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Feratured Poem: My Days Among The Dead Are Past by Robert Southey

Written by Rachael Norris, 12th August 2019

This week's Featured Poem is My Days Among The Dead Are Past by Robert Southey, chosen by The Reader's Amanda Boston.

I admit to initial feelings of both confusion and, yes, some distress upon first reading this poem; difficult to get beyond that insistent the Dead.

Then I took some Readerly advice and reread it again, slowly and started that process of wondering interrogation. Where might we be? In a graveyard perhaps? Then a second, more considered thought, prompted by thinking about the mighty minds of old, in a library, in our personal reading memory?  Might the never-failing friends be writers or characters?  Doris Lessing or George Eliot. Both “mighty minds” have rarely, if ever, failed me when asked the difficult questions. Similarly, there are friends both dead and alive with whom we all have conversations.

Something complicated going on in the third verse.

 Partake their hopes and fears
And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.

What can that mean? Partake sounds a bit posh and old fashioned! Seems to hint at a close affinity. Wonder why we need a humble mind to find instruction?

The last verse is wonderful – not really sure what it means but love that death has the possibility of a continued connection with the Dead. And I with them shall travel on/Through all Futurity.

Do enjoy spending time with Southey’s poem.

My days among the Dead are Past   

My days among the Dead are Past
Around me I behold,
Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
The mighty minds of old;
My never-failing friends are they,
With whom I converse day by day.

With them I take delight in weal,
And seek relief in woe;
And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew'd
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.

My thoughts are with the Dead, with them
I live in long-past years,
Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
Partake their hopes and fears,
And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.

My hopes are with the Dead, anon
My place with them will be,
And I with them shall travel on
Through all Futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
That will not perish in the dust.

Robert Southey

If you like the idea of listening along to a story or poem, why not come along to a Shared Reading group? We run groups across the UK, you can find one near you here.

If you can’t find a group in your local community, why not help us bring Shared Reading to your area by becoming a volunteer?

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