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Grief Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Griefs by Emily Dickinson
  2. Anguish by Adelaide Crapsey
  3. The Broken Hearted by Hannah Flagg Gould
  4. The Voiceless by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  5. The Rainbow by John Keble
  6. The Test by Emily Dickinson
  7. The Universality of Grief by Paul Hamilton Hayne
  8. Grief And Hope, Compared To The Rainbow After A Shower by Eliza Wolcott
  9. Coming Home by Ellen P. Allerton
  10. Tear Stains by John Charles McNeill
  11. November Rain by Ellen P. Allerton
  12. If We Knew by Jacob Huff
  13. Silent Grief by E. F. Hayward
  14. The Little Straw Hat by Appleton Oaksmith

  1. Griefs

    by Emily Dickinson

    I measure every grief I meet
    With analytic eyes;
    I wonder if it weighs like mine,
    Or has an easier size.

    I wonder if they bore it long,
    Or did it just begin?
    I could not tell the date of mine,
    It feels so old a pain.

    I wonder if it hurts to live,
    And if they have to try,
    And whether, could they choose between,
    They would not rather die.

    I wonder if when years have piled —
    Some thousands — on the cause
    Of early hurt, if such a lapse
    Could give them any pause;

    Or would they go on aching still
    Through centuries above,
    Enlightened to a larger pain
    By contrast with the love.

    The grieved are many, I am told;
    The reason deeper lies, —
    Death is but one and comes but once,
    And only nails the eyes.

    There's grief of want, and grief of cold, —
    A sort they call 'despair;'
    There's banishment from native eyes,
    In sight of native air.

    And though I may not guess the kind
    Correctly, yet to me
    A piercing comfort it affords
    In passing Calvary,

    To note the fashions of the cross,
    Of those that stand alone,
    Still fascinated to presume
    That some are like my own.

  2. Anguish

    by Adelaide Crapsey

    Keep thou
    Thy tearless watch
    All night but when blue-dawn
    Breathes on the silver moon, then weep!
    Then weep!

  3. The Broken Hearted

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    She braided a wreath for her silken hair,
    And kindled a smile on her sad, pale face;
    For a secret had been writing there,
    In lines that sorrow alone could trace!

    She gave a check to the rising sigh,
    And sent it again at its source to swell;
    While she turned to dash from her tearful eye
    A glittering drop, that her tale might tell.

    Her foot in the dazzling hall was found
    As lightly the maze of the dance to thread,
    While, sportive, she moved to the viol's sound,
    As if not a hope of her heart had fled!

    Yet she wished, ere a rose in her wreath should die,
    Or the smile on her lip should cease to play,
    Her head on the pillow of death might lie,
    And the suffering chords of her heart give way!

    But she poured no plaint in an earthly ear;
    Her soul with its secret griefs went up,
    Beseeching her God that he would hear—
    Withdraw the bitter, or break the cup!

    Her prayer was heard, and the sigh was stilled,
    As if in her breast it ne'er had been!
    The tear, ere it sprang to her eye, was chilled;
    And the lids for ever had locked it in!

    I bent o'er her pale and breathless clay,
    As it shone in the light, like a frozen flower,
    That stands in the air of a winter's day,
    Ere a leaf has drooped at the sunbeam's power!

    'T was wrapped in a sweet and holy calm,
    That bade each shadow of grief depart!
    The spirit had risen to breathe the balm,
    Which Gilead sheds for the pure in heart!

  4. The Voiceless

    by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    We count the broken lyres that rest
    Where the sweet wailing singers slumber,
    But o'er their silent sister's breast
    The wild-flowers who will stoop to number?
    A few can touch the magic string,
    And noisy Fame is proud to win them:—
    Alas for those that never sing,
    But die with all their music in them!

    Nay, grieve not for the dead alone
    Whose song has told their hearts' sad story,—
    Weep for the voiceless, who have known
    The cross without the crown of glory!
    Not where Leucadian breezes sweep
    O'er Sappho's memory-haunted billow,
    But where the glistening night-dews weep
    On nameless sorrow's churchyard pillow.

    O hearts that break and give no sign
    Save whitening lip and fading tresses,
    Till Death pours out his longed-for wine
    Slow-dropped from Misery's crushing presses,—
    If singing breath or echoing chord
    To every hidden pang were given,
    What endless melodies were poured,
    As sad as earth, as sweet as heaven!

  5. The Rainbow

    by John Keble

    A fragment of a rainbow bright
    Through the moist air I see,
    All dark and damp on yonder height,
    All bright and clear to me.

    An hour ago the storm was here,
    The gleam was far behind;
    So will our joys and grief appear,
    When earth has ceased to blind.

    Grief will be joy if on its edge
    Fall soft that holiest ray,
    Joy will be grief if no faint pledge
    Be there of heavenly day.

  6. The Test

    by Emily Dickinson

    I can wade grief,
    Whole pools of it, —
    I'm used to that.
    But the least push of joy
    Breaks up my feet,
    And I tip — drunken.
    Let no pebble smile,
    'T was the new liquor, —
    That was all!

    Power is only pain,
    Stranded, through discipline,
    Till weights will hang.
    Give balm to giants,
    And they'll wilt, like men.
    Give Himmaleh, —
    They'll carry him!

  7. The Universality of Grief

    by Paul Hamilton Hayne

    I grant you that our fate is terrible,
    Bitter as gall. What then? Will lamentation,
    Childish complaint, everlasting wailings.
    Grief, groans, despair, help to amend our doom?
    Glance o'er the world—the world is full of pain
    Akin to ours. If some dark spirit touched
    Our vision to miraculous clearness, sights
    Would meet our eyes, at which the coldest heart
    Might weep blood-tears; there's not a moment passes
    Which doth not bear its load of agonies
    Out to the dim Eternity beyond;
    The primal curse of earth, with heavier weight,
    Descends on special victims; yet, bethink you,
    All sorrow hath its bounds, o'er which there stands
    That friend of misery, gentle-hearted Death.
    Balms of oblivion holds he, and the realm
    Wherein he rides hath murmurous caves of sleep.

  8. Grief And Hope, Compared To The Rainbow After A Shower

    by Eliza Wolcott

    A gentle shower of sorrow,
    Best cultivates the muse;
    For hope, lights up the morrow,
    And sheds her joys profuse.

    Like clouds before a shower,
    Our better passions move;
    The darkest cloud hath power,
    Our faith and hope to prove.

    Our trials teach contrition,
    We bend beneath the storm;
    Then wait with sweet submission,
    The rainbow's lovely form.

    Our tears being now subsided,
    The flowers of hope will spring;
    In God, we have confided,
    And now our joys begin.

    The lamp of truth is lighted,
    To guide our doubtful way;
    And we are now invited,
    To wait the sun's bright ray.

    See o'er the hills descending,
    In majesty and love,—
    With angels, swift, attending,
    Our "Peace Branch" from above.

    This love, thus comprehending,
    We see a comely form;
    'Tis Jesus—see him bending,—
    'Tis he that lights the storm.

    Like Hermon's dews reviving,
    Which fell on Zion's hill;
    When grief and hope are striving,
    Hope sees a rainbow still.

  9. Coming Home

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    Home to my mother's door. Push back the lock,
    She will not open it—no use to knock.
    A weight is on my breast; oh! never yet
    Daughter at mother's door such welcome met!

    No kiss upon my lips; no word, no sound,
    No loving arms reach out to clasp me round,
    I cross the threshold to a solemn room,
    Peopled with shadows, silent as the tomb.

    The heavy air is chill—no fire, no light;
    Only pale sunshine, streaming thin and white
    Through the bare panes upon the naked floor.
    I shrink and shiver—do not shut the door!

    Tread lightly on the creaking boards, speak low;
    Start not the hollow echoes; well I know
    They sleep in every corner. Do not call,
    Lest they should answer loudly, one and all.

    Her voice is still. 'Twas here I heard it last—
    Here by the door. The tears fell thick and fast
    From both our eyes; to-day the drops run o'er
    From only mine; and she—she weeps no more.

    This was her bed-room; it was here, you say,
    She laid in silence all that summer day,
    With roses (how she loved them!) at her head,
    Wreathed on the wall and strewn upon her bed.

    Now she lies yonder, and a sombre pall
    The dead leaves weave above her as they fall;
    The rains that beat, the autumn Winds that blow,
    Are making ready heavy shrouds of snow.

    Whatever covers her, she still sleeps well;
    But oh! these silent rooms! I can not tell
    Why their cold emptiness should move me so;
    I can not bear it longer—let us go.

  10. Tear Stains

    For grief is old, and one may cry
    About so many things!

    – John Charles McNeill
    Tear Stains
    by John Charles McNeill

    Tear-marks stain from page to page
    This book my fathers left to me,—
    So dull that nothing but its age
    Were worth its freight across the sea.

    But tear stains! When, by whom, and why?
    Thus takes my fancy to its wings;
    For grief is old, and one may cry
    About so many things!

    We cannot know the grief that men may borrow,
    We cannot see the souls storm-swept by sorrow,
    But love can shine upon the way to-day, to-morrow—
    Let us be kind.

    – W. Lomax Childress
    Let Us Be Kind

    Rejoice and men will seek you;
    Grieve, and they turn and go;
    They want full measure of all your pleasure,
    But they do not need your woe.

    – Ella Wheeler Wilcox

  11. November Rain

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    November rain! November rain!
    Fitfully beating the window pane:
    Creeping in pools across the street;
    Clinging in slush to dainty feet;
    Shrouding in black the sun at noon;
    Wrapping a pall about the moon.

    Out in the darkness, sobbing, sighing,
    Yonder, where the dead are lying,
    Over mounds with headstones gray,
    And new ones made but yesterday—
    Weeps the rain above the mould,
    Weeps the night-rain, sad and cold.

    The low wind wails—a voice of pain.
    Fit to chime with the weeping rain.
    Dirge-like, solemn, it sinks and swells,
    Till I start and listen for tolling bells,
    And let them toll—the summer fled,
    Wild winds and rain bewail the dead.

    And yet not dead. A prophesy
    Over wintry wastes comes down to me,
    Strong, exultant, floating down
    Over frozen fields and forests brown,
    Clear and sweet it peals and swells,
    Like New Year chimes from midnight bells.

    It tells of a heart with life aglow,
    Throbbing under the shrouding snow,
    Beating, beating with pulses warm,
    While roars above it the gusty storm.
    Asleep—not dead—your grief is vain,
    Wild, wailing winds, November rain.

  12. If We Knew

    by Jacob Huff

    No one knows the secret sighing,—
    Sobbing in a neighbor's heart;
    No one knows the fond hopes dying—
    No one knows the cruel smart.

    No one knows the hungry yearning
    Of a neighbor's cheerless soul;
    No one knows how grief is burning
    In the heart where love grows cold.

    None but God knows each desire;
    He alone knows griefs untold:
    Ah, He sees the heart's slow fire
    Dying out as love grows cold.

    Ah, I see your neighbor sitting,
    Often with a low bowed head;
    And I know how grief is flitting
    Through his heart, where hope is dead.

  13. Silent Grief

    by E. F. Hayward

    You ask me why I do not cry,
    As others do, in sorrow's hour?
    E'en death's keen sting doth fail to bring
    The tears, which have such soothing power;

    I only know, I feel the woe,
    And pangs of sorrow deep at heart;
    Tho dry mine eyes, within me lies
    The wound, which comes from sorrow's dart.

    The deepest woe, may never show
    Thru tears, and moans, its agony—
    The heart may ache, or even break,
    Yet hide its grief, that none may see.

  14. The Little Straw Hat

    by Appleton Oaksmith

    We all of us have our secret hoard
    Of things that we cherish and tenderly prize—
    Things that are neither of value or rare,
    Or for which any one else would care,
    Yet priceless to us—and we keep them stored
    Far from the sight of all other eyes.

    I have one treasure among my store,
    Which is dearer than all of the rest to me!
    You will smile mayhap with unbelief,
    Unless you have had the self-same grief;
    For the trifles of those who are no more,
    The loved and the lost grow precious to be.

    Would you know what it is, so dear to my eyes,
    And what so often will make them dim?
    For it brings to mind the dear little head
    That so long has slept with the loved ones dead,
    'Tis nothing—this thing that I so much prize—
    But a little straw hat with a ragged brim.

    I often unlock the closet door
    And bring it tenderly forth to the light;
    The ribbon is faded, 'tis torn and old,
    But no one could buy it with gold untold;
    And many a time on the chamber floor
    I have wept and kissed it half the night.

    I love it only as a mother can love
    The simple things of her little dead;
    I prize it as only a mother can prize
    The things so worthless in other eyes;
    For it symbols the crown that I know above
    Covers the little one's head.

    With streaming eyes I can often see
    The sweet little face in the sunlight glow,
    Looking forth from the ragged brim
    With the saucy glance so sweet in him,
    When he used to romp in the grass with me,
    In the summers so long ago.

    The little one had his holiday dress,
    With a hat that was very fine and grand;
    But it never to me was half so dear
    As the one I have cherished for many a year,
    For my lips the very spot can press
    Where 't was torn by the little hand.

    I have diamonds rare, and many a gem,
    With which sometimes my hair I trim,
    When forth in the world I am forced to go,
    To mix with the mockery and show:
    But there's none that I prize—not all of them—
    Like the little straw hat with the ragged brim.

    We are told that earth's treasures we must not hoard,
    Where moth doth corrupt and rust doth dim;
    Yet this is but a memento I love
    Of the priceless treasure I have above;
    It is not for it my tears are poured—
    This little straw hat with the ragged brim.

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