Funeral poetry has a long history. People have composed poems about grief for thousands of years and continue to write new ones today. We’ve picked out some modern funeral poems that are relatable and easy to read.
If you find one you like, you could include it in your funeral speech or write it out in a sympathy card.
The best modern funeral poems
Here are three of our favourite modern poems for funerals. These pieces would suit any funeral service, whether it’s for a friend, family member or partner.
Funeral Blues by W. H. Auden
This is one of the best-known funeral poems in the English-speaking world. It’s sometimes called ‘Stop All the Clocks, Cut Off the Telephone’, after its opening line.
The poem was first published in 1936. However, it didn’t become famous until 1994, when it was featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. It was later voted the UK’s fifth-favourite 20th-century poem (BBC).
Read the full poem here
The Dash by Linda Ellis
Linda Ellis’s ‘The Dash’ has a beautiful message that anyone can relate to. It says we shouldn’t focus on the dates of a person’s birth or death, but the dash in between. For Ellis, the dash is the most important part because it represents the time the person was alive.
Read the poem on Linda Ellis’s website.
A Chant Against Death by Mervyn Morris
Mervyn Morris is considered one of Jamaica’s best poets. He’s written poetry about all sorts of subjects, including love, childhood and family. ‘A Chant Against Death’ is one of several pieces that deal with grief.
It’s a very simple poem that reminds us to focus on the positive things in life, such as family, friends, music and sunshine. You could interpret it to mean ‘though we’re sad that the person has gone, we should be thankful that we can still enjoy life’.
The poem was published in Morris’s book I been there, sort of. You can also read it online here.
Modern funeral poems for mum
A Sonnet for My Incomparable Mother by Joanna Fuchs
A sonnet is a type of poem that was invented more than 700 years ago. Sonnets are usually associated with romantic love. However, this modern sonnet focuses on the love between a mother and a daughter.
In the poem, Fuchs thanks her mother for showing her how to be a good person. She says she’ll use the lessons she’s learnt to bring up her own children.
Read the poem on Joanna Fuchs’ website.
A Heart so Large by Mark Twain
This short verse is a little older than most of the pieces here. However, it still feels like a modern funeral poem because the language is so witty and accessible. It has a very simple message: although the writer’s mother was a small woman, she had a very big heart.
‘A Heart so Large’ comes from the autobiography of Mark Twain, one of the most famous American writers of all time.
You can read it here.
Modern funeral poems for dad
The Measure of a Man by Summer Sandercox
‘The Measure of a Man’ is a popular modern funeral poem that reads like a tribute to a kind and humble person. Its message is very relatable. It says that you don’t have to earn lots of money or achieve great things to be remembered fondly. Instead, we should remember people for the way they treated others.
The poem is sometimes called ‘Not How He Died, But How He Lived’. You can read it here.
Only a Dad by Edgar Albert Guest
Don’t be fooled by the title. The subject of this poem might be ‘only a dad’, but he means everything to the writer. He works long hours and makes big sacrifices – all for the sake of his children. The message is made clear in the final line: ‘only a dad, but the best of men’.
‘Only a Dad’ isn’t necessarily about a person who has died. Nevertheless, it would make for a touching tribute to a father who worked hard to build a better life for his kids.
Read the poem here.
Modern funeral poems for a partner
Should You Go First by Albert Kennedy Roswell
During his life, Albert Kennedy ‘Rosey’ Roswell was best known as a baseball commentator. But that wasn’t his only talent – he also wrote inspirational poetry on a number of subjects. ‘Should You Go First’ is one of his best-known pieces.
Roswell wrote the poem as a tribute to his wife, but it would work just as well as a reading for a husband’s funeral. It talks about finding hope in happy memories of a partner, even after they’ve gone.
The video below is a musical version of the poem by Hank Williams. You can read the original version here.
Journey’s End by Pamela M. Brooke
‘Journey’s End’ is a sad yet gentle poem about losing someone you’ve loved for a long time. It tackles subjects like memory loss and ageing, so would be particularly poignant as a funeral reading for someone who suffered from dementia. The poem ends by hoping that the person is free from pain now they’ve reached the end of their journey.
You can read it here.
A funeral poem for a child
Goodbye Little One by Ruth Van Gramberg
Ruth Van Gramberg worked as a funeral celebrant in Australia for several years. During her career, she wrote many poignant poems that she performed at the funerals she led.
‘Goodbye Little One’ is written from the point of view of a mother who has lost a child. It uses simple language to express deep and complex feelings of grief. The poem has a religious feel, so bear this in mind if you’re planning a non-religious funeral.
The poem is available here.
More poems about death and grief
- Uplifting and funny funeral poems
- ‘Goodbye’ poems for funerals
- Funeral poems for nature lovers
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