Tucked away in a secluded corner of the St Werburgh’s Cathedral churchyard a curious piece of poetry lies forgotten.
Regrettably, the churchyard was flattened in the latter half of the 20th century (see photograph of the original graveyard below); its gravestones were torn out and laid down as the paving that surrounds the memorial garden we see today.
One such tombstone, set apart from the others, once marked the grave of a Mr John Bowden. His son, also called John, decided to memorialise his father’s passing with a unique poem. Though a tad morose and not lacking in religious austerity, the text makes use of some especially powerful imagery, with even a supposed address from the deceased gent himself to the living reader, and is yet another example of Chester’s unique and unusual heritage.
For the good of the Reader
over the remains of JOHN BOWDEN
who departed this Life April 23rd 1772
aged 56 years
My long afflicted Father dear,
Whose gross material Part lies here,
At length has ta’en flight;
In Christ redeem’d , who Spirit’s Pow’r
Hath sav’d him in the trying Hour,
Into a World of Light.’
Yet still he shall (the dead) proclaim
The Truth in his Redeemer’s Name:
Turn not your Ears away;
Ye thoughtless Souls he calls on you;
Believe th’important Accents true,
While thus ye hear him say:
“Death (thro Disease) hath struck the stroke;
My slender Thead of Life is broke:
Reader to thee I cry,
“One sudden stroke may snatch thee hence
“From all the Joys of Flesh and Sense,
Therefore prepare to die.
“O Sons of Adam, know your Fall,
“And Seeing Grace extends to All,
“Cast all your Sins away:
“Repent, believe and be BORN AGAIN,
“Or all the flatt’ring Hopes are vain,
“To reign in Endless Day.”
Also JOHN BOWDEN
Author of the above Lines
Died Sepᶧ 1818 aged 77 years.
Do you know anything more about the lives of these intriguing and departed Cestrians? Or do you know of any other unusual inscriptions in the city?