Poems to Comfort at a Funeral: Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep, Mary E. Frye; If I Should Go First by Joyce Grenfell

Updated on August 15, 2018
Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis studied for a B. A. (Hons) in English literature after taking early retirement. She was awarded her degree at the age of 67.

Do not Stand at my Grave and Weep

I recited this poem at the funeral of my father, who died suddenly at the age of ninety one after a good and full life. We wanted the funeral service to be a celebration of his life and I felt that this beautiful poem set the tone for the service. The poem suggests that death is not the end and that we live on in spirit as part of nature.

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

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.

"I am the sunlight on ripened grain"
"I am the sunlight on ripened grain" | Source

History of Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

I found the poem by chance when looking for a suitable eulogy and at the time was unaware of the story behind it. The poem was left in an envelope addressed by a soldier on active service in Northern Ireland. It was addressed to his parents and was to be opened in the event of his death. At first, it was thought that the soldier himself had written by the poem, but this was not the case. Various claims were made for it but the author remained an unsolved mystery until in 1990 Mary Elizabeth Frye revealed that she had written it. Mrs Frye, an American housewife and florist wrote the poem, on a brown paper bag in 1932. She had circulated a few copies to friends who enjoyed the poem but never claimed copyright, hence the difficulty in establishing authorship.Following an investigation, in 1998 authorship was formally attributed to her.

The Nation's Favourite Poem

In 1995 the UK book programme, The Bookworm, conducted a poll to coincide with National Poetry Day. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep was outside the scope of the poll but following a programme about war poems which featured the poem 30,000 requests for copies descended on the BBC. Subsequently, a book of the poems that had been chosen as the Nation's Favourite Poems was published - and a decision was made to include Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep in 'prime, first past the post, poll position'.

Analysis of the Form and Style of the Poem

  • The poem is a variation of the sonnet form. Twelve lines of rhyming couplets
  • .Short statements in the first six lines, usually in words of one syllable. Full stops slow the pace of the poem.
  • The 'voice' of the poem is of someone who has passed away and who aims to bring comfort to those who s/he has left behind.
  • Note the repetition at the beginning of lines ( eight times) of the words 'I am', emphasising that the writer not died
  • Beautiful use of imagery and metaphor - the diamond glints on snow, sunlight on grain suggesting light. The writer is omnnipresent, a part of everything that is beautiful in nature - the wind and the rain, the sunlight, the birds, and the stars.
  • Lovely alliteration ' the soft stars that shine'
  • The poem comes full circle with the repetition in the closing lines of the suggestion that the bereaved should not weep - because the writer is still there, albeit in spirit form

A murmuration of starlings.  "Quiet birds in circled flight"  The metaphor is suggestive of joyfulness and freedom from earthly ties, emphasised by the use of the adjective "uplifting"
A murmuration of starlings. "Quiet birds in circled flight" The metaphor is suggestive of joyfulness and freedom from earthly ties, emphasised by the use of the adjective "uplifting" | Source

If I Should Go by Joyce Grenfell

We chose this poem for my son to read at the funeral of his grandmother. Like Joyce Grenfell, the poet who wrote it, my mother was a joyful person. She would not have wanted an overly mournful funeral service and she would not have wished anyone to grief for an extended period after her passing. We wanted the service to be a celebration of her life. Though of course, even after several years, we still miss her dreadfully. But I prefer to focus on my positive memories. The reference to singing in the poem was particularly appropriate because Mum, throughout her life, loved to sing. She was actually a semi-professional singer during her youth, performing with dance bands and at at night clubs.

If I Should Go

If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I'm gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known
Weep if you must
Parting is hell
But life goes on
So sing as well.

An Interpretation of If I Should Go First

The poem reads like the instructions for a funeral that others might choose to put in a last will and testament.

The first three lines of the poem adjure the listeners what not to do at the poet's funeral. They should not have flowers or a memorial stone, and they should not be unnaturally solemn.

The last four lines tell the writer's wishes for what those who are left behind should do. If the bereaved feel that they must weep for a short time that is acceptable, because separation from a loved one is dreadful. But there is a reminder that life goes on after we lose somebody and that life should be enjoyed.

Joyce Grenfell 1972
Joyce Grenfell 1972 | Source

About Joyce Grenfell (1941-1979)

  • Joyce Grenfell was born into an upper middle class family. Her maternal aunt was Lady Astor.
  • Grenfell was a much-loved English comedienne, actress, BBC script writer, and monologist.
  • During the Second World War she toured abroad extensively, entertaining the troops.
  • In 1942 she wrote what was to become her signature song I'm Going to See You Today.
  • In 1946 Grenfell was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • She became famous in the USA after appearing on the Ed Sullivan show alongside Elvis Presley
  • Joyce Grenfell died in November 1979, at the age of 38. In February 1980 a Memorial Service was held in her honour at Westminster Cathedral, the first time this rare honour had been conferred on a performance artist.
  • 1998, her image appeared on a Post Office stamp as one in a series of stamps celebrating Heroes of Comedy.
  • 2005, in a poll to find the Comedians' Comedian she was voted into the top 50 best ever comedians.

Questions & Answers

  • When was Joyce Grenfell born?

    Joyce Grenfell was born on the February 10th 1910, in Knightsbridge, London.


Submit a Comment

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James-MizBejabbers 

    2 months ago from Beautiful South

    I went to your profile to follow you and found this article you had written about this poem. I've been a student of metaphysics since 1976, and this poem was passed around and discussed in my study group about 20 years ago. I had to read your article because when my mom died in 2008, I naturally chose this poem to be printed in her funeral program. It means a lot to me.

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 

    8 months ago from East Coast, United States

    A beautiful poem to read at a funeral. Though I dearly love the sentiments, I would have a tough time reading it. I read one of those inspirational poems after the death of a friend and by the end of it just wanted to rip it up and cry.

  • Claire-louise profile image

    Claire Raymond 

    13 months ago from UK

    A friend of mine lost her husband just yesterday, he had been ill for some time and she says she will read this at his funeral. It's very beautiful.

  • Glenis Rix profile imageAUTHOR


    13 months ago from UK

    Yes, it's true. My father died 2 years ago this month and I still feel that he is with me, especially when I'm in the garden tending the plants that he gave to me.

  • Glenis Rix profile imageAUTHOR


    14 months ago from UK

    Mary, it's an interesting idea that the writer may have been moved to write the poem by people who visited her florist shop to buy flowers for funerals. It hadn't occurred to me. You are probably right.

  • Blond Logic profile image

    Mary Wickison 

    14 months ago from Brazil

    It is a beautiful poem. I wonder if the woman who wrote it, did so after she saw the grief of people who came into her florist shop.

    It is much more a comfort to think that a loved one is still present in spirit.

    Your analysis is interesting. My understanding of poetry is sadly lacking. Sometimes I struggle to read it in the correct rhythm and then so much is lost.

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 

    14 months ago from Riga, Latvia

    Really a lovely poem. So true that death only releases us from this world but in spirit we go on.

  • Coffeequeeen profile image

    Louise Powles 

    14 months ago from Norfolk, England

    That really is a lovely poem. It's a comfort for people to read these words.

  • Fullerman5000 profile image

    Ryan Fuller 

    14 months ago from Louisiana, USA

    Thank you for sharing your story and for sharing this wonderful poem with us. I know it is hard to lose a loved especially.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)