written by himself
HIC DEPOSITUM EST CORPUS
HUJUS ECCLESIAE CATHEDRALIS DECANI
UBI SAEVA INDIGNATIO
COR ULTERIUS LACERARE NEQUIT.
ET IMITARE, SI POTERIS,
STRENUUM PRO VIRILI LIBERTATIS
HERE LIES THE BODY OF JONATHAN SWIFT
OF THIS CATHEDRAL CHURCH DEAN
WHERE SAVAGE INDIGNATION
CANNOT LACERATE HIS HEART ANYMORE.
GO TRAVELER, AND IMITATE IF YOU
CAN ONE WHO TO THE UTMOST
STRENUOUSLY CHAMPIONED MAN'S
When my cousin Sol died, my sister and I went to his funeral, in Newark. I was amazed at how many people were there. Sol could be a difficult person. He had been a Trotskyite of the old school (excuse me: TrotskyIST) bitter and cynical, argumentative, arrogant, skeptical and pugnacious on just about any topic you can name, a bit of a character and something of a crank. He had been a union organizer and political activist in the Newark area for some time and had made enemies of a good many "important" people. He had also made a lot of friends, both black and white, people he had worked with in various protests and boycotts, people who knew that beneath the bitterly ironic and pugnacious exterior was a man of great wit and charm, warm, caring and above all committed to the fight for human rights, equality, fairness, decency.
I was expected to speak at the funeral and when I thought about what I would say, the words of Swift's epitaph kept running through my mind, especially that part about "savage indignation." It's even better in Latin: "saeva indignatio"!!! Savage indignation lacerated Sol's heart, no question about it, indignation at the cold cruelty of our society, the greed, the narrow mindedness, the racism, sexism, exploitation, etc., etc. So I read this epitaph at his funeral, first in Latin, then in English. And afterwards some of his friends asked me to write it out for them.