Jonathan Swift | |
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.
Edgar Lee Masters | |
I went up and down the streets
Here and there by day and night,
Through all hours of the night caring for the poor who were sick.
Do you know why?
My wife hated me, my son went to the dogs.
And I turned to the people and poured out my love to them.
Sweet it was to see the crowds about the lawns on the day of my funeral,
And hear them murmur their love and sorrow.
But oh, dear God, my soul trembled, scarcely able
To hold to the railing of the new life
When I saw Em Stanton behind the oak tree
At the grave,
Hiding herself, and her grief!
Edgar Allan Poe | |
Lo! 't is a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng bewinged bedight
In veils and drowned in tears
Sit in a theatre to see
A play of hopes and fears
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes in the form of God on high
Mutter and mumble low
And hither and thither fly -
Mere puppets they who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro
Flapping from out their Condor wings
That motley drama! - oh be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore
By a crowd that seize it not
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot
And much of Madness and more of Sin
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes! - it writhes! - with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food
And the seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
Out - out are the lights - out all!
And over each quivering form
The curtain a funeral pall
Comes down with the rush of a storm
And the angels all pallid and wan
Uprising unveiling affirm
That the play is the tragedy "Man"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.
More great poems below...
Emily Dickinson | |
I felt a funeral in my brain,
And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
That sense was breaking through.
And when they all were seated,
A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
My mind was going numb
And then I heard them lift a box,
And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead, again.
Then space began to toll
As all the heavens were a bell,
And being, but an ear,
And I and Silence some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here.
Sylvia Plath | |
I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.
The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can't keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.
I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.
How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!
I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.
I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.
They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.
The box is only temporary.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow | |
What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
TELL me not in mournful numbers
Life is but an empty dream!¡ª
For the soul is dead that slumbers
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest! 5
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; 10
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 15
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle
In the bivouac of Life
Be not like dumb driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife! 20
Trust no Future howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act ¡ªact in the living Present!
Heart within and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us 25
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 30
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 35
Learn to labor and to wait.
John Donne | |
WHOEVER comes to shroud me do not harm
Nor question much
That subtle wreath of hair about mine arm;
The mystery the sign you must not touch
For 'tis my outward soul 5
Viceroy to that which unto heav'n being gone
Will leave this to control
And keep these limbs her provinces from dissolution.
For if the sinewy thread my brain lets fall
Through every part 10
Can tie those parts and make me one of all;
Those hairs which upward grew and strength and art
Have from a better brain
Can better do 't: except she meant that I
By this should know my pain 15
As prisoners then are manacled when they're condemn'd to die.
Whate'er she meant by 't bury it with me
For since I am
Love's martyr it might breed idolatry
If into other hands these reliques came.
As 'twas humility
T' afford to it all that a soul can do
So 'tis some bravery
That since you would have none of me I bury some of you.
William Cullen Bryant | |
LET me move slowly through the street
Filled with an ever-shifting train
Amid the sound of steps that beat
The murmuring walks like autumn rain.
How fast the flitting figures come! 5
The mild the fierce the stony face;
Some bright with thoughtless smiles and some
Where secret tears have left their trace.
They pass¡ªto toil to strife to rest;
To halls in which the feast is spread; 10
To chambers where the funeral guest
In silence sits beside the dead.
And some to happy homes repair
Where children pressing cheek to cheek
With mute caresses shall declare 15
The tenderness they cannot speak.
And some who walk in calmness here
Shall shudder as they reach the door
Where one who made their dwelling dear
Its flower its light is seen no more.
Youth with pale cheek and slender frame
And dreams of greatness in thine eye!
Go'st thou to build an early name
Or early in the task to die?
Keen son of trade with eager brow! 25
Who is now fluttering in thy snare?
Thy golden fortunes tower they now
Or melt the glittering spires in air?
Who of this crowd to-night shall tread
The dance till daylight gleam again? 30
Who sorrow o'er the untimely dead?
Who writhe in throes of mortal pain?
Some famine-struck shall think how long
The cold dark hours how slow the light;
And some who flaunt amid the throng 35
Shall hide in dens of shame to-night.
Each where his tasks or pleasures call
They pass and heed each other not.
There is who heeds who holds them all
In His large love and boundless thought.
These struggling tides of life that seem
In wayward aimless course to tend
Are eddies of the mighty stream
That rolls to its appointed end.
Stephen Vincent Benet | |
The grey gulls drift across the bay
Softly and still as flakes of snow
Against the thinning fog.
I sat and watched them come and go;
And now at last the sun was set,
Filling the waves with colored fire
Till each seemed like a jewelled spire
Thrust up from some drowned city.
From peak and cliff and minaret
The city's lights began to wink,
Each like a friendly word.
Began to broaden out her shield,
Spurting with silver.
The brown hills lay like quiet beasts
Stretched out beside a well-loved door,
And filling earth and sky and field
With the calm heaving of their breasts.
Nothing was gone, nothing was changed,
The smallest wave was unestranged
By all the long ache of the years
Since last I saw them, blind with tears.
Their welcome like the hills stood fast:
And I, I had come home at last.
So I laughed out with them aloud
To think that now the sun was broad,
And climbing up the iron sky,
Where the raw streets stretched sullenly
About another room I knew,
In a mean house -- and soon there, too,
The smith would burst the flimsy door
And find me lying on the floor.
Just where I fell the other night,
After that breaking wave of pain.
How they will storm and rage and fight,
Servants and mistress, one and all,
"No money for the funeral!"
I broke my life there.
Let it stand
The waters are a plain,
Heaving and bright on either hand,
A tremulous and lustral peace
Which shall endure though all things cease,
Filling my heart as water fills
There stand the quiet hills.
So, waiting for my wings to grow,
I watch the gulls sail to and fro,
Rising and falling, soft and swift,
Drifting along as bubbles drift.
And, though I see the face of God
Hereafter -- this day have I trod
Nearer to Him than I shall tread
The night is dead.
And there's the dawn, poured out like wine
Along the dim horizon-line.
And from the city comes the chimes --
We have our heaven on earth -- sometimes!
William Lisle Bowles | |
The castle clock had tolled midnight:
With mattock and with spade,
And silent, by the torches' light,
His corse in earth we laid.
The coffin bore his name, that those
Of other years might know,
When earth its secrets should disclose,
Whose bones were laid below.
"Peace to the dead" no children sung,
Slow pacing up the nave,--
No prayers were read, no knell was rung,
As deep we dug his grave.
We only heard the winter's wind,
In many a sullen gust,
As, o'er the open grave inclined,
We murmured, "Dust to dust!"
A moonbeam from the arch's height
Streamed, as we placed the stone;
The long aisles started into light,
And all the windows shone.
We thought we saw the banners then,
That shook along the walls,
Whilst the sad shades of mail?d men
Were gazing on the stalls.
'Tis gone! again on tombs defaced
Sits darkness more profound;
And only by the torch we traced
The shadows on the ground.
And now the chilling, freezing air
Without blew long and loud;
Upon our knees we breathed one prayer,
Where he slept in his shroud.
We laid the broken marble floor,--
No name, no trace appears,--
And when we closed the sounding door,
We thought of him with tears.
William Ernest Henley | |
The big teetotum twirls,
And epochs wax and wane
As chance subsides or swirls;
But of the loss and gain
The sum is always plain.
Read on the mighty pall,
The weed of funeral
That covers praise and blame,
The -isms and the -anities,
Magnificence and shame:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"
The Fates are subtle girls!
They give us chaff for grain.
And Time, the Thunderer, hurls,
Like bolted death, disdain
At all that heart and brain
Conceive, or great or small,
Upon this earthly ball.
Would you be knight and dame?
Or woo the sweet humanities?
Or illustrate a name?
O Vanity of Vanities!
We sound the sea for pearls,
Or drown them in a drain;
We flute it with the merles,
Or tug and sweat and strain;
We grovel, or we reign;
We saunter, or we brawl;
We search the stars for Fame,
Or sink her subterranities;
The legend's still the same:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"
Here at the wine one birls,
There some one clanks a chain.
The flag that this man furls
That man to float is fain.
Pleasure gives place to pain:
These in the kennel crawl,
While others take the wall.
She has a glorious aim,
He lives for the inanities.
What come of every claim?
O Vanity of Vanities!
Alike are clods and earls.
For sot, and seer, and swain,
For emperors and for churls,
For antidote and bane,
There is but one refrain:
But one for king and thrall,
For David and for Saul,
For fleet of foot and lame,
For pieties and profanities,
The picture and the frame:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"
Life is a smoke that curls--
Curls in a flickering skein,
That winds and whisks and whirls,
A figment thin and vain,
Into the vast Inane.
One end for hut and hall!
One end for cell and stall!
Burned in one common flame
Are wisdoms and insanities.
For this alone we came:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"
Prince, pride must have a fall.
What is the worth of all
Your state's supreme urbanities?
Bad at the best's the game.
Well might the Sage exclaim:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"
Marilyn L Taylor | |
In another time, a linen winding sheet
would already have been drawn
about her, the funeral drums by now
would have throbbed their dull tattoo
into the shadows writhing
behind the fire’s eye
while a likeness
of her narrow torso, carved
and studded with obsidian
might have been passed from hand
to hand and rubbed against the bellies
of women with child
and a twist of her gray hair
been dipped in oil
and set alight, releasing the essence
of her life’s elixir, pricking
the nostrils of her children
and her children’s children
whose amber faces nod and shine
like a ring of lanterns
strung around her final flare--
but instead, she lives in this white room
gnawing on a plastic bracelet
as she is emptied, filled and emptied.
Ben Jonson | by Ben Jonson. You can read it on PoetrySoup.com' st_url='http://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poem/23118/On_Chuffe_Banks_the_Usurers______Kinsman' st_title='On Chuffe, Banks the Usurer's Kinsman'>|
? ON CHUFFE, BANKS THE USURER'S KINSMAN.
CHUFFE, lately rich in name, in chattels, goods,
And rich in issue to inherit all,
Ere blacks were bought for his own funeral,
Saw all his race approach the blacker floods :
He meant they thither should make swift repair,
When he made him executor, might be heir.
Jean Arp | |
alas our good kaspar is dead.
who will bury a burning flag in the wings of the clouds who will pull
black wool over our eyes day by day.
who will turn the coffee mills in the primal barrel.
who will lure the idyllic roe from his petrified paperbag.
who will sneeze oceanliners unbrellas windudders beekeepers spindles
of ozone who will pick clean the pyramids' bones.
alas alas alas our good kaspar is dead.
holy saint bong kaspar is dead.
the clappers raise heart-rending echoes of sorrow in the barns of the bells
when we murmur his name.
therefore i will only sigh out his surname
kaspar kaspar kaspar.
why hast thou forsaken us.
in what shape has thy lovely great soul taken
hast thou changed to a star or a chain made of water in a tropical
whirlwind or a teat of black light or a transparent brick in a drum that
howls for its craggy existence.
now the soles of our feet and the crowns of our heads have dried up and
the fairies are lying half-charred on the funeral piles.
now the black bowling alleys thunder in back of the sun and no one is
setting a compass or spinning the wheelbarrow's wheels.
who will eat with the phosphorized rat on the lonely barefooted table.
who will chase the siroccoco devil that's trying to lead off our horses.
who will decipher the monograms scratched on the stars.
his bust shall adorn the mantels of people ennobled by truth through it
leaves but small comfort or snuff for his death's head.
James Henry Leigh Hunt | |
Come thou, thou last one, whom I recognize,
unbearable pain throughout this body's fabric:
as I in my spirit burned, see, I now burn in thee:
the wood that long resisted the advancing flames
which thou kept flaring, I now am nourishinig
and burn in thee.
My gentle and mild being through thy ruthless fury
has turned into a raging hell that is not from here.
Quite pure, quite free of future planning, I mounted
the tangled funeral pyre built for my suffering,
so sure of nothing more to buy for future needs,
while in my heart the stored reserves kept silent.
Is it still I, who there past all recognition burn?
Memories I do not seize and bring inside.
O life! O living! O to be outside!
And I in flames.
And no one here who knows me.
[Written in December 1926, this poem was the last
entry in Rilke's notebook, less than two weeks before his
death at age 51.