At the Sign of the Reine Pédauque, by Anatole France

Chapter 22

Funeral and Epitaph

The Vicar of Vallars prepared a worthy funeral for M. Jerome Coignard. He chanted the death mass and gave the benediction.

My good master was carried to the graveyard close by the church; and M. d’Anquetil offered supper at Gaulard’s to all the people who had assisted at the funeral. They drank new wine and sang Burgundian songs.

Afterwards I went with M. d’Anquetil to the vicar to thank him for his good offices.

“Ah!” he said, “that priest has given us a grand consolation by his edifying end. I have seldom seen a Christian die in such admirable sentiments, and I think it fit to fix his memory by a suitable inscription on his tombstone. Both of you, gentlemen, are learned enough to do that successfully, and I engage myself to have the epitaph of the defunct engraved on a large white stone, in the manner and style wherein you compose it. But remember, in making the stone speak, to make it proclaim nothing but the praise of God.”

I begged of him to believe that I should apply all my zeal to this work, and M. d’Anquetil promised to give the matter a gallant and graceful turn.

“I will,” he said, “try to write French verse in the style of M. Chapelle.”

“That’s right!” said the vicar. “But are you not curious to look at my winepress? The wine will be good this year, and I have made enough for my own and my servants’ use. Alas! save for the fleurebers we should have had far more.”

After supper M. d’Anquetil called for ink, and began the composition of his French verses. But he soon became impatient and threw up in the air the pen, ink and paper.

“Tournebroche,” he said, “I’ve made two verses only, and I am not quite sure that they are good. They run as follows:

‘Ci-dessus git monsieur Coignard II faut bien mourir tot ou tard.’”

I replied that the best of it was, that he had noi written a third one.

And I passed the night composing the following epitaph in Latin:

D. O. M. HIC JACET
IN SPE BEATAE AETERNITATIS DOMINUS HIERONYMUS COIGNARD
PRESBYTER
QUONDAM IN BELLOVACENSI COLLEGIO ELOQUENTILE MAGISTER ELOQUENTISSIMU SAGIENSIS EPISCOPI BIBLIOTHECARIUS SOLERTISSIMUS ZOZIMI PANOPOLITANI INGENIOSISSIMUS
TRANSLATOR
OPERE TAMEN IMMATURATA MORTE INTERCEPTO PERIIT ENIM CUM LUGDUNUM PETERET JUDEA MANU NEFANDISSIMA ID EST A NEPOTE CHRISTI CARNIFICUM IN VIA TRUCIDATUS
ANNO AET. LII
COMITATE FUIT OPTIMA DOCTISSIMO CONVITU INGENIO SUBLIMI FACETIIS JUCUNDUS SENTENTTIS PLENUS DONORUM DEI LAUDATOR TIDE DEVOTISSIMA PER MULTAS TEMPESTATlS CONSTANTER MUNITTJS HUMILITATE SANCTISSIMA ORNATUS SALUTI SUAE MAGIS INTENTUS
QUAM VANO ET FALLACI HOMINUM JUDICIO SIC HONORIBUS MUNDANIS NUNQUAM QUIESITIS SIBI GLORIAM SEMPITERNAM MERUIT

which may be translated:

HERE SLEEPS
In the hope of a happy eternity
THE REVEREND JEROME COIGNARD
Priest

Formerly a very eloquent professor of eloquence
At the college of Beauvais
Very zealous librarian to the Bishop of Seez
Author of a fine translation of Zosimus the Panopolitan
Which he unhappily left unfinished
When overtaken by his premature death
He was stabbed on the road to Lyons
In the 52nd year of his age
By the very villainous hand of a Jew
And thus perished the victim of a descendant of the murderer
Of Jesus Christ

He was an agreeable companion
Of a learned conversation
Of an elevated genius
Abounding in cheerful speech and in good maxims
And praising God in his works
He preserved amid the storms of life an unshakable faith
In his truly Christian humility
More attentive to the salvation of his soul
Than to the vain and erroneous opinions of men
It was by living without honour in this world
That he walked towards eternal glory

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:53