I think poems can play an important part of most ceremonies. A poet can often capture an exact moment of emotion so perfectly, that everybody responds. Even people who don't usually like poetry can appreciate something well chosen and well read.
The beauty of the Autumn countryside, added to the feelings of slight melancholy it creates, makes this a season beloved by poets. Many try to capture the last fleeting moments of life and beauty before winter arrives.
Here are a few Autumnal poems that I have enjoyed. For a funeral, I feel they can be more moving than readings specifically written for the purpose.
I love to see, when leaves depart,
The clear anatomy arrive,
Winter, the paragon of art,
That kills all forms of life and feeling
Save what is pure and will survive.
Already now the clanging chains
Of geese are harnessed to the moon:
Stripped are the great sun-clouding planes:
And the dark pines, their own revealing,
Let in the needles of the noon.
Strained by the gale the olives whiten
Like hoary wrestlers bent with toil
And, with the vines, their branches lighten
To brim our vats where summer lingers
In the red froth and sun-gold oil.
Soon on our hearth's reviving pyre
Their rotted stems will crumble up:
And like a ruby, panting fire,
The grape will redden on your fingers
Through the lit crystal of the cup.
The next is a short peaceful poem.
There is a quiet comfort in an Autumn day
that rests so kindly with my tired soul.
The fields and hills made gentle by the mist
take from me any thoughts but of the here and now.
The past is slowly gathered by the turning year,
I feel my spirits rising with each yellow leaf.
It has not the strong and questing beauty of an April day
But a more subtle harmony and grace
When to the next life I am called to go
I hope it greats me with an Autumn face.
Edward Thomas is probably my favourite poet and I think this would be a lovely choice for a gardener.
Today I think
Only with scents- scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,
And the square mustard field;
Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the roots of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;
The smoke’s smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.
It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.
Of course there are many more. However, even reading these three poems again has made me want to wander off amidst the falling leaves and catch the feel of this most elusive of seasons, before it's all over for another year.
Happy reading and happy wandering.