Funeral Poems, Readings, Music, Quotations & Thoughts

Gone Fishing

Some men love to fish. For some men it's a thing they do all their lives. if you ever wondered why, and wondered what was so good about going fishing here is a little rhyme by Edgar Guest. It can be a good life, out fishing.

Out Fishin' by Edgar Guest

A feller isn't thinkin' mean,
Out fishin';
His thoughts are mostly good an' clean,
Out fishin'.
He doesn't knock his fellow men.,
Or harbor any grudges then;
A feller's at his finest when
Out fishin'.

The rich are comrades to the poor,
Out fishin';
All brothers of a common lure,
Out fishin'.
The urchin with the pin an' string
Can chum with millionaire an' king;
Vain pride is a forgotten thing,
Out fishin'.
A feller gits a chance to dream,
Out fishin';

He learns the beauties of a stream,
Out fishin';
An' he can wash his soul in air
That isn't foul with selfish care,
An' relish plain and simple fare,
Out fishin'.

A feller has no time fer hate,
Out fishin';
He isn't eager to be great,
Out fishin'.
He isn't thinkin' thoughts of pelf,
Or goods stacked high upon a shelf,
But he is always just himself,
Out fishin'.

A feller's glad to be a friend,
Out fishin'
A helpin' hand he'll always lend,
Out fishin'.
The brotherhood of rod an' line
An' sky and stream is always fine;
Men come real close to God's design,
Out fishin'.

A feller isn't plotting schemes,
Out fishin';
He's only busy with his dreams,
Out fishin'.
His livery is a coat of tan,
His creed -to do the best he can;
A feller's always mostly man,
Out fishin'.

From The Gardener's Almanac of John Evelyn 1669

I found these words after a long search for a good reading for the funeral of a keen gardener. We wanted something serious and dignified but not too sad, that reflected the labour and dedication he had put into his last years doing nothing less than creating a garden of great beauty. The words are all from John Evelyn's introductory dedication to his 

Kaledarium Hortense

Which he published in 1669. I took some liberties editing the text and punctuation to try to make a reading which would appeal to a modern audience, but the words are all his.

When we have so much celebrated the Life and Felicity of an excellent Gardener it is not because of the Leisure which he enjoys above other men. There is not amongst men a more laborious life than is that of a good gardener's. But because the Labour is full of Tranquility and Satisfaction; Natural and Instructive, and contributes to Contemplation, Experience, Health, and Longevity, a Condition it is, furnished with the most innocent, laudable, and purest of earthly felicities.

The Labour, because there is nothing excellent which is to be attained without it, a gard’ner’s work is never at an end. It begins with the Year, and continues to the next: He prepares the Ground, and then he sows it; after that he plants, and then he gathers the fruits: But in all the intermedial Spaces he is careful to dress it.

All which duly, weighed, How precious the Time is!

Helen Thomas's Farewell to Edward

A funeral is always a farewell and a parting. Inevitably we often hope to be reunited and we hope sometime to have a better understanding of life and all it's confusion and memories. In 1917 Helen Thomas saw her husband Edward, father of her two children off to the war in France. the letter she wrote him contained these words. She was never to see him again. Her letter was in his pocket when he was killed.

My darling, my own soul, I know that this pain will go and calm and even happiness come again, just as this snow will melt and let the Spring come, for the earth is life moving all the time and in our souls love is eternal. And that's all that matters. All that matters is that we love each other and that sooner or later we shall understand as we cannot understand now.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!

It isn’t always easy to find the words at a funeral, but the right words mean a lot to a family. We used these words as a short reading for a man who would never have said he wanted poetry at his funeral, and they spoke of happy memories, times spent with his friends and trips to Twickenham with his sons.

And of course it is a beautiful song about death, about an end to suffering and facing death with the hope of being reunited.

Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see?
(Coming for to carry me home)
I saw a band of angels coming after me
(Coming for to carry me home)

If you get back to heaven before I do
(Coming for to carry me home)
You'll tell all my friends, I'll be coming there too
(Coming for to carry me home)

The song has been recorded many times, notably by Johnny Cash and by Eta James but this is the version I like the best:

Dido's Lament

The Aria is from Henry Purcell's early English Opera of 1689. Dido Queen of Carthage laments the departure of her Trojan lover Aeneas and resolves to die. She sings

When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

It is the saddest and most beautiful song, but opera isn't to everyone's taste. I am really enjoying this version sung by Alison Moyet.


Edgar Guest wrote some 11,000 poems in his life,Edgar Guest 1935 published in newspapers and books and heard on his radio shows. He was a popular poet, never a literary one, much loved in America where he lived and in England where he was born.

Some people find his writing sentimental but I love the plain language and the memorability of his verses. He voices what we all feel, without pretension and when it comes to funerals we need words to express the simple and profound feelings we share.


Never a sigh for the cares that she bore for me
Never a thought of the joys that flew by;
Her one regret that she couldn't do more for me,
Thoughtless and selfish, her Master was I.

Oh, the long nights that she came at my call to me!
Oh, the soft touch of her hands on my brow!
Oh, the long years that she gave up her all to me!
Oh, how I yearn for her gentleness now!

Slave to her baby! Yes, that was the way of her,
Counting her greatest of services small;
Words cannot tell what this old heart would say of her,
Mother -- the sweetest and fairest of all.

Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen

Leonard Cohen's beautiful message to his lifelong love Marianne Ihlen, sent as she was dying last year touched many people. He wrote:

Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.  And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.

His words proved prophetic because Cohen himself died a few months later in November. I was impressed with the words his old friend Robert Kory used in his eulogy:

For those of you whom he knew intimately, he would want you to be secure in the knowledge of his profound and lasting love, even though in some cases it “might have all gone wrong,” even though “love is not a victory march”, even though it is often only a “broken Hallelujah.”

Time (for Katrina's Sundial)

A lovely short reading by the American writer Henry Van Dyke.Portrait of Henry van Dyke People may remember that it was read at the funeral of Princess Diana by her sister.

Van Dyke visited England at the turn of the century and later published a short account of a day's journey from Watchet to Bridgwater by horse and trap, admiring the Quantocks and the coastal villages and stopping to see Alfoxton House and Coleridge's Cottage. It was published in 1907 as Among the Quantock Hills in  Days Off and Other DigressionsSo there is a local connection, although tenuous.


Time is too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice,
But for those who love, time is



Aisholt in the Thankful Villages

A short video for Darren Hayman's Thankful Villages project featuring me reading a poem by Dollie Radford titled In the Quantock Hills.

A Thankful Village is a settlement where every soldier returned alive from the Great War.

Aisholt in Darren Hayman's Thankful Villages

Dust if You Must

Really enjoyed this funny poem about life, death and housework. Home Truths I think.

Dust if you must,
but it might be better,
to paint a picture or write a letter,
to bake a cake or plant a seed,
to ponder the gap between want and need.

Dust if you must,
but theres not much time,
with rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
music to hear and books to read,
friends to cherish and life to lead,

Dust if you must,
but the worlds out there,
with sun in your eyes and wind in your hair,
a flutter of snow a show of rain,
this day will NOT come around again

Dust if you must,
but bare in mind,
old age will come and it mightn’t be kind,
and when you go, and go you must,
YOU, yourself will make more dust!

(Author Rose Milligan 1998)

1 2 3 4 5 6 >