An extra post today in response to a Write On Edge prompt. Who could resist Epitaphs? You can find the prompt here – posting day today!
Being a writer has many pluses, especially in this day and age.
Why, one’s business letters positively sparkle – look at Helene Hanff; and shopping lists simply trip off the page. I regularly send my husband off to the supermarket with a lighter step and a twinkle in his eye.
Indeed, this was how he made his first official pass at me, way back when: he wrote on an office lunch shopping list, which I was to take to the store : It read: “Half a pound of love and a packet of desire” and I was felled instantly.
One of the less publicised advantages of being a writer is that you can write your own epitaph.
And while this may not fill you with glee and anticipation, it is vital to remember the hash anyone else will make of it, if you delegate the sorry business.
You are bound to get someone who does not know their its from their it’s, and they’ll never get that perfect turn of phrase just right to send you off to eternity with the perfect strapline.
Emily Dickinson would agree. Hers reminds me of the “Just popped out to lunch, back in two ticks” notices I see in shop windows. It reads: “Called back.”
Trust an Irish genuis of a poet to write a really gothic musing on death. Yeats wrote ‘Under Ben Bulben’ in the closing stages of his life.The last three lines were dark, and dramatic, and as moody as Yeats could be.Perfect for his stone.
“Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!”
One day I shall visit his stone, preferably on a horse, just for the theatre of the situation.
But one of the gentlest geniuses England has ever seen chose to dispense altogether with the pallaver of poetry on a stone.
I have often sat next to him, his Cornish slate slab stalwart against the winds that blow off the Camel Estuary in Cornwall.
John Betjeman is buried next to a church which was buried too. St Enodoc, which lies at the ninth hole of a seaside golf course, was subsumed by the drifting sands from the 16th to 19th centuries. Eventually someone let a clergyman through a hole in the roof and it was brought back into action once more.
The stone sits contentedly in the graveyard as tourists potter in and out. The sound of the sea rebounds from its surface, which is inscribed not with mans words but a perfect celtic filigree pattern. The sun shines and children saunter in with their buckets and spades to take a look. The freezing gales lash and tourists continue to attend, with their raincoats and wellington boots.
John Betjeman dispenses with poetry on a stone, because poetry is all around him; the kind he loved.
The chatter and the slate and the wellingtons, the sand and the sound of the sea? They define him.
Picture source here