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madness, to return, with an intense pathos of
voice and gesture.

In the villages about Naples there are
many pretty funeral customs. The
unmarried, when they die, have a palm leaf;
or failing that, a bunch of flowers, or a sprig
of olive, called the palma, placed in their
clasped hands; and they wear, also, a garland
on the head. The married have their hands
crossed, and a rosary placed in one.

The order of the funeral is a great subject
of care; the people pawn, or incur debt, to
obtain the attendance of a certain number of
priests; to get for the priest a particular
robe; to pay for the chanting of a particular
part of the service; a procession of torches,
and a high mass on the succeeding Sunday.
As I have seen such funeral processions,
winding, with a line of torch-light through
the olive grounds, I have thought often how
literally they repeat a picture which, in the
Eleventh Book of theneid" (l. 144),
Virgil long ago presented. The chanting of
the priests upon the road succeeds the mournful
music of old dwellers in this land upon a
like occasion, and the sprinkling with holy
water after the funeral service has been read,
supplants lustration of the men.

The act of burial is here exceedingly repulsive.
There are the "Confratelli," who are
banded into a kind of burial society. They
have their own ground. In my village they
have an oratorio near the church, of which
the soil is thought so sacred that men who
tread there pick it reverently from their
feet. As space is needed, the Confratelli are
disinterred. A messenger is then sent to the
family to ascertain whether they desire to
preserve the head of the deceased. If they
do, they must send a carlino and a bottle of
vinegar to defray the expenses. The head is
then taken off, and the skull beautifully
polished. The skulls, prepared thus, are
arranged against the walls in various devices,
each with its deceased owner's name written
upon it. At the "Feast of the Dead" two or
more recent skulls from the collection are
laid out on a table in the middle of the
church, with tables and a crucifix. The
friends of the deceased thus honoured pay
extreme devotion in the presence of the
precious relics.

Another mode of burial common in England
also, and everywhere most objectionable,
is the arrangement of bodies in vaults under
the church. A third mode is, I hope, peculiar
to the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In Naples,
as everyone knows, there are three hundred
and sixty-five holes to receive the poor dead
of the city. Here, in this country village,
there are only two, one for infants, one for
adults. The body of the deceased is brought
to the mouth of the pit, and there stripped of
its outer garments. This is done because the
relatives can ill afford to lose them; they
are articles of luxury put on in order that
the dead may make an honourable passage
through the streets. They belong often to
relatives. I know a man to this day who
is always reproached by his enemies as a
heretic, because he would not lend his breeches
to his father's body for the passage from the
chamber to the grave. At the pit's mouth
stand the grave-diggers, who seize the body
carelessly, as though it were a sack of charcoal.
Let anyone look into the pit, if he does
not shrink from the horror, and he will perceive
a large stone or rock, on either side of
which lie human bodies of any sex and age, in
every position and stage of corruption. The
stone is placed there for a purpose. The servant
of the pit, holding the body in a dexterous
position, gives a violent push; you hear it fall
down with a heavy crash upon the rock, and
swerve to right or left, leaving the entrance
free,—a heavy, sickening blow, which beats
the skull in, or breaks dead bones. Let us
change the subject.

There is a custom in the country places
here, which I do not remember to have seen
elsewhere, of abstaining from fire during the
whole time that a corpse is in the house. It
would be a disgrace were smoke to be seen
issuing from the chimney of a house of mourning,
and the fire is frequently not lighted for
some days after the burial. The mourners,
it is supposed, prostrated by their loss, are
unable to think of food; the neighbours,
therefore, think for them. Hence has grown
the custom of sending presents of food to the
house of death. I have known families to be
supplied in this way with a fortnight's stock
of maccaroni, meats, or sweetmeats; all such
presents being cooked to tempt an unwilling
appetite. There is beauty in the custom, but
it dates from heathen times. Juvenal, in his
Third Satire (l. 214), connects hatred of fire with
grief; the hearth was sacred to the household
gods; "a continual fire" was everywhere an old
Roman phrase for a house unvisited by grief.

Among the country people in this neighbourhood,
it is also believed that the dead have
leave to walk on the vigil of the Feast of the
Dead, and then some families, on retiring for
the night, leave food on the table. "We
always used to leave a plate of maccaroni,"
said a woman to me; "and grandmother
used to say, that perhaps grandfather or my
uncles would come and eat it. Though it
was prepared very nicely, and grated cheese
put over it, we always found it untouched
in the morning; but grandmother then said
that the spirits were satiated." This idea was
in the Roman Silicernia, and has been a superstition
in countries widely separated from each
other since the remotest times.

Nearly Ready, Price 5s. 6d., neatly bound in Cloth,
THE FOURTH VOLUME
OF
HOUSEHOLD WORDS.
Containing Nos. 79 to 103 inclusive, (from September 27
1851, to March 13, 1852.)