You, that decipher out the Fate
Of humane Off-springs from the Skies,
What mean these Infants which of late
Spring from the Starrs of Chlora's Eyes?

Her Eyes confus'd, and doubled ore,
With Tears suspended ere they flow;
Seem bending upwards, to restore
To Heaven, whence it came, their Woe:

When, molding off the watry Sphears,
Slow drops unty themselves away;
As if she, with those precious Tears,
Would strow the ground where Strephon lay.

Yet some affirm, pretending Art,
Her Eyes have so her Bosome drown'd,
Only to soften near her Heart
A place to fix another Wound.

And, while vain Pomp does her restrain
Within her solitary Bowr,
She courts her self in am'rous Rain;
Her self both Danae and the Shower.

Nay others, bolder, hence esteem
Joy now so much her Master grown,
That whatsoever does but seem
Like Grief, is from her Windows thrown.

Nor that she payes, while she survives,
To her dead Love this Tribute due;
But casts abroad these Donatives,
At the installing of a new.

How wide they dream! The Indian Slaves
That sink for Pearl through Seas profound,
Would find her Tears yet deeper Waves
And not of one the bottom sound.

I yet my silent Judgment keep,
Disputing not what they believe:
But sure as oft as Women weep,
It is to be suppos'd they grieve.

--Andrew Marvell

Why is black worn for mourning?

When we mourn the death of a relative, we naturally wear black. However, many other cultures mourn in other colors. In Japan and China, mourners wear pure white, devoid of makeup. In some sections of Africa, the natives apply red paint to their bodies as a sign of mourning.

The reason we wear black is simply that, according to our traditions, this is the best way to express grief. When we see people dressed in black mourning clothes they look somber and sad, so it seems natural to us that black is the color of mourning clothes.

But have you ever wondered why we wear mourning clothes at all? Of course, we do it as a mark of love and/or respect for someone who has died. However, in trying to trace mourning clothes back to their roots, scholars have come up with interesting answers.

When we put on mourning clothes, they are usually the reverse of the kinds of clothes we wear everyday. Therefore, it is a kind of disguise. Some people think that our ancient ancestors put on disguises because they were afraid that the spirit which had brought death would return and find them!

This idea might seem pretty far-fetched, if there weren't people who do exactly this today. Among many primitive tribes in various parts of the world, as soon as someone dies, the widow and the other relatives put on all sorts of disguises. Sometimes they cover the body with mud and put on a costume of grass. In other tribes, the women cover their bodies entirely with opaque veils.

So perhaps our black mourning clothes go back to the idea of frightening away spirits or hiding from them. For example, mourning is a period of retirement. We withdraw from our normal activities and life to avoid the spirits.




Most factual information taken from Welbers Encyclopedia, volume 19, page 116.
On the night of Saturday the 25th of March, 2006 (two days ago), three of the members of my year (U6) at school were involved in a car crash. Two were killed, and the other was critically wounded - at the time of writing he's still in hospital, and I don't know his exact condition, but I've heard he's going to be alright. I first heard of this when I walked into the sixth form common room this morning (Monday 27th), which explained why everyone was so silent.

Most of the rest of this morning was spent in a kind of shock. We had a special all-school assembly, in which the headmaster made a speech (along the usual lines, i.e. 'our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims'), which seemed very genuine (usually the head is a bit aloof). We then went back to the common room and sat, not talking. It really started to unsettle me - no-one had anything to say, no condolences to close friends, no he was a great guy stories, nothing. Eventually, one of my friends arrived late (he always arrive late), and after he'd heard the news, pretty much just carried on as normal. I was relieved to be able to talk to someone as if nothing had happened, although we still talked quietly (out of respect I suppose).

Inevitably, someone had a problem with this. One member of my year, who I shall henceforth name Moron #1, had a penchant for being melodramatic - displaying emotion just so people could see how 'compassionate' he was (not that anyone thought it was genuine, as far as I know). He came over and asked why I was talking to my friend - I should be in mourning. I was a bit surprised, but said I didn't see why I couldn't talk to my friend, just like I usually do. This was evidently the wrong response, because immediately I had about five people around me accusing me of not caring about the accident.

At this point, another guy interjected and said beyond a basic feeling of sympathy, he wasn't mourning at all. His argument was that he hardly knew the victims, so why should he have to grieve? He was rapidly accused of being a 'heartless bastard', as was I.

My argument, which I told them at this point, was that I should be able to respond to the accident, to the deaths of some of my classmates, in whichever way I chose. I explained that I did feel sad, that I did feel sympathy for the families of the victims, but that I wasn't willing to let it get in my way of living my life normally. My mum died when I was 4, so I kinda learnt to deal with the death of someone close quite early in my life.

Ultimately, Moron #1 departed the room, calling me 'fucking disgusting', and went to tell the close friends of the victims, who had all sat in a circle in the main part of the common room. After a while, one of these (who I henceforth dub Moron #2) came in, looked at me, said 'You cunt. You complete and utter wanker', and left.

At this point I could hardly believe how I had pissed off half my year. Hadn't I said I had mourned as well? Evidently, Moron #1 had gone and told the rest of the year lies - it's happened many times before. Moron #2 came back in later with someone else, pointed at me, and said something about how I didn't care about the victims. I carefully explained what I'd already said about choosing my own form of mourning, but they just walked off, calling me a wanker.

How are we supposed to respond to death? How should we mourn when it's a distant relative or a vague acquaintance? What about if the victims are our parents or siblings? As shown with the Boxing Day tsunami in SE Asia, it seems we are meant to feel grief for every single death that ever occurs, and feel personally responsible for them. To me, this is absurd. Mild shock, a basic feeling of sympathy, perhaps of horror in cases of violent death, but not all-out public grief.

Calling someone heartless because they won't show their grief in public is absurd, and in my opinion shows how shallow we are with our emotions. Death is sad, but it happens. One should not mourn forever. Will I still be mourning in two months' time? I told Moron #1 today that I would not mourn publicly for more than a morning (which was mostly to do with shock), but I will remember the loss of my classmates for the rest of my life. Is that not enough?

August 2007: The third guy made a full recovery and is awaiting his A-level results, having gone back a year. Most of my peers from school still hate me.

The funeral

one voice cries
and then no more
a lone wolf prowls
along the shore

Mourn"ing, n. [AS. murnung.]


The act of sorrowing or expressing grief; lamentation; sorrow.


Garb, drapery, or emblems indicative of grief, esp. clothing or a badge of somber black.

The houses to their tops with black were spread, And ev'n the pavements were with mourning hid. Dryden.

Deep mourning. See under Deep.


© Webster 1913.

Mourn"ing, a.


Grieving; sorrowing; lamenting.


Employed to express sorrow or grief; worn or used as appropriate to the condition of one bereaved or sorrowing; as, mourning garments; a mourning ring; a mourning pin, and the like.

Mourning bride Bot., a garden flower (Scabiosa atropurpurea) with dark purple or crimson flowers in flattened heads. -- Mourning dove Zool., a wild dove (Zenaidura macroura) found throughout the United States; -- so named from its plaintive note. Called also Carolina dove. See Illust. under Dove. -- Mourning warbler Zool., an American ground warbler (Geothlypis Philadelphia). The male has the head, neck, and chest, deep ash-gray, mixed with black on the throat and chest; other lower parts are pure yellow.


© Webster 1913.

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