10 Of The Most Beautiful Poems On Life And Death

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a huge sucker for poetry…

And over the years, I’ve set aside quite a few poems and kept them in a secret folder in my desk at work. Today I want to share a few of my favorites with you that cover the most complex topics of all: life and death.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite poems on life, death, and everything else in between:

#1: Because I could not stop for Death

By Emily Dickinson


Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –  
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –  
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –  
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –  
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –


#2: Death Is Nothing At All

By Harry Scott-Holland

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: Wild Geese

By Mary Oliver


#4: For Katrina’s sun dial

By Henry Van Dyke

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.

#5: High flight

John Gillespie Magee Jr

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.

 

#6: Turn again to life

By Mary Lee Hall

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.


#7: “Death Poem”

By Alysia Harris

#8: A Thing of Beauty (Endymion)

By John Keats

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

 

#9: The Laughing Heart

By Charles Bukowski

death-poems-3

#10: The Guest House

By Jelaluddin Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

How can you use these poems?

Did you have a favorite poem that you’d like to share with your families? With Life Tributes Personalization Software, you can add your own library of poems that can be incorporated into tribute videos, bookmarks, prayer cards, registry books and more. To get a 30-day free trial of Life Tributes, click here or give us a call at 800-798-2575, ext. 5 today!

Share with us your favorite death poem in the comments below!

Rochelle Rietow

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  1. Andrea Horn

    On your page about the ten favorite poems. There is a picture in sequences, a tree and children, a tree and teenagers, a tree and young adults, a tree and older couple, a tree with one person and grave, a tree with two graves. Where can I find this picture to buy?

    Also I loved the poems

  2. funeralOne Blog » Blog Archive A Word On Putting The “Service” In Funeral Service – funeralOne Blog

    […] a handwritten letter thanking them for choosing your funeral home, and attaching a copy of an inspiring poem you found that reminded you of […]

  3. Glenda Findley

    Dirge Without Music
    Edna St. Vincent Millay

    I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
    So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
    Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
    With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

    Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
    Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
    A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
    A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

    The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the
    love,—
    They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
    Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not
    approve.
    More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the
    world.

    Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
    Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
    Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

  4. Qwerty

    Hello Andrea Horn:

    I searched for this image, and found it for you:
    It is called “Happy Together”.

    If you were to left click the image, a tab would pop up, reading, “find image on Google”.

    It is also available on favim.com.
    Type into the search bar: “Always, boy, forever, girl, happy, kisses, love, together.”

  5. Gary Colón

    No one knows the sure and set
    For we know not, the why or yet
    Be lost and found, but not unbound
    Because for ever will be my bet…