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Gravestone Epitaphs from Poetry- some beautiful examples

Posted 06/05/15 in The Headstone Guide

Poetry and literature can be a wonderful source of inspiration for a gravestone, as these stunning examples of gravestone epitaphs demonstrate.  You don't need to use the whole piece, and in these examples sometimes just a couple of lines are chosen.  The words can also be changed to make them more individual. They are nearly all carved in italics, which I think reflects the flow of the beautiful words.  Click here for more epitaph ideas.  

You can click here for a beautiful list of funeral poems.

headstone epitaph from Nicholas Evans


From "The Smoke Jumper" by Nicholas Evans

If I be the first of us to die, 

Let grief not blacken long your sky.

Be bold yet modest in your grieving.

There is a change but not a leaving.

For just as death is part of life,

The dead live on forever in the living.

And all the gathered riches of our journey,

The moments shared, the mysteries explored,

The steady layering of intimacy stored,

The things that made us laugh or weep or sing,

The joy of sunlit snow or first unfurling of the spring,

The wordless language of look and touch,

The knowing, Each giving and each taking,

These are not flowers that fade,

Nor trees that fall and crumble,

Nor are they stone,

For even stone cannot the wind and rain withstand

And mighty mountain peaks in time reduce to sand.

What we were, we are. What we had, we have.

A conjoined past imperishably present.

So when you walk the woods where once we walked togther

And scan in vain the dappled bank beside you for my shadow,

Or pause where we always did upon the hill to gaze across the land,

And spotting something, reach by habit for my hand,

And finding none, feel sorrow start to steal upon you,

Be still. Close your eyes. Breathe.

Listen for my footfall in your heart.

I am not gone but merely walk within you.

green slate headstone epitaph

On Death by Kahlil Gibran

You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

epitaph from poem

From Song of Solomon 2:11-12 King James Version (KJV)

11 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

shakespeare on headstone

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [All the world’s a stage]

by William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.

At first, the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

gravestone epitaph from yeats

The Cloths of Heaven by W.B Yeats

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths 

Of night and light and the half-light;

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

epitaph on gravestone

Idyll by Siegfried Sassoon 

In the grey summer garden I shall find you

With day-break and the morning hills behind you.  

There will be rain-wet roses; stir of wings;  

 And down the wood a thrush that wakes and sings.

 Not from the past you’ll come, but from that deep  

Where beauty murmurs to the soul asleep:  

And I shall know the sense of life re-born  

From dreams into the mystery of morn  

Where gloom and brightness meet. And standing there  

Till that calm song is done, at last we’ll share   

The league-spread, quiring symphonies that are  

Joy in the world, and peace, and dawn’s one star.

poem on gravestone

Do Not Stand By My Grave And Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry, 
I am not there; I did not die.

 

headstone epitaph in nabressina

In Summertime on Bredon by A. E. Housman

The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.

Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.

The bells would ring to call her 
In valleys miles away;
"Come all to church, good people;
Good people come and pray."
But here my love would stay.

And I would turn and answer
Among the springing thyme,
"Oh, peal upon our wedding,
And we will hear the chime,
And come to church in time."

But when the snows at Christmas
On Bredon top were strown,
My love rose up so early
And stole out unbeknown
And went to church alone.

They tolled the one bell only,
Groom there was none to see,
The mourners followed after,
And so to church went she,
And would not wait for me.

The bells they sound on Bredon,
And still the steeples hum,
"Come all to church, good people." -
O noisy bells, be dumb;
I hear you, I will come.

Softly by Colin Gordon-Farleigh

Softly the leaves of memory fall,
Gently I gather and treasure them all.
Unseen, unheard,
You are always near,
So missed, so loved, so very dear.
Softly the light from the stars above,
Glinting and twinkling their message of love.
Unseen, unheard,
You are always near,
So missed, so loved, so very dear.
Softly the sound in heaven above,
Silent the words to my whispered love;
Unseen, unheard,
You are always near,
So missed, so loved, so very dear.

headstones inspiration wording