After the Dash: Ten Literary Epitaphs
It’s Halloween! In honor of the creepiest of holidays, why not contemplate your own mortality? GOOD TIMES!
Here are ten well-written or interesting conceived final goodbyes from folks (or folks who knew them) who have shuffled off this mortal coil.
1. William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
[Gravestone in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon]
GOOD FREND FOR IESVS SAKE FORBEARE
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOASED HEARE
BLESTE BE Y MAN Y SPARES THES STONES
AND CVRST BE HE THAT MOVES MY BONES
2. Edmund Spenser (1510-1596)
(expecting the second Comminge of our Saviour Christ Jesus)
the body of Edmond Spenser, the Prince of Poets in his time;
whose divine spirit needs no other witness
than the works he left behind him.
3. The Seven-Year-Old Son of Ben Jonson (16th century)
Farewell, thou child of my right hand and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy,
Seven years thou wert lent to me and I thee pay
Exacted by thy fate on the just day.
O, could I lose all father, now. For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon scap’d World’s and flesh’s rage,
And, if no other misery, yet age?
Rest in soft peace and ask’d say here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetrie.
For whose sake, henceforth, all his vows be such
As what he loves may never live too much.
4. Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Excuse my dust.
5. Mrs. Aphra Behn (1640-89)
Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be
Defence enough against Mortality.
6. Alexander Pope
For one who would not be buried in Westminster Abbey:
Heroes and Kings! your distance keep;
In peace let one poor Poet sleep,
Who never flatter’d Folks like you:
Let Horace blush, and Virgil too.
7. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
[translated from Latin]
Here lies the body of Jonathan Swift, Professor of Holy Theology,
Dean of this cathedral church,
where fierce indignation can lacerate his heart no longer.
and, if you can, imitate one who with his utmost strength protected liberty.
8. Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)
The body of
Like the cover of an old book
its contents torn out,
and stripped of its lettering and gilding,
lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be wholly lost,
for it will, as he believed, appear once more,
in a new and more perfect edition,
corrected and amended
by the Author.
9. John Keats
contains all that was Mortal
YOUNG ENGLISH POET
on his Death Bed,
In the Bitterness of his Heart
at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired
these Words to be engraved on his Tomb Stone:
“Here Lies the One
Whose Name Was Writ in Water.”
10. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
[from “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”]
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity’s long broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.