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More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.


This week, two funerals within five days. They are both people very much loved and close to people I love and am close to.

And I feel the pain. Having been so close to this space, I feel it keenly. It’s a place I  have inhabited: I know the sharpness, the shock, the unreality, the sweetness of feeling, so full of love and loss concurrently.

This poem by Edna St Vincent Millay captures for me that rawness of death, the shock, the denial, the rejection of the idea that I still feel. In that, it celebrates love. It’s the poem I placed on my brother’s grave the first time I went back after the funeral, with flowers in my hand and that overwhelming sense of helplessness in my heart.

Dirge Without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Sometimes poetry is almost the only solace.