Poems

Silver Bough: Scottish Folklore and Folk Beliefs
By George MacDonald

On either hand we behold a birth
Of which, as of the moon, we see but half.
We are outside the one,
Waiting for a life from the unknown.
We are inside the other,
Watching the departure of a spirit
From the womb of the world
Into the unknown.

To the region wither he goes,
The man enters newly-born.
We forget that it is a birth,
And call it death.
The body he leaves behind is but the placenta
By which he drew his nourishment from his Mother Earth.

And as the child-bed is watched on earth with expectance,
So the couch of the dying, as we call them,
May be surrounded by the birth watchers of the other world,
Waiting like anxious servants
To open the door
To which this world
Is but the wind-blown porch.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world

Mary Oliver

I Did Not Die
Author Unknown
Do not stand at my grave and forever 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 forever cry.
I am not there. I did not die.

 

Death is nothing at all
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, we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name,
speak to me in the easy way which you have always used.
Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,
let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant, it is the same as it ever was;
there is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval somewhere very near,
just around the corner.

 

All is Though I am Dead
Anonymous
Though I am dead grieve not for me with tears
think not of death with sorrowing and tears;
I am so near that every tear you shed
touches and tortures me though you think me dead.
But when you laugh and sing in glad delight,
my soul is lifted upward to the light.
Laugh and be glad for all that life is giving
and I, though dead, will share your joy in living
well.

The Prophet
Kahlil Gibran

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into 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 mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

A Song of Living
Amelia Josephine Burr

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
I have sent up my gladness on wings,
to be lost in the blue of the sky.I have run and leaped with the rain,
I have taken the wind to my breast.
My cheek like a drowsy child to the face of the earth I have pressed.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
I have kissed young love on the lips, I have heard her song to the end.
I have struck my hand like a seal in the loyal hand of a friend. I have known the peace of heaven, the comfort of work done well.
I have longed for death in the darkness and risen alive out of hell.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
I give a share of my soul to the world where my course is run.

I know that another shall finish the task I must leave undone.
I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.
As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

When Death Knocks
Rabindranath Tagore
On the day when death will knock at thy door,
What wilt thou offer to him?
I will set before my guest the full vessel of my life.
I will never let him go with empty hands.
All the sweet vintage of all my autumn days and summer nights,
All the earnings and gleanings of my busy life
Will I place before him, at the close of my day.

An Invisible Cloak
Irish poem

On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and your stumble,
may the clay dance to balance you.
And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window
and the ghost of loss gets in your,
may a flock of birds, indigo, red, green and azure blue
come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays on the ship of thought
and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of moonlight to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,

may the protection of your ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you,
an invisible cloak to mind your life.

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed
Walt Whitman
DEATH CAROL.16
Come, lovely and soothing Death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later, delicate Death.

Prais’d be the fathomless universe,
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious;
And for love, sweet love—But praise! praise! praise!
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding Death.

Dark Mother, always gliding near, with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?

Then I chant it for thee—I glorify thee above all;
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.

Approach, strong Deliveress!
When it is so—when thou hast taken them, I joyously sing the dead,
Lost in the loving, floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss, O Death.

From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose, saluting thee—adornments and feastings for thee;
And the sights of the open landscape, and the high-spread sky, are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.

The night, in silence, under many a star;
The ocean shore, and the husky whispering wave, whose voice I know;
And the soul turning to thee, O vast and well-veil’d Death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.

Over the tree-tops I float thee a song!
Over the rising and sinking waves—over the myriad fields, and the prairies
wide;
Over the dense-pack’d cities all, and the teeming wharves and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee, O Death!

 

To One Shortly To Die
Walt Whitman
From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you,
You are to die – let others tell you what they please, I cannot prevaricate,
I am exact and merciless, but I love you – there is no escape for you.
Softly I lay my right hand upon you – you just feel it,
I do not argue – I bend my head close and half envelop it,
I sit quietly by – I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,
I absolve you from all except yourself – spiritual, bodily, – that is eternal – you yourself will surely escape,
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.
The sun burst through in unlooked for directions!
Strong thoughts fill you, and confidence – you smile!
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,
You do not see the medicines – you do not mind the weeping friends – I am with you,
I exclude others from you – there is nothing to be commiserated,
I do not commiserate – I congratulate you.

Rumi
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I ever made less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels blessed; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind ever conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! For non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones,
To Him we shall return.

Hymn to Osiris

I have come home.
I have entered humanhood, bound to rocks and plants, men and women, rivers and sky.
I shall be with you in this and other worlds.
When the cat arches is the doorway, think of me.
I have sometimes been like that.
When you look up, know I am there-sun and moon- pouring my love around you.
All these things I am; portents, images, signs.
Though apart, I am part of you.
One of the million things in the universe, I am the universe, too.
You think I disguise myself as rivers and trees simply to confuse you?
Whatever I am, woman, cat or lotus, the same god breathes in every body.
You and I together are a single creation.
Neither death nor spite nor fear nor ignorance stops my love for you…