Some parts may perish; die thou canst not all:
The most of Thee shall scape the funeral.
Robert Herrick, Hesperides (1648).
Poetry is funny that way: you never know where you are headed next.
As it turns out, Herrick derived his thought from two lines of one of Horace's Odes: "I shall not all die, and a large part of me will escape the Goddess of Death." Horace, Odes, Book III, Ode XXX. Tom Cain and Ruth Connolly (editors), The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick, Volume II (Oxford University Press 2013), page 675. Here is a verse translation:
I shall not wholly die: large residue
Shall 'scape the queen of funerals.
Horace (translated by John Conington), in The Odes and Carmen Saeculare of Horace (Fifth Edition 1872).
Kenneth Rowntree, "Old Toll Bar House, Ashopton" (1940)
But this was not the end of the journey. On the opposite page, I noticed this:
Great Spirits Supervive
Our mortal parts may wrapt in seare-cloths lie:
Great Spirits never with their bodies die.
Robert Herrick, Hesperides (1648) (italics in original).
"Supervive" means "survive." OED. "Seare-cloths" is a variant spelling of "cerecloth," which is defined as: "cloth smeared or impregnated with wax or some glutinous matter: (1) used for wrapping a dead body in; a waxed winding-sheet or a winding-sheet in general." Ibid.
Is this whistling past the graveyard? I have no theological agenda, nor do I have a sectarian bone to pick. However, something has always told me that we all possess a soul (for lack of a better word -- and it is, actually, a fine word), a soul whose fate is beyond our ken.
As to the "Great Spirit" part: well, none of us are in a position to lay claim to that epithet, are we? Something unknown, inscrutable, and silent makes that determination. I do know this: if you come to believe that you are a "Great Spirit," then you most certainly are not.
Kenneth Rowntree, "The Livermore Tombs, Barnston, Essex" (1940)
Something about "Great Spirits never with their bodies die" rang a bell. When Herrick italicizes a phrase it signals that he has obtained it from another source, usually classical or Biblical. Cain and Connolly, in their thorough annotations to Hesperides, do not, however, identify a source for this phrase.
But I have a thought. As long-time (and much-appreciated!) readers will recall, I spent some time earlier this year wandering through The Greek Anthology. I do not have the scholarly credentials to claim the following epigram as the source for Herrick's phrase, but it does provide an interesting parallel:
In sacred sleep here virtuous Saon lies;
'Tis ever wrong to say a good man dies.
Callimachus (translated by William Dodd), in The Hymns of Callimachus, Translated from the Greek into English Verse, with Explanatory Notes (1755).
An alternative translation:
Here Saon, wrapp'd in holy slumber, lies:
Thou canst not say, the just and virtuous dies.
Callimachus (translated by John Merivale), in Henry Wellesley (editor), Anthologia Polyglotta: A Selection of Versions in Various Languages, Chiefly from The Greek Anthology (1849).
Thus ends this week's journey.
Kenneth Rowntree, "Bridge to Cox's Farm, Ashopton" (1940)