“Do not stand at my grave and weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye

The short poem , recited at funeral services has surprising elements of imagery . Considering that Mary Frye had spontaneously composed it on a piece of brown paper and without prior poet credentials , the imagery takes you by surprise for the vividness of the pictures they draw and the crispness of the words chosen to paint them.

Consider the following:

Do not stand there and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.

The dear ones stand and weep only by the bedside when someone is seriously ill. Here the person is not sleeping but has become a part of nature- a wind, a glint in the snow, a sunlight, a rain.She is not sleeping in the grave and listening to the weeping relatives.

I am not there.I did not die.

To die is to cease to exist and just lie dead in a grave for the relatives to mourn the loss of the body that had once existed. Here the person is not dead in the sense of not existing. She exists very much in the thousand winds, the autumn rain, the glint on the snow and the quiet birds in circled flight.

The visual imagery employed is perfect:

diamond glints on snow
sunlight on ripened grain
circled flight

The auditory imagery is even more pretty:

the morning’s hush
soft uplifting rush of quiet birds
( A brilliant image)

The tactile imagery is equally beautiful:

I am the soft stars

(soft not the touch but to the eyes)
gentle autumn rain
(gentle to the skin)
the winds that blow
(touching the skin)

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