View Full Version : Poetry for a funeral (any suggestions please?)

Julian Karswell
06-17-2009, 08:10 PM
I'm attending the funeral of a close relative in a few days and wondered whether any of our resident poetry experts could recommend something appropriate.

Please bear in mind the attendees will be mostly older people unfamiliar with the maudlin delights of melancholy prose. It needs to be something relatively short, elegant and poignant.

The music will be Elgar's 'Nimrod' and Procul Harum's 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale'.

The deceased was a strange, complex man.

Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance,


06-17-2009, 08:45 PM
Sorry to hear this, Julian.

Possibly Ernest Dowson's heartbreaking 'Transition' might combine the literary tone and the accessibility you're looking for. If you have a volume of Dowson's poems, several might be worth considering.

Russell Nash
06-17-2009, 11:10 PM
1. The enigmas

I who am singing these lines today
Will be tomorrow the enigmatic corpse
Who dwells in a realm, magical and barren,
Without a before or an after or a when.
So say the mystics. I say I believe
Myself undeserving of Heaven or of Hell,
But make no predictions. Each man's tale
Shifts like the watery forms of Proteus.
What errant labyrinth, what blinding flash
Of splendor and glory shall become my fate
When the end of this adventure presents me with
The curious experience of death?
I want to drink ils crystal-pure oblivion,
to be forever; but never to have been.

2. Remorse for Any Death

Free of memory and hope,
Unlimited, abstract, almost future,
The dead body is not somebody: It is death.
Like the God of the mystics,
Whom they insist has no attributes,
Is nothing but the loss and absence of the world.
We rob it of everything,
We do not leave it one color, one syllable:
Here is the yard which its eyes no longer take up,
There is the sidewalk where it waylaid its hope.
It might even be thinking
What we are thinking.
We have divided among us, like thieves,
The treasure of nights and days.

3. Inscription on Any Tomb

Let not the rash marble risk
Garrulous breaches of oblivion's omnipotence,
In many words recalling
Name, renown, events, birthplace.
All those glass jewels are best left in the dark.
Let not the marble say what men do not.
The essentials of the dead man's life—
The trembling hope,
The implacable miracle of pain, the wonder of sensual delight—
Will abide forever.
Blindly the uncertain soul asks to continue
When it is the lives of others that will make that happen,
As you yourself are the mirror and image
Of those who did not live as long as you
And others will be (and are) your immortality on earth.

Jorge Luis Borges (all of them)

06-18-2009, 04:03 AM
P.S. You can find the Dowson poem here:


Philip Larkin could be worth looking at maybe 'The Trees', 'Days' or 'An Arundel Tomb'. I assume you have Larkin's poems can't imagine otherwise.

Julian Karswell
06-18-2009, 08:31 AM
Thank you both very much for the sugggestions.

I like the Dowson very much and it grows upon me with more reading. It's a serious contender which I may well use. Its length is near perfect too.

I have referred to poetry collections by Stenbock and Barnitz but they seem too macabre and decadent. Although I'm familiar with the short stories of Walter de la Mare, I haven't read much of his poetry. I might have a browse through that.

By the oddest of coincidences, the funeral will be taking place under the shadow of Arundel Castle, and the wife of the deceased (my father) nursed a former Duchess of Norfolk there during her last illness. So the Larkin poem would also be appropriate but I fear my delivery would result in much clumsy stuttering given the rich style of 'Arundel Tomb'.


06-20-2009, 12:34 PM
How about Hardy's "The Darkling Thrush"?Also, I remember when my grandpa died years ago, I read the first few lines from Dante's Commedia.