Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


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An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

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Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


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Sir Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor, 1818


Death of Lucy

Chapter XXXIV, Death of Lucy

Who comes from the bridal chamber? It is Azrael, the angel of death.


After the dreadful scene that had taken place at the castle, Lucy was transported to her own chamber, where she remained for some time in a state of absolute stupor. Yet afterwards, in the course of the ensuing day, she seemed to have recovered, not merely her spirits and resolution, but a sort of flighty levity, that was foreign to her character and situation, and which was at times chequered by fits of deep silence and melancholy and of capricious pettishness. Lady Ashton became much alarmed and consulted the family physicians. But as her pulse indicated no change, they could say that the disease was on the spirits, and recommended gentle exercise and amusement. Miss Ashton never alluded to what had passed in the state-room. It seemed doubtful even if she was conscious of it, for she was often observed to raise her hands to her neck, as if in search of the ribbon that had been taken from it, and mutter, in surprise and discontent, when she could not find it, "It was the link that bound me to life."

Notwithstanding all these remarkable symptoms, Lady Ashton was too deeply pledged to delay her daughter’s marriage even in her present state of health.

The Marriage takes place, the party goes on, and bride and groom retire to the bridal chamber.

The instruments now played their loudest strains, when a cry was heard so shrill and piercing as at once to arrest the dance and the music. All stood motionless; but when it was again repeated, Colonel Ashton snatched a torch form the sconce, and demanding the key to the bridal-chamber from Henry, to whom, as bride’man, it had been entrusted, rushed thither, followed by Sir William and Lady Ashton, and one or two others, near relations of the family. The bridal guests waited their return in stupefied amazement.

Arrived at the door of the apartment, Colonel Ashton knocked and called, but received no answer except stifled groans. He hesitated no longer to open the door of the apartment, in which he found opposition from something which lay against it. When he had succeeded in opening it, the body of the bridegroom was found lying on the threshold of the bridal chamber, and all around was flooded with blood. A cry of surprise and horror was raised by all present; and the company, excited by this new alarm, began to rush tumultuously towards the sleeping apartment.

Colonel Ashton, first whispered to his mother, "Search for her; she has murdered him!" drew his sword, planted himself in the passage, and declared he would suffer no man to pass excepting the clergyman and a medical person present. By their assistance, Bucklaw, who still breathed, was raised from the ground, and transported to another apartment, where his friends, full of suspicion and murmuring, assembled round him to learn the opinion of the surgeon.

In the meanwhile, Lady Ashton, her husband, and their assistants in vain sought Lucy in the bridal bed and in the chamber. There was no private passage from the room, and they began to think that she must have thrown herself from the window, when one of the company, holding his torch lower than the rest, discovered something white in the corner of the great old-fashioned chimney of the apartment. Here they found the unfortunate girl seated, or rather crouched like a hare upon its form — her head-gear disheveled, her night-clothes torn and dabbled with blood, her eyes glazed, and her features convulsed into wilt paroxysm of insanity. When she saw herself discovered, she gibbered, made mouths, and pointed at them with bloody fingers, with the frantic gestures of an exulting demoniac.

Female assistance was now hastily summoned; the unhappy bride was overpowered, not without the use of some force. As they carried her over the threshold, she looked down, and uttered the only articulate words that she had yet spoken, saying, with a sort of grinning exultation, "So you have ta’en up your bonny bridegroom?" She was, by the shuddering assistants, conveyed to another and more retired apartment, where she was secured as her situation required, and closely watched. The unutterable agony of the parents, the horror and confusion of all who were in the castle, the fury of contending passions between friends of the different parties — passions augmented by previous intemperance — surpass description.

The surgeon was the first to obtained something like a patient hearing; he pronounced that the wounds of Bucklaw, though severe and dangerous, was by no means fatal, but might readily be rendered so by disturbance and hasty removal. This silenced the numerous party of Bucklaw’s friends, who had previously insisted that he should, at all rated, be transported from the castle to one of houses. They still demanded, however, that in consideration of what had happened, four of their number should remain to watch over the sick-bed of their friend, and that a suitable number of their domestic, well armed, should also remain in the castle. This condition being acceded to on the part of Colonel Ashton and his father, the rest of the bridegroom’s friends left the castle, notwithstanding the hour and the darkness of the night. The care of the medical man were next employed in behalf of Miss Ashton, whom he pronounced to be in a very dangerous state. Farther medical assistance was immediately summoned. All night she remained delirious.

On the morning, she fell into a state of absolute insensibility. The next evening, the physicians said, would be the crisis of her malady. It proved so; for although she awoke from her trance with some appearance of calmness, and suffered her night-clothes to be changed, or put in order, yet as soon as she put her hand to her neck, as it to search for the fatal blue ribbon, a tide of recollections seemed to rush upon her, which her mind and body alike incapable of bearing. Convulsion followed convulsion, till they closed in death, without her being able to utter a word explanatory of the fatal scene.


Adrienne Nater, 2008

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