Thread: Epitaphs and Elegies Board: Oblivion / Ship of Fools.

To visit this thread, use this URL:;f=70;t=027205

Posted by Firenze (# 619) on :
Probably some of the most plangent verses ever committed (and occasionally some of the worst). The technical aspect is not so much the form - that can be anything - but the control of language.

Anyway, if you feel minded.

Epitaph for Comedians

We warmed, we lit - by being droll.
Ourselves the fire, the hearth, the coal.

[ 13. August 2014, 14:02: Message edited by: Firenze ]
Posted by Boadicea Trott (# 9621) on :
This is one of my favourites, to be found in St Petrock's Church, Lydford, Devon:

Here lies in the horizontal position
The outside case of
George Routleigh, Watchmaker,
Whose abilities in that line were an honour
To his profession:
Integrity was the main-spring,
And prudence the regulator
Of all the actions of his life:
Full text

[ 13. August 2014, 13:59: Message edited by: Firenze ]
Posted by Firenze (# 619) on :
Not actually in verse, that one.

Plus, this being Verseworks, I was thinking more of the composition of elegaic or obituary poetry. Or considering why particular lines do or do not work. Why does -

I've measured it from side to side:
'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.

Fall with a clunk, while

He lay in the four foot box as in his cot...
A four foot box, a foot for every year.

Posted by Boadicea Trott (# 9621) on :
Mea culpa.
In that case, could you please delete my post, Kind Host?
Posted by Firenze (# 619) on :
I've edited down - in line with our chronic unease about full text quotation - but don't think it should be deleted.

I've made the thread title a bit clearer.
Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on :
I hadn't realised until I was digging for something else that Kipling had written a whole series of Epitaphs after WW1, some of which clunk horribly, but I like this one:

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
Posted by QLib (# 43) on :
Originally posted by Firenze:
... considering why particular lines do or do not work. Why does -

I've measured it from side to side:
'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.

Fall with a clunk...

It's meant too, though, isn't it? So, a success, really? [/Tangent]
Posted by Firenze (# 619) on :
Not really. He later revised it to read -

You see a little muddy pond
Of water -- never dry,
Though but of compass small, and bare
To thirsty suns and parching air.

So I think he realised he'd aimed for pathos, and missed.

Actually, my favourite in this line is the immortal couplet

Hand me a handkerchief - and another yet
And yet another, for the last is wet.

Posted by QLib (# 43) on :
See, I don't think he was aiming for pathos, I think he was aiming for an unreliable narrator. When Byron criticised the line, Wordsworth's response was, I think, to the effect that Byron just didn't get it. FWIW I think Lockwood in Wuthering Heights is a direct descendant of the narrator in The Thorn. I hadn't realised WW changed the version - maybe his pride got the better of him.

eta: Love the handkerchief lines. [Big Grin]

[ 23. August 2014, 11:53: Message edited by: QLib ]
Posted by L'organist (# 17338) on :
Here lies a poor woman who always was tired,
For she lived in a place where help wasn't hired.
Her last words on earth were, Dear friends I am going
Where washing ain't done nor sweeping nor sewing,
And everything there is exact to my wishes,
For there they don't eat and there's no washing of dishes.
Don't mourn for me now, don't mourn for me never,
For I'm going to do nothing for ever and ever.

Epitaph in a Hertfordshire churchyard.
Posted by EloiseA (# 18029) on :
Elegy seems such a difficult form in that it can so easily fall into bathos or sentimentality. When I was reading Anne Carson's Nox, a chapbook for her dead brother, I looked back at the key source of her inspiration and enjoyed the austere ode written by Catullus for his dead brother, ending with the famous 'hail and farewell' of Ave atque vale.

Many the races and many the waters I have crossed

Coming, my brother, to these sad funeral rites

In order to give you the final duties owed the dead

And speak in vain to your unspeaking ash

Since fortune has stolen you, you from me,

O brother, forlorn and wrongly torn from me.

But, for now, for the meantime, in the ancient manner

Receive these gifts, sad duty handed down for funeral rites,

Though they flow with many a brotherly tear,

And forever and ever, hail, brother, and farewell.

Catullus 101

© Ship of Fools 2016

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classicTM 6.5.0