Sunday, August 23, 2015

Britain's Favourite Poems:Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Griff Rhys Jones writes in the foreward to The Nation's Favourite Poems of an extraordinary occurance that was outside the scope of the competition but coincided with it. It interests me because it centres on a poem that I read at the funeral of my father. 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 -  'Do not Stand at my Grave and Weep' - 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 for a while. The poem was eventually attributed to Mary Elizabeth Frye, an American housewife and florist who wrote it in 1932. She never claimed copyright for her poetry, hence the difficulty in establishing authorship of Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep.

Once the poem came to public attention 30,000 requests for copies flooded in to the BBC, and it was subsequently published in The Nation's Favourite Poems. The words of the poem have been a great comfort to me and I hope that it may help others who are missing the presence of a loved one:

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.

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