Thursday, 21 July 2011

Here lies...

My series of posts last year on short forms of writing was incomplete - it covered the shortest of short stories, tiny rhymes, haiku and filthy limerick but didn't finish off with a good epitaph.

The Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse had some excellent examples:

Billy, in one of his nice blue sashes
Fell in the fire and was burned to ashes.;
Now, although the room grows chilly,
I haven't the heart to poke poor Billy.
Harry Graham

Mary Ann has gone to rest,
Safe at last on Abraham's breast,
Which may be nuts for Mary Ann,
But is certainly rough on Abraham.

The perfect place for an epitaph is the gravestone: the last empty page that any of us can hope to write upon ... with no room for superfluous detail. Short of having yourself or your loved one stuffed, how can we immortalise someone who's passed? And can you sum up a life on a piece of granite?

This chap could:

Here lies my wife:
Here let her lie!
Now she's at rest
And so am I.

Ideally, it would be better if you, or someone who actually liked you were left this task. W.B Yeats took no chances by writing his own:

Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!

But one wonders if the deceased would have approved sometimes:

"Here lies Lester Moore,
Four slugs from a forty-four.
No Les,
No Moore."
(Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone)*

"Here lies John Yeast,
Pardon me for not rising."
(Cemetary in Ruidoso, New Mexico)*

Perhaps the most famous tombstone inscription (although it has been used several times before his death - perhaps by fans who pre-deceased him) is Spike Milligan's:

'I told you I was ill.'

Interestingly, the inscription had to be written in Gaelic to be approved by the Chichester Diocese)

So what would you like to see on your gravestone? Or, indeed, mine?

* Both sourced from Funny and Famous Tombstone Epitaphs

Book: Gravestones, Tombs and Memorials: Symbols, Styles & Epitaphs (England's Living History)


  1. Dave: inventor of the eternal youth drug. 1954-2242. Sadly missed by his many mistresses.

  2. Or:

    Here Lies Dave
    Aged 105.
    The good die young.

  3. Is every other blogger already dead? Or was it something you said?

  4. I don't know Dave. Did I say something? Does everyone hate me now? Are they all still thinking?


  5. Excuse me if I don't get up

  6. If you can read this, geroff, you're standing on my chest.

  7. I am going to have on mine: 'She came. She saw. She conked out.'

  8. One of my favorite epithets ever (and I wish I could remember where I saw this!) is “Et bad fish.”

    I’m delighted to be a new follower and have left a response to your comment on Bird’s-eye View at

  9. Beastie - Especially for pirates!

    Fran - As you've been Being Miss and Being Me, surely you'd have to go for Being Dead?

    Michelle - Thanks for visiting! Wasn't it Julius Caesar who said "Et two bad fish?" ;-)