In this touching poem, ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’, by Mary Frye, she speaks of death in a welcoming tone. She offers words of comfort for those who would mourn for her at her passing, and she seems to welcome death not as the ending of a life, but as the beginning of another. Mary Frye’s poem, ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’, can be read in full here.
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Analysis of Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep
This first line of ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’ reveals that this is the voice of one beyond the grave. This intrigues the reader because it is spoken in a tone of authority as from one who knows what it is to die, and calls out to us from beyond the grave. The authoritative voice begins with this line. This first line is not a plea or a suggestion, but a command. She commands her mourners not to weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
Again, the authoritative voice from beyond the grave serves to reassure the audience of the validity of the speaker’s statements. The short, straightforward sentences serve to convince the readers that this speaker has authority on this subject, and that there is no question as to whether or not there is life after death. The speaker clearly and emphatically claims that she is not there in the ground, but that she is alive.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
With these lines of ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’ the tone shifts. The speaker no longer speaks in an authoritative and commanding voice, but softens to a tone of comfort and peace. The initial lines spoken serve to give the speaker authority to speak on this subject. These lines serve to offer comfort and reassurance to the readers. The speaker assumes the readers to be those who are mourning for her, and after commanding them not to weep, she goes on to explain where they can find her. She promises to be with them in the “winds that blow” and in the “diamond glints on the snow”. She proclaims that they will be able to feel her in the sunlight and in the rain. These words are words of comfort to those who are mourning, because the speaker has claimed that she does not sleep in the grave, but that she is still with them in the elements of nature. This allows the readers to understand that they will still have the opportunity to feel her presence, even if it is not a physically bodily presence.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
I am not there. I did not die.
In the last three lines, the speaker resumes a commanding tone, leaving behind her tone of comfort in an abrupt shift. She yet again commands her readers not to cry for her. She reiterates the command not to stand at her grave as if she is there. Her body may be buried there, but her soul is not confined to the grave. She has already described all the places in which her soul can be found, from the sounds of the circling birds, to the silence of the morning, to the glistening snow, to the winds, the sun, and the rain. She claims that she is there, existing in all the beautiful elements of nature rather than resting in her grave.
Mary Frye Background
Mary Frye, born in 1905, spent her life as a poet and housewife. Although she is now named among some of the most famous American poets, she never earned a dime for her poetry, and it is this solitary poem that gave her a name among the most renowned American poets. Frye claimed that if she took money for the poem, it would lose its value. She also never sought copyright for the poem, claiming that although she penned the words, the poem was not hers. She claimed that it belonged to the world. And the world certainly claimed it. It can be found on sympathy cards, engraved on headstones, in obituaries; it is read aloud at funerals and memorial services. Frye’s willingness to share her poetry with the world with no profit to herself also resulted in her becoming one of the most beloved poets of all time despite the fact that she had only one very well known poem and no formal education at all. This poem was named Britain’s most popular poem in 1996 (Burch). Frye continued to write poetry, but none of it lived up to her first piece. ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’ was written out of heartfelt compassion, and it resonated with the masses and stood the test of time as a result of its universal qualities.
Fry wrote ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’ in 1932. She wrote the poem specifically for a young German Jewish girl named Margaret Schwarzkopf who lived with Frye and was worried about her mother who lived in Germany. Frye wrote the poem from the point of view of the girl’s mother in order to give hope and comfort to this young girl who had suffered so much. In 1939, the U.S Congress published her poem for the United Spanish War Veterans Memorial Service. The effect of the poem was monumental. It resonated with every reader who had ever lost a loved one. Thus, Frye became famous through this one small poem written with the intention of comforting a young girl overcome with grief. This poem not only offered comfort to the young girl for whom it was written, but also to millions of readers across the world.
- Burch, Michael R. “Mary Elizabeth Frye: Poet, Poetry, Picture, Bio.” Mary Elizabeth Frye: Poet, Poetry, Picture, Bio. The Hyper Texts, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.
- “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep by Mary Frye.” – Famous Poems, Famous Poets. All Poetry, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.