Our pain and scars can be riddled with darkness. Some of our most traumatic events are morbid in our eyes. The poems we often write – the ones that rise from the deepest places in our soul to capture and question the elements of human nature – are what some would classify as graveyard poetry.
The graveyard genre stemmed from the eighteenth century in the form of British poetry, delving into the macabre to question the mortality of man. The poets who dabbled deeply into graveyards and death where highly criticized for such themes, but their work would have great influence later in the Gothic Literature and Romanticism periods.
Thomas Parnell, who is noted as writing the first graveyard poem “A Night-Piece on Death,” explores how death should not be feared as it is a necessity. Parnell uses the symbolism of chains to represent the burdens and limits of man the mortal, and once those chains are removed, all men are equal. The different sizes of the headstones observed indicate the social status of those who are buried, but death puts us all on the same level. Fame is no longer important in the afterlife.
(Read the full poem here)
While graveyard poets wrote about a lonely wanderer or the death of ordinary men, poets today often connect the humans we come across with a bag of bones or walking zombies. Death can be the loss of our old selves, we can mourn for our souls in the midst of heartbreak, and we can even write about the turmoil haunting our dreams. The graveyard can be a metaphor for our emotions, human alienation or even the changes in our world.
Even though we have removed the masks after a night of tricks and treats, we humans still have many layers beneath filled with emotions that stir and disturb our slumber. As poets, to find some solidarity, those thoughts have to be put to death. So we carve them onto tombstones to remind those wandering in graveyards that poetry is how we break free from those chains, if only for a brief moment.
Written by: Donna J. Sanders
Donna is a freelance writer and blogger in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of Ataraxia – a poetry collection about the struggles we face, the state of the world and how to see beauty in the simplest things.
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Photo Credit: © Donna J. Sanders
Categories: Creative Talents Unleashed