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strictly, an inscription on a tomb; by extension, a statement, usually in verse, commemorating the dead. The earliest such inscriptions are those found on Egyptian sarcophagi. In England epitaphs did not begin to assume a literary character until the time of Elizabeth I. Ben Jonson, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson were considered masters of the art. The epitaph on Ben Jonson's own tomb in Westminster Abbey was splendidly brief: "O rare Ben Jonson!" Epitaphs are often humorous. It is not known whether the epitaph printed below is amusing by design or by accident: Here lie I Martin Elginbrodde: Have mercy on my soul, Lord God, As I wad do, were I Lord God, And ye were Martin Elginbrodde.



a gravestone inscription, generally in verse. A verse epitaph is a short poem, usually with a message to the deceased or from the deceased to passersby, for example, “Passerby, stop! . . .”

An epitaph may be an actual inscription on a gravestone or a short literary work, written as if for a gravestone, appearing in a collection of poetry. In European literature the epitaph developed as a variation of the classical epigram; noteworthy early epitaphs include those by Simonides of Ceos (fifth century B.C.). A popular genre in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the age of classicism, the epitaph subsequently came to be little used. The parodie or satiric epitaph, such as those written by R. Burns, is similar to the epigram of modern times and has survived longer than other types of epitaph. In modern times, epitaphs on gravestones or memorials that have literary merit are a rare phenomenon; an example is A. V. Lunacharskii’s epitaph to the fighters of the revolution on the Field of Mars.

References in classic literature ?
Great-Grandmother seemed to run short of rhymes at the last of the epitaph," commented Dan.
I think Grandmother King intended the last of the epitaph to be in blank verse," said Felicity with dignity.
Hereupon Homer remembered the oracle and, perceiving that the end of his life had come composed his own epitaph.
The sturdy old man, whom he had left so short a time before, was gone, then, and this was all his epitaph.
Punch, it may be remarked, seemed to be pointing with the tip of his cap to a most flourishing epitaph, and to be chuckling over it with all his heart.
Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected, and Revised Poems.
Cut these words into my stone; ancient Greek epitaphs.
The charity's Imelda Redmond said: "Spike's epitaph is legendary and many of the greats have been immortalised by their epitaphs.
The charity's Imelda Redmond said: "Spike Milligan's epitaph is legendary and many of the greats have been immortalised by their epitaphs.
The best epitaphs are those written in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind and to be remembered for inspiring others would be a wonderful thing.
7) According to Scodel, "the long description of the ideal reader" in many such epitaphs, together with "the emphasis upon the uncertainty of his or her appearance" and response, begins in English epitaphs in the 1740s and extends through about 1820 (328).
GRAVES of British Second World War soldiers buried in north east India are to get new headstones after thieves stole the bronze epitaphs.