10 of the Best Poems about Death

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Love and death are perhaps the two most popular and perennial subjects for poetry, and many poets have attempted to put our thoughts about mortality into words that burn, in Thomas Gray’s memorable phrase. So choosing just ten definitive poems about death is going to prove tricky.

We’ve attempted to make the task a little easier in this post by limiting ourselves to very short poems – none of the ten poems that follow is longer than ten lines, and many are somewhat shorter. We hope you enjoy this pick of the greatest short poems about death.

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A Short Analysis of W. B. Yeats’s ‘Death’

An analysis of a short Yeats poem by Dr Oliver Tearle

‘Death’ is not perhaps numbered among the most famous poems by W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), but it is probably the shortest of all his finest poems. In just a dozen lines, Yeats examines human attitudes to death, contrasting them with an animal’s ignorance of its own mortality. ‘Death’ was written in 1929 and included in Yeats’s 1933 volume The Winding Stair and Other Poems. Here is ‘Death’, followed by a few words by way of analysis.

Nor dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all;

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