Famous funeral poems
A remembrance poem or funeral reading can be a wonderful way of saying your final goodbyes to a loved one. It’s often considered an important part of any funeral service, religious or not, and can bring comfort at this difficult time.
Choosing a suitable poem can be a difficult decision, but here are some of our favourite famous funeral poems for you to consider:
1. Do not stand at my grave and weep (1932)
‘Do not stand at my grave and weep’ is a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye, which was written to comfort a family friend who had just lost her mother. There was some dispute about whether Mary actually wrote the poem, and her authorship was not officially confirmed until 1988.
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 sun 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.
2. Death is nothing at all (1910)
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Following the death of King Edward VII, in May 1910, Henry Scott Holland delivered a sermon titled Death the King of Terrors. The sermon discussed the fear of the unexplained and it inspired his best known poem: ‘Death is nothing at all’.
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which 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 that we 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 an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; 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!
3. Let Me Go
Christina Georgina Rossetti was an English poet who was best known for her romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. Her highly regarded poem, ‘Let me go’, is a popular funeral poem as it is about saying goodbye to a loved one.
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
Laugh at all the things we used to do
Miss me, but let me go.
4. She is Gone (He is gone) (1981)
‘She is gone (He is gone)’ is based on a short prose poem written by English poet David Harkins, in 1982. This poem was given an anonymous attribution until the early 2000s, but after it was included in the Queen Mother funeral in 2002, Harkins claimed his authorship.
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.
5. I’m There Inside Your Heart
There is very little known about the background of this poem, including the name of the author. However, this is still considered a popular choice for a funeral reading due to its melancholic tone.
Right now I’m in a different place
And though we seem apart
I’m closer than I ever was,
I’m there inside your heart.
I’m with you when you greet each day
And while the sun shines bright
I’m there to share the sunsets, too
I’m with you every night.
I’m with you when the times are good
To share a laugh or two,
And if a tear should start to fall
I’ll still be there for you.
And when that day arrives
That we no longer are apart,
I’ll smile and hold you close to me,
Forever in my heart.
6. Funeral Blues (1936)
‘Funeral Blues’ is a poem written by W. H. Auden. An early version was published in 1936 but it included five stanzas and was less widely known. The final version has four stanzas and was published in The Year’s Poetry in 1938.
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.
7. To Sleep (1819)
‘To Sleep’ is a poem written by John Keats about the calm sleep at the end of life. This is a popular choice for funerals due to its beautiful lyricism and melancholic tone.
O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.
8. Warm Summer Sun (1896)
Written by Mark Twain in 1896, Warm Summer Sun explores the process of aging and the end of life. Although short, this powerful poem expresses the beauty of life in a powerful yet succinct way.
Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.
What are the best funeral poems?
In reality, there’s no such thing as a “best” funeral poem. Each person is unique and therefore it is up to you to decide what sort of poem would suit your loved one best. A funeral is your chance to celebrate the life of a friend, partner or family member, so take the time to choose a poem you believe best represents your loved one as a person.
How do I introduce a poem at a funeral?
Again, this decision is up to you. If the poem is a favourite of your loved one, you can introduce it by saying so. Or if you have chosen the poem because it reminds you of the person you have lost, those reasons could be mentioned before you begin the reading. Alternatively, you may not want an introduction at all. Do whatever feels right for you and the memory of your loved one.
What poem is appropriate to read at a funeral?
Some prefer a more traditional route and choose a classic poem or verse. However, it is becoming more common for people to choose modern poetry to read at a funeral. Unless faith was an important part of your loved one’s life, there is also no pressure for the poem to be religious.
How do I write a poem for a funeral?
If you can’t find a poem you like, or if you have a way with words, it can be nice to write your own poem. You can speak to friends and family for ideas, memories, stories or anecdotes to include. Or if you’re struggling to find the right words, it can be useful to take inspiration from existing poems that you admire.
Popular songs and reflective music
When you are making funeral plans it’s a good idea to consider whether you are going to play a piece of music at any point.
Popular funeral hymns
If you are planning a funeral service for a partner, friend or family member, you may want to include a hymn within the order of service.
Further Reading: Arranging a funeral
Read about how funerals are arranged and what services you can expect to get.