Beneath aged yew trees, close to the church tower door, a grey gravestone stands. It leans a little but perhaps not so much as it should, all things considered.
The slate is splattered with bright splashes of silver coloured lichen. The stone seems flat grey in bright sunlight but step into the shade and lightly etched words appear. Though their edges blur these days fingertips can trace their outlines more easily than eyes can find them. The meaning of the words however is as sharp and clear cut as they were ever meant to be on the day that they were carved.
departed this life
12th July 1768
“Farewell vain world I’ve had enough of thee
Now am Careless what thou sayest of me
Thy smiles I Court not
Nor thy frowns I fear
My cares are Past
My head lies quiet Here.”
I have tried in vain to find some details to fill out that wispy insubstantial image of a man that I imagine when I pass his resting place. When I say wispy however don’t mistake that I think he was in any way hollow, anyone who chooses to have such an inscription as their last word on life is no shrinking violet. It is just that for someone who loves research and prides herself on finding things out (the obscurer the better) Mr Tresidder has left me very little to go on. The words on his grave speak to me of courage and defiance. He has defied all my attempts to find out who he was.
The author and the original source of the words is lost also, but for a period of time in the 18th and 19th centuries they could be found on the many and various headstones of the dearly departed; from widows and wealthy earls to suicide victims and lost causes. Whether it was a poem written in grief or despair, or perhaps one written in scorn, it doesn’t matter, even two and a half centuries later I think the words speak to our nature and to our own fears.
So maybe it doesn’t matter that I can’t pin down who William Tresidder was, his last words still echo through my life without the man to attribute them too. And for someone who is trying to learn to be a writer it goes to illustrate the power of the written word even nearly 300 years later.