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Victorian Poems on Death

In the Victorian Era, death occupied a prominent place in various forms of art, including paintings, novels, and poems. The prevalence of death as a theme in art during this period can be attributed to its common occurrence. Death was a regular part of life, and people were no strangers to the process of grieving.

Family members would often gather around the bed of a dying person and anxiously await their last words, which were considered significant and held great importance. In an effort to keep the dying person lucid, painkillers were discouraged during these moments.

Victorian Poems on Death

Painkillers were discouraged because the family members wanted to keep the persona as lucid as possible. Along with poets, authors too had a morbid fascination for death and devoted pages to a death scene.

An excerpt from ‘Because I could not stop for death’.

Poems on death were very popular during the Victorian Era. Many famous poets of this era contributed to the genre. The poets didn’t speak about the dead or the funerals but about the emotions and the practices attached to the funeral proceedings.

Victorian poets and authors shared a morbid fascination with death and devoted pages to vividly portraying death scenes. Poems on death were especially popular during this era, with many famous poets contributing to this genre. Interestingly, the focus of these poems was not solely on the deceased or the funeral rites, but rather on exploring the emotions and practices attached to the funeral proceedings.

Victorian Mourning Poems

In contrast to the elegiac patterns and melancholic tones seen in earlier poetry, Victorian mourning poems took on a different approach. These poems delved into various facets of death, the mourning process, and the concept of life after death. Poets keenly expressed the role of conscience in the mourning process and how individuals cope with grief and loss.

One noteworthy poet, Christina Rossetti, explored the influence of gender and sexuality on death, funerals, and mourning. Her writings delved into the ways in which these factors impacted the mourning experience.

Rossetti wrote that gender and sexual interests affect the way people mourn.

Incorporation of Sound

Victorian poets skillfully incorporated sound into their poems to evoke emotional responses from their readers. The sounds included weeping, mourners conversing about the deceased, hymns being sung, and the resonating sound of church bells. This use of sound intensified the emotional impact of the poems, making the mourning experience palpable for readers.

Poems About Life and Death

Many poets in the Victorian Era often penned verses about the death of their close ones. This writing process served as a therapeutic means for them to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones. Expressing their grief through poetry allowed them to eulogize the deceased while reflecting on their relationship with the departed.

For instance, Alfred Lord Tennyson‘s renowned poem “In Memoriam” reflects on his relationship with a recently passed friend and serves as a way for him to ease his pain through writing. The poem showcases the poet’s internal conflict in expressing his emotions and grappling with moral dilemmas regarding writing about his departed friend.

Romanticized Scenes

In these poems, scenes related to funerals and death were often romanticized. Poets skillfully employed imagery to paint vivid pictures of funeral ceremonies, the sounds surrounding them, the mourners, and the overall atmosphere. This romanticized portrayal added depth and emotional resonance to the poems, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the mourning experience.


The Victorian Era’s fascination with death in art provides us with valuable insights into the prevailing attitudes and customs surrounding mortality during that period. Victorian poets, through their evocative and emotional verses, captured the essence of mourning, love, and loss, leaving behind a rich legacy of poetry that continues to resonate with readers to this day.

Some Poems on Death during the Victorian Era were

  1. Because I could not stop for Death” – Emily Dickinson
  2. “In Memoriam A.H.H.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
  3. The Raven” – Edgar Allan Poe
  4. “Crossing the Bar” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
  5. “To An Athlete Dying Young” – A.E. Housman
  6. “The Death Bed” – Thomas Hood
  7. “The Burial of the Dead” (from “The Waste Land”) – T.S. Eliot
  8. “Remember” – Christina Rossetti
  9. “The Haunted Palace” – Edgar Allan Poe
  10. “Ode to the West Wind” – Percy Bysshe Shelley
  11. “Annabel Lee” – Edgar Allan Poe
  12. The Lady of Shalott” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
  13. “Dirge for Two Veterans” – Walt Whitman
  14. Tears, Idle Tears” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
  15. “The Conqueror Worm” – Edgar Allan Poe

These poems offer a glimpse into the Victorian Era’s fascination with the theme of death and reflect the various emotions and perspectives surrounding mortality during that time.

The Eagle, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

He watches from his mountain walls,

And like a thunderbolt, he falls.

One Sea-Side Grave, Christina Rossetti

Unmindful of the roses,

Unmindful of the thorn,

A reaper tired Reposes

Among his gathered corn:

So might I, till the morn!

Cold as the cold Decembers,

Past as the days that set,

While the only one remembers

And all the rest forget, –

But one remembers yet.

Robert Browning, ‘Rhyme for a Child Viewing a Naked Venus in a Painting of “The Judgement of Paris”‘.

He gazed and gazed and gazed and gazed,

Amazed, amazed, amazed, amazed.

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