprised at the size of the place, it stretches across quite a large plot of hillside above the Oise River, and it also has a military area of graves from the 1914 to 1918 War. I love visiting and walking slowly through cemeteries, reading the inscriptions, pondering our existence. Glimpses of people's personal histories often shine through the few words left for posterity on their tombs.
Near the end of my visit to the cemetery, I stumbled on one of the most unusual epitaphs I've ever come upon. The text on the stone marker in the picture above, roughly translated says :
"Permanent Gravesite, (or Perpetual Concession)
No person shall have the right
To disturb this sacred tomb
Without my authorisation
Which I will never give.
I would thank in advance
Those persons who would be so kind as to say
A prayer over this grave
Valentin Delcambre
Born in 1809
Died 4 7 1888"
I hope the photographs I took were not a disturbance, and in my own non-religious manner I did say a prayer for him, may he rest in peace. The ancient legend of the Grateful Dead came to mind, which served as inspiration for the naming of a rock group which achieved a certain degree of legendary stature in their own right. It was interesting to note that his grave and cautionnary epitaph were in an old section of the graveyard in which nearly all the other old tombs had been cleared out to make space for new ones, except for this one. Perhaps people have taken him at his word. The poems of Francois Villon come to mind also here.
And if I may, with all due respect to King Crimson (do go out and buy their albums!) here are the words to Epitaph :
The wall on which the prophets wrote
Is cracking at the seams.
Upon the instruments of death
The sunlight brightly gleams.
When every man is torn apart
With nightmares and with dreams,
Will no one lay the laurel wreath
As silence drowns the screams.
Between the iron gates of fate,
The seeds of time were sown,
And watered by the deeds of those
Who know and who are known;
Knowledge is a deadly friend
When no one sets the rules.
The fate of all mankind I see
Is in the hands of fools.
Confusion will be my epitaph.
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back
And laugh.
But I fear tomorrow Ill be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow Ill be crying.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Owen for this surprising epitaph. I will use it during my lectures on the true significations of monuments.
In fact a monument is still functioning when people act to use it as a sign of remembrance. As we know people need to be helped sometimes. This seems to have worked quite well. Though I noticed somebody has placed a heather plant to reassure the late Mr Delcambre.
See you soon

Anonymous said...

I remember the Court of the Crimson King song! I've only heard it a few times, but it made an impression. Much like this tombstone marking. Mr. Delcambre must have been a writer, humorist, or intellectual. Or all three.

Love your blog! Why have I not visited you more often? I shall endeavor to catch up.