Epitaph of Bernard Fry, surgeon, in St. Mary’s graveyard, Stafford

Resurrectional doggerel for these dark days.

A criminal friend’s community sentence some years ago consisted of cleaning gravestones, and Dr. Fry’s could do with a rub. Fortunately there is a photo from a few years ago of this monument, which is Grade-II listed for the short term while the Deity deals with Eternity. A transcript:

Mr. BERNARD FRY, Surgeon
died January 28, 1827, Aged 40.

When Typhus in the Stafford Poor-house raged,
FRY, like an Angel, strave the bane t’expel,
To that kind feeling, which his zeal engaged,
For saving others, he a victim fell.
Could strict integrity with faith sincere,
Or valued usefulness, have Death withstood,
His skill, assiduous in its ample sphere,
Had length of days employed in doing good.
He fell, bewail’d in life’s meridian hour,
[Verb?] with joy when Christ who came to save,
From heaven descending cloath’d with quick’ning power,
Shall call Death’s captives from the silent grave,
Then joys of Providence, now dark to sight,
All perfect will appear in glory’s light.

For some reason I associate “quicken,” to resurrect or animate, with the 18th century Methodist revival, and it seems that Dr. Fry was a Dissenter, though a Unitarian. “Strave” as preterite of “strive” instead of “strove” strikes me as far northern, but what do I know. There is apparently also a memorial to Thomas Hawthorne who died in 1829 under similar circumstances, but I don’t think it is versified, so it doesn’t count.

St. Mary’s, Stafford, is an excellent church – architecturally interesting without being perilous, well-proportioned and thus lived-in, and with a splendid Norman font. It has two old organs, the best of which is at the west end. Some think this inconvenient for the choir, but relocation of the altar westwards in order to direct prayer to New York and all that is good in the world might solve that. David Gleeson’s cobbler glass is excellent, but the addition of big cheap labels to his gorgeous Stations of the Cross is most unfortunate. Religion needs to be reasonably inaccessible. Which said, I hope one day to find the doors of St. Chad’s open.

RIP JV, nurse, 1932-2018.

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