“When you my Friend are passing by

And this Inform

 you where I ly

Remember you er’e long

                                               must have

Like me a Mansion in the Grave”

              – Tombstone of Dr. John Johnson, 33, Williamstown

A raven asked me to recall

My means to live before my fall

But turtle doves care not

                                               to sing

Of autumn’s storagethey yearn for spring


I sought to mend, yet found my blood

Beneath this gate of oak and mud

As Mother, Father, God

                                               and Friend

Enwraps my corpse with wounds, His end


A friend of Abram, kin to Job

Recounts redeeming fast and woe

For bores from which His pus

                                               had gone

Now shines, the balm for which we long


This Hut of Dirt entombs my bones

Yet holds them for my hope of thrones

Abandoned now as e-

                                               very man

Forgets himself to crown the Lamb


I wrote this poem in the fall of 2021 after cleaning graves around All Souls’ Day for a little while with friends, which was cut short by our rags decomposing into worn strips of dirty cloth. I found Dr. John Johnson’s tombstone and was so struck by his epitaph that I took pictures of it and expanded on it to create this poem that evening. (Dr. Johnson, if you’re reading this, I hope you’ll appreciate my stealing your thunder as a form of reflection on the theme wrought on your tombstone.) There are no records of him anywhere (which I could find on the Internet) except the Commonwealth’s record of his death at the age of 33 on May 8, 1782.

I don’t yearn for death. Very few people do. With this poem, I intended to help myself see death as a “gate” into something genuinely worthy of longing, a “Mansion in the Grave,” because of the bodily life, suffering, and death of the very Lamb of God. Death, that ugly dirt hut, has been remodeled by Christ the Carpenter! Even as germs and worms chew through our rotting organs, Christian death has become an invitation into a great and eternal adventure! Let us live and die with vigorous joy.


Nicolas Jay Schroeter ’22 majored in Classics and Religion with a concentration in Jewish Studies. He’s a Catholic (convert), a Texan, a vegetarian, and not a blogger. He misses yellow grass and frito chili pie. Racial reparations are necessary.