Thursday, July 28, 2011

Epitaph: What tim’rous worms we mortals are

Have you ever seen the word worm in an epitaph? I hadn’t, until a few days ago.

wife of Ansel
died June 23rd.
in the 38th year of
her age.

Why should we start and fear to die.
What timrous worms we mortals are
Death is the gate to endless joy.
And yet we dread to enter there.

The epitaph is from the hymn “Why Should We Start and Fear to Die” by Isaac Watts (b. 1674, d. 1748).

Why should we start and fear to die?
What tim’rous worms we mortals are!
Death is the gate of endless joy,
And yet we dread to enter there.

The pains, the groans, the dying strife,
Fright our approaching souls away;
Still we shrink back again to life,
Fond of our prison and our clay.

O, if my Lord would come and meet,
My soul should stretch her wings in haste,
Fly fearless through death’s iron gate,
Nor feel the terrors as she passed.

Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on His breast I lean my head,
And breathe my life out sweetly there.

Saint John’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, Franklin County, Ohio


  1. Benjamin Franklin wanted this for his epitaph (his actual epitaph was a bit shorter):
    The body of
    B. Franklin, Printer
    (Like the Cover of an Old Book
    Its Contents torn Out
    And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
    Lies Here, Food for Worms.
    But the Work shall not be Lost;
    For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
    In a New and More Elegant Edition
    Revised and Corrected
    By the Author.

  2. Wrote a post ten days ago about an epitaph I came across, also from this hymn. It was the final verse -- "Jesus can make a dying bed..."

    Pretty neat to find these connections (though maybe tenuous) in history -- from Ohio to Georgia!

  3. Heather, thank you--another 'worm' epitaph! And a famous one to boot.


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