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Poetry Guide: Epitah

An epitaph (literally: "on the grave" in ancient Greek) is text honoring the dead, most commonly inscribed on a tombstone or plaque. Traditionally an epitaph is in verse, but there are exceptions.

Some poets have been known to compose their own epitaphs prior to their death.

Famous Epitaphs

O xein', angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti täde/
keimetha tois keinon rhämasi peithomenoi!

Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by
that here, obedient to their laws we lie —Simonides's epigram at Thermopylae

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today

The Kohima Epitaph which is on the World War II War Memorial for the Allied fallen at the battle of Kohima. Attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958), an English classicist, suggested for the memorial by Major John Etty-Leal, the GSO II of the 2nd Division, another classical scholar.

Hodie mihi, cras tibi - (Famous Latin epitaph: mine today, yours tomorrow).

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
But cursed be he that moves my bones. — (From the grave of William Shakespeare).

Nature, and nature's laws,
Lay hid in night,
God said, let Newton be!
And all was light. — from the grave of Newton, a poem from Alexander Pope

SWIFT has sailed into his rest;
Savage indignation there
Cannot lacerate his breast.
Imitate him if you dare,
World-besotted traveller; he
Served human liberty. — by and for Jonathan Swift, translated from latin by William Butler Yeats

Stranger by the roadside, do not smile
When you see this grave, though it is only a dog's,
My master wept when I died, and his own hand
Laid me in earth and wrote these lines on my tomb. — (unknown origin)

This Grave
contains all that was mortal
of a
on his Death-Bed
in the Bitterness of his heart
at the Malicious Power of his enemies
desired these words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone
FEB 24 1821 — John Keats

Here lies one of the most intelligent animals who ever appeared on the face of the earth. — (Benito Mussolini)

Never Born, Never Died—Only visited this planet Earth between December 11, 1931 and January 19,1990. — (Rajneesh)

That's all folks! — (Mel Blanc)

Love Will Tear Us Apart — (Ian Curtis)

Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite — (Spike Milligan, translation: "I told you I was ill")

J. R. R. Tolkien is buried next to his wife, and on their tombstone the names "Beren" and "Lúthien" are engraved, a fact that sheds light on the love story of Beren and Lúthien which is recorded in several versions in his works.

3.14159265358979323846264338327950288... - Ludolph van Ceulen, he was so proud of his achievement, computing π (pi) to 35 digits, that he ordered it to be inscribed on his tombstone.

Other Epitaphs

Beware ye people passing by,
As you are now, so once was I,
And as I am now, so must you be,
Prepare for death and follow me. — (Birdville Cemetary, Haltom City, Texas)

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