123. Do not stand at my grave and weep: Mary Elizabeth Frye

This is what happens when you click on a thousand hyperlinks.

Starting a unit on revolution and paradigm shifts, I thought a simple avante garde poem might be in order. Something beyond mere Elliot, Pound or Stein I had hoped to find something earlier and more… odd. Some 19th century French poets bubbled up, but since all of their work was in French it made finding just the right piece quite difficult. Then, in one of the descriptions came Mary Elizabeth Frye.

The story of this poem, its authorship, and that we have Dear Abby herself to thank for answering a number of questions interests me. Books prior to its authorship being confirmed can, according to Wikipedia, be found in thrift stores throughout the U.S. In 1995 the U.K. voted this its favorite poem. All of this can be read about here.

But it’s the songs that interest me. I understand how people use lyrics as poems, although I would argue that (in most cases) poems are “music free”. They have their own beat. That’s one of the rules of slam poetry. They stand alone. Yet, some poems have taken on a new life after being put to music. Listen to this recording by Shaz Oye.

Do not stand at my grave and weep

There are a dozen versions of this song on YouTube, too. It apparently is a Japanese standard, as there are many recordings to be found there. There are also dozens of versions of the poem itself, and each, apparently, has a story. You can read way too much about it here.

So, I started out searching for 19th century avante garde poetry and found a twentieth century American poem that is both a) unique and b) smaltzy. It is for this combo that I post it. Have fun.

Do not stand at my grave and week
Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

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