Further funeral poems
Thanks to Simon Allen for this selection of poems suitable for readings at funerals.
Farewell Anne Brontë (1820-1849)
Farewell to thee! But not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee
Within my heart they still shall dwell
And they shall cheer and comfort me
Life seems more sweet that thou didst live
And men more true that thou wert one
Nothing is lost that thou didst give
Nothing destroyed that thou hast done
Orestes, speaking over his father's grave Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
A man's children slip through the net of his death.
Their bodies leave his body, and bear his life
Back into life, with his name and fame.
His memories are alive in their bones.
Like the corks that buoy up the nets of the fishermen
A man's children buoy up the weave of his life.
They buoy up the warp and weft of all that he achieved.
Without them it sinks, lost in the depths of the ocean.
This truth came borne with bier and pall.
I felt it, when I sorrowed most.
'Tis better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all.
Another Spring Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
If I might see another Spring,
I'd not plant summer flowers and wait:
I'd have my crocuses at once,
My leafless pink mezereons,
My chill-veined snowdrops, choicer yet
My white or azure violet,
Leaf-nested primrose; anything
To blow at once, not late.
If I might see another Spring,
I'd listen to the daylight birds
That build their nests and pair and sing,
Nor wait for the mateless nightingale;
I'd listen to the lusty herds,
The ewes with lambs white as snow,
I'd find out music in the hail
And all the winds that blow.
If I might see another Spring -
Oh stinging comment on my past -
That all my past results in "if" -
If I might see another Spring
I'd laugh today, today is brief;
I would not wait for anything:
I'd use today that cannot last,
Be glad today and sing.
Heredity Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,
And leaping from place to place
The years-heired feature that can
In curve and voice and eye
Despise the human span
Of durance - that is I;
The eternal thing in man,
That heeds no call to die.
Transformations Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
This poem, also by Thomas Hardy, talks about how, when we die, we continue our life by living on in people's memories. The metaphor is of new grass and flowers growing in a cemetery, transformed by the people who have been brought there.
Portion of this yew
Is a man my grandsire knew,
Bosomed here at its foot:
This branch may be his wife,
A ruddy human life
Now turned to a green shoot.
These grasses must be made
Of her who often prayed,
Last century, for repose;
And the fair girl long ago
Whom I often tried to know
May be entering this rose.
So, they are not underground,
But as nerves and veins abound
In the growth of upper air,
And they feel the sun and rain,
And the energy again
That made them what they were!
From Meditation XV John Donne (1572-1631)
When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language for ... no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.