- Project Runeberg -  Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark /
73

(1889) [MARC] Author: Mary Wollstonecraft With: Henry Morley
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A desire of preserving the body seems to have
prevailed in most countries of the world, futile as it is to
term it a preservation, when the noblest parts are
immediately sacrificed merely to save the muscles, skin,
aud bone from rottenness. When I was shown these
human petrifactions, I shrank back with disgust and
horror. "Ashes to ashes!" thought I——"Dust to
dust!" If this be not dissolution, it is something
worse than natural decay——it is treason against
humanity, thus to lift up the awful veil which would
fain hide its weakness. The grandeur of the active
principle is never more strongly felt than at such a
sight, for nothing is so ugly as the human form when
deprived of life, and thus dried into stone, merely to
preserve the most disgusting image of death. The
contemplation of noble ruins produces a melancholy
that exalts the mind. We take a retrospect of the
exertions of man, the fate of empires and their rulers,
and marking the grand destruction of ages, it seems
the necessary change of time leading to improvement.
Our very soul expands, and we forget our littleness——
how painfully brought to our recollection by such vain
attempts to snatch from decay what is destined so soon
to perish. Life, what art thou? Where goes this
breath?——this I, so much alive? In what element
will it mix, giving or receiving fresh energy? What
will break the enchantment of animation? For worlds
I would not see a form I loved——embalmed in my heart
——thus sacrilegiously handled? Pugh! my stomach
turns. Is this all the distinction of the rich in the
grave? They had better quietly allow the scythe of

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