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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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See also: Best Member Poems

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--


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.


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.


More great poems below...

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


by Emily Dickinson | |

Death sets a thing significant

Death sets a thing significant
The eye had hurried by,
Except a perished creature
Entreat us tenderly

To ponder little workmanships
In crayon or in wool,
With "This was last her fingers did,"
Industrious until

The thimble weighed too heavy,
The stitches stopped themselves,
And then 't was put among the dust
Upon the closet shelves.
A book I have, a friend gave, Whose pencil, here and there, Had notched the place that pleased him,-- At rest his fingers are.
Now, when I read, I read not, For interrupting tears Obliterate the etchings Too costly for repairs.


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


by Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings | |

Humanity i love you

Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both

parties and because you 
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard

Humanity i love you because
when you're hard up you pawn your
intelligence to buy a drink and when
you're flush pride keeps 

you from the pawn shops and
because you are continually committing
nuisances but more
especially in your own house

Humanity i love you because you 
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it's there and sitting down

on it
and because you are 
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity

i hate you


by Emily Dickinson | |

I measure every grief I meet

I measure every grief I meet
   With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
   Or has an easier size.
I wonder if they bore it long, Or did it just begin? I could not tell the date of mine, It feels so old a pain.
I wonder if it hurts to live, And if they have to try, And whether, could they choose between, They would not rather die.
I wonder if when years have piled-- Some thousands--on the cause Of early hurt, if such a lapse Could give them any pause; Or would they go on aching still Through centuries above, Enlightened to a larger pain By contrast with the love.
The grieved are many, I am told; The reason deeper lies,-- Death is but one and comes but once And only nails the eyes.
There's grief of want, and grief of cold,-- A sort they call 'despair,' There's banishment from native eyes, In sight of native air.
And though I may not guess the kind Correctly yet to me A piercing comfort it affords In passing Calvary, To note the fashions of the cross Of those that stand alone Still fascinated to presume That some are like my own.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Grief

I TELL you hopeless grief is passionless; 
That only men incredulous of despair  
Half-taught in anguish through the midnight air 
Beat upward to God's throne in loud access 
Of shrieking and reproach.
Full desertness 5 In souls as countries lieth silent-bare Under the blanching vertical eye-glare Of the absolute Heavens.
Deep-hearted man express Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death¡ª Most like a monumental statue set 10 In everlasting watch and moveless woe Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet: If it could weep it could arise and go.


by Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings | |

a clowns smirk in the skull of a baboon

a clown's smirk in the skull of a baboon
(where once good lips stalked or eyes firmly stir
red)
my mirror gives me on this afternoon;
i am a shape that can but eat and turd
ere with the dirt death shall him vastly gird 
a coward waiting clumsily to cease
whom every perfect thing meanwhile doth miss;
a hand's impression in an empty glove 
a soon forgotten tune a house for lease.
I have never loved you dear as now i love behold this fool who in the month of June having certain stars and planets heard rose very slowly in a tight balloon until the smallening world became absurd; him did an archer spy(whose aim had erred never)and by that little trick or this he shot the aeronaut down into the abyss -and wonderfully i fell through the green groove of twilight striking into many a piece.
I have never loved you dear as now i love god's terrible face brighter than a spoon collects the image of one fatal word; so that my life(which liked the sun and the moon) resembles something that has not occurred: i am a birdcage without any bird a collar looking for a dog a kiss without lips;a prayer lacking any knees but something beats within my shirt to prove he is undead who living noone is.
I have never loved you dear as now i love.
Hell(by most humble me which shall increase) open thy fire!for i have had some bliss of one small lady upon earth above; to whom i cry remembering her face i have never loved you dear as now i love


by Frank O'Hara | |

Death

1

If half of me is skewered
by grey crested birds
in the middle of the vines of my promise
and the very fact that I'm a poet
suffers my eyes
to be filled with vermilion tears 


2

how much greater danger
from occasion and pain is my vitality
yielding like a tree on fire!--
for every day is another view
of the tentative past
grown secure in its foundry of shimmering
that's not even historical;it's just me.
3 And the other half of me where I master the root of my every idiosyncrasy and fit my ribs like a glove 4 is that me who accepts betrayal in the abstract as if it were insight? and draws its knuckles across the much-lined eyes in the most knowing manner of our time? 5 The wind that smiles through the wires isn't vague enough for an assertion of a personal nature it's not for me 6 I'm not dead.
Nothing remains let alone "to be said " except that when I fall backwards I am trying something new and shall succeed as in the past.


by Emily Dickinson | |

It was not death for I stood up

It was not death, for I stood up,
And all the dead lie down;
It was not night, for all the bells
Put out their tongues, for noon.
It was not frost, for on my flesh I felt siroccos crawl,-- Nor fire, for just my marble feet Could keep a chancel cool.
And yet it tasted like them all; The figures I have seen Set orderly, for burial, Reminded me of mine, As if my life were shaven And fitted to a frame, And could not breathe without a key; And 't was like midnight, some, When everything that ticked has stopped, And space stares, all around, Or grisly frosts, first autumn morns, Repeal the beating ground.
But most like chaos,--stopless, cool,-- Without a chance or spar,-- Or even a report of land To justify despair.


by Sarah Fuller Flower Adams | |

He Sendeth Sun He Sendeth Shower

He sendeth sun, he sendeth shower, 
Alike they're needful for the flower: 
And joys and tears alike are sent 
To give the soul fit nourishment.
As comes to me or cloud or sun, Father! thy will, not mine, be done! Can loving children e'er reprove With murmurs whom they trust and love? Creator! I would ever be A trusting, loving child to thee: As comes to me or cloud or sun, Father! thy will, not mine, be done! Oh, ne'er will I at life repine: Enough that thou hast made it mine.
When falls the shadow cold of death I yet will sing, with parting breath, As comes to me or shade or sun, Father! thy will, not mine, be done!


by Phillis Wheatley | |

To the Honourable T. H. Esq; on the Death of his Daughter

While deep you mourn beneath the cypress-shade
The hand of Death, and your dear daughter laid
In dust, whose absence gives your tears to flow,
And racks your bosom with incessant woe,
Let Recollection take a tender part,
Assuage the raging tortures of your heart,
Still the wild tempest of tumultuous grief,
And pour the heav'nly nectar of relief:
Suspend the sigh, dear Sir, and check the groan,
Divinely bright your daughter's Virtues shone:
How free from scornful pride her gentle mind,
Which ne'er its aid to indigence declin'd!
Expanding free, it sought the means to prove
Unfailing charity, unbounded love!

She unreluctant flies to see no more
Her dear-lov'd parents on earth's dusky shore:
Impatient heav'n's resplendent goal to gain,
She with swift progress cuts the azure plain,
Where grief subsides, where changes are no more,
And life's tumultuous billows cease to roar;
She leaves her earthly mansion for the skies,
Where new creations feast her wond'ring eyes.
To heav'n's high mandate cheerfully resign'd She mounts, and leaves the rolling globe behind; She, who late wish'd that Leonard might return, Has ceas'd to languish, and forgot to mourn; To the same high empyreal mansions come, She joins her spouse, and smiles upon the tomb: And thus I hear her from the realms above: "Lo! this the kingdom of celestial love! "Could ye, fond parents, see our present bliss, "How soon would you each sigh, each fear dismiss? "Amidst unutter'd pleasures whilst I play "In the fair sunshine of celestial day, "As far as grief affects an happy soul "So far doth grief my better mind controul, "To see on earth my aged parents mourn, "And secret wish for T-----! to return: "Let brighter scenes your ev'ning-hours employ: "Converse with heav'n, and taste the promis'd joy"


by John Keats | |

Last Sonnet

BRIGHT Star! would I were steadfast as thou art¡ª 
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night  
And watching with eternal lids apart  
Like Nature's patient sleepless Eremite  
The moving waters at their priest-like task 5 
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores  
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask 
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors¡ª 
No¡ªyet still steadfast still unchangeable  
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast 10 
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell  
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest  
Still still to hear her tender-taken breath  
And so live ever¡ªor else swoon to death.


by Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings | |

O sweet spontaneous

O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
the
doting

fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched
and
poked

thee
has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
thy

beauty .
how often have religions taken thee upon their scraggy knees squeezing and buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive gods (but true to the incomparable couch of death thy rhythmic lover thou answerest them only with spring)


by Emily Dickinson | |

Her final summer was it

Her final summer was it,
And yet we guessed it not;
If tenderer industriousness
Pervaded her, we thought

A further force of life
Developed from within,--
When Death lit all the shortness up,
And made the hurry plain.
We wondered at our blindness,-- When nothing was to see But her Carrara guide-post,-- At our stupidity When, duller than our dulness, The busy darling lay, So busy was she, finishing, So leisurely were we!