Funeral Poems & Epitaphs

With the fortuity of fate being very much discernible to all who experience life, it is quite ironic that death still is a nigh-incomprehensible concept to many – at least until a cherished and close one passes away. It usually is a struggle to express these emotions on a normal day, but during the funeral, when you’d actually have to say goodbye, it would be an even bigger challenge. What would help ease your grieving incoherency? A touching poem, perhaps? 

Many poets and writers over history have helped others overcome their grief by giving them the words and organisation to express it. The poem doesn’t have to be a rousing eulogy to a person you respected; it could also be a pithy epitaph that conveys the deceased’s personality or an explicit elegy that’s redolent of your grief. 

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Poems for a funeral

Here, we have compiled a few poems with diverse tones. You could go through each to see which one would resonate with you;

Do not stand at my grave and weep

 “Do not stand at my grave and weep

I am not there; I do not sleep.”

This is a poem that first appeared in the 1930s and has been attributed to so many authors but is most likely owned by Clare Harner. The origin account of Mary Elizabeth Frye’s claim is worthy of note, though; she had apparently written the poem for a young Jewish-German friend in 1932 after the woman’s mother had died. This poem is an authoritative petition from beyond the grave, where the deceased welcomes death and beseeches the ones left behind not to cry for them. This is the perfect poem to recite for a loved one you knew would want you to be strong. You can find the full version here

Crossing the bar

“The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have cross’d the bar.”

Metaphorical representations of life and death as separate but equally important journeys abound in many fields, even in religion.  Alfred Lord Tennyson co-opts this convention in his poem – quite an oddity considering the fact that he was laid to rest just three years later. Many consider this poem the words of a man athirst for a new adventure. You can find the rest of the poem here

Inarticulate grief

“Let the sea beat its thin torn hands

In anguish against the shore,”

Many poets, in expressing themselves concerning death, chose literary devices to either personify death, allude to various religious or cultural interpretations of it, or offer words of encouragement to the grieving relations of the departed. It strangely wasn’t very often you saw articulated grief in these poems; Richard Aldington was one of the poets who explored this aspect. He did so with this poem, Inarticulate Grief, which basically was an utterance of raw pain likened to the sea’s rage. Not many would consider it a popular choice, but it definitely is relatable for those who are deep in mourning. 

Sonnets are full of love

“I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath

Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honoured name”

When poetry connoisseurs think about a Christina Rosetti funeral poem, what usually comes to mind is her piece “Remember me”. We came across this, however, and we thought it would be a beautiful farewell recital to someone who’s just lost a mother. It talks of the love one would feel for a maternal figure and how such a person would have been a shining light and an inspiration to those she took (or take – it was written for her mother on her 80th birthday) charge of. 

Pardon me for not getting up

“… if you’re reading this right now,

I must have given up the ghost.

I hope you can forgive me for being

Such a stiff and unwelcoming host.”

Kelly Roper wrote this poem for the people who were vibrant in life – the jokey, unserious ones who would be appalled at the thought of people being so dour at their funeral. 

There are no funeral poems you MUST consider. You should pick your poem based on what you or the deceased can relate to so that the recital would be heartwarming. It is, after all, called the last respects for a reason.