My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
– – T. S. Eliot
And what of the dead? They lie without shoes in their stone boats.
They are more like stone than the sea would be if it stopped.
They refuse to be blessed, tbroat, eye, and knucklebone.
– – Anne Sexton "The Truth the Dead Know"1962
A grave is such a quiet place.
– – Edna St. Vincent Millay
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The carriage held just Ourselves –
– – Emily Dickinson "Poem 712"
Before the beginning of years
There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
Grief, with a glass that ran;
Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
Summer, with flowers that fell;
Remembrance, fallen from heaven,
And madness risen from hell;
Strength without hands to smite;
Love that endures for a breath;
Night, the shadow of light,
And Life, the shadow of death.
– – Algernon Charles Swinburne "Atalanta in Calydon" (1865)
Better to die, and sleep
The never-waking sleep, than linger on
And dare to live when the soul’s life is gone.
– – Sophocles "Ajax" (circa 409 B.C.)
Birth, copulation, and death. That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks.
– – T. S. Eliot "Sweeney Agonistes"
But first on earth, as Vampyre sent,
Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent;
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet, which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corpse,
Thy victims, ere they yet expire,
Shall know the demon for their sire;
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.
– – George Gordon, Lord Byron "The Giaour"
Come to the bridal chamber, Death!
Come to the mother’s, when she feels
For the first time her first-born’s breath!
Come when the blessed seals
That close the pestilence are broke,
And crowded cities wail its stroke!
Come in consumption’s ghastly form,
The earthquake shock, the ocean storm!
Come when the heart beats high and warm,
With banquet song, and dance, and wine!
And thou art terrible!–the tear,
The groan, the knell, the pall, the bier,
And all we know or dream or fear
Of agony are thine.
– – Fitz-Greene Halleck "Marco Bozzaris"
Come! let the burial rite be read-the funeral song be sung!-
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young-
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.
– – Edgar Allan Poe "Lenore"
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.
– – John Donne "Holy Sonnets X"
Death hath ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits.
– – John Webster "The Duchess of Malfy"
Death is the mother of Beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires.
– – Wallace Stevens "Sunday Morning" (1923)
Death is the end of life; ah why
Should life all labour be? . . .
All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
In silence – ripen, fall, and cease;
Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.
– – Alfred, Lord Tennyson "The Lotos-Eaters" (1833)
Don’t strew me with roses after I’m dead.
When Death claims the light of my brow
No flowers of life will cheer me: instead
You may give me my roses now!
– – Thomas F. Healey
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
– – Dylan Thomas "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"
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 sunlight 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.
– – Anonymous
Dying is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.
– – Sylvia Plath
Ever eating, never cloying,
Never finding full repast,
Till I eat the world at last.
– – Jonathan Swift "Time"
For he who fights and runs away
May live to fight another day;
But he who is in battle slain
Can never rise and fight again.
– – Oliver Goldsmith "The Art of Poetry on a New Plan"
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling–my darling–my life and my bride,
In her sepulcher there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
– – Edgar Allan Poe "Annabell Lee"
From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no man lives forever,
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
– – Algernon Charles Swinburne "The Garden of Proserpine"
Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life to be sure, is nothing much to loose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.
– – A.E. Housman "Here Dead Lie We"
I believe that if I should die,
and you were to walk near my grave,
from the very depths of the earth
I would hear your footsteps.
– – Benito Perez Galdos
I do not want a plain box, I want a sarcophagus
With tigery stripes, and a face on it
Round as the moon, to stare up.
I want to be looking at them when they come
Picking among the dumb minerals, the roots.
I see them already-the pale, star-distance faces.
Now they are nothing, they are not even babies.
I imagine them without fathers or mothers, like the first gods.
They will wonder if I was important.
– – Sylvia Plath "Last Words"
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – til it seemed
That Sense was breaking through
– – Emily Dickinson "Poem 280"
I want to die while you love me,
While yet you hold me fair,
While laughter lies upon my lips,
And lights are in my hair.
– – Georgia Douglas Johnson
In my beginning is my end.
– – T. S. Eliot "East Coker"
In any man who dies there dies with him,
his first snow and kiss and fight…
Not people die but worlds die in them.
– – Yevgeny Yevtushenko
If any question why we died,
Tell them because our fathers lied.
– – Rudyard Kipling "Epitaphs of War"
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blessed by the suns of home.
– – Rupert Brooke "The Soldier"
If wild my breast and sore my pride,
I bask in dreams of suicide,
If cool my heart and high my head
I think "How lucky are the dead."
– – Dorothy Parker "Mortal Thoughts"
It costs me never a stab nor squirm
To tread by chance upon a worm.
"Aha, my little dear, “ I say,
"Your clan will pay me back one day.“
– – Dorothy Parker "Thoughts for a Sunshiny Morning"
It may be that Death’s bright angel
Will speak in that chord again, –
It may be that only in Heaven
I shall hear that grand Amen.
– – Adelaide Anne Proctor "A Lost Chord"
Life and death: they are one, at core entwined.
Who understands himself from his own strain
presses himself into a drop of wine
and throws himself into the purest flame.
– – Rainer Maria Rilke "Life and death: they are one" Christmas, 1922
Keep not your roses for my dead, cold brow
The way is lonely, let me feel them now.
– – Arabella Smith "If I Should Die To-Night"
Keeping time, Keeping the rhythm in their dancing
As in their living in the living seasons
The time of the seasons and the constellation
The time of milking and the time of harvest
The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beast. Feet rising and falling,
Eating and drinking. Dung and death.
– – T. S. Eliot "Four Quarters
Men die but once, and the opportunity
Of a noble death is not an everyday fortune:
It is a gift noble spirits pray for.
– – Charles Lamb "John Woodvil"
Moon, worn thin to the width of a quill,
In the dawn clouds flying,
How good to go, light into light, and still
Giving light, dying.
– – Sara Teasdale
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odors, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the beloved’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.
– – Percy Bysshe Shelley "Music, When Soft Voices Die"
My hopes are with the dead; anon
My place with them will be,
And I with them shall travel on
Through all futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
That will not perish in the dust.
– – Robert Southey "Occasional Pieces"
My love came back to me
Under the November tree
Shelterless and dim.
He put his hand upon my shoulder,
He did not think me strange or older,
Nor I, him.
– – Frances Cornford "All Souls‘ Night"
Oh! snatched away in beauty’s bloom,
On thee shall press no ponderous tomb;
But on thy turf shall roses rear
Their leaves, the earliest of the year
– – George Gordon, Lord Byron
Not a flower, not a flower sweet
On my black coffin let there be strown;
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O where
Sad true lover never find my grave,
To weep there
– – William Shakespeare
Perhaps if death is kind, and there can be returning,
We will come back to earth some fragrant night,
And take these lanes to find the sea, and bending
Breathe the same honeysuckle, low and white.
We will come down at night to these resounding beaches
And the long gentle thunder of the sea,
Here for a single hour in the wide starlight
We shall be happy, for the dead are free.
– – Sara Teasdale "If Death is Kind"
Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp.
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause a cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
– – Dorothy Parker "Enough Rope"
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land.
– – Christina Rossetti "Remember"
Shrine of the mighty! can it be
That this is all remains of thee?
– – George Gordon, Lord Byron "The Giaour"
Sleep is a death; oh, make me try
By sleeping what it is to die,
And as gently lay my head
On my grave as now my bed!
– – Sir Thomas Browne "Religio Medici"
So the struck eagle, stretch’d upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
View’d his own feather on the fatal dart,
And wing’d the shaft that quiver’d in his heart.
– – George Gordon, Lord Byron "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers"
Soul, to whom only God a prison has been,
Veins that humor such fire have given,
Marrow, gloriously burned within:
His body shall it flee, but not his care;
Ashes remain, though feeling preserved;
Dust they will be, yet dust enamored still.
– – Francisco Quevedo, "Love Constant Beyond Death"
Babies haven’t any hair;
Old men’s heads are just as bare;
Between the cradle and the grave
Lies a haircut and a shave
– – Samuel Hoffenstein The dead they sleep a long, long sleep;
The dead they rest, and their rest is deep;
The dead have peace, but the living weep.
– – Samuel Hoffenstein
The first time I died, I walked my ways;
I followed the file of limping days.
I held me tall, with my head flung up,
But I dared not look on the new moon’s cup.
I dared not look on the sweet young rain,
And between my ribs was a gleaming pain.
The next time I died, they laid me deep.
They spoke worn words to hallow my sleep.
They tossed me petals, they wreathed me fern,
They weighted me down with a marble urn.
And I lie here warm, and I lie here dry,
And watch the worms slip by, slip by.
– – Dorothy Parker "Epitaph"
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against fate;
Death lays his icy hands on kings.
– – James Shirley "Contention of Ajax and Ulysses"
The longed for ships
Come empty home or founder on the deep,
And eyes first lose their tears and then their sleep.
– – Edith Wharton
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul;
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
– – King David (c. 950 BC) Bible, Psalm 23
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burden to the ground,
Man comes and tills the fields and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
– – Alfred, Lord Tennyson "Tithonius" (1860)
There is a reaper whose name is Death,
And with his sickle keen
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between.
– – Henry W. Longfellow "The Reaper and the Flowers"
There is no death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.
– – Henry W. Longfellow "Resignation"
There is nothing strictly immortal, but immortality;
whatever hath no beginning, may be confident to the end.
– – Thomas Browne
These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvelously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.
– – Rupert Brooke " The Dead"
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
– – Ernest Dowson
"Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam"
(The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long – Horace)
They never fail who die
In a great cause: the block may soak their gore;
Their heads may sodden in the sun; their limbs
Be strung to city gates and castle walls —
But their spirit walks abroad.
– – George Gordon, Lord Byron "Marino Faliero"
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
– – T. S. Eliot "The Hollow Men"
Though they go mad, they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea, they shall rise again,
Though lovers be lost, love shall not.
And death shall have no dominion.
– – Dylan Thomas "And Death Shall Have No Dominion"
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with dust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.
– – Oscar Wilde "Requiescat"
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, — so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his boot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
– – Edna St. Vincent Millay "Time Does Not Bring Relief" 1917
Unable are the Loved to die
For Love is Immortality.
– – Emily Dickinson
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die.
– – Robert Louis Stevenson "Requiem"
(Engraved on his gravestone)
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.
– – Robert Richardson
(Mark Twain’s daughter, Susy Clemens‘ headstone)
We who are left how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?
– – Wilfred Wilson Gibson
What beck’ning ghost, along the midnight shade,
Invites my step, and points to yonder glade?
– – Alexander Pope "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady"
What I like about Clive
Is that he is no longer alive.
There is a great deal to be said
For being dead.
– – Edmund Clerihew Bentley
What matters Death, if Freedom be not dead?
No flags are fair, if Freedom’s flag be furled.
Who fights for Freedom, goes with joyful tread
To meet the fires of Hell against him hurled.
– – Joyce Kilmer "The Peacemaker"
When all the blandishments of life are gone,
The coward sneaks to death, the brave live on.
– – George Sewell "The Suicide"
When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me:
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree.
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet:
And if thou wilt, remember
And if thou wilt, forget.
– – Christina Rossetti "Song"
When on my day the evening shadows fall,
I will go down to where a quiet river flows
Into a sea from whence no man returns;
And there embark for lands where life immortal grows.
– – Thomas Tiplady
Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
– – Oscar Wilde
Yet spirit immortal, the tomb cannot bind thee,
But like thine own eagle that soars to the sun
Thou springest from bondage and leavest behind thee
A name which before thee no mortal hath won.
– -Leonard Heath "The Grave of Bonaparte"