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"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" is a poem written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Although the origin of the poem was disputed until later in her life, Mary Frye's authorship was confirmed in 1998 after research by Abigail Van Buren, a newspaper columnist.
Frye, who was living in Baltimore at the time, wrote the poem in 1932. She had never written any poetry, but the plight of a young German Jewish woman, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who was staying with her and her husband, inspired the poem. Margaret Schwarzkopf had been concerned about her mother, who was ill in Germany, but she had been warned not to return home because of increasing anti-Semitic unrest. When her mother died, the heartbroken young woman told Frye that she never had the chance to “stand by my mother’s grave and shed a tear”. Frye found herself composing a piece of verse on a brown paper shopping bag. Later she said that the words “just came to her” and expressed what she felt about life and death.
Frye circulated the poem privately, never publishing or copyrighting it. She wrote other poems, but this, her first, endured. Her obituary in The Times made it clear that she was the author of the famous poem, which has been recited at funerals and on other appropriate occasions around the world for 60 years.
The poem was introduced to many in the United Kingdom when it was read by the father of a soldier killed by a bomb in Northern Ireland. The soldier's father read the poem on BBC radio in 1995 in remembrance of his son, who had left the poem among his personal effects in an envelope addressed 'To all my loved ones'. The authorship of the poem was established a few years later after an investigation by journalist Abigail Van Buren.
The poem is common reading for funerals.
To coincide with National Poetry Day 1995, the British television programme The Bookworm conducted a poll to discover the nation's favourite poems, and subsequently published the winning poems in book form. The book's preface stated that "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" was "the unexpected poetry success of the year from Bookworm's point of view"; the poem had "provoked an extraordinary response... the requests started coming in almost immediately and over the following weeks the demand rose to a total of some thirty thousand. In some respects it became the nation's favourite poem by proxy... despite it being outside the competition." This was all the more remarkable, since the name and nationality of the American poet did not become known until several years later. In 2004 The Times wrote: "The verse demonstrated a remarkable power to soothe loss. It became popular, crossing national boundaries for use on bereavement cards and at funerals regardless of race, religion or social status".
Several notable choral compositions, pop songs, and other creative works have been based on "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep", adapting lines from Frye's poem as lyrics.
The words were set to music by songwriter Geoff Stephens and the song was first performed at the 2003 Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. It was recorded by classical singer Katherine Jenkins and released on her album Living a Dream.
Parts of "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" are interpolated with the lyrics to the rock song "The Better Angels of Our Nature," from the 1991 Monks of Doom album Meridian.
Eleanor Joanne Daley's Requiem (1993) includes a movement titled "In Remembrance", which uses the poem as its text. The movement has also been published as a stand-alone work.
On Seanchai and the Unity Squad's 1998 album Rebel Hip Hop, the song "The Ballad of Mairéad Farrell" tells the story of Mairéad Farrell, a member of the Irish Republican Army, and her imprisonment and eventual death at the hands of British security forces in Gibraltar. The song uses the opening couplet from the poem, and alters the closing couplet to say, "Do not stand at my grave and cry / When Ireland lives, I do not die."
At the request of a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer, composer Paul K. Joyce wrote a song for her funeral, setting the text of "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" to music. Joyce subsequently incorporated the composition into a larger oratorio (1998) and the score for a BBC adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen (2005).
In 2004, Australian composer Joseph Twist set the poem to music for a capella voices (SATB div) with slight alterations to the words. This arrangement was commissioned by and subsequently dedicated to Graeme Morton and the National Youth Choir of Australia.
Japanese singer-songwriter Man Arai translated the poem into Japanese and composed the song "千の風になって" (translation: "Become A Thousand Winds"), originally sung by Man Arai himself. Other singers later covered the song, among them Japanese tenor Masafumi Akikawa. The tenor made the song popular after performing it during the 57th NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen on December 31, 2006. In January 2007, it became the first classical music piece to top the Oricon weekly singles chart and became the first classical music piece to top the Oricon yearly singles chart. Another version of this song appeared on Hayley Westenra's 2008 album Hayley Sings Japanese Songs (with the title "Sen No Kaze Ni Natte").
In 2006, several choirs in the United Kingdom commissioned a choral work from David Bedford through the organization Making Music. The resulting piece, entitled The Soft Stars that Shine at Night, was first performed in 2007. Its last movement is a setting of this poem, with slight alterations to the words.
The poem appears at the end of the song "You Will Make It" by Welsh singer-songwriter Jem. This song, which appeared on the 2011 album Ten Years On: A Collection of Songs In Remembrance of September 11th 2001, is a duet with South African singer-songwriter and poet-activist Vusi Mahlasela.
The poem has been translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Ilocano, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, and other languages. Several Swedish versions exist. One version starts: "Gråt ej vid min grav..." Translated, it reads: "Do not weep at my grave - I am not there / I am in the sun's reflection in the sea / I am in the wind's play above the grain fields / I am in the autumn's gentle rain / I am in the Milky Way's string of stars / And when on an early morning you are awaked by bird's song / It is my voice that you are hearing / So do not weep at my grave - we shall meet again." (Instead of these last four words there is also this version: "I am not dead. I only left".)
Every so often the poem and similar variations appear in death and funeral announcements in Swedish morning papers (such as Svenska Dagbladet August 14, 2010).
On August 29, 2010, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter carried the following short English version: "I am thousand winds that blow / I am the diamond glints on snow / I am the sunlight, I am the rain / Do not stand on my grave and cry / I am not there / I did not die".