Top 10 Best Poems About Death

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The inevitability of death has inspired some of poetry’s most darkly beautiful verses. Whether unexpected or long foreseen, poets are drawn to its finality, its certainty. It can be delivered unjustly, indiscriminately. And fear of death can make monsters out of men, forever lurking at the backs of our minds, and informing our deepest nightmares.

We see poets who want to fight back, to not ‘go gentle into that good night’. We see others who accept it as an immortal rest. Many see it as the start of a new chapter. The afterlife: whether some shining new pasture, a deep, circling pit of hell, or someplace in-between.

We see death returning to the mortal world, in spectres, ghosts – providing reflections and delivering parables onto the living. In their words, we learn of the value of life, and are inspired to live it to the fullest.

We find further encouragement and optimism in the fact that death is inevitably followed by re-birth, new life flourishing with the passing of the old. We can discover that – even without the promise of a boundless heaven or sordid underworld – the death of something doesn’t mean its end. And we can find comfort: we see that grief affects us all – manifesting in myriad ways.

In this sense, we are lucky to have such a breadth of poems about death. Here are some of the best ever written.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone…

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas
27 October 1914 - 9 November 1953

Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.

John Donne

John Donne
24 January 1572 - 31 March 1631

A Challenge To The Dark

shot in the eye
shot in the brain
shot in the ****
shot like a flower in the dance

Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski
16 August 1920 - 9 March 1994

When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses…

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014

Peace, My Heart

Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain…

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore
7 May 1861 - 7 August 1941

Nothing But Death

There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness…

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda
12 July 1904 - 23 September 1973

On Hearing Of A Death

We lack all knowledge of this parting. Death
does not deal with us. We have no reason
to show death admiration, love or hate;
his mask of feigned tragic lament gives us

Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke
4 December 1875 - 29 December 1926

Love And Death

Shall we, too, rise forgetful from our sleep,
And shall my soul that lies within your hand
Remember nothing, as the blowing sand
Forgets the palm where long blue shadows creep
When winds along the darkened desert sweep?

Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale
August 8, 1884 - January 29, 1933

I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died

I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson
10 December 1830 - 15 May 1886

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe
19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849

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