H Henry Scott Holland

Death is Nothing at All by Henry Scott Holland 

‘Death is Nothing at All’ by Henry Scott Holland speaks thoughtfully about the nature of death. The speaker explains that it’s not a real separation.

Death is Nothing at All’ is six stanzas long and is separated into varying length stanzas.  The most unusual stanza is the one that comes at the end. It is stretched out into two more phrase-like sentences that conclude the poem. 

The poet has chosen to have his main character speak through the first person, omniscient, narrative perspective in an effort to make the poem and its message more personal. The perspective allows the reader to take a closer look, and feel more invested in the speaker’s situation. Perhaps it will also allow the reader to apply the words of the poet to their own life. 

Death is Nothing at All by Henry Scott Holland 


Death is Nothing at All‘ by Henry Scott Holland is told by a speaker who has entered death and is attempting to alleviate the sadness of those he left behind. 

The poem begins with the speaker stating that death means nothing. It causes no real separation between the deceased and those who are left behind. It becomes clear that the speaker is in fact dead and that he is using this poem to tell one particular person who is missing him, that she/he should not be. The two of them are still the same to one another as they were before. Nothing has changed in their relationship or the memories they shared. 

The poem concludes with the speaker informing his listener that when the time comes he will be waiting to meet her/him on the other side and they will be together with Christ. Everyone will then be happier and at peace. 

Analysis of Deaths Nothing at All

Stanza One 

Death is nothing at all.

I have only slipped away to the next room.

I am I and you are you.

Whatever we were to each other, 

That, we still are.

The poem begins with the speaker repeating the line which became the title of this piece, “Death is nothing at all.” This repetition emphasizes the fact that this mantra is not something to be said and then forgotten, but a much larger theme that will last throughout the poem’s entirety. As a reader, it is important to refer back to this line as one follows the stanzas through to the end. 

In the first lines of the first stanza, the speaker describes how “death” has done nothing to his relationship with an unknown, unnamed person. This person is never given more description than that of a significant figure in the speaker’s life. The second line provides the reader with a bit of a surprise as it turns out that it is the speaker who has died rather than their listener.

The speaker states that he has not gone far, he has only moved into the “next room,” and their relationship remains the same. They are still the same people, and they still mean the same things to one another. 

Stanza Two

Call me by my old familiar name.

Speak to me in the easy way

which you always used.

Put no difference into your tone.

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

The second stanza continues the speaker’s claim that nothing has really changed between the two. He asks his listener to “Call [him] by [his] old familiar name.” He does not wish to be treated, or thought of, any differently because he is now dead. Additionally, he wants everyone, especially this person who means so much to him, to speak “in the easy way.” There should be nothing stressful or strange about the way they now communicate. His listener might be inclined to “solemnity” or perhaps “sorrow” but he does not want this to be the case. 

Stanza Three

Laugh as we always laughed

at the little jokes we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.

Let my name be ever the household word

that it always was.

Let it be spoken without effect.

Without the trace of a shadow on it.

The speaker takes the third stanza to remind his listener of all the pleasant times they’ve had in the past. He wants to make sure that he/she remembers when “we always laughed” and what “little jokes” they had together. 

There is nothing depressing about this speaker’s outlook on death. He sees it as being a simple change from one place to another that should not impact the world that he inhabits with his listener. He asks that he be prayed for and that his name “be ever” a word of the “household.” There should be no change in the way the listener speaks to others about him. 

Stanza Four

Life means all that it ever meant.

It is the same that it ever was.

There is absolute unbroken continuity.

Why should I be out of mind

because I am out of sight? 

It becomes clear by the fifth stanza that the speaker is very sure in his beliefs. He begins to repeat the same ideas over and over again, one on top of the other, in an effort to make sure that his listener has no doubt in his/her mind about how he wants to be remembered.

He sees the time after he has died as being an “absolute unbroken continuity.” Death is so meaningless to him that no one should even notice when he is gone. The speaker sees any change in the world without him as being absurd. “Why” he asks, should he be forgotten or forced out of his listener’s mind? This, he thinks, is the wrong way to deal with death. 

Stanza Five

I am but waiting for you.

For an interval.

Somewhere. Very near.

Just around the corner.

All is well.

In the second to last stanza of the poem, the speaker takes a turn from the repetitive notions which he has been explaining to his listener. He tells her/him that he is “waiting.” He is somewhere quite close by, as close as “Just around the corner.” 

In a separate line, the speaker states that “All is well.” There is nothing that his listener or anyone impacted by his death should be worried or saddened about.


Stanza Six 

Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be one together with Christ.

In the final stanza, which is formatted differently from those which proceeded it. Although it appears different, the sentiments are the same. The speaker explains that nothing in the universe is either “past” or “lost.” Everything exists on the same plane, and on this plane is Christ. 

In one last plea to the speaker, and attempt to alleviate general sadness, he reminds everyone that after a brief interlude everything will be even better than it is now. Everyone will be “infinitely happier” and together “forever.”

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
  • I’m glad to have understood it as you’ve explained it. Used it yesterday at my fathers funeral whilst sharing photos of happier times on a big screen.

    It’s a fantastic piece with powerful uplifting sentiments that help us all heal.

    Thank you for the analysis. 🙏🏽

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      I am so sorry for your loss. I’m glad that poetry was able to help with the process in some way and that our work was a factor in that. Take care.

  • John Yochum says:

    Thank you so much for this excellent analysis as I was listening to a podcast by Dr. tenpenny she admired and respected the words in this poem and the feelings that it said exhibited upon finding your poem analysis I read it with a deeper understanding of each stanza as you went into explain thank you so much for your time and efforts

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      You’re welcome. Thank you for your kind words. It makes the effort seem worthwhile.

  • This poem is different from the version on Holland’s Wikipedia (and other poem sites). Perhaps it was changed to make the poem more universal? Most notably the reference to Christianity in stanza six was removed.

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      ohhh, that’s really interesting! Further research needed methinks.

    • It’s not a poem. Just a part of the sermon preached in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, Sunday 15th May 1910. The sermon was preached following the death of King Edward VII.

      […]And what the face says to us in its sweet silence to us as a last message from the one whom we loved is:

      “Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”

      • Lee-James Bovey says:

        Thank you. That’s really interesting and weighs in beautifully to provide context for this piece.

      • Diane Komorowski says:

        100% correct thank you. Here’s the link to the full sermon in which you will see the author wasn’t saying that death is nothing at all instead that a balance is needed between glibly pretending it’s not there or is meaningless and absolute fear. Without understanding the context I think it’s inappropriate to try to analyse the text!

        • Lee-James Bovey says:

          We appreciate your feedback and the extra information which really does add a new dimension. I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s inappropriate to attempt to analyse a text without knowing the complete context. Most of our team are English specialists, not historians, and while we make efforts to research context, we don’t claim to know everything and do our best to interpret poems with the knowledge we have. Although I do understand that this approach may be frustrating to those with a deeper knowledge of context.

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