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Poetry & Prose

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The chaplaincy team has gathered a wide variety of poetry and prose appropriate for lots of different situations. Please contact us through the ‘Ask David’ link for further suggestions. Click on the title to read the full poem.

Farewell My Friends

It was beautiful
as long as it lasted
The journey of my life.

I have no regrets
Whatsoever save
the pain I’ll leave behind.
Those dear hearts
who love and care…
And the strings pulling
at the heart and soul…

The strong arms
that held me up
When my own strength
let me down.

At every turning of my life
I came across
good friends,
Friends who stood by me,
Even when the time raced me by.

Farewell, farewell
my friends
I smile and
bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears
for I need them not
All I need is your smile.

If you feel sad
do think of me
for that’s what I’ll like
when you live in the hearts
of those you love,
remember then
you never die.

Rabindranath Tagore

Footprints

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him and the other to the lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troubled times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed you most, you would leave me.

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

Margaret Fishback Powers

I shall go without companions

I shall go without companions,
And with nothing in my hand;
I shall pass through many places
That I cannot understand –
Until I come to my own country,
Which is a pleasant land!

The trees that grow in my own country
Are the beech tree and the yew;
Many stand together
And some stand few.
In the month of May in my own country
All the woods are new.

When I get to my own country
I shall lie down and sleep;
I shall watch in the valleys
The long flocks of sheep.
And then I shall dream, for ever and all,
A good dream and deep.

Hilaire Belloc

Let us be contented

‘Let us be contented with what has happened to us and thankful for all we have been spared. Let us accept the natural order in which we move. Let us reconcile ourselves to the mysterious rhythm of our destinies, such as they must be in this world of space and time. Let us treasure our joys but not bewail our sorrows. The glory of light cannot exist without its shadow. Life is a whole and good and ill must be accepted together. The journey has been enjoyable and well worth making.’

Churchill

Prayer of St. Richard

Thanks be to thee, O Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits which thou hast given us,
For all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for us.
O merciful redeemer, Friend and Brother,
May we know thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
And follow thee more nearly,
Now and evermore.
Amen.

So many different lengths of time

How long does a man live after all?
A thousand days or only one?
One week or a few centuries?
How long does a man spend living or dying
and what do we mean when we say gone forever?

Adrift in such preoccupations, we seek clarification.
We can go to the philosophers
but they will weary of our questions.
We can go to the priests and rabbis
but they might be busy with administrations.

So, how long does a man live after all?
And how much does he live while he lives?
We fret and ask so many questions –
then when it comes to us
the answer is so simple after all.

A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
for as long as we ourselves live,
holding memories in common, a man lives.

His lover will carry his man’s scent, his touch:
his children will carry the weight of his love.
one friend will carry his arguments,
another will hum his favourite tunes,
another will still share his terrors.

And the days will pass with baffled faces,
then the weeks, then the months,
then there will be a day when no question is asked,
and the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach
and the puffed faces will calm.
And on that day he will not have ceased
but will have ceased to be separated by death.

How long does a man live after all?
A man lives so may different lengths of time.

Brian Patten

Success

To laugh often and love much;
to win the respect of intelligent persons
and the affection of children;
to earn the approbation of honest critics
and to endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to give of one’s self;
to leave the world a little better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm
and sung with exultation;
to know that even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived –
this is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The River

An individual human existence should be like a river….
small at first,
narrowly contained within its banks,
and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls.

Gradually the river grows wider,
the banks recede,
the waters flow more quietly,
and in the end,
without any visible break,
they become merged in the sea….

The man who can see his life in this way,
will not suffer from the fear of death,
since the things he cares for will continue.

Bertrand Russell

The Ship

What is dying?
I am standing on the sea shore,
A ship sails to the morning breeze
And starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty
And I stand watching her
Till at last she fades
On the horizon
And someone at my side says,
‘She is gone’.
Gone where?
Gone from my sight – that is all.
She is just as large in masts, hull and spars
As she was when I saw her,
And just as able to bear her load of living
Freight to its destination.
The diminished size and loss of sight is in me,
Not in her;
And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
‘She is gone’
There are others watching her coming,
And other voices take up a glad shout –
‘There she comes!’
– And that is dying

Bishop Brent

The Wisdom Trees

I have come out to see the Wisdom Trees,
to see their summer green take fire,
red and gold in the autumn sun.
Too soon, these leaves, this autumn fire, will fall
and turn to crackling ashes at my feet.
Why must they fall so soon?
Lying down on the leaf-littered earth
I sleep and dream,
a special dream of tying leaves on wisdom trees.
Leaf by leaf I bind them on
with threads of gold and green.
A labour of love,
tying leaves to stop the Fall from falling.
A labour of love? No, a fool at work!
The trees are wise to know when to let go.
They understand that in the economy of God’s creation part of life must fall away each year.
Silently they accept
and wisely they let the leaves fall.
The dream is over and I heed its lesson.
Part of learning life is learning to let go.
To learn the verdict of the seasons
and willingly to let the leaves fall…
…and think of another springtime.

Walter A. Kortray

Warning – When I am old I shall wear purple

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin candles, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
and learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickles for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph