As we grow up, we learn that our time on earth is limited. And death is something that comes for all of us. Losing a loved one to death can be a hard thing to go through, and you might be left feeling a bit helpless.
When you’re grieving a loss, it’s easy to get caught up in your emotions and feel like the world is falling apart. You wonder about whether someone else has gone through what you have. And how they’ve moved on from it. That is why poetry exists. For every feeling, every experience that you’ve had, there’s a piece of literature written by someone who’s gone through it before.
If you’re mourning the loss of a loved one or if you’re wondering about life and death, you might be looking for some poems about death to give you some insight into how the great minds of the past viewed death. So, we’ve prepared a list of 10 popular poems about death.
1. Because I Could Not Stop for Death (Emily Dickinson)
“Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
This poem personifies Death as a gentle person who accompanies you on a carriage ride to your grave.
2. On Death (Khalil Gibran)
“In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, your heart dreams of spring.”
Taken from ‘The Prophet’, this poem by Gibran is about the mortality of man and coming to terms with the fact that everyone eventually dies.
3. Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep (Mary Elizabeth Frye)
“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.”
Following the death of a friend, you might wonder about ever being happy again. But that’s the last thing your friend would want. This poem is about living on to cherish the life you have while celebrating the memory of your friend.
4. Death, Be Not Proud (John Donne)
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.”
A poem that personifies death, this poem is about reminding you that even if your friend is gone, they live on through you in your memories.
5. Death Is Nothing at All (Henry Scott Holland)
“Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.”
Written from the perspective of the deceased, this poem tries to console those left behind by telling them that death isn’t the end of everything.
6. Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard (Thomas Gray)
“Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;”
A long poem that is written from the perspective of a person who visits a cemetery. The person wanders by thinking about the different lives the people buried there lived.
7. La Belle Dame sans Merc (John Keats)
“O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.”
A tragic ballad that is perhaps Keats’ most well-known work, this poem tells the tale of a merciless beauty who falls in love with a knight but leaves him in his hour of need.
8. O, Captain! My Captain (Walt Whitman)
“O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;”
You might’ve heard the title of the poem in the movie ‘Dead Poets Society’, where Robin Williams’ asks his students to refer to him as ‘O Captain, My Captain’. The poem was originally written by Whitman in the aftermath of President Lincoln’s death.
9. When Great Trees Fall (Maya Angelou)
“When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.”
Maya Angelou’s strong usage of imagery and personification helps in bringing out the sadness in this poem about loss.
10. We Are Seven (William Wordsworth)
“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”
A gripping poem about a girl who refuses to accept that two members of her family are dead, insisting that there are still seven members in the household.
While poems can help you in your grieving process, you might want to make a playlist of funeral songs for your loved one.
If you’re looking for songs to play at a funeral or memorial service, do keep in mind that funerals can be somber affairs, and it should be noted that creating a playlist and playing it is done in accordance with the deceased’s wishes from when they were alive.
For a more comprehensive guide on creating a general funeral playlist, check out the Top 30 Funeral Songs of All Time.