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Best Famous Bereavement Poems

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Written by Charlotte Bronte | Create an image from this poem

Pilates Wifes Dream

 I've quenched my lamp, I struck it in that start
Which every limb convulsed, I heard it fall­
The crash blent with my sleep, I saw depart
Its light, even as I woke, on yonder wall;
Over against my bed, there shone a gleam
Strange, faint, and mingling also with my dream.
It sunk, and I am wrapt in utter gloom; How far is night advanced, and when will day Retinge the dusk and livid air with bloom, And fill this void with warm, creative ray ? Would I could sleep again till, clear and red, Morning shall on the mountain-tops be spread! I'd call my women, but to break their sleep, Because my own is broken, were unjust; They've wrought all day, and well-earned slumbers steep Their labours in forgetfulness, I trust; Let me my feverish watch with patience bear, Thankful that none with me its sufferings share.
Yet, Oh, for light ! one ray would tranquilise My nerves, my pulses, more than effort can; I'll draw my curtain and consult the skies: These trembling stars at dead of night look wan, Wild, restless, strange, yet cannot be more drear Than this my couch, shared by a nameless fear.
All black­one great cloud, drawn from east to west, Conceals the heavens, but there are lights below; Torches burn in Jerusalem, and cast On yonder stony mount a lurid glow.
I see men stationed there, and gleaming spears; A sound, too, from afar, invades my ears.
Dull, measured, strokes of axe and hammer ring From street to street, not loud, but through the night Distinctly heard­and some strange spectral thing Is now upreared­and, fixed against the light Of the pale lamps; defined upon that sky, It stands up like a column, straight and high.
I see it all­I know the dusky sign­ A cross on Calvary, which Jews uprear While Romans watch; and when the dawn shall shine Pilate, to judge the victim will appear, Pass sentence­yield him up to crucify; And on that cross the spotless Christ must die.
Dreams, then, are true­for thus my vision ran; Surely some oracle has been with me, The gods have chosen me to reveal their plan, To warn an unjust judge of destiny: I, slumbering, heard and saw; awake I know, Christ's coming death, and Pilate's life of woe.
I do not weep for Pilate­who could prove Regret for him whose cold and crushing sway No prayer can soften, no appeal can move; Who tramples hearts as others trample clay, Yet with a faltering, an uncertain tread, That might stir up reprisal in the dead.
Forced to sit by his side and see his deeds; Forced to behold that visage, hour by hour, In whose gaunt lines, the abhorrent gazer reads A triple lust of gold, and blood, and power; A soul whom motives, fierce, yet abject, urge Rome's servile slave, and Judah's tyrant scourge.
How can I love, or mourn, or pity him ? I, who so long my fettered hands have wrung; I, who for grief have wept my eye-sight dim; Because, while life for me was bright and young, He robbed my youth­he quenched my life's fair ray­ He crushed my mind, and did my freedom slay.
And at this hour­although I be his wife­ He has no more of tenderness from me Than any other wretch of guilty life; Less, for I know his household privacy­ I see him as he is­without a screen; And, by the gods, my soul abhors his mien ! Has he not sought my presence, dyed in blood­ Innocent, righteous blood, shed shamelessly ? And have I not his red salute withstood ? Aye,­when, as erst, he plunged all Galilee In dark bereavement­in affliction sore, Mingling their very offerings with their gore.
Then came he­in his eyes a serpent-smile, Upon his lips some false, endearing word, And, through the streets of Salem, clanged the while, His slaughtering, hacking, sacrilegious sword­ And I, to see a man cause men such woe, Trembled with ire­I did not fear to show.
And now, the envious Jewish priests have brought Jesus­whom they in mockery call their king­ To have, by this grim power, their vengeance wrought; By this mean reptile, innocence to sting.
Oh ! could I but the purposed doom avert, And shield the blameless head from cruel hurt! Accessible is Pilate's heart to fear, Omens will shake his soul, like autumn leaf; Could he this night's appalling vision hear, This just man's bonds were loosed, his life were safe, Unless that bitter priesthood should prevail, And make even terror to their malice quail.
Yet if I tell the dream­but let me pause.
What dream ? Erewhile the characters were clear, Graved on my brain­at once some unknown cause Has dimmed and rased the thoughts, which now appear, Like a vague remnant of some by-past scene;­ Not what will be, but what, long since, has been.
I suffered many things, I heard foretold A dreadful doom for Pilate,­lingering woes, In far, barbarian climes, where mountains cold Built up a solitude of trackless snows, There, he and grisly wolves prowled side by side, There he lived famished­there methought he died; But not of hunger, nor by malady; I saw the snow around him, stained with gore; I said I had no tears for such as he, And, lo ! my cheek is wet­mine eyes run o'er; I weep for mortal suffering, mortal guilt, I weep the impious deed­the blood self-spilt.
More I recall not, yet the vision spread Into a world remote, an age to come­ And still the illumined name of Jesus shed A light, a clearness, through the enfolding gloom­ And still I saw that sign, which now I see, That cross on yonder brow of Calvary.
What is this Hebrew Christ ? To me unknown, His lineage­doctrine­mission­yet how clear, Is God-like goodness, in his actions shewn ! How straight and stainless is his life's career ! The ray of Deity that rests on him, In my eyes makes Olympian glory dim.
The world advances, Greek, or Roman rite Suffices not the inquiring mind to stay; The searching soul demands a purer light To guide it on its upward, onward way; Ashamed of sculptured gods­Religion turns To where the unseen Jehovah's altar burns.
Our faith is rotten­all our rites defiled, Our temples sullied, and methinks, this man, With his new ordinance, so wise and mild, Is come, even as he says, the chaff to fan And sever from the wheat; but will his faith Survive the terrors of to-morrow's death ? * * * * * I feel a firmer trust­a higher hope Rise in my soul­it dawns with dawning day; Lo ! on the Temple's roof­on Moriah's slope Appears at length that clear, and crimson ray, Which I so wished for when shut in by night; Oh, opening skies, I hail, I bless your light ! Part, clouds and shadows ! glorious Sun appear ! Part, mental gloom ! Come insight from on high ! Dusk dawn in heaven still strives with daylight clear, The longing soul, doth still uncertain sigh.
Oh ! to behold the truth­that sun divine, How doth my bosom pant, my spirit pine ! This day, time travails with a mighty birth, This day, Truth stoops from heaven and visits earth, Ere night descends, I shall more surely know What guide to follow, in what path to go; I wait in hope­I wait in solemn fear, The oracle of God­the sole­true God­to hear.

Written by William Lisle Bowles | Create an image from this poem


 Whose was that gentle voice, that, whispering sweet,
Promised methought long days of bliss sincere!
Soothing it stole on my deluded ear,
Most like soft music, that might sometimes cheat
Thoughts dark and drooping! 'Twas the voice of Hope.
Of love and social scenes, it seemed to speak, Of truth, of friendship, of affection meek; That, oh! poor friend, might to life's downward slope Lead us in peace, and bless our latest hours.
Ah me! the prospect saddened as she sung; Loud on my startled ear the death-bell rung; Chill darkness wrapt the pleasurable bowers, Whilst Horror, pointing to yon breathless clay, "No peace be thine," exclaimed, "away, away!"
Written by Thomas Hardy | Create an image from this poem

De Profundis


"Percussus sum sicut foenum, et aruit cor meum.
" - Ps.
ci Wintertime nighs; But my bereavement-pain It cannot bring again: Twice no one dies.
Flower-petals flee; But, since it once hath been, No more that severing scene Can harrow me.
Birds faint in dread: I shall not lose old strength In the lone frost's black length: Strength long since fled! Leaves freeze to dun; But friends can not turn cold This season as of old For him with none.
Tempests may scath; But love can not make smart Again this year his heart Who no heart hath.
Black is night's cope; But death will not appal One who, past doubtings all, Waits in unhope.
De Profundis II "Considerabam ad dexteram, et videbam; et non erat qui cognosceret me When the clouds' swoln bosoms echo back the shouts of the many and strong That things are all as they best may be, save a few to be right ere long, And my eyes have not the vision in them to discern what to these is so clear, The blot seems straightway in me alone; one better he were not here.
The stout upstanders say, All's well with us: ruers have nought to rue! And what the potent say so oft, can it fail to be somewhat true? Breezily go they, breezily come; their dust smokes around their career, Till I think I am one horn out of due time, who has no calling here.
Their dawns bring lusty joys, it seems; their eves exultance sweet; Our times are blessed times, they cry: Life shapes it as is most meet, And nothing is much the matter; there are many smiles to a tear; Then what is the matter is I, I say.
Why should such an one be here? Let him to whose ears the low-voiced Best seems stilled by the clash of the First, Who holds that if way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst, Who feels that delight is a delicate growth cramped by crookedness, custom, and fear, Get him up and be gone as one shaped awry; he disturbs the order here.
De Profundis III "Heu mihi, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est! Habitavi cum habitantibus Cedar; multum incola fuit aninia mea.
There have been times when I well might have passed and the ending have come - Points in my path when the dark might have stolen on me, artless, unrueing - Ere I had learnt that the world was a welter of futile doing: Such had been times when I well might have passed, and the ending have come! Say, on the noon when the half-sunny hours told that April was nigh, And I upgathered and cast forth the snow from the crocus-border, Fashioned and furbished the soil into a summer-seeming order, Glowing in gladsome faith that I quickened the year thereby.
Or on that loneliest of eves when afar and benighted we stood, She who upheld me and I, in the midmost of Egdon together, Confident I in her watching and ward through the blackening heather, Deeming her matchless in might and with measureless scope endued.
Or on that winter-wild night when, reclined by the chimney-nook quoin, Slowly a drowse overgat me, the smallest and feeblest of folk there, Weak from my baptism of pain; when at times and anon I awoke there - Heard of a world wheeling on, with no listing or longing to join.
Even then! while unweeting that vision could vex or that knowledge could numb, That sweets to the mouth in the belly are bitter, and tart, and untoward, Then, on some dim-coloured scene should my briefly raised curtain have lowered, Then might the Voice that is law have said "Cease!" and the ending have come.
Written by Percy Bysshe Shelley | Create an image from this poem


 How stern are the woes of the desolate mourner
As he bends in still grief o'er the hallowed bier,
As enanguished he turns from the laugh of the scorner,
And drops to perfection's remembrance a tear;
When floods of despair down his pale cheeks are streaming,
When no blissful hope on his bosom is beaming,
Or, if lulled for a while, soon he starts from his dreaming,
And finds torn the soft ties to affection so dear.
Ah, when shall day dawn on the night of the grave, Or summer succeed to the winter of death? Rest awhle, hapless victim! and Heaven will save The spirit that hath faded away with the breath.
Eternity points, in its amaranth bower Where no clouds of fate o'er the sweet prospect lour, Unspeakable pleasure, of goodness the dower, When woe fades away like the mist of the heath.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

The Tombstone-Maker

 He primmed his loose red mouth and leaned his head 
Against a sorrowing angel’s breast, and said: 
‘You’d think so much bereavement would have made 
‘Unusual big demands upon my trade.
‘The War comes cruel hard on some poor folk; ‘Unless the fighting stops I’ll soon be broke.
’ He eyed the Cemetery across the road.
‘There’s scores of bodies out abroad, this while, ‘That should be here by rights.
They little know’d ‘How they’d get buried in such wretched style.
’ I told him with a sympathetic grin, That Germans boil dead soldiers down for fat; And he was horrified.
‘What shameful sin! ‘O sir, that Christian souls should come to that!’

Written by Thomas Hardy | Create an image from this poem

In Tenebris

 Wintertime nighs;
But my bereavement-pain
It cannot bring again:
Twice no one dies.
Flower-petals flee; But since it once hath been, No more that severing scene Can harrow me.
Birds faint in dread: I shall not lose old strength In the lone frost's black length: Strength long since fled! Leaves freeze to dun; But friends cannot turn cold This season as of old For him with none.
Tempests may scath; But love cannot make smart Again this year his heart Who no heart hath.
Black is night's cope; But death will not appal One, who past doubtings all, Waits in unhope.
Written by D. H. Lawrence | Create an image from this poem


 When along the pavement,
Palpitating flames of life, 
People flicker round me, 
I forget my bereavement, 
The gap in the great constellation,
The place where a star used to be.
Nay, though the pole-star Is blown out like a candle, And all the heavens are wandering in disarray, Yet when pleiads of people are Deployed around me, and I see The street’s long outstretched Milky Way, When people flicker down the pavement, I forget my bereavement.
Written by Emily Dickinson | Create an image from this poem

Bereavement in their death to feel

 Bereavement in their death to feel
Whom We have never seen --
A Vital Kinsmanship import
Our Soul and theirs -- between --

For Stranger -- Strangers do not mourn --
There be Immortal friends
Whom Death see first -- 'tis news of this
That paralyze Ourselves --

Who, vital only to Our Thought --
Such Presence bear away
In dying -- 'tis as if Our Souls
Absconded -- suddenly --
Written by William Topaz McGonagall | Create an image from this poem

The Death of Fred Marsden the American Playwright

 A pathetic tragedy I will relate,
Concerning poor Fred.
Marsden's fate, Who suffocated himself by the fumes of gas, On the 18th of May, and in the year of 1888, alas! Fred.
Marsden was a playwright, the theatrical world knows, And was highly esteemed by the people, and had very few foes; And in New York, in his bedroom, he took his life away, And was found by his servant William in his bedroom where he lay.
The manner in which he took his life : first he locked the door, Then closed down the window, and a sheet to shreds he tore And then stopped the keyholes and chinks through which air might come, Then turned on the single gas-burner, and soon the deed was done.
About seven o'clock in the evening he bade his wife good-night, And she left him, smoking, in his room, thinking all was right, But when morning came his daughter said she smelled gas, Then William, his servant, called loudly on him, but no answer, alas! Then suspicion flashed across William's brain, and he broke open the door, Then soon the family were in a state of uproar, For the room was full of gas, and Mr Marsden quite dead, And a more kind-hearted father never ate of the world's bread.
And by his kindness he spoiled his only child, His pretty daughter Blanche, which made him wild; For some time he thought her an angel, she was so very civil, But she dishonoured herself, and proved herself a devil.
Her father idolised her, and on her spared no expense, And the kind-hearted father gave her too much indulgence, Because evening parties and receptions were got up for her sake, Besides, he bought her a steam yacht to sail on Schroon Lake.
His means he lavished upon his home and his wife, And he loved his wife and daughter as dear as his life; But Miss Blanche turned to folly, and wrecked their home through strife, And through Miss Marsden's folly her father took his life.
She wanted to ride, and her father bought her a horse, And by giving her such indulgences, in morals she grew worse; And by her immoral actions she broke her father's heart; And, in my opinion, she has acted a very ungrateful part.
At last she fled from her father's house, which made him mourn, Then the crazy father went after her and begged her to return, But she tore her father's beard, and about the face beat him, Then fled to her companions in evil, and thought it no sin.
Then her father sent her one hundred dollars, and found her again, And he requested her to come home, but it was all in vain; For his cruel daughter swore at him without any dread, And, alas! next morning, he was found dead in his bed.
And soon theatrical circles were shocked to learn, Of the sudden death of genial Fred Marsden, Whose house had been famous for its hospitality, To artists, litterateurs, and critics of high and low degree.
And now dear Mrs Marsden is left alone to mourn The loss of her loving husband, whom to her will ne'er return; But I hope God will be kind to her in her bereavement, And open her daughter's eyes, and make her repent For being the cause of her father's death, the generous Fred, Who oft poor artists and mendicants has fed; But, alas! his bounties they will never receive more, Therefore poor artists and mendicants will his loss deplore.
Therefore, all ye kind parents of high and low degree, I pray ye all, be advised by me, And never pamper your children in any way, Nor idolise them, for they are apt to go astray, And treat ye, like pretty Blanche Marsden, Who by her folly has been the death of one of the finest men; So all kind parents, be warned by me, And remember always this sad Tragedy!
Written by D. H. Lawrence | Create an image from this poem

End of Another Home Holiday


When shall I see the half moon sink again
Behind the black sycamore at the end of the garden?
When will the scent of the dim, white phlox
Creep up the wall to me, and in at my open window?

Why is it, the long slow stroke of the midnight bell,
    (Will it never finish the twelve?)
Falls again and again on my heart with a heavy reproach?

The moon-mist is over the village, out of the mist speaks the bell,
And all the little roofs of the village bow low, pitiful, beseeching,
    Oh, little home, what is it I have not done well?

Ah home, suddenly I love you,
As I hear the sharp clean trot of a pony down the road,
Succeeding sharp little sounds dropping into the silence,
Clear upon the long-drawn hoarseness of a train across the valley.

The light has gone out from under my mother's door.
        That she should love me so,
        She, so lonely, greying now,
        And I leaving her,
        Bent on my pursuits!

    Love is the great Asker,
    The sun and the rain do not ask the secret

    Of the time when the grain struggles down in the dark.
    The moon walks her lonely way without anguish,
    Because no loved one grieves over her departure.


Forever, ever by my shoulder pitiful Love will linger,
Crouching as little houses crouch under the mist when I turn.
Forever, out of the mist the church lifts up her reproachful finger,
Pointing my eyes in wretched defiance where love hides her face to

    Oh but the rain creeps down to wet the grain
        That struggles alone in the dark,
    And asking nothing, cheerfully steals back again!
        The moon sets forth o' nights
        To walk the lonely, dusky heights
        Serenely, with steps unswerving;
        Pursued by no sigh of bereavement,
        No tears of love unnerving
        Her constant tread:
    While ever at my side,
        Frail and sad, with grey bowed head,
        The beggar-woman, the yearning-eyed
        Inexorable love goes lagging.

The wild young heifer, glancing distraught,
With a strange new knocking of life at her side
    Runs seeking a loneliness.
The little grain draws down the earth to hide.
Nay, even the slumberous egg, as it labours under the shell,
    Patiently to divide, and self-divide,
Asks to be hidden, and wishes nothing to tell.

But when I draw the scanty cloak of silence over my eyes,
Piteous Love comes peering under the hood.
Touches the clasp with trembling fingers, and tries
To put her ear to the painful sob of my blood,
While her tears soak through to my breast,
      Where they burn and cauterise.


  The moon lies back and reddens.
  In the valley, a corncrake calls
  With a piteous, unalterable plaint, that deadens
        My confident activity:
  With a hoarse, insistent request that falls
        Unweariedly, unweariedly,
        Asking something more of me,
            Yet more of me!

Book: Shattered Sighs