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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
If you're dealing with the loss of a loved one, find practical and emotional support with our information for bereaved family and friends.