Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" is a poem written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Although the origin of the poem was disputed until later in her life, Mary Frye's authorship was confirmed in 1998 after research by Abigail Van Buren, a newspaper columnist.
- 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.
Frye, who was living in Baltimore at the time, wrote the poem in 1932. She had never written any poetry, but the plight of a young German Jewish woman, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who was staying with her and her husband, inspired the poem. Margaret Schwarzkopf had been concerned about her mother, who was ill in Germany, but she had been warned not to return home because of increasing anti-Semitic unrest. When her mother died, the heartbroken young woman told Frye that she never had the chance to “stand by my mother’s grave and shed a tear”. Frye found herself composing a piece of verse on a brown paper shopping bag. Later she said that the words “just came to her” and expressed what she felt about life and death.
Frye circulated the poem privately, never publishing or copyrighting it. She wrote other poems, but this, her first, endured. Her obituary in The Times made it clear that she was the author of the famous poem, which has been recited at funerals and on other appropriate occasions around the world for 60 years.
The poem was introduced to many in the United Kingdom when it was read by the father of a soldier killed by a bomb in Northern Ireland. The soldier's father read the poem on BBC radio in 1995 in remembrance of his son, who had left the poem among his personal effects in an envelope addressed 'To all my loved ones'. The authorship of the poem was established a few years later after an investigation by journalist Abigail Van Buren.
The poem is common reading for funerals.
To coincide with National Poetry Day 1995, the British television programme The Bookworm conducted a poll to discover the nation's favourite poems, and subsequently published the winning poems in book form. The book's preface stated that "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" was "the unexpected poetry success of the year from Bookworm's point of view"; the poem had "provoked an extraordinary response... the requests started coming in almost immediately and over the following weeks the demand rose to a total of some thirty thousand. In some respects it became the nation's favourite poem by proxy... despite it being outside the competition." This was all the more remarkable, since the name and nationality of the American poet did not become known until several years later. In 2004 The Times wrote: "The verse demonstrated a remarkable power to soothe loss. It became popular, crossing national boundaries for use on bereavement cards and at funerals regardless of race, religion or social status".
The poem has been translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Ilocano, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, and other languages. Several Swedish versions exist. One version starts: "Gråt ej vid min grav..." Translated, it reads: "Do not weep at my grave - I am not there / I am in the sun's reflection in the sea / I am in the wind's play above the grain fields / I am in the autumn's gentle rain / I am in the Milky Way's string of stars / And when on an early morning you are awaked by bird's song / It is my voice that you are hearing / So do not weep at my grave - we shall meet again." (Instead of these last four words there is also this version: "I am not dead. I only left".)
Every so often the poem and similar variations appear in death and funeral announcements in Swedish morning papers (such as Svenska Dagbladet August 14, 2010).
On August 29, 2010, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter carried the following short English version: "I am thousand winds that blow / I am the diamond glints on snow / I am the sunlight, I am the rain / Do not stand on my grave and cry / I am not there / I did not die".
Several notable choral compositions, pop songs, and other creative works have been based on "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep", adapting lines from Frye's poem as lyrics.
- The Better Angels of Our Nature (song by Monks of Doom): Parts of "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" are interpolated with the lyrics to the rock song "The Better Angels of Our Nature," from the 1991 Monks of Doom album Meridian.
- Requiem (composition by Eleanor Joanne Daley): Eleanor Joanne Daley's Requiem (1993) includes a movement titled "In Remembrance", which uses the poem as its text. The movement has also been published as a stand-alone work.
- "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" (Epitaph by Maria Newman): The poem was set by violinist/violist & composer Maria Newman in 1998 for soprano, violin, viola & piano and subsequently set in 2014 for mezzo-soprano, violin, viola & piano. It is part of Newman's song cycle, Songs On Motherhood in G Major, Op. 36, No. 2: V. In Newman's setting the poem clearly states that death is not an end, but a metamorphosis that makes possible a melding with our physical earth and metaphysical surroundings. In this final movement, the voice emerges with a prayerful plainchant, as the tutti ensemble blossoms into the movement proper.
- "The Ballad of Mairéad Farrell" (song by Seanchai and the Unity Squad): On Seanchai and the Unity Squad's 1998 album Rebel Hip Hop, the song "The Ballad of Mairéad Farrell" tells the story of Mairéad Farrell, a member of the Irish Republican Army, and her imprisonment and eventual death at the hands of British security forces in Gibraltar. The song uses the opening couplet from the poem, and alters the closing couplet to say, "Do not stand at my grave and cry / When Ireland lives, I do not die."
- "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" (composition by Paul K. Joyce): At the request of a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer, composer Paul K. Joyce wrote a song for her funeral, setting the text of "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" to music. Joyce subsequently incorporated the composition into a larger oratorio (1998) and the score for a BBC adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen (2005).
- "Prayer" (song by Lizzie West): Songwriter Lizzie West recorded a modified version of the poem in her 2003 album Holy Road: Freedom Songs.
- To All My Loved Ones ("Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep"): The words were set to music by songwriter Geoff Stephens and the song was first performed at the 2003 Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. It was recorded by classical singer Katherine Jenkins and released on her album Living a Dream.
- "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" (choral composition by Joseph Twist): In 2004, Australian composer Joseph Twist set the poem to music for a capella voices (SATB div) with slight alterations to the words. This arrangement was commissioned by and subsequently dedicated to Graeme Morton and the National Youth Choir of Australia.
- "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" (choral song by Libera): Robert Prizeman, musical director of the all-boy English vocal group Libera, set this poem to music. The song used the same title as the poem and was included on Libera's 2004 album Free.
- "A Thousand Winds" (song by Man Arai): Japanese singer-songwriter Man Arai translated the poem into Japanese and composed the song "千の風になって" (translation: "Become A Thousand Winds"), originally sung by Man Arai himself. Other singers later covered the song, among them Japanese tenor Masafumi Akikawa. The tenor made the song popular after performing it during the 57th NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen on December 31, 2006. In January 2007, it became the first classical music piece to top the Oricon weekly singles chart and became the first classical music piece to top the Oricon yearly singles chart. Another version of this song appeared on Hayley Westenra's 2008 album Hayley Sings Japanese Songs (with the title "Sen No Kaze Ni Natte").
- "The Soft Stars that Shine at Night" (choral composition by David Bedford): In 2006, several choirs in the United Kingdom commissioned a choral work from David Bedford through the organization Making Music. The resulting piece, entitled The Soft Stars that Shine at Night, was first performed in 2007. Its last movement is a setting of this poem, with slight alterations to the words.
- Eternal Light: A Requiem (composition by Howard Goodall): Howard Goodall's choral orchestral work Eternal Light: A Requiem was recorded in 2008 with the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. "Do not stand" is in the Lacrymosa which is track 5.
- "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" (song by Harry Manx and Kevin Breit): A song of this title, with lyrics adapted from the poem, appears on the album Strictly Whatever by the duo Harry Manx and Kevin Breit. The album was released in May 2011.
- "You Will Make It" (song by Jem): The poem appears at the end of the song "You Will Make It" by Welsh singer-songwriter Jem. This song, which appeared on the 2011 album Ten Years On: A Collection of Songs In Remembrance of September 11th 2001, is a duet with South African singer-songwriter and poet-activist Vusi Mahlasela.
- "Do Not Stand At My Grave" (song by Caitlin Canty): The poem is the lyrics, with music by Caitlin Canty. It appears on her CD Golden Hour.
- "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" (song by Anna-Mari Kähärä): Finnish musician Anna-Mari Kähärä sang the words of the poem in this song on her 2015 album Another Song.
In popular culture
- A paraphrased version was read by Karen McCluskey (Kathryn Joosten) for Ida Greenberg (Pat Crawford Brown) in Season 4, Episode 10 of the TV series Desperate Housewives, when Ida died following a tornado that hit Wisteria Lane and her ashes were scattered on a baseball field.
- A paraphrased version was read at the graveside memorial in "Desert Cantos", Season 2, Episode 15 of the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
- A paraphrased version was read during a funeral in "The Final Act", Season 7, Part 1 of the UK TV series Prime Suspect.
- The poem featured in its entirety in the 2003 film adaption of Patrick Galvin's "Song for a Raggy Boy" (Song for a Raggy Boy on IMDB)
- The poem is read in full by Lady Annabel Butler (Siân Phillips) at the funeral of her husband Sir Freddy Butler (Joss Ackland) in the Midsomer Murders episode "Vixen's Run" (season 9, episode 3).
- The poem was read by Carla Barlow (played by Alison King) at the funeral of Hayley Cropper (played by Julie Hesmondhalgh) in an episode of Coronation Street aired on 31 January 2014.
- A modified version of the poem appears in the game World of Warcraft during a quest entitled "Alicia's Poem", which requires the player to deliver the poem to a young child's friend. The quest was created as a tribute to player Dak Krause, who died of leukemia at the age of 28 on August 22, 2007.
- The poem was recited by John Deed (played by actor Martin Shaw) in "Everyone's Child", an episode in the second series of the TV programme Judge John Deed (aired December 2002).
- "Mary E. Frye". The Times (London, United Kingdom). 5 November 2004. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- "Obituary". London Magazine. December 2005.
- The Nation's Favourite Poems. BBC Books. 1996. ISBN 978-0-563-38782-4.
- Geoff Stephens. "Who DID Write the Nation's Favourite Poem?" October 2002. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
- "The Snow Queen - A magical adventure told through songs and poems. BBC1 Christmas day 9am". Thesnowqueenpkj.com. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
- "Spirituals". Lizzie and Baba. Section "Prayer: Lizzie West". Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- "Do not stand at my grave and weep : SATB choir by Joseph Twist : Work". Australian Music Centre. 2013-05-04. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
- "Free by Ben Crawley". Boy Choir and Soloist Directory. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- "Rudi Tas : Homepage". Ruditas.be. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
- "Rudi Tas: Do not stand at my grave and weep". YouTube. 2012-04-01. Retrieved 2015-03-04.