Poetic Forms Poetic Forms    

Lesson 18: Epitaph: Swift's Epitaph

by William Butler Yeats

lesson image
Swift's Death Mask

Swift has sailed into his rest;

Savage indignation there

Cannot lacerate his Breast.

Imitate him if you dare,

World-Besotted Traveler; he

Served human liberty.

    Poetic Forms Poetic Forms    

Lesson 18: Epitaph: Swift's Epitaph

by William Butler Yeats


Study the poem for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the poem each day.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Read about the poetic form.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


"Swift's Epitaph" is Jonathan Swift's self-written epitaph loosely translated by poet William Butler Yeats. Jonathan Swift was a famous clergyman and author who wrote 'Gulliver's Travels,' the story of a man who travels to exotic lands such as Lilliput, the home to the tiny Lilliputian people. The original epitaph written in Latin displayed near Swift's grave at St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.


Poems often adhere to specific poetic forms, defined as 'poems following distinct sets of rules.'

The nine poetic forms we'll study include the:

  1. Sijo: A lyrical Korean poetic form of three long lines.
  2. Haiku: A Japanese poem of three lines and a total of seventeen syllables.
  3. Limerick: A humorous poem of five lines and the rhyming scheme AABBA, typically having syllables of 9–9–6–6–9.
  4. Sonnet: A poetic form of fourteen lines that follow one of a few common rhyming schemes.
  5. Epitaph: A poem honoring the deceased, engraved on a burial marker or tomb.
  6. Acrostic
  7. Visual
  8. Ode
  9. Blank Verse

Epitaphs follow the listed rules:

  1. Honor the deceased
  2. Relatively short - the shorter the better
  3. Inscribed on a burial marker or tomb


Activity 1: Recite the Poem Title, Poet Name, and Poem

  • Each day this week, recite aloud the title of the poem, the name of the poet, and the poem.

Activity 2: Study the Poem Picture

Study the poem picture and describe how it relates to the poem.

Activity 3: Narrate the Poem

  • After reading the poem, narrate the poem events aloud using your own words.

Activity 4: Complete Book Activities   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 21 of 'Elementary Poetry 6: Poetic Forms.'


  1. 'Epitaph.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  2. 'Swift's Epitaph.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.