From Uncle Wesli’s Epitaphs for the Poets
by Wesli Court
R.I.P. JOHN SKELTON
c. 1460 – 21 June 1529
Here lies John Skelton
Worn to a skeleton
By tumbling in verse,
For he loved to curse
Or, even worse,
And dub himself ‘Laureate’.
R.I.P. SIR THOMAS WYATT
1503-October 11, 1542
He fell in love with Anne Boleyn
Yet somehow saved his precious skin
And introduced the English sonnet
Which Shakespeare stole from Thomas Wyatt.
R.I.P. HENRY HOWARD
1517-January 19, 1547
He and his friend Sir Thomas Wyatt
Were fathers of the English sonnet
Which did no good, for the puppet jury
Condemned to death the Earl of Surrey.
R.I.P. GEORGE PUTTENHAM
His Arte of English Poesy
Made him a scholar known to be
A womanizing, rutting ram,
Our ancient Cousin Puttenham.
R.I.P. SIR WALTER RALEIGH
January 22, 1552(?) – Oct 29, 1618
A seeker after wealth and power,
He spent some time in London’s Tower
After he unwisely wed —
And then Sir Walter lost his head.
R.I.P. EDMUND SPENSER
c. 1552-January 13, 1599
His vast romance, The Faerie Queene,
Cannot be read but may be seen
To need the work of a condenser —
Too late, we fear, for Edmund Spenser.
R.I.P. SIR PHILIP SIDNEY
November 30, 1554 - October 17, 1586
Loved his kidney
Pie and sonnets
With their tresses
Clad in bonnets.
It’s bad enough to have to worry
About Phil Sidney and Howard Surrey,¹
But I'll be damned, I will be bound,
If I'll lose sleep over Tom² and Pound.³
¹Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, 1517-19 January 1547; ² T. S. Eliot, September 26, 1888-January 4, 1965; ³Ezra Pound, October 30, 1885-November 1, 1972.
R.I.P. CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE
February 6, 1564 - May 30, 1593
Kit Marlow had a golden tongue
Which was cut short when he was stabbed
In his right eye, not in the lung.
R.I.P. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
23 April 1564-April 23, 1616
Word-warrior: when he was spent
He went into retirement.
Although he tried to disappear,
We still hear William shake a spear.
R.I.P. THOMAS CAMPION
February 12, 1567 - March 1, 1620
Thomas Campion loved the lute
But not the trumpet ... not a toot,
Nor did he care a bit for rhyme
Though he wrote lute songs all the time.
R.I.P. BEN JONSON
June 11, 1572 - August 6, 1637
Although convicted of manslaughter,
He preferred to evoke man’s laughter
In poems using rime, not con-
sonance, O rare Ben Jonson!
R.I.P. JOHN DONNE
June 19, 1572-March 31, 1631
He took a playwright’s child as bride
And wrote defending suicide,
Used Anne, his wife’s name, as a pun
To indicate he was un-Donne,
But he lived longer than did she,
And lingers still in poesy.
R.I.P. MARY WROTH
Raleigh, Sidney, Pembroke were her blood;
The Fates therefore took her at their flood
To be a distaff poet cut from cloth
Of gold which made the Muses’ Mary Wroth.
R.I.P. ROBERT HERRICK
August 24, 1591-October 15, 1674
At first a member of the Sons of Ben,
He threw his sermon at a snorer when
Put out to pasture as a country cleric.
The gentry loved their vicar Robert Herrick.
R.I.P. GEORGE HERBERT
April 3, 1593-March 1, 1633
As good a Christian as he was a man,
Of course it was a part of his Lord’s plan
To take the sacred verse that George had sung
With all his heart and wring it from his lung.
R.I.P. THOMAS CAREW
February 1595-March 22, 1640
When he saw that St. Albans was in bed
Beside the queen, he dropped the candle, said,
‘So sorry!’ to the king who spotted nary
A thing that eve. The queen waxed good to Carew.
R.I.P. EDMUND WALLER
March 3, 1606-October 21, 1687
He managed to survive by selling out
His co-conspirators. Never devout,
A shifty man whom some would call a crawler
Was the sly survivor Edmund Waller.
R.I.P. JOHN MILTON
December 9, 1608-November 8, 1674
The first things that he lost were both his eyes,
The second were the keys to Paradise,
Which finally were found. Others built on
This poor foundation the Parodies of Milton.
R.I.P. JOHN SUCKLING
February 10, 1609 - June 1, 1642
He took a beating and he lost his pride
To his rival for a disputed bride;
As a rhymer he was a sort of duckling —
Or so it’s rumored of Sir John Suckling.