Poem: My Epitaph by C. J. Dennis

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Oh, praise me now if you would please
My soul with soothing flatteries.
Praise with my living clay agrees.
         'Tis sweet, I vow.
Give me kind words while I can feel
The modest blushes gently steal,
What time my virtues you reveal.
         Oh, praise me now!

For, when the vital spark has fled,
No matter what kind words are said,
I'll simply go on being dead
         And take no heed.
Or if, perchance, beneath the clay,
I hear some kindly critic say,
"He was a boshter'in his day!"
         'Twere hard indeed.

'Twere bitter hard to be confined,
Gagged by grim Death, while fellows kind
Call my good qualities to mind,
         And softly sigh.
I vow I'd writhe within my bier,
And strive to croak at least, "Hear, hear!"
For I have ever prized that dear
         Right to reply.

And, when at last I meet my doom
And moulder in the chilly tomb,
Gaunt Death might play within the gloom --
         Who knows what pranks.
My very skeleton would squirm
To hear, on my behalf, some worm
Or some unlettered grave-yard germ
         Returning thanks.

Then, if you're keen on praising me,
I'd rather be alive to see
And hear and feel the flattery,
         And know 'tis true.
And when I rise to make reply
I fain would droop a modest eye
And by my halting, speech imply
         It is my due.

I do not want a monument.
Why should good money so be spent?
Nay, put it out at ten per cent.,
         And when you save
Enough to purchase goodly fare,
Then spread me out a banquet rare.
No gift's appreciated there,
         Within the grave.

Oh, praise me now while I am here;
In my attentive living ear
Pour adulation; never fear
         I mind the row.
I love to hear you harp upon
Those dulcet strings.  Play on, play on!
Do not delay until I'm gone.
         But praise me now!

First published in The Bulletin, 31 December 1914

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