Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Jarvis Holiday: "Are you digging on my grave" in Paris

Ah, are you digging on my grave: - by Thomas Hardy

Ah, are you digging on my grave
My loved one?--planting rue?"
--"No; yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
'It cannot hurt her now,' he said,
That I 'should not be true.'"
Then who is digging on my grave?
My nearest dearest kin?"
--"Ah, no; they sit and think, 'What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death's gin.'"
But someone digs upon my grave?
My enemy?--prodding sly?"
--"Nay; when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie."
Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say--since I have not guessed!"
--"0 it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?"
Ah, yes! You dig upon my grave . . .
Why flashed it not on me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among humankind
A dog's fidelity!"

Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting-place."

Just a bit of Thomas Hardy's dark humour to set the tone for Saturdays adventure - a trip to Cimitière Père Lachaise. We went to visit this cemetery when we were in Paris 2 years ago. During our last visit, we got a late start on the day and arrived at the Cemetery about an hour and a half before closing time. We hurried in the heat of that Paris summer (over 30 degrees) to find the various famous people buried in this cemetery. As luck would have it, and in typical Parisien style, we were evicted from the cemetery 15 minutes before closing time before we had finished our tour, and at a gate with which we were unfamiliar. This left us a bit disoriented and lost. An unfinished visit. Eric wanted to go back again this time so we could find the graves we missed the first time. Thankfully for us, we had a more strategic agenda (just 4 head stones to find) and we arrived with enough time to see them all. Our agenda included Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Moliere, and Chopin. Here is a photograph of the layout of Pere Lachaise with over 70 markers to indicate it's most famous residents.

This tomb, although simple caught my eye. Some people consider Pere Lachaise a gallery of death statues, so this unassuming marker with simple plants growing all along it's borders may seem a bit out of place. For me however, it seems more fitting. The rows and rows of grandiose statues, and mausoleums full of dead flowers and corny trinkets really doesn't speak to me. However, something living and growing, now that feels more in keeping with the cycle of life.

The kids in front of a very large mausoleum.  At first we thought it was a chapel.  
The most important thing about this photo is Hebe's reaction.  She wears her emotions on her sleeve.  
Check out her assessment of our trip to Pere Lachaise. 

Her distain for this activity started with a protest before we even got inside the gates. That protest included the emphatic statement--"I'm not going there. I hate you. I'm going to kill you." It would have been completely appropriate had she held her thought until we got to the corner of the cemetery called Le Mur des Fédérés or the Wall of the Communards. Or simply as I call it the firing squad wall. "For the record, the Federates (Communards) were the people of Paris who took over the city in 1871 following the debacle to the Prussians. Twenty thousand Communards (some claim many more) were massacred during la semaine sanglante (the bloody week) of May 22-28. The last act of the tragedy was played out among the vaults of the cemetery when 147 men, women and youths picked at random were lined up against the aforementioned wall and shot by a firing squad before being thrown into a common pit with 871 other victims shot in the vicinity." We did pay a visit to this section of the cemetery, (the firing squad wall) but luckily for me at that moment Hebe's mouth was full of a Carambar, and she no longer wanted to kill me.

If you want to know more about the Pere Lachaise cemetery check out this funny article. https://bonjourparis.com/archives/pere-lachaise-communards-wall/

Our main objective of this visit was to see the grave of Frederique Chopin.  We were not disappointed this time.  Rebecca and Thomas told us the story of one of their classmates who is a concert pianist.  When he visited this grave last year on a school trip, he wept. I guess Thomas Hardy's cynical view is not held by all.
There are still some who come to reverence and remember, although perhaps not dig on loved one's graves.  

I couldn't help but take a photo of this awesome book headstone.  My favourite in the whole cemetery. Don't you think Kelvin Sr would love this one.  Just putting that out there for a time in the future when we discuss a marker for dad's grave.  
Finally on the path that leads out of the cemetery, much to Hebe's delight.

This trip to Pere Lachaise we got smart. We started our tour at Metro station Gambetta and finised up at metro station Pere Lachaise. If you ever visit this site, I would highly recommend this route. You begin at the highest point of the cemetery and walk downhill all the way to the primary exit. A much more leisurely stroll going downhill, and on a cool day like today, makes for a pleasant outing.

A bag of Carambar toffee didn't hurt either.

Our final activity for the day was a trip out to EuroDisney Park for dinner with the Petelo Family.  Mama Coco, Chennai, Jacques, Maxime and Écarl (otherwise known as Carl).  During our last visit with Sister Petelo two years ago, she kept speaking of Maxime et Carl.  In my attempts to follow the conversation, I thought she was calling her grandson Écarl.  Everyone thought that was pretty funny.  
Learning french is not my forté.


  1. I've never thought to taking anyone on a tour of a graveyard. Well, maybe the thought has come to me, but it is because I read that there is an historic graveyard right around old Silver City, just when you begin to cross the Rocky Mountain Trench when driving east toward Golden. Every time I drive by there, I want to take a detour and check that out.

    The only graveyard tours I have ever given have been over on 4th street and those are very short and only include close relatives.

    Listening to how Hebe reacts, I can see that most excellent treat bags are necessary for the tour.

    And perhaps a poetry lesson on "are you digging on my grave".