The most beautiful poems for funerals

11 September 2017

Poetry can bring comfort in the toughest of times, here are some suggestions for anyone searching for a fitting funeral reading to pay tribute to a loved one.

Hopefully these poems of parting and passing, of sorrow and healing, will find a deep echo within those who find themselves dealing with grief or bereavement. 


Remember 
Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
         Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad.

 

Funeral Blues
W. H. Auden 

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
 
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message 'He is Dead'.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
 
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
 
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
 
 
'Do not stand at my grave and weep' 
Mary Elizabeth Frye
 
Do not stand at my grave and weep 
I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die. 
 
 
Music 
Percy Bysshe Shelley
 
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belov├Ęd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on. 
 
 
Epitaph On A Friend 
Robert Burns
 
An honest man here lies at rest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd,
Few heads with knowledge so inform'd;
If there's another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.
 
 
Yes
Tess Gallagher
 
Now we are like that flat cone of sand
in the garden of the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto
designed to appear only in moonlight.
 
Do you want me to mourn?
Do you want me to wear black?
 
Or like moonlight on whitest sand
to use your dark, to gleam, to shimmer?
 
I gleam. I mourn.
 
 
No Time
Billy Collins
 
In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side beneath a slab of smooth granite.
 
Then, all day, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.
 

Crossing the Bar
Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

Sunset and evening star,
      And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
      When I put out to sea,
 
   But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
      Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
      Turns again home.
 
   Twilight and evening bell,
      And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
      When I embark;
 
   For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
      The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
      When I have crost the bar.
 
 
Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud
John Donne
 
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. 
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, 
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, 
And soonest our best men with thee do go, 
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. 
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, 
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, 
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? 
One short sleep past, we wake eternally 
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die. 
 
 
'That it will never come again'
Emily Dickinson
 
That it will never come again
Is what makes life so sweet.
Believing what we don't believe
Does not exhilarate.
 
That if it be, it be at best
An ablative estate --
This instigates an appetite
Precisely opposite. 
 
 
Requiem
Robert Louis Stevenson
 
Under the wide and starry sky  
  Dig the grave and let me lie:  
Glad did I live and gladly die,  
  And I laid me down with a will.  
  
This be the verse you 'grave for me:         
  Here he lies where he long'd to be;  
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,  
  And the hunter home from the hill.
 
 
 

The Picador Book of Funeral Poems

The Picador Book of Funeral Poems

The Picador Book of Funeral Poems, designed for those in need of poetic solace, is out now in Paperback and eBook. 

Read extract  
 
 
 

 

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