An epitaph (from Greek á¼ÏÎ¹ÏÎ¬ÏÎ¹Î¿Ï epitaphios "a funeral oration" from á¼ÏÎ¯ epi "at, over" and ÏÎ¬ÏÎ¿Ï taphos "tomb") is a short text honoring a deceased person. Strictly speaking, it refers to text that is inscribed on a tombstone or plaque, but it may also be used in a figurative sense. Some epitaphs are specified by the person themselves before their death, while others are chosen by those responsible for the burial. An epitaph may be in poem verse; poets have been known to compose their own epitaphs prior to their death, as William Shakespeare did.
Most epitaphs are brief records of the family, and perhaps the career, of the deceased, often with an expression of love or respect - "beloved father of ..." - but others are more ambitious. From the Renaissance to the 19th century in Western culture, epitaphs for notable people became increasingly lengthy and pompous descriptions of their family origins, career, virtues and immediate family, often in Latin. However, the Laudatio Turiae, the longest known Ancient Roman epitaph, exceeds almost all of these at 180 lines; it celebrates the virtues of a wife, probably of a consul.
Some are quotes from holy texts, or aphorisms. One approach of many epitaphs is to 'speak' to the reader and warn them about their own mortality. A wry trick of others is to request the reader to get off their resting place, inasmuch as the reader would have to be standing on the ground above the coffin to read the inscription. Some record achievements (e.g., past politicians note the years of their terms of office). Nearly all (excepting those where this is impossible by definition, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) note name, year or date of birth, and date of death. Many list family members and the relationship of the deceased to them (for example, "Father / Mother / Son / Daughter of").
Heroes and Kings your distance keep;
In peace let one poor poet sleep,
Who never flattered folks like you;
Let Horace blush and Virgil too.
- â" Alexander Pope
Wir mÃ¼ssen wissen. Wir werden wissen.
In English: We must know. We will know.
- â" David Hilbert
Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water
- â" John Keats
Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas,
Ease after warre, death after life, does greatly please.
- â" Joseph Conrad (taken from Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene)
That's all folks.
- â" Mel Blanc
I've finally stopped getting dumber.
- â" Paul ErdÅ's
Consider, friend, as you pass by: As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, you too shall be. Prepare, therefore, to follow me.
- â" Scottish tombstone
Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by
that here, obedient to their law, we lie.
- â" Simonides's epigram at Thermopylae
I told you I was ill.
- â" Spike Milligan
If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again.
- â" Stan Laurel
Here sleeps at peace a Hampshire Grenadier
Who caught his early death by drinking cold small beer.
Soldiers, be wise at his untimely fall,
And when you're hot, drink strong or none at all.
- â" Thomas Thetcher tombstone epitaph in Winchester Cathedral
To save your world you asked this man to die:
Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?
- â" Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier, written by W. H. Auden
There is borne an empty hearse
covered over for such as appear not.
Heroes have the whole earth for their tomb.
- â" Unknown Soldier's epitaph, Athens; passages taken from Pericles' Funeral Oration
Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!
- â" Virginia Woolf
Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare,
To digg Ã¾e dust encloased heare.
Blese be Ã¾e man Ã¾at spares Ã¾es stones,
And curst be he Ã¾at moves my bones.
In modern spelling:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
- â" William Shakespeare
I am ready to meet my Maker.
Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.
- â" Winston Churchill
Epitaphs in music
In a more figurative sense, the term may be used for music composed in memory of the deceased. Igor Stravinsky composed in 1958 Epitaphium for flute, clarinet and harp. In 1967 Krzysztof Meyer called his Symphony No. 2 for choir and orchestra Epitaphium StanisÅaw Wiechowicz in memoriam. Jeffrey Lewis composed Epitaphium â" Children of the Sun for narrator, chamber choir, piano, flute, clarinet and percussion. Bronius KutaviÄius composed in 1998 Epitaphium temporum pereunti. Valentin Silvestrov composed in 1999 Epitaph L.B. (ÐÐ¿ÑÑÐ°ÑÑÑ Ð.Ð'.) for viola (or cello) and piano. In 2007 Graham Waterhouse composed Epitaphium for string trio as a tribute to the memory of his father William Waterhouse. The South African poet Gert Vlok Nel wrote an (originally) untitled song, which appeared on his first music album 'Beaufort-Wes se Beautiful Woorde' as 'Epitaph', because his producer Eckard Potgieter told him that the song sounded like an epitaph.
Epitaph in space
In the late 1990s, a unique epitaph was flown to the moon along with the cremains of geologist/planetary scientist Eugene Shoemaker. At the suggestion of colleague Carolyn Porco, Shoemaker's ashes were launched aboard the Lunar Prospector spacecraft on January 6, 1998. The ashes were accompanied by a laser-engraved epitaph on a small piece of foil. The spacecraft, along with the ashes and epitaph, crashed on command into the south polar region of the moon on July 31, 1999.
- Vidor, Gian Marco (2014). Satisfying the mind and inflaming the heart: emotions and funerary epigraphy in nineteenth-century Italy. Mortality (Routledge), on-line edition. http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/fByCJS8IEiui62NK5wrq/full#.U_HCzFOBq3o
- Bertrand, RÃ©gis (2005). Que de vertus. Les Ã©pitaphes Ã©difiantes des dÃ©buts du XIXe siÃ¨cle. In R. Bertrand, A. Carol, & J.-N. Pelen (Eds.), Les narrations de la mort (pp. 241â"255). Aix-en-Provence: Publications de lâUniversiteÂ´ de Provence.
- Guthke, K. S. (2003). Epitaph culture in the west. Variations on a theme in cultural history. Lewiston, NY: Mellen.
- Epitaphios logos (ancient Greek funeral oration)
- Hero stone
- Epitaph (TV series)
- Seikilos epitaph
- Imperial War Museum. "What is the Kohima Epitaph?". archive.iwm.org.uk. Retrieved 4 April 2013.Â
- Kohima Epitaph