What Is Graveyard Poetry

Graveyard Poetry

Graveyard poetry is a darkly romantic genre of poetry—a form of literary expression that combines nostalgia and humor with somber reflections on life, death, and the afterlife. Graveyard poetry is characterized by its focus on contemplation and morbidity, often mixing together themes of death and living, and incorporating themes of transience and immortality. As graveyard poetry traditionally evokes tragic and sorrowful tones, it is often called the ‘elegiac’ genre. Graveyard poetry has a long history, stretching back to the Greek and Roman empires, and is thought to be one of the oldest forms of English poetry.

Graveyard poetry is typically composed in the form of a narrative, often as an elegy or a lament, and is often set in a graveyard or cemetery. The most famous graveyards in the English-speaking world are Highgate and Westminster Abbey. However, graveyard poetry can also take place in other locations such as churches, memory gardens, and memorials. Major authors of graveyard poetry include John Keats, Lord Byron, and Matthew Arnold. The origin of graveyard poetry is thought to have sprung from the question of the meaning of life and death.

Graveyard poetry typically revolves around thoughts or feelings of melancholy and tragedy, often describing a scene of a graveyard or cemetery. It can also focus on stories of mortality and the afterlife, as is the case with ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ by John Keats. In graveyard poetry, death is often seen as a metaphor for life and mortality, or as a sign of personal growth. The tone of graveyard poetry can range from mildly poetic to dramatically dark and macabre.

Most graveyard poetry reflects on the sadness and sorrow that comes along with the inevitability of death. However, it can also be used to explore deeper emotions such as hope and despair, loneliness and spirituality. For example, in the poem ‘Requiem’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, the theme of hope is explored in the context of death and mortality. Other common themes in graveyard poetry include religion, family, and love.

Graveyard poetry is generally quite serious, often touching on deeply emotional topics. However, it can also be humorous, as in Edward Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat’. Graveyard poetry is often used as a form of therapy, providing solace in the face of sorrow and serving as a reminder of the brevity and preciousness of life.

Style of Graveyard Poetry

Graveyard poetry combines various poetic techniques and elegy that create an emotional and moving experience for the reader. Traditional verse forms are commonly used in graveyard poetry, such as the sonnet and the ode, as well as the ballad—a narrative poem that tells a story. Common poetic devices used in graveyard poetry include alliteration, metaphor, and simile.

Graveyard poetry often conveys a somber, mournful mood and is usually quite descriptive, using highly evocative language and imagery. Death is often described in a symbolic and impersonal manner, using personification, metaphor, and allusions to the afterlife. Graveyard poets often use word choice and rhetorical devices to create a layered and complex understanding of mortality and to explore tragic moments in life.

The theme of death is also often addressed in graveyard poetry, either directly or obliquely. Graveyard poets may use language to suggest mortality and evoke a sense of dread, fear, or sadness. However, graveyard poetry can also be hopeful, with some authors incorporating spiritual or mythical elements.

Graveyard Poets

Graveyard poets are renowned for their talent in creating darkly romantic, melancholic poetry. This genre has seen noted authors such as William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Clare, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Graveyard poets typically explore themes of mortality, nostalgia, and sadness, as well as addressing questions of the afterlife and spiritual matters.

The tradition of graveyard poetry has become such a popular form of artistic expression that many authors have written works that fit into the genre. These authors include George Gordon Byron, Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath, and Rudyard Kipling. In the 20th century, the popularity of graveyard poetry has grown and authors such as W.B Yeats, Dylan Thomas, and William Butler Yeats have all produced works that have become renowned in the genre.


Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

Leave a Comment