Came to Shiloh the same day - The field of battle could not have been at any great distance, for this young man reached Shiloh the same evening after the defeat.
With his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head - These were signs of sorrow and distress among all nations. The clothes rent, signified the rending, dividing, and scattering, of the people; the earth, or ashes on the head, signified their humiliation: "We are brought down to the dust of the earth; we are near to our graves." When the Trojan fleet was burnt, Aeneas is represented as tearing his robe from his shoulder, and invoking the aid of his gods: -
Tum pius Aeneas humeris abscindere vestem,
Auxilioque vocare Deos, et tendere palmas.
Virg. Aen. lib. v., ver. 685.
"The prince then tore his robes in deep despair,
Raised high his hands, and thus address'd his prayer."
We have a remarkable example in the same poet, where he represents the queen of King Latinus resolving on her own death, when she found that the Trojans had taken the city by storm: -
Purpueros moritura manu discindit amictus.
Aen. lib. xii., ver. 603.
She tears with both her hands her purple vest.
But the image is complete in King Latinus himself, when he heard of the death of his queen, and saw his city in flames: -
- It scissa veste Latinus, Conjugis attonitus fatis, urbisque ruina,
Canitiem immundo perfusam pulvere turpans.
Ib., ver. 609.
Latinus tears his garments as he goes.
Both for his public and his private woes:
With filth his venerable beard besmears,
And sordid dust deforms his silver hairs.
We find the same custom expressed in one line by Catullus: -
Canitiem terra, atque infuso pulvere foedans.
Epith. Pelei et Thetidos, ver. 224.
Dishonoring her hoary locks with earth and sprinkled dust.
The ancient Greeks in their mourning often shaved off their hair: -
Τουτο νυ και γερας οιον οΐζυροισι βροτοισι,π
Κειρασθαι τε κομην, βαλεειν τ ' απο δακρυ παρειων.
Hom. Odyss. lib. iv., ver. 197.
"Let each deplore his dead: the rites of wo
Are all, alas! the living can bestow
O'er the congenial dust, enjoin'd to shear
The graceful curl, and drop the tender tear."
And again: -
Κατθεμεν εν λεχεεσσι καθηραντες χροα καλονπ
Ὑδατι τε λιαρῳ και αλειφατι· πολλα δε σ ' αμφιςπ
Δακρυα θερμα χεον Δαναοι, κειροντο τε χαιτας.
Ib., lib. xxiv., ver. 44.
"Then unguents sweet, and tepid streams, we shed;
Tears flow'd from every eye; and o'er the dead
Each clipp'd the curling honors of his head."
The whole is strongly expressed in the case of Achilles, when he heard of the death of his friend Patroclus: -
Ὡς φατο· τον δ ' αχεος νεφεος νεφελη εκαλυψε μελαιναπ
Αμφοτερῃσι δε χερσιν ἑλων κονιν αοθαλοεσσαν,π
Χευατο κακ κεφαλης, χαριεν δ ' ῃσχυνε προσωπον·π
Νεκταρεῳ δε χιτωνι μελαιν ' αμφιζανε τεφρη.
Iliad, lib. xviii., ver. 22.
"A sudden horror shot through all the chief,
And wrapp'd his senses in the cloud of grief.
Cast on the ground, with furious hands he spread
The scorching ashes o'er his graceful head:
His purple garments, and his golden hairs.
Those he deforms with dust, and these with tears."
It is not unusual, even in Europe, and in the most civilized parts of it, to see grief expressed by tearing the hair, beating the breasts, and rending the garments; all these are natural signs, or expression of deep and excessive grief, and are common to all the nations of the world.