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Epitaph on Charles II -- John Wilmot

Gues poem submitted by Divya Sampath:
(Poem #669) Epitaph on Charles II
 Here lies a great and mighty King,
 Whose promise none relied on;
 He never said a foolish thing,
 Nor ever did a wise one.
-- John Wilmot
     (Earl of Rochester)


Following Martial's example [1], later epigrammatists often composed
epitaphs for the still living. The one above was written by John Wilmot
during a falling out with the King - a fairly frequent occurrence, by all
accounts, though they were otherwise fast friends. In response to this,
Charles II is supposed to have said, "That is very true, for my words are my
own, but my acts, my ministers'".

[1] Marcus Valerius Martialis (40-104 C.E), who wrote (among other things)
the following pithy words:

 Hic est quem legis ille, quem requiris,
 toto notus in orbe Martialis
 argutis epigrammaton libellis:
 cui, lector studiose, quod dedisti
 uiuenti decus atque sentienti,
 rari post cineres habent poetae.

(He unto whom thou art so partial,
 Oh, reader! is the well-known Martial,
 The Epigrammatist: while living,
 Give him the fame thou wouldst be giving;
 So shall he hear, and feel, and know it --
 Post-obits rarely reach a poet. )
(tr. George Gordon, Lord Byron)

[Brief Bio]

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680)

John Wilmot was born at Ditchley in Oxfordshire, England. The son of a
Cavalier hero and his deeply religious wife, he grew into a notorious
rakehell. By the age of eighteen he had indulged in a number of love
affairs, one of which resulted in the birth of an illegitimate daughter. In
1665 he kidnapped the much sought after heiress Elizabeth Malet, whom he
later married. His lifestyle and wit earned him the (mercurial) favour of
Charles II. Despite several banishments from the court, he remained a
favourite of the king.

In the last year of his life, he seemed to regret his self-indulgent
lifestyle, while being cared for by the rising Anglican Bishop, Gilbert
Burnet. Wilmot influenced and was admired by a large number of poets
including John Dryden, Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.

     -- condensed from various sources, including the EB


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