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Athenian Epitaphs
by Michael R. Burch

These are epitaphs placed on gravestones and monuments by the ancient Greeks in remembrance of their dead.

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
but go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls
in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
—Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Passerby,
Tell the Spartans we lie
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Now that I am dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that nurtured me, that held me;
I take rest at your breast.
—Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

He lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
—Michael R. Burch, after Anacreon

They observed our fearful fetters, marched to confront the surrounding darkness;
now we extol their excellence. Bravely, they died for us.
—Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas: these were men who drew valorous breath.
Assume, like pale chattels, an ashen silence at death.
—Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she'd confess:
"I am now less than nothingness."
—Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends' tardiness,
mariner! Just man's foolhardiness.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

I am loyal to you, master, even in the grave:
just as you now are death's slave.
—Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Having never earned a penny
nor seen a bridal gown address the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Little I knew—a child of five—
of what it means to be alive
and all life's little thrills;
but little also—(I was glad not to know)—
of life's great ills.
—Michael R. Burch, after Lucian

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
Please tell my dear father I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
—Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I'm buried.
—Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Pity this boy who was beautiful, but died.
Pity his monument, overlooking this hillside.
Pity the world that bore him, then foolishly survived.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Insatiable Death! I was only a child!
Why did you ****** me away, in my infancy,
from those who would love me?
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Tell Nicagoras that Strymonias
at the setting of the Kids
lost his.
—Michael R. Burch, after Nicaenetus

Now his voice is prisoned in the silent pathways of the night:
his owner's faithful Maltese...
but will he still bark again, on sight?
—Michael R. Burch, after Tymnes

Poor partridge, poor partridge, lately migrated from the rocks;
our cat bit off your unlucky head; my offended heart still balks!
I put you back together again and buried you, so unsightly!
May the dark earth cover you heavily: heavily, not lightly...
so she shan't get at you again!
—Michael R. Burch, after Agathias

Dead as you are, though you lie still as stone,
huntress Lycas, my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness,
bellowing as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would canter and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Aeschylus, graybeard, son of Euphorion,
died far away in wheat-bearing Gela;
still, the groves of Marathon may murmur of his valor
and the black-haired Mede, with his mournful clarion.
—Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Not Rocky Trachis,
nor the thirsty herbage of Dryophis,
nor this albescent stone
with its dark blue lettering shielding your white bones,
nor the wild Icarian sea dashing against the steep shingles
of Doliche and Dracanon,
nor the empty earth,
nor anything essential of me since birth,
nor anything now mingles
here with the perplexing absence of you,
with what death forces us to abandon...
—Michael R. Burch, after Euphorion

Though they were steadfast among spears, dark Fate destroyed them
as they defended their native land, rich in sheep;
now Ossa's dust seems all the more woeful, where they now sleep.
—Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Sail on, mariner,
for when we were perishing,
greater ships sailed on.
—Michael R. Burch, after Theodorides

We who left the thunderous surge of the Aegean
of old, now lie here on the mid-plain of Ecbatan:
farewell, dear Athens, nigh to Euboea,
farewell, dear sea!
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

My friend found me here,
a shipwrecked corpse on the beach.
He heaped these strange boulders above me.
Oh, how he would wail
that he "loved" me,
with many bright tears for his own calamitous life!
Now he sleeps with my wife
and flits like a gull in a gale
—beyond reach—
while my broken bones bleach.
—Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

All this vast sea is his Monument.
Where does he lie—whether heaven, or hell?
Well friend, perhaps when the gulls repent—
they may tell.
—Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Cloud-capped Geraneia, cruel mountain!
If only you had looked no further than Ister and Scythian
Tanais, had not aided the surge of the Scironian
sea's wild-spurting fountain
filling the dark ravines of snowy Meluriad!
But now he is dead:
a chill corpse in a chillier ocean—moon led—
and only an empty tomb now speaks of the long, windy voyage ahead.
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

His white bones lie shining on some inhospitable shore:
a son lost to his father, his tomb empty; the poor-
est beggars have happier mothers!
—Michael R. Burch, after Damegtus

The light of a single morning
exterminated the sacred offspring of Lysidice.
Nor do the angels sing.
Nor do we seek the gods' advice.
This is the grave of Nicander's lost children.
We weep at its bitter price.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Pluto, delighting in tears,
why did you bring our son, Ariston,
to the laughterless abyss of death?
Why—why? —did the gods grant him breath,
if only for seven years?
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Although I had to leave the sweet sun,
only nineteen—Diogenes, hail! —
beneath the earth, let's have the more fun:
till human desire seems weak and pale.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Once sweetest of the workfellows,
shy teller of tall tales
—fleet Crethis! —who excelled
at every childhood game...
now you sleep among long shadows
where everyone's the same...
—Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Passing by, passing by my oft-bewailed pillar,
shudder, my new friend to hear my tragic story:
of how my pyre was lit by the same fiery torch
meant to lead the procession to my nuptials in glory!
O Hymenaeus, why did you did change
my bridal song to a dirge? Strange!
—Michael R. Burch, after Erinna

Suddenly this grave
holds our nightingale speechless;
now she lies here like a stone,
who once was so accomplished
while sunlight illumining dust
proves the gods all reachless,
as our prayers prove them also
unhearing or beseechless.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I, Homenea, the chattering bright sparrow,
lie here in the hollow of a great affliction,
leaving tears to Atimetus
and all scattered—that great affection.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Wert thou, O Artemis,
overbusy with thy beast-slaying hounds
when the Beast embraced me?
—Michael R. Burch, after Diodorus of Sardis

A mother only as far as the birth pangs,
my life cut short at the height of life's play:
only eighteen years old, so brief was my day.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

We mourn Polyanthus, whose wife
placed him newly-wedded in an unmarked grave,
having received his luckless corpse
back from the green Aegean wave
that deposited his fleshless skeleton
gruesomely in the harbor of Torone.
—Michael R. Burch, after Phaedimus

Here Saon, son of Dicon, now rests in holy sleep:
say not that the good die, friend, lest gods and mortals weep.
—Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Keywords/Tags: translation, epitaph, epitaphs, eulogy, Ancient Greek, epigram, epigrams, death, mrbepi, grave, funeral, spirit, ghost, memorial, tribute, praise
Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.

###

Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.

###

Laughter’s Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.
Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.

###

Long Division
by Michael R. Burch

All things become one
Through death’s long division
And perfect precision.

###

Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

It’s not that every leaf must finally fall,
it’s just that we can never catch them all.

###

Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we’ll discover what the heart is for.

###

Here and Hereafter
by Michael R. Burch

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter ...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.

###

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

###

Styx
by Michael R. Burch

Black waters,
deep and dark and still . . .
all men have passed this way,
or will.

###

honeybee
by Michael R. Burch

love is a little treble thing—
prone to sing
and (sometimes) to sting

###

The Shrinking Season
by Michael R. Burch

With every wearying year
the weight of the winter grows
and while the schoolgirl outgrows
her clothes,
the widow disappears
in hers.

###

brrExit
by Michael R. Burch

what would u give
to simply not exist—
for a painless exit?
he asked himself, uncertain.
then from behind
the hospital room curtain
a patient screamed—
"my life!"

###

briefling
by Michael R. Burch

manishatched,hopsintotheMix,
cavorts,hassex(quick!,spawnanewBro­od!);
then,likeamayfly,he’ssuddenlygone:
plantfood

###

Stage Fright
by Michael R. Burch

To be or not to be?
In the end Hamlet
opted for naught.

###

Housman was right ...
by Michael R. Burch

It's true that life’s not much to lose,
so why not hang out on a cloud?
It’s just the "bon voyage" is hard
and the objections loud.

###

Athenian Epitaphs
by Michael R. Burch

Here he lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
—Michael R. Burch, after Anacreon

Blame not the gale, or the inhospitable sea-gulf, or friends’ tardiness,
mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
but go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
—Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Passerby,
tell the Spartans we lie
here, dead at their word,
obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Now that I am dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that nurtured me, that held me;
I take rest at your breast.
—Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

Keywords/Tags: epigram, epigrams, epitaph, epitaphs, Greek, translation, Greece, life, life and death, grief, mother, mother and child, eulogy, dirge
My Epitaph
by Michael R. Burch

Do not weep for me, when I am gone.
I lived, and ate my fill, and gorged on life.
You will not find beneath this glossy stone
the man who sowed and reaped and gathered days
like flowers, well aware they would not keep.
Go lightly then, and leave me to my sleep.

Keywords/Tags: epitaph, epigram, death, grave, stone, marker, nameplate, tombstone, inscription, life, days, flowers, sleep
Bleurose Apr 2
Return to the forest where I grew.
Because that is where you will find me.

Travel to the base of the hill, to the temperamental stream
Because that is where you will find me.

Go to the park and sit on the swing nearest the car park.
Because that is where you will find me.

At the field that watches over the sun's bed, follow the path to the storm drain, my shrine.
Because that is where you will find me.

Hear me in the wind, in every spark of purple and every stupid thing relating to every stupid joke I ever made.
Find me in Samarkand and in the playlists I leave behind.

Cast me to Zephyrus, so I can be in your lungs.
Because I want you to be, where you find me.
I wrote my own funeral poem for the future a while ago.
It was going to be longer, going through all my favourite spots and the places I grew up - but I think it's ok this way.

The working title was "if I'm ever missed."
Last Anthem
by Michael R. Burch

Where you have gone are the shadows falling...
does memory pale
like a fossil in shale
...do you not hear me calling?

Where you have gone do the shadows lengthen...
does memory wane
with the absence of pain
...is silence at last your anthem?

Keywords/Tags: elegy, eulogy, epitaph, death, grave, Sheol, shadows, silence, eternity, funeral, memory, memorial, tribute
Rajinder Mar 11
Here lies the one
who lived between two moons
I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly
"Epitaph for a Palestinian Child" has become one of my most popular poems on the Internet; the last time I checked with Google it appeared on over 400 web pages.
Mark Toney Dec 2019
Here lies the body of Jamie McGraph
Who decided to write his own epitaph
Thinking a selfie might make it better
While taking the photo he took a header
Off the edge of a cliff into oblivion
"Came to a sticky end" the fitting idiom
12/4/2019 - Poetry form: Epitaph - Copyright © Mark Toney | Year Posted 2019
Mark Toney Nov 2019
Here lies the body of Nick O Tyme
Who never thought of crossing the line
Lived his life as quiet as could be
Only stimulant consumed was tea
Saved a lady from the path of a train
Regarding which he was true to his name
Results for him were not quite the same
11/14/2019 - Poetry form: Epitaph - Copyright © Mark Toney | Year Posted 2019
TS Ray Nov 2019
Driving by the beautiful woods,
I see them every night.
Standing tall and peaceful words at last,
its truly a poignant sight.

I think to myself,
all through the night.
what would mine say?
perhaps a few words of righteous might?

When the time comes,
need I let the world know?
or as the time flies,
do I let the world know me?

Flying like a butterfly,
Spreading your wings willfully,
Shining through your smile truthfully,
Speaking a few niceties naturally, and
Building paragraphs of legacy.
Surely, Epitaph will be no new fancy,
and written for you in permanency.
Not in a stone but in the hearts,
you touched in regular frequency.

I think to myself,
all through the night.
Why then,
should it say anything?
I suppose, its neither wrong nor right.
TS. 2019.
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