I try not to comment on recent memorials but this one deserves a nod.
A small brass plaque, I noticed it fixed to a stone-built seat and viewing station on a Welsh hilltop beside a popular walking trail.
It takes its lyrics from ‘Ramble on’, a song from Led Zeppelin II released in 1969. It commemorates a young man who was born when the song was 18 years old, and who died in his twenties, hardly enough time to enjoy the long-term rambling that the song relates. Perhaps he liked the song, and/or maybe his family liked it. Possibly it related to specific events, and/or perhaps the song evoked the personality of the deceased. Maybe it was poignant to the circumstances of the young man’s death.
The tale isn’t told for us viewers, we are left to guess.
We need to know that the man is missed and was mourned, but not the details of the choice of lyric to accompany this plaque.
Still, it seems important to the survivors that we know the performers of the song from whence the lyrics came. The song is a connection between the dead person and specific living people: family and friends, but we are given sufficient clues to locate the lyrics and thus to understand the original context, and therefore by reading it we can appreciate its adaption for the memorial context. This is because the lyrics are not seemingly about death in their original context, but about searching for a place to stay, for a girl. The rambling leads to an aspired destination….
There are plenty of other Led Zeppelin lyrics one might have deployed had a straightforward memorial and spiritual statement wished to have been made. This is a surprising (to me, at least) choice.
Precise, optimistic and specific, the lyric bears no maudlin sentiment, but instead it one lifted from the song and placed carefully from its context for a memorial environment and its outdoor walking location. Perhaps this was a favourite spot for the young man and his family, where his rambling onward can be imagined, and where we are being encouraged to ramble on as he did and he might still…
Visit any cemetery and one will find occasional song lyrics upon gravestones and more on temporary notes left to the dead. This reflects the broader use of rock and popular music at funerals and as digital media for remembrance. Yet few make such a delicate lyrical deployment relating to Middle-Earth, place and movement, the inevitable passing of time, and sentiments of loss, as this modest plaque does.