Some epitaphs hint at an interesting story. Here is one in the Cathedral Church-yard, Chichester, England, belonging to a soldier who fought in many battles but whose greates battle was against sin. We do not know what types of sins tempted him or how successful he was in avoiding them.
To the Memory of HENRY CASE, a Marine, who served on the glorious 1st of June, 1794, aged 28 years.
Here lies a true soldier, whom all must applaud,
Much hardships he suffered at home and abroad;
But the hardest engagement he ever was in,
Was the battle of Self, in the conquest of Sin.
Some epitaphs almost read like short biographies. Here is one from a church yeard in Bolton, Lancashire which in a few lines summarizes the incredible changes and hardships that this person endured during his life, which coincided with a time of great social turmoil:
TO THE MEMORY OF
THE SERVANT OF GOD.
Was born in London, 1608; came into this town, 1629; married Mary the daughter of James Crompton, of Breight-met, 1635, with whom he lived comfortably 20 years, and begat four sons and six daughters; since then he lived solely till the day of his death. In his time were many great changes and terrible alterations: eighteen years civil wars in England; besides many dreadful sea fights; the crown or command of England changed eight times; Episcopacy laid aside fourteen years; London burnt by the Papists, and more stately built again; Germany wasted 300 miles; 200,000 Protestants murdered; this town thrice stormed, and once taken and plundered. He went through many troubles and divers conditions; found rest, joy, and happiness, only in holiness, the faith, fear, and love of God in Jesus Christ.
He died the 29th of April, 1684.
Come, Lord! Jesus, come quickly!
An epitaph for a sailor lost at sea:
In Kingston Church-yard, Hampshire, England.TO THE
MEMORY OF A SAILOR.
Cease, Neptune, weep not for the brave!
Alas! he is no more;
He’s anchor’d in the silent grave,
Upon his native shore.
IN SANDBACH CHURCII-YARD, ENGLAND.UPON A
MRS. ALICE KITCHING,
Who was born at Nottingham, June 9,1680, and died at Brad wall,
April 18, 1“18.
Receive a treasure, earth, which far outvies The richest ore and gems that in thee rest;
Whilst her fair soul is wing’d for Paradise,
And sings triumphant hymns among the Blest.
This good and faithful servant whilst she liv’d (A brighter title than a Prince or Lord.)
Has now her wages with applause receiv’d,
Is crown’d with double honour and reward.
How sweet her dust! how blooming is her fame!
The standard of true worth in her degree ;
Her friends on this fair stone inscribe her name,
But in their hearts embalm her memory.
Here is an epitaph for a centennarian who was a bit of a scofflaw. She was the most noted poeacer in the area, continuing her activities well passed her one hundredth year. She was cheeky enough to resell the fish she stole to the rightful owners.
Aged 113 years, died in the year 1785,
Of Stud ley-green, Wiltshire, England. Till within a few months of her death, she was able to walk to and from the seat of the Marquis of Lansdown, near three miles from Studley. She had been, and continued, till upwards of one hundred years of age, the most noted poacher in that part of the country; and frequently boasted of selling to gentlemen the fish taken out of their own ponds. Her coffin and shroud she purchased, and kept them in her apartment more than twenty years.
This epitaph to a loving mother and wife is found in St. Lawrence Church-yard, Reading, Berkshire, England.
A loving wife, a tender mother,
A Christian true this stone discover;
Faithful and patient, chaste in love,
Dead to this world, but lives above.
This episode a church year at Stonehouse, near Plymouth, Devon,
England tells a tragic story in just a few lines. This girl appears to have died in child birth after becoming pregnant at a very young age.
TO THE MEMORY OF A GIRL,
Who unfortunately and improperly entered into the conjugal state at 12 years of age.
Twelve years I was a maid,
Twelve months I was a wife,
One hour I was a mother,
And so I end my life.
In St. Martin’s Church-yard, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England:
How short the date of human things!
How transient are its joys!
The flower that in the morning springs,
The evening blast destroys.
An epitaph in Yarmouth Church-yard, Norfolk, England:
I have tasted of pleasure,
I have tasted of pain;
I know by experience This world is but vain.
So now I take leave Of its sorrows and joys;
For God hath appointed That all men must die.
In Andover Church-yard, Hampshire, England, an epitaph that describes the character of Mr. Vassey in just a few lines:
TO THE MEMORY OP
In peace here rests a traveller’s dust,
His journey’s at an end ;
He prized esteem among the just,
And censure from a friend.
Here is an epitaph in Bridlington Church-yard, Yorkshire, England.that comments on the vanity of epitaphs:
Vain the proud epitaph and sumptuous tomb, When all must rise to an impartial doom!
Here under the blue sky and swarded o’er,
A Christian sleeps! can shrin’d saints do more?
Here is an epitaph that hints that the decreased did not take advantage of his full potential:
TO THE MEMORY OF THE LATEMr. COOKE,
Who died in North America.
Pause, thoughtful stranger! pass not heedless by, Where Cooke awaits the tribute of a sigh.
Here sunk in death those powers the world admir’d, By nature given, not by art acquir’d ;
In various parts his matchless talents shone,
The one he failed in was, alas! his own.
An epitaph in the Presbyterian Burial-ground. Chrystie-street, New-York, for two sisters who died at the same time:
ON TWO SISTERS.
Fair marble! tell to future days That here two virgin Sisters lie,
Whose lives employ’d each tongue in praise,
. Whose death gave tears to every eye.
In stature, beauty, years and fame,
Together as they grew, they shone;
So much alike, so much the same,
That Death mistook them both for one.
In Mr. Hunter's Baptist Burial-ground, Philadelphia, an optimistic epitaph that potryrays the death of a child as a luck thing because it allowed the young soul to avoid sin and leave this life in a state of grace:
How happy every child of grace Who knows his sins forgiven!
This earth, he cries, is not my place,
I seek my place in Heaven
In St. Paul's Church-yard, New- York:
Behold, ’tis come, the glorious morn !
Thy second birth ! from pain and death For ever freed: the great eternal scheme!
On a London Cook:—
Peas to his Hashes;
meaning of course, Peace to his ashes.
Here is an untinentionally paradoxical epitaph from a Tombstone in Ireland:
Here lies the body of John MOUND, Lost at sea and never found.
Here are two epitaphs that make a play on words on the man's name:
On a youth of the name of Calf, who was buried in Gloucester Cathedral:—
Oh, cruel death, more subtle than the Fox,
To kill this Calf before he came an Ox !
John Calf, junior, lieth here,
Without becoming Ox or Steer.
Here is an epitaph from an Australian graveyard written by a husband for his wife. Apparently he was pretty glad that she was gone:
Here lies my wife Polly, a terrible shrew;
If I said I was sorry, I should lie too.
This is the epitaph of Dr. Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury who seems to have been very covetous:
Here lies his Grace, in cold clay clad,
Who died for want of what he had.
Most epitaphs try to memorialize the deceased and give some words about their lives. This one takes the opposite approach and basically tells you to mind your own business:
Here lies Pat Steel,
That’s very true.
Who was he ? What was he ? What is that to you?
Here is an epitaph that seems to protest too much. I wonder what the backstory was:
Two grandmothers with their two granddaughters, Two husbands with their two wives,
Two fathers with their two daughters,
Two mothers with their two sons,
Two maidens with their two mothers,
Two sisters with their two brothers,
Yet but six corps in all, lie buried here,
All born legitimate, from incest clear.
This is a translation of an Italian epitaph from the 1500s recording an early case of medical malpractice:
To the memory of JOHN MAGHI,
An incomparable boy,
Who, through the unskilfulness of the midwife, on the 21st day of December, 1532, was translated from the womb to the tomb.
An irreverent epitaph that tries a bit too hard to rhyme:
On John Bunn:—
Here lies JOHN BUNN,
Who was killed by a gun.
His name wasn’t Bunn, but his real name was Wood, But Wood wouldn’t rhyme with gun, so I thought Bunn-should.
Another epitaph that makes use of the rhyming possibilities of the deceased's name:
Here lies JOHN, a burning, shining light,
Whose name, life, actions, all alike were White.
A fairly mean spirited rhyming epitaph:
Here lies Ann Mann ;
She lived an old Maid and she died an old Mann.
More Epitaphs: