Or I shall live, your epitaph to make,
Or you survive, when I in earth am rotten,
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die.
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombèd in men’s eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse
When all the breathers of this world are dead.
You still shall live—such virtue hath my pen—
Where breath most breathes, ev'n in the mouths of men.
Either I will live to write your epitaph after you die, or you will survive me when I’m rotting in the grave. Death cannot take away your memory, but it will cause everything to do with me to be forgotten. Your name will live eternally, but once I’m gone, I’ll be dead to the world. I’ll only be granted an ordinary grave, but your tomb will be where everyone can see it. Your monument will be these tender poems of mine, which future generations will read and talk about, when everyone who’s now living is dead. My pen has such power that you’ll not only stay alive, you’ll live where the essence of life resides: in the breath and voices of men.