Six uplifting poems about death that celebrate life

During sad times, poetry can both rouse the spirits and calm the soul. Here are some classics that will always make for welcome reading.

“May there be no sadness of farewell / When I embark” - Crossing the Bar, Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep - Mary Elizabeth Frye

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,” Frye commands. “I am not there. I do not sleep.” This vibrant poem suggests that the departed one’s spirit has merely been set free (“I am the sunlight…the gentle autumn rain”) so there is little to be gained by crying at a graveside. It’s pretty stirring stuff.

Read the full poem.

Remember – Christina Rossetti

This charming poem actually has a trick up his sleeve. Despite the title, it’s actually all about reassuring the living that sometimes it’s okay to forget (“if you should forget me for a while / …do not grieve”). Rossetti ‘s intention was to remind the reader that life is for the living:

“Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.”

Read the full poem.

Afterwards - Thomas Hardy

Although Britain’s best known writer at the time, this poem is simply about Hardy’s hopes that his country neighbours will remember him as a good countryman who appreciated the wonders of nature: "He was a man who used to notice such things". It’s a beautiful poem, filled with unforgettable images of the English countryside.

Read the full poem.

Let Me Die a Youngman's Death - Roger McGough

Sometimes, it helps to simply laugh in the face of the inevitable.  With tongue firmly in cheek, Scouse poet McGough fantasises about dying a grisly, Hollywood-style death as a very old man. Will he be machine-gunned down by gangsters aged 91? Or even better, despatched by his mistress for “catching me in bed with her daughter” at the princely age of 104? Irreverent and hilarious.

Read the full poem.

A Song of Living - Amelia Burr

Like the famous Edith Piaf song, 'Non, je ne regrette rien', this poem speaks of a life well lived with no space for petty regrets. The author writes movingly of having known friendship, joy, love and adversity – all the ingredients of a full life. And the poem’s beating heart is contained in this wonderful, repeating refrain: “Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.”

Read the full poem.

Crossing the Bar - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Many people call upon their sense of religious faith during difficult times. When contemplating the end of his own life, Tennyson imagined himself as a boatman crossing an ocean bar, nervous but  hopeful of ultimate salvation. As he puts it:

“I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crossed the bar.”

Read the full poem.

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