Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Huddington Epitaph

The tiny hamlet of Huddington, Worcestershire, ranks large in my childhood memories.  My father was the rector there in the 1960s and once a fortnight I would accompany him to whatever service was being held that Sunday morning.  I remember being fascinated by the language of Thomas Cranmer, and at an early age learned to distinguish between the services of Matins (Dad stayed in his seat) and Holy Communion (Dad went to stand at the top end of the church.)  And equally fascinated by the sounds and movements of the old harmonium played by, yes, a Miss Treadwell.

Over the pages of these columns an occasional Huddington story may well appear from time to time, for I have a few to tell and there is some juicy history attached to this rural community.  But today the story is not mine but that of one Dom Adrian Fortesque who died in 1653 and is buried under the chancel of the church.  A translation of his Latin epitaph is provided.  Let his story be told.

“Stay, traveller, and in the footprints of one who is dead, trace the path of immortality.

“Here lies Dom Adrian Fortesque, Scion of the Illustrious house of Fortescue of Salden, a man not content to be distinguished by noble birth merely, unless he could enhance the brightness transmitted from his ancestry by the added light of his own virtue.

“Accordingly in early manhood, he bade farewell to parents, friends, fatherland, and travelling through the greater part of Europe in his eagerness to learn, he learned to speak Flemish, French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew so well, that he could teach those languages.

“He not only made himself an accomplished linguist, but perfected himself also in the liberal arts, in the Sublime science of Philosophy and Theology, and in the mysteries of Sacred Literature.

“At last he gained such perfection, that casting far away the redactions of things perishable, he willingly declared war against the world, the flesh and himself, and in this warfare under Christ as his Captain and Leader, having been faithful to this end he won the renown of being victor in fight, martyr in peace, and in both worthy of elevation to Heaven, and to the Altars of the Church.

“At length having fulfilled two and fifty years, full rather of virtue than of age, after he had conquered life by labour, and death by patience he died the 13th of December in the year of Salvation 1653, bequeathing his body to the ground, his Soul to the Heavenly Powers, to all posterity a memorial of the Faith of our forefathers, of glowing love to God and (unclear), in short of a true soldier of Christ.

“Go now, reader, and with what haste you may, follow his footsteps to the world of everlasting bliss.”

You know, they don’t write epitaphs like they used to.

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