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Poems About Death

Poems about death are often studied in literature courses. Poetry is very difficult to understand so if you need help with explicating a poem or series of poems about death, let us know and our writers can help you understand any poem that is assigned to you.

Poetry encompasses the whole of human existence. As such, one of the most frequently explored themes is that of death. Poems about death are quite numerous, with some being famous. Poems about DeathPoets write about the death of family members (both parents and children), celebrities, and even the nature of death itself. Both Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, among many other noteworthy poets, wrote famous poems about death.

Death is the great equalizer, an event that occurs to every human being. However, anxiety over death has perplexed human beings since time immemorial. Death is universal, yet it is mysterious, wrapped up in religion, superstition, and fear of the unknown. It is therefore not surprising that there are countless poems about death. Such poems provide a comfort to the reader and a means of exploring anxiety for the poet.

Various poems about death include the following:

  • “Because I could not stop for death” is one of the most famous works in Dickenson’s canon.
  • Frost wrote “The Death of the Hired Man,” among other works.
  • “Death Be Not Proud” is one of the more famous poems by John Donne. Some poems about death have a religious connotation, while others are secular.
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson
  • Randall Jarrell’s “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,” which emerged out of World War II, and ends with the famous line “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.”

Sigmund Freud said, “I have learned more from the poets than I have from science”, and in fact it could be argued that, when it comes to the real mysteries of life, the poets have managed to shed more light on the situation than the scientists have.  We don’t know the meaning of life.  We don’t know the secrets of love.  We don’t know what happens to us after we die.  We don’t know the answers to any of these burning questions, but after examining the work of such poets as Homer, Vergil, Ovid and Shakespeare, one can’t help but feel they are somehow closer to the answers.

People often turn to poetry when everyday language isn’t enough to express what they think or feel. Poetry can be comforting in times of sorrow and ecstatic in times of joy. But there is much more to poetry than just the expression of emotions.  The history of the world has been recorded through poetry.  Our great poets have served as historians, and scribes of their day, and out of that dutiful endeavor they have emerged as prophets and scholars.  It has been said that “the key to the future, lies in its past”.  When trying to unlock the mysteries of the future, human beings have always gone in search of their past.  Why turn to the poets in this search?  Because the words of the poets holds up.  There are scientific discoveries that are mere decades old that already seem outdated and ridiculous.  The idea that the world is flat, for example, has long ceased being a valid idea and therefore the scientist who put forth that theory is no longer relevant.  But the poets stand the test of time because mankind will always be mankind and the work of the poets revolves not around technology or science – but around just that, mankind and human beings.

For thousands of years people have been turning to the poets for wisdom and knowledge.  On an average night in the late Greek Dark Ages, a community, probably made up of the wealthiest people, would settle in for an evening’s entertainment. The professional storyteller would sing the stories of the Trojan War and its Greek heroes; stories so long that they would take days to complete. The Greeks believed that the greatest of these story-tellers was a blind man named Homer, and that he sung ten epic poems about the Trojan War, of which only two survived. As a group these poems told the entire history of the Trojan War; each poem, however, only covered a small part of that history.

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