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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.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In the fourth chapter, "Entombed Epigraphy in an Era of Political Instability," Davis analyzes a number of "non-standard entombed epitaphs" (those lacking biographies, rhymed elegies, and/or titles) produced before the fifth century.
One sometimes even can find an interesting contrast in epitaphs and/or exit styles that better help explain competing performers.
An epitaph is an elegy: a few words in memory of someone who has died, notably what is cut into a gravestone.
"Canada's Dream Shall Be of Them: Canadian Epitaphs of the Great War" offers an anthology of epitaphs drawn from the war cemeteries where Canadian soldiers lie buried in Flanders and France.
Focusing on the last century of the Tang dynasty [618-907] and relying on his database of approximately 2,500 published and unpublished ninth-century tomb epitaphs excavated primarily (roughly 70 percent) in the areas around Chang'an and Luoyang, the author of this study offers new evidence clarifying the constitution of powerful clans of "national elites"; elucidates how these clans maintained and grew their wealth, power, and status in the face of the changed political and institutional realities of the post-An Lushan world; and offers up his interpretation for why these "great clans," influential for centuries, suddenly disappeared almost entirely after the fall of the dynasty.
The epitaphs for themselves and others written into their later works are meant to pre-empt their judgment by others, to tutor us in the proper ways of reading their achievements and to insert into the literary tradition, against the odds, a record of their subjectivity.
For these reasons, the printed broadside could effectively stand in as a way to remember the dead, and the surviving number of epitaphs, elegies, and deathbed confessions suggest it credibly did so.
The residents of Karimabad saw vandalized epitaphs and tombstones of scores of graves of martyrs at the Martyrs Graveyard on Friday morning.
The research undertaken by Tackett is remarkable, with the creation of a huge database derived from several thousands of excavated epitaphs recording the lives of men and women from the seventh to the tenth centuries.
Euphemistic Metaphors in English and Spanish Epitaphs: A Comparative Study
It's very, very important that these four women do not Know each other or you could end up dead liKe me." It led me to looK at other epitaphs that have found an unexpected new lease of life on the internet.
Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected, and Revised Poems.