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Here lies one whose name was writ in water
Fame, and indeed life, is fleeting.
A version of the words originate from Beaumont and Fletcher's play Philaster, 1611:
"All your better deeds Shall be in water writ, but this in Marble."
In the better known form 'writ in water' they appeared in Keat's Poetic Works, 1821.
Keats travelled to Rome and died there, aged just 25, in February, 1821. He told his friend Joseph Severn that he didn't want his name to appear on his tombstone, but merely this line:
"Here lies one whose name was writ in water."
Severn honoured that wish, as the gravestone shows - Keats is commemorated just as 'A young English poet'.
Keats's Grave - New Protestant Cemetery, Rome
THIS GRAVE CONTAINS
ALL THAT WAS MORTAL OF
A YOUNG ENGLISH POET
ON HIS DEATH-BED
IN THE BITTERNESS OF HIS HEART
at the malicious power of his enemies
desired these words to be engraved
on his tombstone
"HERE LIES ONE WHOSE NAME
WAS WRIT IN WATER"
FEB 24 1821