Non-Religious Poems and Readings for Funeral or Memorial Services "When I am dead my dearest" by Christina Rossetti When I am dead, my dearest, Sing no sad songs for me; Plant thou no roses at my head, Nor shady cypress tree: With showers and dewdrops wet; And if thou wilt, remember, And if thou wilt, forget. I shall not see the shadows, I shall not feel the rain; I shall not hear the nightingale Sing on, as if in pain; And dreaming through the twilight That doth not rise nor set, Haply I may remember And haply may forget. "Our revels are now ended" from The Tempest by William Shakespeare Our revels are now ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded in a sleep. "The Choir Invisible" by George Eliot O may I join the choir invisible Of those immortal dead who live again In minds made better by their presence; live In pulses stirred to generosity, In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn Of miserable aims that end with self, In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars, And with their mild persistence urge men's minds To vaster issues. So to live is heaven: To make undying music in the world, Breathing a beauteous order that controls With growing sway the growing life of man. So we inherit that sweet purity For which we struggled, failed and agonized With widening retrospect that bred despair. Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued, A vicious parent shaming still its child, Poor, anxious penitence is quick dissolved; Its discords, quenched by meeting harmonies, Die in the large and charitable air; And all our rarer, better, truer self, That sobbed religiously in yearning song, That watched to ease the burden of the world, Laboriously tracing what must be, And what may yet be better — saw rather A worthier image for the sanctuary And shaped it forth before the multitude, Divinely human, raising worship so To higher reverence more mixed with love —That better self shall live till human Time Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb Unread for ever. This is life to come, Which martyred men have made more glorious For us who strive to follow. May I reach That purest heaven — be to other souls The cup of strength in some great agony, Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love, Beget the smiles that have no cruelty, Be the sweet presence of a good diffused, And in diffusion ever more intense! So shall I join the choir invisible Whose music is the gladness of the world. "But Not Forgotten" by Dorothy Parker I think, no matter where you stray, That I shall go with you a way. Though you may wander sweeter lands, You will not soon forget my hands, Nor yet the way I held my head, Nor all the tremulous things I said. You still will see me, small and white And smiling, in the secret night, And feel my arms about you when The day comes fluttering back again. I think, no matter where you be, You'll hold me in your memory And keep my image, there without me, By telling later loves about me. "Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, Silence the pianos and with muffled drum Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. Let airplanes circle moaning overhead Scribbling on the sky the message "He is Dead", Put Crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves, Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday-rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood, For nothing now can ever come to any good. "Dear Lovely Death" by Langston Hughes Dear lovely Death That taketh all things under wing Never to kill Only to change Into some other thing This suffering flesh, To make it either more or less, But not again the same Dear lovely Death, Change is thy other name. "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" by Mary Elizabeth Frye Do not stand at my grave and 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 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 cry; I am not there. I did not die. From "Adonais" by Percy Bysshe Shelley He has outsoar'd the shadow of our night; Envy and calumny and hate and pain, And that unrest which men miscall delight, Can touch him not and torture not again; From the contagion of the world's slow stain He is secure, and now can never mourn A heart grown cold, a head grown gray in vain; Nor, when the spirit's self has ceas'd to burn, With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn. "Remember Me" by Margaret Mead Remember Me: To the living, I am gone. To the sorrowful, I will never return. To the angry, I was cheated, But to the happy, I am at peace, And to the faithful, I have never left. I cannot be seen, but I can be heard. So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea — remember me. As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty — remember me. As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity — remember me. Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved, the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed. For if you always think of me, I will never be gone. "Dirge without Music" by Enda St. Vincent Millay I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go but I am not resigned. Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you. Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust. A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew, A formula, a phrase remains, but the best is lost. The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve. More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world. Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned. "Do Not Go Gently into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. "The Emperor of Ice Cream" by Wallace Stevens Call the roller of big cigars, The muscular one, and bid him whip In kitchen cups concupiscent curds. Let the wenches dawdle in such dress As they are used to wear, and let the boys Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers. Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. Take from the dresser of deal, Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet On which she embroidered fantails once, And spread it so as to cover her face. If her horny feet protrude, they come To show how cold she is, and dumb. Let the lamp affix its beam. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. "Turn Again to Life" by Mary Lee Hall If I should die and leave you here a while, be not like others sore undone, who keep long vigil by the silent dust. For my sake turn again to life and smile, nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do something to comfort other hearts than thine. Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine and I perchance may therein comfort you. "Remember" by Christina Rosetti Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land; When you can no more hold me by the hand, Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. Remember me when no more day by day You tell me of our future that you planned: Only remember me; you understand It will be late to counsel then or pray. Yet if you should forget me for a while And afterwards remember, do not grieve: For if the darkness and corruption leave A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, Better by far you should forget and smile Than that you should remember and be sad. "Epitaph on a Friend" by Robert Burns An honest man here lies at rest, The friend of man, the friend of truth, The friend of age, and guide of youth:Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd, Few heads with knowledge so inform'd;If there's another world, he lives in bliss; If there is none, he made the best of this. "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
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