Although this country may be behind many others in the poetic or classic character of its monumental inscriptions, it is certainly not so in the production of Epitaphs of a curious and absurd character. Whether it is that the British are, as a nation, witty and humorous, and that they are desirous that their peculiarities should be recorded even in the sanctuaries of their dead, or that they consider true records of the departed to be of little or no value, has yet to be shown. It is, however, remarkable that if we refer to the epitaphial records of other nations, we find that they are, as a rule, noted for their beauty, elegance, or truth, whereas of the many graveyards in Great Britain there is scarcely one that does not afford examples of humourous effusions.
She took the cup of life to sip, Too bitter 'twas to drain; She put it meekly from her lip, And went to sleep again.
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At WOOD DITTON, on a gravestone in which is fixed an iron dish, according to the instructions of the deceased:--
On William Symons, ob. 1753, aet. 80.
Here lies my corpse, who was the man That loved a sop in the dripping pan; But now, believe me I am dead, See here the pan stands at my head. Still for sops to the last I cried, But could not eat, and so I died. My neighbours, they perhaps will laugh, When they do read my epitaph.
CAIUS COLLEGE CHAPEL, A.D. 1613:--
On William Webbe.
A richer Webb than any art can weave, The Soule that Faith to Christ makes firmly cleave. This Webbe can Death, nor Devils, sunder nor untwist, For Christ and Grace both groundwork are and List.
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At CASTLE CAMPS the following quaint epitaph on a former rector:--
Mors mortis morti mortem nisi morte de
Written in 1861, this short book is a collection of epitaphs found in graveyards in the British Isles.
Ranging from humorous to tragic, from bearing awful puns to downright sarcastic, it is amazing what people allow on their tombstones, the most cynical epitaph being the gravestone remarking on the purity and innocence of the twelve-year-old child buried beneath, but some wiseacre added the inscription saying that she had not yet reached the age of thirteen.