A few weeks ago, someone uploaded this memorial bench to our site:
It is a perfectly pleasant little memorial poem. I wondered about its origins.
A quick search shows that the opening couplet was used on war graves from 1916. But are its origins any earlier than that?
One of the problems of trying to search old records - especially newspapers - is that text recognition isn't particularly effective.
But the British Newspaper Archive has these examples from 1900:
The poem is different - and much less secular.
I wasn't able to find anything earlier than the year 1900.
Websites have variations of the poem, suggesting it might be from earlier.
Dennis Townsend's headstone is cut with a family dedication that in one form or another has been in use from the late Victorian period - The cup was bitter the loss severe to part with one we loved so dear.
The Thurmaston Military Indexes
That search took me back to 1891:
By searching variations, it's possible to find this from 1885:
The following is the epitaph : The cup was bitter, the sting severe. To part with one we loved so dear
The inscription can also be found on the Saunders Mausoleum in St Pancras & Islington Cemetery.
John Daniel Saunders died in the 1870s - but the inscription may be from after the death of Mary Saunders, his wife, in 1888.
There's a similar vintage inscription recorded in "Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art (Volume 29)"
Google books thinks the phrase appears in 1857's Designs for Christian Memorials. But doesn't have a searchable PDF.
There is a searchable 1886 edition - but that doesn't contain the phrase.
The phrase pops up around the world - newspaper archives suggest it was popular in New Zealand. It also appears in the British cemeteries in Quetta, Baluchistan, Pakistan in 1888:
At which point, the trail goes cold. At least for my limited resources. How curious that a snippet of a poem from nearly 150 years ago still resonates today.