Funeral Poems for a Soldier

We have brought you a moving selection of poems, from the 19th century, from the two world wars and more modern poems too, including one which we have had written especially for our site.  

1. War's Living Dead by Locke W. Jones

This first poem was commissioned especially for our website.  

War's Living Dead
The day you came home
The birds were singing
The sun shining
The wind carried your name
No battles raged
No blood spilled
We wore uniforms of black
In the sharp midday light.

All was at peace
The ones you fought for were breathing
Yet around your grave
The dead were standing.

2. For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, 
England mourns for her dead across the sea. 
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, 
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres. 
There is a music in the midst of desolation 
And a glory that shines upon our tears. 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. 
They were staunch to the end against odds uncountered: 
They fell with their faces to the foe. 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them. 

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables at home; 
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; 
They sleep beyond England’s foam. 

But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As the stars are known to the Night; 

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end they remain. 

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon.  They shall not grow old.

3. I Have A Rendevous With Death by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

I have a rendezvous with Death 
At some disputed barricade 
When Spring comes round with rustling shade 
And apple blossoms fill the air. 
I have a rendezvous with Death 
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand 
And lead me into his dark land 
And close my eyes and quench my breath; 
It may be I shall pass him still. 
I have a rendezvous with Death 
On some scarred slope of battered hill, 
When Spring comes round again this year 
And the first meadow flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep 
Pillowed in silk and scented down, 
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep, 
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath, 
Where hushed awakenings are dear . . . 
But I've a rendezvous with Death 
At midnight in some flaming town, 
When Spring trips north again this year, 
And I to my pledged word am true, 
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

4. We Remember Them by Rabbis Sylvan Kamens and Jack Riemer

At the rising of the sun and at its going down
We remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
We remember them.

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring
We remember them.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer
We remember them.

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn
We remember them.

At the beginning of the year and when it ends
We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live;
for they are now a part of us

as we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength

We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart

We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share

We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make

We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs

We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live;

for they are now a part of us
as we remember them.

5. Soldier Rest by Sir Walter Scott

Soldier, rest! thy warfare o’er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking;
Dream of battled fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.
In our isle’s enchanted hall,
Hands unseen thy couch are strewing,
Fairy strains of music fall,
Every sense in slumber dewing.
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o’er,
Dream of fighting fields no more;
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking.

No rude sound shall reach thine ear,
Armour’s clang, or war-steed champing,
Trump nor pibroch summon here
Mustering clan or squadron tramping.
Yet the lark’s shrill fife may come

 At the daybreak from the fallow,
And the bittern sound his drum,
Booming from the sedgy shallow.
Ruder sounds shall none be near,
Guards nor warders challenge here,
Here’s no war-steed’s neigh and champing,
Shouting clans or squadrons stamping.

Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done;
While our slumberous spells assail ye,
Dream not, with the rising sun,
Bugles here shall sound reveillé.
Sleep! the deer is in his den;
Sleep! thy hounds are by thee lyin
Sleep! nor dream in yonder glen
How thy gallant steed lay dying.
Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done;
Think not of the rising sun,
For at dawning to assail ye
Here no bugles sound reveillé.

6. Decoration Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry's shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon's sudden roar,
Or the drum's redoubling beat.

But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.

All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.

7. In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae  

In Flanders fields the poppies blow  
Between the crosses, row on row,  
That mark our place; and in the sky  
The larks, still bravely singing, fly  
Scarce heard amid the guns below.  
We are the Dead. Short days ago  
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,  
Loved and were loved, and now we lie  
In Flanders fields.  
Take up our quarrel with the foe:  
To you from failing hands we throw  
The torch; be yours to hold it high.  
If ye break faith with us who die  
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow  
In Flanders fields. 

8. The Death Bed by Siegfried Sassoon 

He drowsed and was aware of silence heaped 
Round him, unshaken as the steadfast walls; 
Aqueous like floating rays of amber light, 
Soaring and quivering in the wings of sleep.
Silence and safety; and his mortal shore 
Lipped by the inward, moonless waves of death. 

Someone was holding water to his mouth.
He swallowed, unresisting; moaned and dropped 
Through crimson gloom to darkness; and forgot 
The opiate throb and ache that was his wound. 
Water—calm, sliding green above the weir; 
Water—a sky-lit alley for his boat, 
Bird-voiced, and bordered with reflected flowers 
And shaken hues of summer: drifting down, 
He dipped contented oars, and sighed, and slept. 

Night, with a gust of wind, was in the ward, 
Blowing the curtain to a gummering curve. 
Night. He was blind; he could not see the stars 
Glinting among the wraiths of wandering cloud; 
Queer blots of colour, purple, scarlet, green, 
Flickered and faded in his drowning eyes. 

Rain—he could hear it rustling through the dark; 
Fragrance and passionless music woven as one; 
Warm rain on drooping roses; pattering showers 
That soak the woods; not the harsh rain that sweeps 
Behind the thunder, but a trickling peace, 
Gently and slowly washing life away. 

He stirred, shifting his body; then the pain 
Leaped like a prowling beast, and gripped and tore 
His groping dreams with grinding claws and fangs. 
But someone was beside him; soon he lay 
Shuddering because that evil thing had passed. 
And death, who'd stepped toward him, paused and stared. 

Light many lamps and gather round his bed. 
Lend him your eyes, warm blood, and will to live. 
Speak to him; rouse him; you may save him yet. 
He's young; he hated war; how should he die 
When cruel old campaigners win safe through? 

But death replied: “I choose him.” So he went, 
And there was silence in the summer night; 
Silence and safety; and the veils of sleep. 
Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.

9. If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too: 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies, 
Or being hated don't give way to hating, 
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim, 
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same:. 
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken 
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings, 
And never breathe a word about your loss: 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
If all men count with you, but none too much: 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, 
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, 
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

10. Bury Me with Soldiers by Rev. Charles R. Fink

Father Charles R. Fink from Northport NY. served in Vietnam as a Sergeant in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade.  This poem by him is now often read at funerals for Vietnam veterans.  

I’ve played a lot of roles in life;
I’ve met a lot of men.
I’ve done some things I’d like to think
I wouldn’t do again
And though I’m young, I’m old enough
To know someday I’ll die.
And think about what lies beyond, And
Besides whom I would lie.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter much;
Still if I had my choice,
I’d want a grave amongst soldiers when
At last death quells my voice
I’m sick of the hypocrisy
Of lectures by the wise
I’ll take the man with all his flaws
Who goes, though scared, and dies.

The troops I know were commonplace;
They didn’t want the war
They fought because their fathers and
Their father’s fathers had before.
They cursed and killed and wept –
God knows they’re easy to deride –
But bury me with men like these;
They faced the guns and died.

It’s funny when you think of it,
The way we got along.
We’d come from different worlds
To live in one, where no one belongs
I didn’t even like them all and,
I’m sure they’d all agree.
Yet, I would give my life for them,
I hope. Some would for me.

So bury me with soldiers, please
Though much maligned they be
Yes, bury me with soldiers, for
I miss their company.
We will not soon see their like again
We’ve had our fill of war.
But, bury me with men like them
Till someone else does more!

11. We Will - A Moving Remembrance Poem by Roger Quick

This beautiful remembrance poem is written by an old university friend of mine.  It is a moving tribute to those who lost their lives in the two World Wars.  Roger wrote these words after visiting military cemeteries in the Netherlands in his role as padre to the Cameronians. 

This photo is also by a special friend of mine - Kate - it seems very appropriate for the poem.  

Sunset over Sydney by Kate Carpenter

We will 

Remember? Yes, we will remember them,
We who have watched them go down with the sun.
And in the morning, seeing them gone
We will cease remembering and live.
As they would have lived
And longed to lay to rest at last
The sheer bloody waste of it all.

Yes, they would want to forget.
Yet even that is denied them,
Those who survived them
Bear witness to that,
Who cannot forget.

Sure, they remember the good times:
The scrapes they got into, the japes they got up to;
Which nevertheless came down to
The same thing in the end.
They lost a friend.

Whose memories hold
A face as it was then: young, bold.
Truly, they will not grow old.
Not then, not now, not never.

How can we ever then honour their lives
Weary, but unsurprised that
The brave new world was lies;
Should we not just trouble their rest,
Seeing the rubble we built was at best

But we will.
We will. 

We who the years condemn.
We will.
Unable to comprehend
We that are left will
Stand silenced by silence.
Unworthy to demand
An answer.

And still in that silence we will find something
Devastatingly honourable,
Worthy of repetition,
Worth our recalling
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning.

Roger Quick

12. ©Copyright by Rev. Charles R. Fink

Memorial Day by Joyce Kilmer
The bugle echoes shrill and sweet, 
But not of war it sings to-day. 
The road is rhythmic with the feet 
Of men-at-arms who come to pray. 

The roses blossom white and red 
On tombs where weary soldiers lie; 
Flags wave above the honored dead 
And martial music cleaves the sky. 

Above their wreath-strewn  
graves we kneel, 
They kept the faith and  
fought the fight. 
Through flying lead and  
crimson steel 
They plunged for Freedom  
and the Right. 

May we, their grateful children, learn 
Their strength, who lie  
beneath this sod, 
Who went through fire  
and death to earn 
At last the accolade of God.

In shining rank on rank arrayed 
They march, the legions of the Lord; 
He is their Captain unafraid, 
The Prince of Peace . . .  
Who brought a sword.

13. The Soldier's Last Tattoo by Theodore O’Hara

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
The brave and fallen few.
On fame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

14. The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, (1887 - 1915)

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.  There shall be
 In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

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