Famous Historical Epitaphs
Take a walk through any historical cemetery, and you will likely find much more variability in things like headstones, grave markers, vaults, and the epitaphs engraved on them. Although most modern headstones all bear a similar appearance and carry familiar sentiments, older generations put a little more creativity into the act of saying a final goodbye.
Many of these epitaphs are funny; others are heartwarming. Some are simply meant to remind us all that death is not to be feared.
• Annie Jennings (Staffordshire, date unknown): Some have children, some have none; Here lies the mother of twenty-one.
• Aphra Behn (London, 1689): Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be Defense enough against Mortality.
• Captain Thomas Coffin (Cape Cod, 1842): He has finished catching cod, And gone to meet his God.
• David Hume (Edinburgh, 1776): Within this circular idea Called vulgarly a tomb, The ideas and impressions lie That constituted Hume.
• George Johnson (Arizona, 1882): Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake in 1882. He was right, we was wrong, but we strung him up and now he’s gone.
• H.G. Wells (London, 1946): Goddamn you all: I told you so.
• John Donne (London, 1631): Reader, I am to let thee know, Donne’s body only lies below; For could the grave his soul comprise, Earth would be richer than the skies.
• John Yeast (New Mexico, date unknown): Here lies Johnny Yeast. Pardon me for not rising.
• Ludolph van Ceulen (Netherlands, 1610, the first mathematician to calculate pi): 3.14159265358979323846264338327950
• Robert Burrows (Durham, date unknown): Poems and epitaphs are but stuff; Here lies Robert Burrows, that’s enough.
• Saphronia Proctor (New England, date unknown): Here lies the body of Saphronia Proctor, Who had a cold, but wouldn’t doctor. She couldn’t stay, she had to go, Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
• W. C. Fields (California, 1946): Here lies W.C. Fields. On the whole I would rather be living in Philadelphia.
• William Butler Yeats (Ireland, 1939): Cast a cold eye On life, on death Horseman, pass by.