Poems on Death
This image below is Trinity by Masaccio – 1425-28 – Santa Maria Novella, Florence. On the sacrophagus underneath is the “carved” inscription which translates as:
“I once was what you are and what I am you also will be.”
“I once was what you are and what I am you also will be”
And here are a few poems on the theme of death.
“If I Should Die,” Emily Dickinson
If I should die,
And you should live,
And time should gurgle on,
And morn should beam,
And noon should burn,
As it has usual done;
If birds should build as early,
And bees as bustling go,–
One might depart at option
From enterprise below!
‘Tis sweet to know that stocks will stand
When we with daisies lie,
That commerce will continue,
And trades as briskly fly.
It make the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene,
That gentlemen so sprightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!
“He Wishes His Beloved Were Dead,” W.B. Yeats
Were you but lying cold and dead,
And lights were paling out of the West,
You would come hither, and bend your head,
And I would lay my head on your breast;
And you would murmur tender words,
Forgiving me, because you were dead:
Nor would you rise and hasten away,
Though you have the will of wild birds,
But know your hair was bound and wound
About the stars and moon and sun:
O would, beloved, that you lay
Under the dock-leaves in the ground,
While lights were paling one by one.
“On the Death of Anne Brontë”
by Charlotte Brontë
There’s little joy in life for me,
And little terror in the grave;
I’ve lived the parting hour to see
Of one I would have died to save.
Calmly to watch the failing breath,
Wishing each sigh might be the last;
Longing to see the shade of death
O’er those belovèd features cast.
The cloud, the stillness that must part
The darling of my life from me;
And then to thank God from my heart,
To thank Him well and fervently;
Although I knew that we had lost
The hope and glory of our life;
And now, benighted, tempest-tossed,
Must bear alone the weary strife.
Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte painted by their brother.
“And you as well must die,”
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
And you as well must die, belovèd dust,
And all your beauty stand you in no stead;
This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
This body of flame and steel, before the gust
Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,
Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead
Than the first leaf that fell,this wonder fled,
Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.
Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.
In spite of all my love, you will arise
Upon that day and wander down the air
Obscurely as the unattended flower,
It mattering not how beautiful you were,
Or how belovèd above all else that dies.
“Death,” Rainer Maria Rilke
Before us great Death stands
Our fate held close within his quiet hands.
When with proud joy we lift Life’s red wine
To drink deep of the mystic shining cup
And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
Death bows his head and weeps.
Death relieves you by Shawn Nevins
Death relieves you of many dreams;
allows you to see that line
between sea and sky
where waves unroll with grace
into open air.
Every step of your life
slips silently from your care,
as these smokey words
trail off into yesterdays.
Holy Sonnet X: Death Be Not Proud
by John Donne
Death, be not proud, though some have callèd 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.
From rest and sleep, which yet thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more, must low
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men
And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then ?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
dying is fine)but Death
by E. E. Cummings
dying is fine)but Death
Death if Death
when(instead of stopping to think)you
begin to feel of it,dying
cause dying is
it mildly lively(but
& artificial &
evil & legal)
we thank thee
almighty for dying
(forgive us,o life!the sin of Death
by Raymond A. Foss
from his body,
drowning in the sea
to the dark abyss,
In death a gift, an act
of grace, for the legion
once captive within
his tormented frame.
Still Life with a Bouquet and Skull, Adrian Van Utrecht, 1642.