Poetry Readings for a Funeral Service

Poetry Readings for a FuneralUsing poetry funeral readings is a popular way to personalize a funeral or memorial service. In addition to using poetry readings during the actual funeral or memorial service, many people include poetry in the printed funeral program. You can select a poem that was a favorite of the deceased or chose something that evokes the spirit of the person you are celebrating. In fact, there are selections available that evoke all manner of emotion. You can find poems in classic styles as well as contemporary works that encompass a wide range of subjects. For some people, crafting their own poetry is the ultimate expression of homage.

As you start your search for appropriate poetry readings for a funeral service you can easily become overwhelmed since there are dozens of beautiful examples. We have provided a listing of some of the most popular below. Just click on the link to view the full text. We hope that you will find the right choice from the selections we have presented. Other ways to find poetry readings for funerals is to search social media such as Pinterest or Facebook or do a simple Internet search.

Examples of Poetry Funeral Readings

Remember by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
gone far away into the silent land;
when you can no more hold me by the hand,
nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more, day by day
you tell me of our future that you planned:
only remember me; you understand
it will be late to counsel them or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
and afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
a vestige of the thoughts I once had,
better by far you should forget and smile
than that you should remember and be sad. Top↑

On Emily’s Father’s Death by Sam B. Davis

In truth: from sad a good will sometimes grow,
though how it sprouts and blooms we never know;
tend now to all your evanescent pains—
in time from them one gathers greater grains. Top↑

Sonnet LXXI by William Shakespeare

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
from this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:

Nay, if you read this line, remember not
the hand that writ it; for I love you so,
that I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
if thinking on me then should make you woe.
O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
when I perhaps compounded am with clay,
do not so much as my poor name rehearse,
but let your love even with my life decay;
lest the wise world should look into your moan
and mock you with me after I am gone. Top↑

I’d Like to Think by unknown

I’d like to think when life is done
that I had filled a needed post,
that here and there I’d paid my fare
with more than idle talk and boast;
that I had taken gifts divine,
the breath of life and manhood fine
and tried to use them now and then
in service for my fellow man. Top↑

The Last Invocation by Walt Whitman

At the last, tenderly,
from the walls of the powerful fortress’d house,
from the clasp of the knitted locks,
from the keep of the well closed doors,
let me be wafted.

Let me glide noiselessly forth;
with the key of softness unlock the locks— with a whisper,
set open the doors O soul.

Tenderly— be not impatient,
(strong is your hold O mortal flesh,
strong is your hold O love.) Top↑

Wild Swans at Coole (final verse) by William Butler Yeats

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
they paddle in the cold
companionable streams or climb the air;
their hearts have not grown old;
passion or conquest, wander where they will,
attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water,
mysterious, beautiful;
among what rushes will they build,
by what lake’s edge or pool
delight men’s eyes when I awake someday
to find they have flown away. Top↑

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
and a small cabin built there, of clay and wattles made:
nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
and live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I will have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
there midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
and evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
while I stand on the roadway, upon the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core. Top↑

From Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

The moving finger writes, and have writ
moves on: nor all thy piety or wit
shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
nor all thy tears wash out a word of it. Top↑

From The Prophet on Death by Kahil Gibran

Your fear of death is but the trembling
of the shepherd when he stands before
the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honor.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath
his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling

For what is it to die but to stand naked
in the wind and to melt in the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing,
but to free the breath from its restless
tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river
of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then you shall truly dance. Top↑

Do Not Weep For Me by Poet unknown (read for Michael Landon )

Do not weep for me, for I have lived…
I have joined my hand with my fellows’ hands,
to leave the planet better than I found it.

Do not weep for me, for I have loved and been loved by
my family, by those I loved who loved me back
for I never knew a stranger, only friends.

Do not weep for me.
When you feel the ocean spray upon your face,
I am there.
When your heart beats faster at the dolphin’s leaping grace,
I am there.
When you reach out to touch another’s heart,
as now I touch God’s face,
I am there.
Do not weep for me. I am not gone. Top↑

Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas (read for Richard Burton)

Do not go gently into that good night,
old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
because their words had forked no lightning they
do not go gently into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
and learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
do not go gently into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Top↑

Funeral Blues by W. F. Auden (read in the film “Four weddings and a Funeral”)

Stop all t he clocks, cut off the telephone,
prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my north, my south, my east and west,
my working week and my Sunday best,
my noon, my midnight, my talk my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one:
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods:
For nothing now can ever come to any good. Top↑

The Widower by Rudyard Kipling

For a season there must be pain–
For a little, little space
I shall lose the sight of her face,
Take back the old life again
While She is at rest in her place.

For a season this pain must endure,
For a little. Little while
I shall sigh more often than smile
Till Time shall work me a cure,
And the pitiful days beguile.

For a season we must be apart,
For a little length of years,
Till my life’s last hour nears,
And above the beat of my heart,
I hear Her voice in my ears.

But I shall not understand –
Being set on some later love,
Shall not know her for whom I strove,
Till she reach me forth her hand,
Saying, “Who but I have the right?’
And out a troubled night
Shall draw me safe to the land. Top↑

A Cut Finger by Poet Unknown

A cut finger
is numb before it bleeds,
it bleeds before it hurts,
it hurts until it begins to heal,
it forms a scab and itches
until finally, the scab is gone
and a small scar is left
where once there was a wound.
Grief is the deepest wound
you ever had.
Like a cut finger,
it goes through stages,
and leaves a scar. Top↑

In Memory of My Mother by Patrick Kavanagh

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
you walking down a lane among the poplars
on your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday—
You meet me and you say:
“Don’t forget to see about the cattle— ”
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along
a headland of green oats in June,
so full of repose, so rich with life—
And I see us meeting at the end of town
on a fair day by accident, after
the bargains are all made and we can walk
together through the shops and stalls and markets
free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
for it is a harvest evening now and we
are piling up the rocks against the moonlight
and you smile up at us— eternally. Top↑

Epitaph for a Child by Thomas Gray

Here, freed from pain, secure from misery, lies
a child, the darling of his parents’ eyes:
A gentler lamb never sported on the plain.
A fairer flower will never bloom again:
few were the days allotted to his breath;
now let him sleep in peace his night of death. Top↑

Second Sowing Author Unknown

For whom
The milk ungiven in the breast
When the child is gone?

For whom
The love locked up in the heart
That is left alone?
That golden yield
Split sod once, overflowed an August field,
Threshed out in pain upon September’s floor,
Now hoarded high in barns, a sterile store.

Break down the bolted door;
Rip open, spread and pour
The grain upon the barren ground
Wherever crack in clod is found.

There is no harvest for the heart alone:
The seed of love must be
Resown. Top↑

From Berck-Plage by Sylvia Plath

Now the washed sheets fly in the sun,
The pillow cases are sweetening.

It is a blessing, it is a blessing:
The long coffin of soap-colored oak,

The curious bearers and the raw date
Engraving itself in silver with marvelous calm. Top↑

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins
And there the grass grows soft and white.
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk white arrows go,
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends. Top↑

You Came to Me by Nancy Dingman Watson

you came to me
and woke me in the night
small disheveled figure tumbled out
with dragging sheets
hurrying to
quit the sight of monsters and their
inquisitive snout of that
intrusive stranger

you crept into my bed
and shivering curled against me
your firm blossoming cheek
beneath my hand
I felt your round knees
digging comfort from my
warm belly

the fiends and shaped then
from your narrow
wishbone breast
you after all had
cried sanctuary
and landed fully operative
into my dreams

and in my dreams
there was nothing ranged
father now mother now
to annul that
dark decree Top↑

Untitled by Mark Strand

Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for one it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat, when
The sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead,
When the weight of the past leans against nothing and the sky.

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end. Top↑

When Storms Arise by Paul Laurence Dunvar

When storms arise And dark’ning skies
About me threat’ning lower,
To Thee, O Lord, I raise mine eyes,
To Thee my tortured spirit flies
For solace in that hour.

The mighty arm
Will let no harm
Come near me not befall me;
The voice shall quiet my alarm,
When life’s great battle waxeth warm–
No foeman shall appall me.

Upon they breast
Secure I rest,
From sorrow and vexation;
No more by sinful cares oppressed,
But in they presence ever blest,
O God of my salvation. Top↑

Free at Last by Richard Newman

I know my Lord is a man of war;
He fought my battle at Hell’s dark door.
Satan thought he had me fast;
I broke his chain and got free at last.

Free at last, free at last,
Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.
Free at last, free at last,
Thank God almighty, I’m free at last.

You can hinder me here, but you can’t hinder me there;
The Lord in Heaven’s going to answer my prayer.
I went in the valley, but I didn’t go to stay;
My soul got happy and I stayed all day. Top↑

The Angels Are Watching Over Me by Richard Newman

All night, all night
The angels are watching over me.
All night, all night
The angels are watching over me.

Someday Peter and someday Paul,
The angels are watching over me–
Ain’t but one God made us all,
The angels are watching over me,

You get there before I do,
The angels are matching over me–
Tell all my friends I’m coming too.
The angles are watching over me. Top↑

In Readings for Remembrance, Eleanor Munro

In the great night my heart will go out,
Toward me the darkness comes rattling,
In the great night my heart will go out.
From the Papago Top↑

In Readings for Remembrance, Eleanor Munro

Perchance do we truly live on earth?
Not forever on earth,
But briefly here!
Be it jade, it too will be broken;
Be it gold, it too will be melted,
And even the plume of the quetzal decays.
Not forever on earth,
But briefly here!
From the Aztec Top↑

Untitled by Mark Strand

Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for one it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat, when
The sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead,
When the weight of the past leans against nothing and the sky.

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories are suspended in flight,

Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end. Top↑

Untitled by Stephen Greenleaf

I was still thinking of …boys I knew for whom there had been no difference between war and peace, who had returned from Vietnam so scarred within and without that they couldn’t fit into the society they had been sent to defend, boys wounded more by sights and deeds than bullets. At the tip of the hill I sat beneath a sycamore nd stared idly across the next valley at the trees and scrub brush on the opposite slope, my thoughts on the folly and inevitability of war. Top↑

A Horseman Passes by Sam B. Davis

A clan gathers at the Camp
Butler cemetery to bury Bill
my uncle; many people
meet among the uniform soldier
stones standing white about burial
tents. In life at death we stare
at the coal hue coffin
so smooth, so lacquery black
we can see ourselves in it,
and cast cold eyes
at what reflections passing by.

People mull on the man-pun being
put under, facing our uncertain
concerns whether we could have been
better to him. The minister points
to the good in Bill we as his
familiars often overlooked
in our need to pull down one with less
to boost our suspected mores,
and I wonder if he ever felt true
love in his time, if his Pollock niche
with my kin was close enough
to appease the need to be needed
we all need. I know now

the origins of burial sadness lie
in the sounds, in the grave voice
of preacher prayer
in solemn soliloquy
of an Amvet Rep
and in the uncommon catch
of breath in mourning
fighting the foul cry– for
it’s only our relative fears
that brings to us related tears. Top↑

Footprints on the Sands of Time by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, — act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait. Top↑

i carry your heart with me by e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart) Top↑

We Remember Him (We Remember Her) Adapted from the Yizkor Service

When we are weary and in need of strength,
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember him.
When we have a joy we crave to share
When we have decisions that are difficult to make
When we have achievements that are based on his
We remember him.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember him.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We remember him.
At the rising of the sun and at its setting,
We remember him.
As long as we live, he too will live
For he is now a part of us,
As we remember him. Top↑

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep by Mary Frye

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’s 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. Top↑

Death Is Nothing At All by Canon Henry Scott-Holland

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way 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 we always 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 effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; 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! Top↑

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