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Best Famous Death Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Death poems. This is a select list of the best famous Death poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Death poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of death poems.

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Written by Emily Dickinson |

Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death-- 
He kindly stopped for me-- 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves-- 
And Immortality.
We slowly drove--He knew no haste And I had put away My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility-- We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess--in the Ring-- We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain-- We passed the Setting Sun-- Or rather--He passed us-- The Dews drew quivering and chill-- For only Gossamer, my Gown-- My Tippet--only Tulle-- We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground-- The Roof was scarcely visible-- The Cornice--in the Ground-- Since then--'tis Centuries--and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses' Heads Were toward Eternity--

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.

Written by Edgar Allan Poe |

The City In the Sea

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West 
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers (Time-eaten towers that tremble not!) Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around by lifting winds forgot Resignedly beneath the sky The melancholy waters lie.
No rays from the holy heaven come down On the long night-time of that town; But light from out the lurid sea Streams up the turrets silently- Gleams up the pinnacles far and free- Up domes- up spires- up kingly halls- Up fanes- up Babylon-like walls- Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers- Up many and many a marvellous shrine Whose wreathed friezes intertwine The viol the violet and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there That all seem pendulous in air While from a proud tower in the town Death looks gigantically down.
There open fanes and gaping graves Yawn level with the luminous waves; But not the riches there that lie In each idol's diamond eye- Not the gaily-jewelled dead Tempt the waters from their bed; For no ripples curl alas! Along that wilderness of glass- No swellings tell that winds may be Upon some far-off happier sea- No heavings hint that winds have been On seas less hideously serene.
But lo a stir is in the air! The wave- there is a movement there! As if the towers had thrust aside In slightly sinking the dull tide- As if their tops had feebly given A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow- The hours are breathing faint and low- And when amid no earthly moans Down down that town shall settle hence Hell rising from a thousand thrones Shall do it reverence.

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Written by John Donne |

Death Be Not Proud

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.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, 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.

Written by Ben Jonson |

The Hourglass

Consider this small dust here running in the glass,
By atoms moved;
Could you believe that this the body was 
Of one that loved?
And in his mistress' flame, playing like a fly,
Turned to cinders by her eye:
Yes; and in death, as life, unblessed,
To have it expressed,
Even ashes of lovers find no rest.

Written by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

Tears Idle Tears

  Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.
Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail, That brings our friends up from the underworld, Sad as the last which reddens over one That sinks with all we love below the verge; So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.
Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds To dying ears, when unto dying eyes The casement slowly grows a glimmering square; So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.
Dear as remembered kisses after death, And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned On lips that are for others; deep as love, Deep as first love, and wild with all regret; O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

Written by William Shakespeare |

Sonnet 55

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contènts
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn, And broils root out the work of masonry, Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room Even in the eyes of all posterity That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise, You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

Written by John Donne |

The Flea

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
Me it sucked first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame nor loss of maidenhead,
  Yet this enjoys before it woo,
  And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
  And this, alas, is more than we would do.
Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare, Where we almost, yea more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed and marriage temple is; Though parents grudge, and you, we are met, And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me, Let not to that, self-murder added be, And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
Curel and sudden, hast thou since Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence? Wherein could this flea guilty be, Except in that drop which it sucked from thee? Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou Find'st not thy self nor me the weaker now; 'Tis true; then learn how false, fears be; Just so much honor, when thou yield'st to me, Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.

Written by Jonathan Swift |

A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General

His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!
Well, since he's gone, no matter how,
The last loud trump must wake him now:
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He'd wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old As by the newspapers we're told? Threescore, I think, is pretty high; 'Twas time in conscience he should die.
This world he cumbered long enough; He burnt his candle to the snuff; And that's the reason, some folks think, He left behind so great a s---k.
Behold his funeral appears, Nor widow's sighs, nor orphan's tears, Wont at such times each heart to pierce, Attend the progress of his hearse.
But what of that, his friends may say, He had those honors in his day.
True to his profit and his pride, He made them weep before he died.
Come hither, all ye empty things, Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings; Who float upon the tide of state, Come hither, and behold your fate.
Let pride be taught by this rebuke, How very mean a thing's a Duke; From all his ill-got honors flung, Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung.

Written by Sandra Cisneros |


If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Before you became a cloud, you were an ocean, roiled and murmuring like a mouth.
You were the shadows of a cloud cross- ing over a field of tulips.
You were the tears of a man who cried into a plaid handkerchief.
You were the sky without a hat.
Your heart puffed and flowered like sheets drying on a line.
And when you were a tree, you listened to the trees and the tree things trees told you.
You were the wind in the wheels of a red bicycle.
You were the spidery Mariatattooed on the hairless arm of a boy in dowtown Houston.
You were the rain rolling off the waxy leaves of a magnolia tree.
A lock of straw-colored hair wedged between the mottled pages of a Victor Hugo novel.
A crescent of soap.
A spider the color of a fingernail.
The black nets beneath the sea of olive trees.
A skein of blue wool.
A tea saucer wrapped in newspaper.
An empty cracker tin.
A bowl of blueber- ries in heavy cream.
White wine in a green-stemmed glass.
And when you opened your wings to wind, across the punched- tin sky above a prison courtyard, those condemned to death and those condemned to life watched how smooth and sweet a white cloud glides.

Written by Thomas Hardy |

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
     When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
     The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be The Century's corpse outleant, His crypt the cloudy canopy, The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth Was shrunken hard and dry, And every spirit upon earth Seemed fevourless as I.
At once a voice arose among The bleak twigs overhead In a full-hearted evensong Of joy illimited; An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, In blast-beruffled plume, Had chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings Of such ecstatic sound Was written on terrestrial things Afar or nigh around, That I could think there trembled through His happy good-night air Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware.

Written by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league, 
Half a league onward, 
All in the valley of Death 
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!" he said: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!" Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew Some one had blundered: Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred.
Flashed all their sabres bare, Flashed as they turned in air Sabring the gunners there, Charging an army, while All the world wondered: Plunged in the battery-smoke Right through the line they broke; Cossack and Russian Reeled from the sabre-stroke Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not, Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon behind them Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well Came through the jaws of Death Back from the mouth of Hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!

Written by Phillis Wheatley |

To a Lady on the Death of Her Husband

Grim monarch! see, depriv'd of vital breath,
A young physician in the dust of death:
Dost thou go on incessant to destroy,
Our griefs to double, and lay waste our joy?
"Enough" thou never yet wast known to say,
Though millions die, the vassals of thy sway:
Nor youth, nor science, nor the ties of love,
Nor aught on earth thy flinty heart can move.
The friend, the spouse from his dire dart to save, In vain we ask the sovereign of the grave.
Fair mourner, there see thy lov'd Leonard laid, And o'er him spread the deep impervious shade; Clos'd are his eyes, and heavy fetters keep His senses bound in never-waking sleep, Till time shall cease, till many a starry world Shall fall from heav'n, in dire confusion hurl'd, Till nature in her final wreck shall lie, And her last groan shall rend the azure sky: Not, not till then his active soul shall claim His body, a divine immortal frame.
But see the softly-stealing tears apace Pursue each other down the mourner's face; But cease thy tears, bid ev'ry sigh depart, And cast the load of anguish from thine heart: From the cold shell of his great soul arise, And look beyond, thou native of the skies; There fix thy view, where fleeter than the wind Thy Leonard mounts, and leaves the earth behind.
Thyself prepare to pass the vale of night To join for ever on the hills of light: To thine embrace his joyful sprit moves To thee, the partner of his earthly loves; He welcomes thee to pleasures more refin'd, And better suited to th' immortal mind.

Written by Siegfried Sassoon |


EVENING was in the wood, louring with storm.
A time of drought had sucked the weedy pool And baked the channels; birds had done with song.
Thirst was a dream of fountains in the moon, Or willow-music blown across the water 5 Leisurely sliding on by weir and mill.
Uneasy was the man who wandered, brooding, His face a little whiter than the dusk.
A drone of sultry wings flicker¡¯d in his head.
The end of sunset burning thro¡¯ the boughs 10 Died in a smear of red; exhausted hours Cumber¡¯d, and ugly sorrows hemmed him in.
He thought: ¡®Somewhere there¡¯s thunder,¡¯ as he strove To shake off dread; he dared not look behind him, But stood, the sweat of horror on his face.
15 He blunder¡¯d down a path, trampling on thistles, In sudden race to leave the ghostly trees.
And: ¡®Soon I¡¯ll be in open fields,¡¯ he thought, And half remembered starlight on the meadows, Scent of mown grass and voices of tired men, 20 Fading along the field-paths; home and sleep And cool-swept upland spaces, whispering leaves, And far off the long churring night-jar¡¯s note.
But something in the wood, trying to daunt him, Led him confused in circles through the thicket.
25 He was forgetting his old wretched folly, And freedom was his need; his throat was choking.
Barbed brambles gripped and clawed him round his legs, And he floundered over snags and hidden stumps.
Mumbling: ¡®I will get out! I must get out!¡¯ 30 Butting and thrusting up the baffling gloom, Pausing to listen in a space ¡¯twixt thorns, He peers around with peering, frantic eyes.
An evil creature in the twilight looping, Flapped blindly in his face.
Beating it off, 35 He screeched in terror, and straightway something clambered Heavily from an oak, and dropped, bent double, To shamble at him zigzag, squat and bestial.
Headlong he charges down the wood, and falls With roaring brain¡ªagony¡ªthe snap¡¯t spark¡ª 40 And blots of green and purple in his eyes.
Then the slow fingers groping on his neck, And at his heart the strangling clasp of death.

Written by George (Lord) Byron |

Youth and Age

THERE'S not a joy the world can give like that it takes away 
When the glow of early thought declines in feeling's dull decay; 
'Tis not on youth's smooth cheek the blush alone which fades so fast  
But the tender bloom of heart is gone ere youth itself be past.
Then the few whose spirits float above the wreck of happiness 5 Are driven o'er the shoals of guilt or ocean of excess: The magnet of their course is gone or only points in vain The shore to which their shiver'd sail shall never stretch again.
Then the mortal coldness of the soul like death itself comes down; It cannot feel for others' woes it dare not dream its own; 10 That heavy chill has frozen o'er the fountain of our tears And though the eye may sparkle still 'tis where the ice appears.
Though wit may flash from fluent lips and mirth distract the breast Through midnight hours that yield no more their former hope of rest 'Tis but as ivy-leaves around the ruin'd turret wreathe 15 All green and wildly fresh without but worn and gray beneath.
Oh could I feel as I have felt or be what I have been Or weep as I could once have wept o'er many a vanish'd scene ¡ª As springs in deserts found seem sweet all brackish though they be So midst the wither'd waste of life those tears would flow to me! 20