Letter: Epitaphs ancient and modern

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The Independent Online
Sir: Pace James Fergusson's comments ('Debate that has lasted for centuries', 10 August), the older the epitaph in some areas, the more idiosyncratic. How would a vicar nowadays feel about a 20-liner which praised the entombed banker for charging a low rate of interest? Or praised the man's love of the organ? Or, best of all, is virtually a 'Wanted' poster for the murderer of an unfortunate deacon:

Here lies Bobolenus, a goodly deacon,

snatched away by dark death whilst he slept.

An enemy, lurking in an unseen hiding place,

struck him on the head, killing him by deceit.

Tell me, what good did this terrible deed do you, wicked man?

He lives in God, you die for ever.

He deserves the glory of martyrdom, you the fate of a brigand;

he wins the palm, but punishment awaits you.

For these, and other interesting inscribed epitaphs, your readers might wish to dip into the writings of Venantius Fortunatus, the sixth-century Gallic writer.

Yours faithfully,

J. W. GEORGE

Edinburgh

10 August

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