John Flory – My Epitaph

Goodness knows where they will bury me, – in their own grave yard I suppose, two feet deep in a painted coffin. There will be no mourners, and no rejoicers either, which seems sadder still,[1] for the Burmese celebration of[2] a funeral with music & gambling is[3] nicer than our beastly mummeries. But if there were anyone here[4] whose hand could form the letters, I would [like][5] him to carve this on the bark of some great peepul tree above my head.[6]

Born 1890
Died of Drink 1927.

“Here lies the bones of poor John Flory;
His story was the old, old story.
Money, women, cards & gin
Were the four things that did him in.

He has spent sweat enough to swim in
Making love to stupid[7] women;
He has known misery past thinking
In the dismal art of drinking.

O stranger, as you voyage here
And read this welcome, shed no tear;
But take the single gift I give,
And learn from me how not to live.”


[1] interlinear addition

[2] custom of celebrating

[3] seems

[4] interlinear addition

[5] editorial addition

[6] bed

[7] married

Peter Davison, from the Complete Works

Written 1926-1930?, handwritten in ink on reverse of Government of Burma paper, CW 71. Preliminary sketch for Burmese Days