Great Epitaphs

When a friend on Facebook the other day quoted some particularly snarky thing I’d said, my response was, “I want that on my tombstone.” That got me thinking about some of the great epitaphs of history and, lucky for me, Wikipedia has a long list of them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Susan B. Anthony: “Liberty, Humanity, Justice, Equality”

George Burns and Gracie Allen: “Together again.”

Mel Blanc: “That’s all, folks!”

George Carlin: “Jeez, he was just here a minute ago.”

Winston Churchill: “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

Rodney Dangerfield: “There goes the neighborhood.”

Jackie Gleason: “And away we go!”

HL Mencken: “If after I depart this vale you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner, and wink your eye at some homely girl.”

What do you want yours to say?

96 comments on this post.
  1. Wes:

    How about, “I’m dead. Get over it.” or “This’ll be you some day, so stop wasting your time in cemeteries reading epitaphs.” :)

  2. matty1:

    “What a waste of a stone, don’t think I’m going to read it”

  3. steve oberski:

    It was said that W.C. Fields wanted “I’d rather be in Philadelphia” on his gravestone because of the old vaudeville joke among comedians, “I would rather be dead than play Philadelphia”.

    An interesting factoid:

    In a provision of his will that was contested by his wife Hattie and his son Claude, W. C. Fields—who remained an atheist to the end—left a portion of his estate to fund the education of orphans in a school “where no religion of any sort is preached”.

  4. AsqJames:

    Spike Milligan: “I told you i was ill.”

  5. Thorne:

    Not interested in an epitaph or a tombstone. Let the doctors take what they can, burn the rest and dump the ashes in the nearest trash can on the way home.

  6. amycote:

    Paraphrase of what the ER doc said: “She was a puzzling case.” (Though I’d rather donate my cadaver to a Body Farm.)

  7. Didaktylos:

    Sir Christopher Wren – “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice”

  8. Draken:

    Here I lie, and wonder why
    The floor and walls look like the sky.

  9. dingojack:

    One of my favorites is for a plowman in Lincolnshire, it simply reads:

    ‘He plowed a straight furrow’

    “The short and simple annals of the poor.”, eh?

    Dingo
    ——–
    * Also a like Simonides of Ceos:
    “ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
    κείμεθα τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.”
    often translated as:
    Go tell the Spartans, thou who pass by
    we did our duty and here we lie.

  10. dingojack:

    Who was it whose epitaph was: ‘Pardon me for not getting up’?
    Dingo

  11. serena:

    From a grave marker in Tombstone Arizona: Here lies Lester Moore/Shot to death with a .44/ No Les No More

  12. dingojack:

    Another at Tombstone (reputedly) says simply:
    ‘He called Billy Smith a liar’.
    Dingo

  13. steveinmi:

    “Pardon my dust.” – adapted/plagiarized from Dorothy Parker

  14. steve84:

    “Cured the genophage*

    *which he also created”
    – Mordin Solus

    youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=eJ-VCGKlk_8#t=10s

  15. dingojack:

    The lawyer/politician Sir John Strange‘s epitaph reads:

    Here lies an honest lawyer;
    and that is Strange
    “..
    .
    Dingo

  16. shakeb:

    My all time favorite epitaph. Lucius Cornelius Sulla:

    “No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full”

  17. dingojack:

    There was a man called Button whose epitaph was something like:
    ‘Oh ye stars, ye moon, ye celestial poles
    Are graves but dwindled into button-holes?”

    :) Dingo
    ——
    PS: also like Robert Louis Stevenson

    Under a wide and starry sky
    Dig a grave and let me lie.
    Glad did I live, and gladly die
    And lay me down with a will:
    This be the verse you grave for me:
    ‘Home is the sailor, home from sea
    And the hunter home from the hill’

    They followed his wishes exactly,
    . His grave lies on a slope overlooking the sea, on his beloved Tahiti

  18. iknklast:

    We put up a stone when his parents died, and it will be for all four of us. It reads (in Latin and in English): I was not, I was, I am not, I do not care

    The folks who make the headstones in this small town looked at us a bit strange; it didn’t hurt

  19. dingojack:

    I believe that Swift once asked a friend what epitaph they would put on his grave. The response was:

    Here lies what remains of Jonathan Swift
    Pause stranger – and piss
    ‘.

    Dingo

  20. tbp1:

    Not really what I would want, but I’ve always liked the joke about the hypochondriac’s epitaph: I told you I was sick!

  21. writenow:

    “Here lies Keith O’Connor. He always wanted to be cool.”

  22. sandy:

    I once saw in the keystone over a cemetery in Spain: I was once like you, you will be like me.

  23. abb3w:

    My current preference is for “οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε” (he is not here).

  24. abb3w:

    By the way, there seems to be some minor difficulties with preview for people perverse enough to use non-standard ASCII characters.

  25. dingojack:

    Also like the common inscription on the inside lintel of old pubs in Ireland and Scotland:
    “Be happy in your leaving
    ’cause you’re a long time dead!”
    Dingo

  26. dingojack:

    abb3w – nope, just or those with the temerity to use characters.
    Dingo
    ——-
    But Ed says he’ll get it fixed.

  27. rabbitscribe:

    When Bob Hope was sent home from the hospital to die, he was asked where he’d like to be buried.

    “Eh, I don’t know… surprise me.”

  28. kosk11348:

    On a headstone in England: “What was all that about?”

  29. neonsequitur:

    “Somebody feed the cat.”

  30. rowanvt:

    While I no longer believe in reincarnation, I still want the following on my toomstone:

    BAD END.
    What do you want to do?

    Quit
    Start from last save
    >Start new game

  31. rowanvt:

    Geez, I can’t spellin the morning. Tombstone. :P

  32. grumpyoldfart:

    Now the rot sets in

  33. vmanis1:

    Two that I’ve heard and consider favorably are `Late again’ (for a procrastinator) and `Oops’.

  34. vmanis1:

    [Off track] I like the new look, but the `Older Posts’ link at the bottom provokes a 404.

  35. Didaktylos:

    Dingojack – you omitted a line from Stevenson’s epitaph:

    Under the wide and starry sky
    Dig the grave and let me lie.
    Glad did I live and gladly die,
    And I laid me down with a will.

    This be the verse you grave for me:
    Here he lies where he longed to be;
    Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
    And the hunter home from the hill.

  36. davem:

    On a gravestone in Sussex:

    UNDERNEATH Lieth the Body of Robert Commonly called Bone Phillip
    Who died July 27th 1793
    Aged 65 years

    As whose request the following lines are here inserted

    Here lie I at the chancel door
    Here lie I because I’m poor
    The further in the more you’ll pay
    Here lie I as warm as they

  37. F [disappearing]:

    vmanis1 @34

    That makes an amusing epitaph as well.

  38. david:

    from the Grateful Dead: “Such a long long time to be gone, and a short time to be there”

  39. zmidponk:

    I did hear somewhere about someone who put, at the bottom of his headstone, in really small letters, ‘If you can read this, you’re standing on me’.

  40. theobroma:

    @dingojack: RLS was buried on Mt Vaea, Samoa, not Tahiti

    Epitaph: “Ha! Fooled you!”

  41. democommie:

    I like these:

    http://www.digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/quotes/epitaphs.html

    Particularly the, “I told you I was sick!”

  42. canuckamuck:

    “You should see the other guy.”

  43. gardengnome:

    Was it Billy Connolly who wanted “Is that the time already?“?

  44. jasmyn:

    I thought I told you to throw me in the trash.

  45. Reginald Selkirk:

    “Avoid raw shellfish.”

  46. caseloweraz:

    Two epitaphs I like:

    “Je me ve a chercher un gran putetre.”
    – Voltaire

    “He ate what was put before him.”
    – Heinlein

    For myself, I might hope to use the second. It’s from one of Heinlein’s juveniles — I think it was Time for the Stars. But that would be a conceit, because it’s not true.

    I also like this, although it’s not an epitaph:

    “Sunset and evening star
    And one clear call for me!
    And let there be no moaning at the bar
    When I put out to sea.”
    – Tennyson, “Crossing the Bar”

  47. lancifer:

    I am a bit absent minded so before leaving my home I am constantly asked a certain question by family and friends.

    So I want my grave stone to read,

    “Yes, I have my wallet.”

  48. Marcus Ranum:

    Apparently there’s a French waiter buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetary whose stone reads, “by and by the lord caught his eye.”

  49. Crudely Wrott:

    Not graven on the stones but spoken soon after is my all time favorite:

    ‘Posterity will ne’er survey, A nobler grave than this: Here lie the bones of Castlereagh: Stop, traveller, piss.’ — Lord Byron.

    Another, from a suicide note contains this line:

    All this buttoning and unbuttoning.

    Funny how that dying business goes . . .

  50. Ouigui:

    “So long, and thanks for all the flesh.”

  51. Sastra:

    I just thought of:

    “What? Over already?”

  52. procrastinator will get an avatar real soon now:

    From a Big Top Chautauqua t-shirt:
    You’re going to be dead for millions and billions and zillions of years.
    Why not stay up late tonight?

  53. Loqi:

    “He stood in the fire.”

  54. tomh:

    Mine is already written:

    “He was just here for the food.”

  55. dingojack:

    Didaktylos – Thanks, I was quoting from memory so was almost sure to get it wrong,
    also:

    home is the sailor home from sea
    And the hunter home from the hill
    “.

    (note the lack of an article in front of ‘sea’, this is often misquoted*, adding an extra ‘the’ into the verse).

    Yes, you’re quite right (brain fade) Samoa.

    Dingo
    ——–
    * including on his grave, ironically

  56. abb3w:

    So, is Zach Weiner a follower of the Dispatches?

  57. janicot:

    I think I’d like to steal the possum lodge motto from the Red Green Show. Sorry if I spell it wrong.
    ‘Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati’ — When all else fails, play dead.

  58. Greg:

    Does anyone know what Robert G. Ingersoll’s epitaph was?

  59. hypatiasdaughter:

    @41 democommie
    That website has one that tickles my funny bone:
    In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:

    Here lies an Atheist
    All dressed up
    And no place to go.

  60. katenrala:

    Dingo please give me a yay or nay on my offer as no response is bugging me and I want to do this for you:

    Dingo, the picture I want to draw for you, and I really do want to give you something as a sort of make-up, would be of a nude in a soft erotic manner, or smut if you want that, male or female, your choice and choice of depiction and pose, but I don’t think such artwork would be appropriate to share on this blog.

    I can do many styles, I have my own style and I can draw in several US comic styles, several Japanese manga styles, a few European comic styles, and furry art in a few styles, just name a artist or comic, or better: present a image of the style you like best and I should be able to draw something that looks similar to the work, but it would be line art only as coloring takes as much or more time as drawing does and I’ve some gift art to make too this month for Christmas. You’ll get a resolution independent eps vector file and a high resolution tiff file, and a pdf breaking down the process as a behind-the-scenes thing with no licenses restricting what you could with the art as I am a free culture, copyleft kind of person.

  61. hypatiasdaughter:

    Greg, ask & you shall receive!

    “Nothing is grander than to break chains from the bodies of men — nothing nobler than to destroy the phantoms of the soul.”

    From this website: http://www.ingersoll.wash.org/content/tour/grave.php

  62. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    “Wish you were here.” ^.^

  63. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    Katenrala @60: that’s a bit long for a tombstone. O.o

  64. katenrala:

    I forgot to mention that I could put the files on my online file space so you could just download them, or I could send them to you via email if you wish.

  65. Fred Salvador - The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope:

    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not here;
    I’m in a pie.

  66. trollofreason:

    “And they thought to defy me.”

    Y’know, just to mess with the ages.

  67. mithrandir:

    @30:

    In a similar vein, I am now thinking my tombstone should read “Do you want your possessions identified? (y/n)”.

  68. John Phillips, FCD:

    meh!

  69. dingojack:

    How about: ‘Oh no, not again!’
    :) Dingo

  70. dingojack:

    katenrala – sorry I haven’t got back to you.
    It’s kinda of weird request (I’m not sure if I’m flattered). Do you really think that’s an appropriate thing to ask a virtual stranger who you’ve only really had one (fairly misunderstood at both ends) conversation with?
    Still if you want to sure, make it a mixed platter if you like, but only if I have permission to share it with everyone. Perhaps send it via Ed to maintain anonymity (for both our sakes).
    With that kind of talent why don’t you write a blog comic about your experiences (and those of other ‘differently-abled’ people), a kind of ‘American Splendor’ for the 21st century?
    Dingo

  71. chuckcain:

    Clear streams and tight lines.

  72. democommie:

    Oh, my favorite epitaph por moi!

    “Nobody home”.

    Several years ago I was talking to a local inkster who asked if I had any tats. I said that I didn’t and wouldn’t be getting any, although I had thought about the fact that people who suffer strokes and heart attacks are sometimes unable to make their wishes known in the event they are comatose and haven’t got a DNR. I also intend to be cremated. So I told him I might want one on my chest that reads:

    “Do not open. Burn after reading. Have a nice day!”

  73. BRamsey:

    I’ve always been partial to this one from Pratchett in Pyramids: It’s a little long and not really an epitaph, but I don’t care. ;)

    Number of enemies ground as dust under his chariot wheels = 0.
    Number of thrones crushed beneath his sandaled feet = 0.
    Number of times world bestrode like colossus = 0.
    On the other hand: Reigns of terror = 0.
    Faces of poor ground = 0.
    Expensive crusades embarked upon = 0.
    His life had, basically, been a no-score win.

    The best a person can hope for is not to screw things up worse than they already are. “I guess one person can make a difference. But most of the time, they probably shouldn’t.”

  74. tbp1:

    A great fictional epitaph:

    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

    From Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias.

  75. dingojack:

    Or even Horace Smith:

    IN Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
    Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
    The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
    “I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
    “The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
    “The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
    Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
    The site of this forgotten Babylon
    We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
    Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
    Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
    He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
    What powerful but unrecorded race
    Once dwelt in that annihilated place..

    Dingo

  76. corkscrew:

    “I am INVINCIBLE!”

    “Whoops”

    “Game over; insert coin”. With a slot in the gravestone.

    “BRAINSSSSS”

    “Here lie I / A total berk / Tried to fly / Didn’t work.” I’m sure I remember reading one along these lines, but I can’t remember the wording. Anyone know the original, or has a better suggestion?

    “Still more room than my cubicle”

    “Don’t eat the yellow snow”

    “Run! Run for your life!” Ideally, this would be in a graveyard in some decidedly rural and insular community, where people play banjo a lot.

    “BRB”. Or “AFK” for that matter.

    “Died 5/8/20XX [citation needed]“

  77. corkscrew:

    “Best of three?”

  78. tbp1:

    @dingojack: Thanks. I didn’t know the Horace Smith poem, or the history behind Shelley’s, for that matter. Always nice to learn something new.

  79. bobbyearle:

    “No Soliciting”

  80. bobbyearle:

    Or “Get Off My Lawn”.

  81. glenmorangie10:

    If anyone would let me, and especially if my family stuck my corpse in a Catholic cemetery:

    Last in Life
    First in Death
    Damned For All Time

  82. thebookofdave:

    Hey! Who turned out the lights?

  83. maddog1129:

    I am really tempted to put on mine:

    “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

  84. typecaster:

    Paraphrase of what the ER doc said: “She was a puzzling case.”

    OT, but this is related to one of my favorite curses – “May you go down in medical history.”

    For myself, I might hope to use the second. It’s from one of Heinlein’s juveniles — I think it was Time for the Stars.

    Close – it was Starman Jones.

  85. Crudely Wrott:

    I came
    I saw
    I played
    Time for a nice nap

  86. lancifer:

    maddog1129,

    “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

    I think I like yours the best. At least it would give the living a data point to throw at the idiots that quote the cliche which it mocks

    “Oh, shit.” would also be a good one.

    On a related note I read that “Oh, shit” was the most common “last words” of pilots heard on recovered cockpit voice recorders.

    The saddest one was a young pilot that struggled with the controls, then gave up, and knowing that his last words were being recorded, calmly uttered “I love you Mom.”

  87. gregorypeterson:

    It’s a Norwegian thing.

  88. dingojack:

    how about:
    ‘This stone was erected to the memory of
    JOHN SMITH*
    who was accidentally drowned in waters of the Leith
    by a few affectionate friends”.

    or

    “The memorial was raised to the memory of
    Col. HENRY BLANK*
    who was accidentally shot and killed whilst hunting
    by his servant of 50 years, Isaac*
    ‘Well done O good & faithful servant!’”

    Dingo
    ——-
    * I can not recall the actual names offhand

  89. Shout In Darkness:

    “Here lie the ashes of a man in the habit of putting everything off until tomorrow. He changed for the better on his deathbed, however, and did in fact die on 31 January 1972″

    Swedish author Fritiof Nilsson Piraten

  90. The Lorax:

    “Crap, I rolled a 1.”

  91. bbgunn:

    “I’m with Stupid →”

  92. Stacey C.:

    I’m for medical science/the body farm but if I was to choose:

    If There is an Afterlife…I am Going to Haunt the SHIT out of You.

    My favorite gravestone I’ve personally seen:

    Warren Gibbs
    died by arsenic poison
    March 23. 1860.
    Æ 36 yrs, 5 mos.
    23 days

    Think my friends when this you see
    How my wife hath done by me
    She in some oysters did prepare
    Some poison for my lot and share;

    When of the same I did partake
    And nature yielded to its fate
    Before she my wife became
    Mary Felton was her name.

    Erected by his brother
    Wm. Gibbs

    (Pelham, MA)

  93. bbgunn:

    Crap. Hit “Sumbit”instead of “Preview’ key before I was finished. That was stupid. Should have read “I’m with Stupid →” will be on my spouse’s side.

  94. Pieter B, FCD:

    There’s a gravestone at Hollywood Forever that is blank, a matte dark gray. There’s a box of colored chalks next to it. I like the concept and I’ve left my mark there a time or two.

    I like the idea of my ashes being used to fertilize a friend’s vegetable garden. Recycle me.

  95. poose:

    “If your falling and you know you’re going to die, you might as well try flying. After all-what have you got to loose?”

  96. katenrala:

    katenrala – sorry I haven’t got back to you.
    It’s kinda of weird request (I’m not sure if I’m flattered). Do you really think that’s an appropriate thing to ask a virtual stranger who you’ve only really had one (fairly misunderstood at both ends) conversation with?
    Still if you want to sure, make it a mixed platter if you like, but only if I have permission to share it with everyone. Perhaps send it via Ed to maintain anonymity (for both our sakes).
    With that kind of talent why don’t you write a blog comic about your experiences (and those of other ‘differently-abled’ people), a kind of ‘American Splendor’ for the 21st century?
    Dingo

    I can see it as weird but I’m better at visual things so giving a picture comes more natural to me.

    You can share with anyone you like, and a mixed platter it shall be.

    I’ll do as you ask and have Ed give them to you when I finish with them.

    I want to do a comic about my experiences and have a lot of strips written for it and title and characters, but I am too tired on chemo to do a large project like that and I’m starting radiation this week. It’ll be a while before I can find such energy.

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