Sunday, 23rd November, 2014
Planning Ahead: Readings and Funeral Poems

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Here are the most loved poems and readings for funerals. The choice is very personal but we hope you find an appropriate poem, reading or prayer in our collection

Poems

Sorted alphabetically by title or first line

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A

A song of living

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
I have sent up my gladness on wings, to be lost in the blue of the sky.
I have run and leaped with the rain, I have taken the wind to my breast.
My cheeks like a drowsy child to the face of the earth I have pressed.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have kissed young love on the lips, I have heard his song to the end,
I have struck my hand like a seal in the loyal hand of a friend.
I have known the peace of heaven, the comfort of work done well.
I have longed for death in the darkness and risen alive out of hell.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I gave a share of my soul to the world, when and where my course is run.
I know that another shall finish the task I surely must leave undone.
I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.
As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God,
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

Amelia Burr, American poet (1878 - 1968)

Away

I cannot say and I will not say
That she is dead, she is just away.
With a cheery smile and a wave of hand
She has wandered into an unknown land;
And left us dreaming how very fair
Its needs must be, since she lingers there.

And you-oh you, who the wildest yearn
From the old-time step and the glad return-
Think of her faring on, as dear
In the love of there, as the love of here
Think of her still the same way, I say;
She is not dead, she is just away.

James Whitcomb Riley, American poet (1849 - 1916)

A parting guest

What delightful guests are they
Life and Love!
Lingering I turn away,
This late hour, yet glad enough
They have not witheld from me
Their high hospitality.
So with face lit with delight
And all gratitude, I stay
Yet to press their hands and say,
"Thanks. So fine a time! Goodnight."

James Whitcomb Riley, American poet (1849 - 1916)

Afterglow

I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.
I'd like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.
I'd like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun;
Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.

Unknown

At that hour

At that hour when all things have repose,
O lonely watcher of the skies,
Do you hear the night wind and the sighs
Of harps playing unto Love to unclose
The pale gates of sunrise?

When all things repose, do you alone
Awake to hear the sweet harps play
To Love before him on his way,
And the night wind answering in antiphon
Till night is overgone?

Play on, invisible harps, unto Love,
Whose way in heaven is aglow
At that hour when soft lights come and go,
Soft sweet music in the air above
And in the earth below.

James Joyce, Irish author and poet (1882 - 1941)

B

But not forgotten

I think, no matter where you stray,
That I shall go with you a way.
Though you may wander sweeter lands,
You will not soon forget my hands,
Nor yet the way I held my head,
Nor all the tremulous things I said.
You still will see me, small and white
And smiling, in the secret night,
And feel my arms about you when
The day comes fluttering back again.
I think, no matter where you be,
You'll hold me in your memory
And keep my image, there without me,
By telling later loves about me.

Dorothy Parker, American writer and poet (1893 - 1967)

C

Crossing the bar

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 though 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 crossed the bar.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate (1809 - 1892)

D

Do not stand at my grave and weep

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.

Mary Frye, American poet (1904 - 2004)

Death is nothing at all

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my own familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Canon Henry Scott-Holland, Canon of St Paul's Cathedral (1847 - 1918)

Death

If I should die before the rest of you,
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone.
Nor, when I'm gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must,
Parting is hell.
But life goes on,
So........ sing as well.

Joyce Grenfell, actress and writer (1910 - 1979)

Departed comrade

Departed comrade! Thou, redeemed from pain
Shall sleep the sleep that kings desire in vain:
Not thine the sense of loss
But lo, for us the void
That never shall be filled again.
Not thine but ours the grief.
All pain is fled from thee.
And we are weeping in thy stead;
Tears for the mourners who are left behind
Peace everlasting for the quiet dead.

Lucretius, Roman epic poet and philosopher (ca 94 - 55BC)

Death be not proud

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne (1572-1631)

E

Early death

She passed away like morning dew
Before the sun was high;
So brief her time, she scarcely knew
The meaning of a sigh.

As round the rose its soft perfume,
Sweet love around her floated;
Admired she grew-while mortal doom
Crept on, unfeared, unnoted.

Love was her guardian Angel here,
But Love to Death resigned her;
Though Love was kind, why should we fear
But holy Death is kinder?

Hartley Coleridge, writer and poet (1796 - 1849)

Epitaph on a child

Here, freed from pain, secure from misery, lies
A child, the darling of his parents' eyes:
A gentler lamb n'er sported on the plain,
A fairer flower will never bloom again:
Few were the days allotted to his breath;
Now let him sleep in peace his night of death.

Thomas Gray, poet, classical scholar and Cambridge don (1716 - 1771)

 

Epitaph on William Muir

An HONEST man here lies at rest,
As e'er God with his image blest; 
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 informed;
If there is another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.

Robert Burns, celebrated Scottish poet and lyricist (1759 - 1796)


 

Even such is time

Even such is Time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust;
Who in the dark and silent grave
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust.

Sir Walter Raleigh, explorer (1554-1618)

F

Feel no guilt in laughter, he'd know how much you care

Feel no guilt in laughter, he'd know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He'd hope that you could carry on the way you always do.
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
Let memories surround you, a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day,
That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart
And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.

Unknown

Funeral blues

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.

WH Auden, poet (1907 - 1973)

Family o' mine: I should like to send you a sunbeam

Family o' mine:
I should like to send you a sunbeam, or the twinkle of some bright star,
or a tiny piece of the downy fleece that clings to a cloud afar.
I should like to send you the essence of a myriad sun-kissed flowers,
or the lilting song as it floats along, of a brook through fairy bowers.
I should like to send you the dew-drops that glisten at break of day,
and then at night the eerie light that mantles the Milky Way.
I should like to send you the power that nothing can overflow -
the power to smile and laugh the while a-jouneying through life you go.
But these are mere fanciful wishes; I'll send you a Godspeed instead,
and I'll clasp your hand - then you'll understand all the things I have left unsaid.

Anonymous

Farewell

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 Thou wert one;
Nothing is lost that Thou didst give,
Nothing destroyed that Thou hast done.

Anne Bronte, novelist, poet and youngest of the three Bronte sisters (1820 - 1849)

For Katrina's sun dial

Time is too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice,
But for those who love, time is
Eternity.

Henry Van Dyke, American author, academic and clergyman (1852 - 1933)

Farewell My friends

It was beautiful as long as it lasted
The journey of my life.
I have no regrets whatsoever
Save the pain I'll leave behind.
Those dear hearts who love and care...
And the strings pulling at the heart and soul...
The strong arms that held me up
When my own strength let me down.
At every turning of my life I came across good friends,
Friends who stood by me,
Even when the time raced me by.
Farewell, farewell, my friends
I smile and bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears for I need them not
All I need is your smile.
If you feel sad do think of me
For that's what I'll like when you live in the hearts
Of those you love, remember then
You never die.

Gitanjali Ghei, inspirational poet (1961 - 1977)

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak;
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finish’d joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee and come to dust.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Note: from the Romance Cymbeline

G

Goodnight

Goodnight; ensured release,
Imperishable peace,
Have these for yours,
While sea abides, and land,
And earth's foundations stand,
and heaven endures.

When earth's foundations flee,
nor sky nor land nor sea
At all is found
Content you, let them burn:
It is not your concern;
Sleep on, sleep sound.

AE Housman, poet (1859 - 1936)

Give me my scallop-shell of quiet

Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My gown of glory, hope's true gage;
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

Sir Walter Raleigh, explorer (1554-1618)

H

He has achieved success

He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much:
who has enjoyed the trust of pure women,
the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
who has filled the niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it;
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty
or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others
and given the best he had.
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.

Bessie A Stanley, American poet

He is not lost our dearest love

He is not lost our dearest love,
Nor has he travelled far,
Just stepped inside home's loveliest room
And left the door ajar.

Anonymous

He is gone

You can shed tears that he is gone
Or you can smile because he has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

David Harkin (1959 -     )

High flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Ho'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through the footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee Jr (1922 - 1941)

Note: John Gillespie Magee Jr was an American spitfire pilot who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940. He died as a result of a mid-air collision in 1941. He was nineteen.

Hope in God

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so distured within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.

By day Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me -
a prayer to the God of my life.

Psalm 42: 1-3, 5, 8

His jouney's just begun

Don't think of him as gone away
his journey's just begun,
life holds so many facets
this earth is only one.

Just think of him as resting
from the sorrows and the tears
in a place of warmth and comfort
where there are no days and years.

Think how he must be wishing
that we could know today
how nothing but our sadness
can really pass away.

And think of him as living
in the hearts of those he touched...
for nothing loved is ever lost
and he was loved so much.

Ellen Brenneman

His golden locks

His golden locks time hath to silver turned;
O time too swift, O swiftness never ceasing!
His youth ‘gainst time and age hath ever spurned,
But spurned in vain; youth waneth by increasing:
Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen;
Duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.

His helmet now shall make a hive for bees,
And, lovers’ sonnets turned to holy psalms,
A man-at-arms must now serve on his knees,
And feed on prayers, which are now age his alms:
But though from court to cottage he depart,
His saint is sure of his unspotted heart.

And when he saddest sits in homely cell,
He’ll teach his swains this carol for a song-
“Blessed be the hearts that wish my sovereign well,
Cursed be the souls that think her any wrong.”
Goddess, allow this aged man his right,
To be your beadsman now that was your knight.

George Peele, dramatist (1558-1599)

He that is down needs fear no fall

He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.

I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment will I crave,
Because Thou savest such.

Fullness to such a burden is
That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age.

John Bunyan, writer and preacher (1628 - 1688)

I

If I should never see the moon again

If I should never see the moon again
Rising red gold across the harvest field
Or feel the stinging soft rain
As the brown earth her treasures yield.

If I should never taste the salt sea spray
As the ship beats her course across the breeze.
Or smell the dog-rose and new-mown hay,
or moss or primroses beneath the tree.

If I should never hear the thrushes wake
Long before the sunrise in the glimmering dawn.
Or watch the huge Atlantic rollers break
Against the rugged cliffs in baffling scorn.

If I have to say good bye to stream and wood,
To wide ocean and the green clad hill,
I know that he, who made this world so good
Has somewhere made a heaven better still.

This bears witness with my latest breath
Knowing the love of God,
I fear no death.

Major Malcolm Boyd, killed in action in France, June 1944

If roses grow in heaven

If roses grow in heaven,
Lord pleae pick a bunch for me,
Place them in my Mother's arms
and tell her they're from me.

Tell her I love her and miss her,
and when she turns to smile,
place a kiss upon her cheek
and hold her for awhile.

Because remembering her is easy,
I do it every day,
but there's an ache within my heart
that will never go away.

Anonymous

I must down to the seas again, the lonely sea and the sky

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

John Masefield, Poet Laureate (1878 - 1967)

If only

If only we could see the splendour of the land
To which our loved ones are called from you and me
We'd understand
If only we could hear the welcome they receive
From old familiar voices all so dear
We would not grieve
If only we could know the reason why they went
We'd smile and wipe away the tears that flow
And wait content.

Anonymous

I felt an angel

I felt an angel near today, though one I could not see
I felt an angel oh so close, sent to comfort me
I felt an angel's kiss, soft upon my cheek
And oh, without a single word of caring did it speak
I felt an angel's loving touch, soft upon my heart
And with that touch, I felt the pain and hurt within depart
I felt an angel's tepid tears, fall softly next to mine
And knew that as those tears did dry a new day would be mine
I felt an angel's silken wings enfold me with pure love
And felt a strength within me grow, a strength sent from above
I felt an angel oh so close, though one I could not see
I felt an angel near today, sent to comfort me.

Anonymous

If I should die

If I should die and leave you
Be not like the others, quick undone
Who keep long vigils by the silent
dust and weep.

For my sake turn to life and smile
Nerving thy heart and trembling
hand to comfort weaker souls than thee.
Complete these unfinished tasks of mine
And I perchance may therein comfort thee.

Thomas Gray, poet, classical scholar and Cambridge don (1716 - 1771)

I thank thee God, that I have lived

I thank thee God, that I have lived
In this great world and known its many joys:
The songs of birds, the strongest sweet scent of hay,
And cooling breezes in the secret dusk;
The flaming sunsets at the close of day,
Hills and the lovely, heather-covered moors;
Music at night, and the moonlight on the sea,
The beat of waves upon the rocky shore
And wild white spray, flung high in ecstasy;
The faithful eyes of dogs, and treasured books,
The love of Kin and fellowship of friends
And all that makes life dear and beautiful.

I thank Thee too, that there has come to me
A little sorrow and sometimes defeat,
A little heartache and the loneliness
That comes with parting and the words 'Good-bye';
Dawn breaking after weary hours of pain,
When I discovered that night's gloom must yield
And morning light break through to me again.
Because of these and other blessings poured
Unasked upon my wondering head,
Because I know that there is yet to come
An even richer and more glorious life,
And most of all, because Thine only Son
Once sacrificed life's loveliness for me,
I thank Thee, God, that I have lived.

Elizabeth Craven, writer and socialite (1750 - 1828)


 

In the garden

I come to the garden alone, While the dew
is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
the Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

And He walks with me, and He talks to me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I'd stay in the garden with Him
Tho the night around me be falling;
But He bid me go, thru the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

C Austin Miles, American writer and worship leader (1868 - 1956)

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make your dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
'Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling, author and poet (1865 - 1936)

I'll lend you a child

"I'll lend you for a little time a child of Mine." He said.
"For you to love the while he lives
And mourn for when he's dead.
It may be six or seven years
Or twenty-two or three,
But will you, till I call him back,
Take care of him for Me?"
He'll bring his charms to gladden you,
And should his stay be brief
You'll have his lovely memories
As solace for your grief."

"I cannot promise he will stay
Since all from Earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there
I want this child to learn.
I've looked the wide world over
In my search for teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes
I have selected you.
Now will you give him all your love,
Not think the labour vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to call
And take him back again."

I fancied that I heard them say,
"Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
For all the joy Thy child shall bring,
The risk of grief we run.
We'll shelter him with tenderness,
We'll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we've known,
Forever grateful stay.
But should the angels call for him
Much sooner than we planned,
We'll brave the bitter grief that comes
and try to understand."

Edgar Guest, newspaperman and prolific Anglo American poet (1881 - 1959)

In memoriam A.H.H. (Part XXVII)

I envy not in any moods,
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:

I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter'd by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weed of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate (1809 - 1892)

 

I fall asleep

I fall asleep in the full and certain hope
That my slumber shall not be broken;
And that though I be all-forgetting,
Yet shall I not be forgotten,
But continue that life in the thoughts and deeds
of those I loved.

Samuel Butler, iconoclastic Victorian author (1835 - 1902)

If I should go tomorrow

If I should go tomorrow
It would never be goodbye,
For I have left my heart with you,
So don't you ever cry.
The love that's deep within me,
Shall reach you from the stars,
You'll feel it from the heavens,
And it will heal the scars.

Anon

J

K

L

Love

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here:"
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "Who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit down and eat.

George Herbert, poet, orator and priest (1593 - 1633)

Life

Life, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?

Rapidly, merrily
Life's sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly!

What though Death at times steps in
And calls our best away?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O'er hope, a heavy sway?
Yet hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell fear!

Charlotte Bronte, novelist and eldest of the three Bronte sisters (1816 - 1855)

Leisure

What is life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows
No time to see when woods we pass
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass
No time to see, in broad daylight
Streams full of stars, like skies at night
No time to turn at Beauty's glance
And watch her feet, how they can dance
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies, Welsh poet, writer and traveller (1871 - 1940)

Light

The night has a thousand eyes.
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.

The mind has a thousand eyes.
And the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.

Francis Bourdillon, poet, tutor and translator (1852 - 1921)

M

My true love hath my heart

My true love hath my heart, and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given.
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss;
There never was a better bargain driven.
His heart in me keeps him and me in one;
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides;
He loves my heart, for once it was his own;
I cherish his, because in me it bides.
His heart his wound received from my sight;
For as from me on him his hurt did light
So still methought in me his hurt did smart:
Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss;
My true love hath my heart, and I have his.

Sir Philip Sidney, soldier and poet (1554-1586)

N

No night without

There is no night without a dawning
No winter without a spring
And beyond the dark horizon
Our hearts will once more sing...
For those who leave us for a while
Have only gone away
Out of a restless, care worn world
Into a brighter day.

Helen Steiner Rice, American poet (1900 - 1981)

O

Our revels are now ended

Our revels are now ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded in a sleep.

William Shakespeare, poet and playwright (baptized 26th April, 1564 - 1616)

Note: from The Tempest (III, iv)

 

P

Peace My heart

Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light your way.

Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali poet and philosopher (1861 - 1941)

 

Q

R

Remember

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.

Christina Georgina Rossetti, poet (1830 - 1894)

Remember me

Remember Me:
To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea - remember me.
As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty - remember me.
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity - remember me.
Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved,
the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed.
For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.

Margaret Mead, American writer and poet (1901 - 1978)

Risk

To laugh, is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep, is to risk being called sentimental.
To reach out to another, is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings, is to risk showing your true self.
To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd, is to risk being called naive.
To love, is to risk not being loved in return.
To live, is to risk dying.
To hope, is to risk despair.
And to try, is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing!
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply can not learn, and feel, and change,
and grow, and love, and live.
Chained by his certitudes he is a slave, he's forfeited his freedom.
Only the person who risks is truly free!

Anonymous

Requiem

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.

Robert Louis Stevenson, poet and writer (1850 - 1894)

Resurrection

Is it true that after this life of ours we shall one day be awakened
by a terrifying clamour of trumpets?
Forgive me God, but I console myself
that the beginning and resurrection of all of us dead
will simply be announced by the crowing of the cock.

After that we'll remain lying down a while...
The first to get up
will be Mother...We'll hear her
quietly laying the fire,
quietly putting the kettle on the stove
and cosily taking the teapot out of the cupboard.
We'll be home once more.

Vladimir Holan, Czech poet (1905 - 1980)

S

She is gone

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

David Harkins (1959 -     )

Note: read at the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 2002.

Songs of the death of children

You must not shut the night inside you,
But endlessly in light the dark immerse.
A tiny lamp has gone out in my tent -
I bless the flame that warms the universe.

Friedrich Ruckert, German poet and translator (1788 - 1866)

Sonnet XXX

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear times' waste;
Then can I drown an eye, unus'd to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

William Shakespeare, poet and playwright (baptized 26th April, 1564 - 1616)

Success

To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent persons
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And to endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one's self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch
Or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation;
To know that even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived -
This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, poet and leader of the American transcendentalist movement (1803 - 1882)

Silent tear

Each night we shed a silent tear,
As we speak to you in prayer.
To let you know we love you,
And just how much we care.
Take our million teardrops,
Wrap them up in love,
Then ask the wind to carry them,
To you in heaven above.

Unknown

T

The clock of life is wound but once

The clock of life is wound but once
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.

To lose one's wealth is sad indeed
To lose one's health is more,
To lose one's soul is such a loss
That no man can restore.

The present is our own,
So live love, toil with a will
Place no faith in "tomorrow,"
For the clock may then be still.

Robert H Smith

To those I love

If I should ever leave you whom I love
To go along the Silent Way, grieve not,
Nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk
Of me as if I were beside you there,
(I'd come... I'd come, could I but find a way!
But would not tears and grief be barriers?)
And when you hear a song or see a bird I loved,
Please do not let the thought of me be sad...
For I am loving you just as I always have...
You were so good to me!
There are so many things I wanted still to do...
So many things to say to you...
Remember that I did not fear...
It was just leaving you that was so hard to face...
We cannot see Beyond... But this I know;
I loved you so...
'Twas heaven here with you!

Isla Paschal Richardson, American poet

Note: read by Gregory Peck at Frank Sinatra's funeral in 1998.

 

To daffodils

Fair daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attain'd his noon.
Stay, stay
Until the hasting day
Has run
But to the evensong;
And having pray'd together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything.
We die
As your hours do, and dry
Away
Like to the summer's rain;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
Ne'er to be found again.

Robert Herrick, poet (1591 - 1674)

They that love beyond the world

They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it,
death cannot kill what never dies.
Nor can spirits ever be divided that love
and live in the same divine principle,
the root and record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas;
they live in one another still.
For they must needs be present,
that love and live in that which is ominipresent.
In this divine glass, they see face to face;
and their converse is free as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends,
that though they may be said to die,
yet their friendship and society are,
in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

William Penn, Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania (1644 - 1718)

The soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust that England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts of England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke, war poet (1887 - 1915)

The world's greatest need

A little kindness and a little less greed;
A little more giving and a little less need;
A little more smile and a little less frown;
A little less kicking a man when he's down;
A little more 'we' and a little less 'I';
a little more laughs and a little less cry;
A little more flowers on the pathway of life;
And fewer on graves at the end of the strife.

C Austin Miles, American writer and worship leader (1868 - 1956)

The new life's salutation

Life, we've been long together
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
'Tis hard to part when friends are dear,
Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear;
Then steal away, give little warning,
Choose thine own time:
Say not "Good night," but in some brighter clime
Bid me "Good morning."

Anna Barbauld, poet, essayist and children's author (1743 - 1825)

There is no death

There is a plan far greater than the plan you know;
There is a landscape broader than the one you see.
There is a haven where storm - tossed souls may go-
You call it death - we, immortality.

You call it death - this seemingly endless sleep;
We call it birth - the soul at last set free.
'Tis hampered not by time or space - you weep.
Why weep at death? 'Tis immortality.

Farewell, dear Voyageur - 'twill not be long.
Your work is done - now may peace rest with thee.
Your kindly thoughts and deeds - they will live on.
This is not death - 'tis immortality.

Farewell, dear voyageur - the river winds and turns;
The cadence of your song wafts near to me,
And now you know the thing that all men learn:
There is no death - there's immortality.

Anonymous

Turn again to life

If I should die and leave you here a while,
be not like others sore undone,
who keep long vigil by the silent dust.
For my sake turn again to life and smile,
nerving thy heart and trembling hand
to do something to comfort other hearts than mine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine
and I perchance may therein comfort you.

Mary Lee Hall

Note: read at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.

To my dear and loving husband

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, than thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor aught by love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way reply;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever,
That when we live no more we may live ever.

Anne Bradstock, Anglo American poet and Puritan (1612 - 1672)

Time will ease the hurt

The sadness of the present days
Is locked and set in time,
And moving to the future
Is a slow and painful climb.

But all the feelings that are now
So vivid and so real
Can't hold their fresh intensity
As time begins to heal.

No wound so deep will ever go
Entirely away;
Yet every hurt becomes
A little less from day to day.

Nothing else can erase the painful
Imprints on your mind;
But there are softer memories
That time will let you find.

Though your heart won't let the sadness
Simply slide away,
The echoes will diminish
Even though the memories stay.

Bruce Wilmer

The gate of the year

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
"Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied, "Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than the light
And safer than a known way!"
So I went forth and finding the hand of God
Trod gladly into the light.

Minnie Louise Haskins, tutor at the London School of Economics (1875 - 1957)

The old familiar faces

I have had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful school days
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have been laughing, I have been carousing,
Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I loved a Love once, fairest among women:
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man:
Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly;
Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.

Ghost-like I paced round the haunts of my childhood,
Earth seem'd a desert I was bound to traverse,
Seeking to find the old familiar faces.

Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother,
Why wert not thou born in my father's dwelling?
So might we talk of the old familiar faces–

How some they have died, and some they have left me,
And some are taken from me; all are departed
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

Charles Lamb, essayist and poet (1775 - 1834)

The tide rises, the tide falls

The tide rises, the tide falls, The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown The traveler hastens toward the town, And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls, But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands, Efface the footprints in the sands, And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore Returns the traveler to the shore, And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American educator and poet (1807 - 1882)

The world is too much with us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a solid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.- Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

William Wordsworth, Romantic poet (1770 - 1850)

They are not long

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for awhile, then closes
Within a dream.

Ernest Dowson, English poet, novelist and writer of short stories (1867 - 1900)

U

V

W

When at heart you should be sad

When at heart you should be sad,
Pondering the joys we had,
Listen and keep very still.
If the lowing from the hill
Or the toiling of a bell
Do not serve to break the spell,
Listen: you may be allowed
To hear my laughter from a cloud.

Sir Walter Raleigh, explorer (1554 -1618)

When I must leave

When I must leave you for a while
Please do not grieve and shed wild tears
And hug your sorrow to you through the years
But start out bravely with a gallant smile
And for my sake and in my name
Live on and do all the things the same
Feed not your lonliness on empty days
But fill each working hour in useful ways
Reach out your hand in comfort and in cheer
And I in turn will comfort you and hold you near
And never, never be afraid to die
For I am waiting for you in the sky.

Anonymous

X

Y

You know how little time we have to stay

You know how little time we have to stay,
And once departed, may return no more.

Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
Today of past Regrets and future fears.

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust unto Dust, and under Dust, to lie,
Sans Wine, Sans Song, sans Singer and sans End!

The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

From the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Persian poet, philosopher and astronomer (1048 - 1138)

Note: Rubaiyat is a Persian form of poetry.

You'll never walk alone

When you walk through the storm
Hold your head up high,
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone.
You'll never walk alone.

Oscar Hammerstein II, American lyricist, writer and producer (1895 - 1960)

Note: from the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1945 hit musical Carousel.

 

Z

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