Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/787

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Sir Henry Thompson, of England, wrote enthusiastic articles for the leading journals, and an earnest-controversy was kept up for some time. The result has been discussion all over Europe and America, the establishment of cremation societies, and the building of crematories, for the new method differs greatly from the ancient fashion of burning on funeral pyres. The pyre, however, is still in use in India and other parts of the world, reaching its utmost extravagance in Siam, where bodies of the royal family are burned in gorgeous and elaborate temples built of wood and inflammable materials, but adorned and decorated, painted and gilded, to exactly represent their finest architecture.

There are many things to commend cremation aside from the pretty Indian fancy that fire, the purifier, completes the deliverance of the soul from its long-time prison of flesh, and by the smoke and ascending heat forms a path on which the spirit ascends to its home in the skies, or, as one tribe has it, the soft, warm chariot conveys the released and purified soul toward the sun.

We, of course, scoff at this, but there are potent arguments that should influence even our profound wisdom—sanitary reasons, the health of the living; economical reasons, the much-reduced expense; even sentimental reasons, the possibility of preserving the remains from desecrating touch. Most powerful of all in its favor is the prevention of premature burial. All these are on the side of cremation, and against it is but one—sentiment. It seems more beautiful to lay our friends to rest, softly pillowed, shrouded in satin, inclosed in rose-wood, covered with flowers, and of anything beyond we refuse to think. We erect the imposing marble, set out the blossoming plant, and carry flowers to the spot. The cemetery appeals more strongly to the sentiment than does the crematory. I find no fault with sentiment, but I say it will more appropriately cling around an urn containing the pure ashes of what was once a loved form than about the unmentionable and unimaginable horrors covered by our flowers.

Moreover, it is to be regretted that we can not rise to the height of Christian philosophy attained by one we call "heathen," and embodied in a poem, some lines of which are quoted above, with a few more of which I will close:

"Loving friends! be wise, and dry
Straightway every weeping eye.
What ye lift upon the bier
Is not worth a single tear.

Cease your tears, and let it lie;
It was mine, it is not I."