The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018


Epitaph: (1) An inscription on a tomb, often containing basic biographical information and memorial phrases, (2) A poem, whether serious or humorous, that commemorates the deceased.

EXAMPLES: Ben Jonson’s “Epitaph on Elizabeth, L. H.” (1616), quoted here in part:

Underneath this stone doth lie

As much beauty as could die;

Which in life did harbor give

To more virtue than could live.

If at all she had a fault,

Leave it buried in this vault.

George Gordon, Lord Byron’s 1808 epitaph for his dog Botswain, next to whom he intended to be buried, reads:

To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;

I never knew but one — and here he lies.