When someone in our family or a friend dies, we want to commemorate their memory, for this we use an epitaph, which is a brief writing or saying inscribed on a tomb, generally it is a short composition, with a figurative meaning in a verse or in prose, written to pay tribute to a deceased person or to remember a past event.
Strictly speaking, an epitaph is a short text on a plaque or tombstone, in honor of a deceased person. from the Greek word epitaphs, meaning "funeral prayer." Many poets and authors, such as William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, Oscar Wilde, and John Keats, have written their own epitaphs before their death. However, they are also different, since an epitaph is a short and concise commemorative inscription engraved on the tombstone of a deceased; while a eulogy is a speech or a piece written in praise of a deceased person, usually delivered at the funeral. A compliment can also be used for a living person, as it incorporates stories, anecdotes, and memories of the individual. on the other hand, it is just a poem of honor or an inscription written on the tombstone.
Examples of Epitaph in Literature
The use of epitaph flourished in the 17th century when writers fought for the cultural significance of their dead. However, later in the 18th and 19th centuries, many avenues were used to confirm its importance, and hence renowned writers wrote their epitaphs before their deaths. Here we have a list of some good epitaphs:
Example 1: Oscar Wilde's epitaph
Wilde's epitaph is inscribed in a very sentimental verse on his tombstone. It reads:
For those who mourn there will be outcasts,
And outcasts will always mourn. “
This epitaph is from his popular poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. The poem describes that death is also like a prison sentence. He also adds a funny statement that "the food here is terrible" in the grave.
Example 2: Robert Frost's epitaph
Robert Frost wrote his epitaph a few years before his death, took the last lines from the poem The Lesson for Today, which read:
“And if an epitaph were my story
I would have a short one ready for my own.
I would have on mine Stein wrote:
I had a love argument with the world. "
Unfortunately, most lovers cannot make up for their love. However, Frost was almost at the end of their love when he passed away at the age of 88. This quote offers a fitting introduction to the poet.
Example # 3: William Butler Yeats' Epitaph
Yeats in wrote his epitaph, which reads:
"Take a cold eye
On life, on death.
Time, however, the words have a rather deep meaning. I had taken these lines from the poem Bass Ben Bulben. This is one of the most popular modern epitaphs.
Example # 4: William Shakespeare's Epitaph
“Good friend for the ancestor of Jesus,
Blessed is the man who forgives these stones,
And cursed is he who moves my bones.
Shakespeare had foretold that someone might dig his grave, and out of that fear he composed his epitaph in verse before he died. This poem is carved on his headstone.
Example 5: Sylvia Plath's epitaph
Sylvia Plath's husband Ted Hughes chose her epitaph, which is engraved on her headstone. It reads:
"Even in the midst of fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted."
Function of Epitaph
The main function in writing an epitaph is to praise and honor a deceased. It is used to provide an example of virtue and goodness, such as a grave that good people can use to convey a sense of their presence. Also, worshiping the memories of a dead person could have similar effects as we would see. Another function is to let the audience know and warn them that their life is as mortal as that of their predecessors. After all, it preserves history as it shows ancestral relationships and dates of birth, death sentences and achievements of the deceased.
Popular Literary Devices
- Ad Hominem
- Deus Ex Machina
- Double Entendre
- Flash Forward
- Half Rhyme
- Internal Rhyme
- Line Break
- Non Sequitur
- Pathetic Fallacy
- Poetic Justice
- Point of View
- Red Herring
- Tragic Flaw