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Epitaph Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Epitaph by Emily Dickinson
  2. Excerpt from Elegy in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray
  3. Epitaph on a Child by Thomas Gray
  4. Epitaph on William Muir by Robert Burns
  5. Epitaph in Bookish Style by Ben Franklin
  6. Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. An EPITAPH On my dear and ever honoured Mother Mrs. Dorothy Dudley by Anne Bradstreet
  8. An Epitaph on a Robin-Redbreast by Samuel Rogers
  9. The Knight's Epitaph by William Cullen Bryant
  10. The Universal Epitaph by John Clare
  11. Epitaph on an Infant by Richard Coe

  1. Epitaph

    by Emily Dickinson

    Step lightly on this narrow spot!
    The broadest land that grows
    Is not so ample as the breast
    These emerald seams enclose.

    Step lofty; for this name is told
    As far as cannon dwell,
    Or flag subsist, or fame export
    Her deathless syllable.

  2. Excerpt from Elegy in a Country Churchyard

    by Thomas Gray

    THE EPITAPH.

    Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth,
    A youth, to Fortune and to Fame unknown:
    Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
    And Melancholy marked him for her own.

    Large was his bounty and his soul sincere,
    Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
    He gave to Misery (all he had) a tear;
    He gained from Heaven ('t was all he wished) a friend.

    No farther seek his merits to disclose,
    Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
    (There they alike in trembling hope repose),
    The bosom of his Father, and his God.

  3. Epitaph on a Child

    by Thomas Gray

    Here, freed from pain, secure from misery, lies
    A child, the darling of his parents' eyes:
    A gentler lamb n'er sported on the plain,
    A fairer flower will never bloom again:
    Few were the days allotted to his breath;
    Now let him sleep in peace his night of death.

  4. Epitaph on William Muir

    by Robert Burns

    An honest man here lies at rest,
    As e'er God with his image blest;
    the friend of man, the friend of truth,
    The friend of age, and guide of youth:
    Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd,
    Few heads with knowledge so informed;
    If there is another world, he lives in bliss;
    If there is none, he made the best of this.

  5. Epitaph in Bookish Style

    by Ben Franklin

    The Body of Benjamin Franklin (Printer)
    (Like the cover of an old book
    Its contents torn out
    And stript of its lettering and gilding)
    Lies here, food for worms.
    But the work shall not be lost
    For it will (as he believed) appear once more
    In a new and more elegant edition
    Revised and corrected
    by
    The Author.

  6. Requiem

    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Under the wide and starry sky
    Dig the grave and let me lie:
    Glad did I live and gladly die,
    And I laid me down with a will.

    This be the verse you grave for me:
    Here he lies where he long'd to be;
    Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
    And the hunter home from the hill.

  7. An EPITAPH On my dear and ever honoured Mother Mrs. Dorothy Dudley

    by Anne Bradstreet

    A worthy Matron of unspotted life,
    A loving Mother and obedient wife,
    A friendly Neighbor, pitiful to poor,
    Whom oft she fed, and clothed with her store;
    To Servants wisely aweful, but yet kind,
    And as they did, so they reward did find:
    A true Instructer of her Family,
    The which she ordered with dexterity.
    The publick meetings ever did frequent,
    And in her Closet constant hours she spent;
    Religious in all her words and wayes,
    Preparing still for death, till end of dayes:
    Of all her Children, Children, liv'd to see,
    Then dying, left a blessed memory.

  8. An Epitaph on a Robin-Redbreast

    by Samuel Rogers

    Tread lightly here, for here, 'tis said,
    When piping winds are hush'd around,
    A small note wakes from underground,
    Where now his tiny bones are laid.
    No more in lone and leafless groves,
    With ruffled wing and faded breast,
    His friendless, homeless spirit roves;
    Gone to the world where birds are blest!
    Where never cat glides o'er the green,
    Or school-boy's giant form is seen;
    But Love, and Joy, and smiling Spring
    Inspire their little souls to sing!

  9. The Knight's Epitaph

    by William Cullen Bryant

    THIS is the church which Pisa, great and free,
    Reared to St. Catharine. How the time-stained walls,
    That earthquakes shook not from their poise, appear
    To shiver in the deep and voluble tones
    Rolled from the organ! Underneath my feet
    There lies the lid of a sepulchral vault.
    The image of an armed knight is graven
    Upon it, clad in perfect panoply—
    Cuishes, and greaves, and cuirass, with barred helm,
    Gauntleted hand, and sword, and blazoned shield.
    Around, in Gothic characters, worn dim
    By feet of worshippers, are traced his name,
    And birth, and death, and words of eulogy.
    Why should I pore upon them? This old tomb,
    This effigy, the strange disused form
    Of this inscription, eloquently show
    His history. Let me clothe in fitting words
    The thoughts they breathe, and frame his epitaph.

    "He whose forgotten dust for centuries
    Has lain beneath this stone, was one in whom
    Adventure, and endurance, and emprise
    Exalted the mind's faculties and strong
    The body's sinews. Brave he was in fight,
    Courteous in banquet, scornful of repose,
    And bountiful, and cruel, and devout,
    And quick to draw the sword in private feud.
    He pushed his quarrels to the death, yet prayed
    The saints as fervently on bended knees
    As ever shaven cenobite. He loved
    As fiercely as he fought. He would have borne
    The maid that pleased him from her bower by night,
    To his hill-castle, as the eagle bears
    His victim from the fold, and rolled the rocks
    On his pursuers. He aspired to see
    His native Pisa queen and arbitress
    Of cities; earnestly for her he raised
    His voice in council, and affronted death
    In battle-field, and climbed the galley's deck,
    And brought the captured flag of Genoa back,
    Or piled upon the Arno's crowded quay
    The glittering spoils of the tamed Saracen.
    He was not born to brook the stranger's yoke,
    But would have joined the exiles, that withdrew
    For ever, when the Florentine broke in
    The gates of Pisa, and bore off the bolts
    For trophies—but he died before that day.

    "He lived, the impersonation of an age
    That never shall return. His soul of fire
    Was kindled by the breath of the rude time
    He lived in. Now a gentler race succeeds,
    Shuddering at blood; the effeminate cavalier,
    Turning from the reproaches of the past,
    And from the hopeless future, gives to ease,
    And love, and music, his inglorious life."

  10. The Universal Epitaph

    by John Clare

    No flattering praises daub my stone,
    My frailties and my faults to hide;
    My faults and failings all are known—
    I liv'd in sin—in sin I died.
    And oh! condemn me not, I pray,
    You who my sad confession view;
    But ask your soul, if it can say,
    That I'm a viler man than you.

  11. Epitaph on an Infant

    by Richard Coe

    Stranger, pause and shed a tear
    Upon this humble sod;
    A little babe reposeth here—
    Its spirit dwells with God:
    Whose precious word to us is given,
    "Of such the kingdom is of heaven!"