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Following my use of the poem "Courage" (used on Ruth's
tribute page) , reporter Andrew Norfolk of The Times found my
site while following up leads to try and find the
author of the poem and how it also came to be used by the Queen
on the front of the Order of Service for the Queen Mother's
funeral on 9th April 2002.
The Articles below were published on Thursday
see also the later e-mail correspondence below the articles after I
was contacted by David Harkins who is actually the original
author of the piece.
(titled "Remember Me")
Anon's elegy for the
Queen Mother comes from cyberspace
anonymous poem chosen by the Queen to grace her mother's
funeral is an Internet phenomenon that has been bringing
comfort to mourning families across the world for at
least two years.
from the pomp and splendour of Westminster Abbey, the
poem has graced the funeral of a 52-year-old Scottish
alcoholic, marked the death of a 15-year-old high
school baseball star, and commemorated the life of
excess of an Australian glam rock star killed in a
poem, which may be only a few years old, has been handed
to grieving families by friends and neighbours, while
mourners at one funeral service have kept copies and
used it to mark the death of their own loved ones.
reveal that the Queen spotted it when she was leafing
through mounds of old memorial service booklets, and set
it aside for her own mother's funeral. Subsequent
attempts by staff of Buckingham Palace and by the Dean
of Westminster, Dr Wesley Carr, to establish the
identity of the author have proved fruitless.
by The Times suggest that the poem, far from
being the work of a major contemporary author, may have
been penned quite recently in a magazine or for a series
of condolence cards.
although read frequently at funerals and appearing on
dozens of websites, it appears never to have been widely
published in print.
to literary experts, She Is Gone is a poem
which had no known author, little history and has never
been widely published in the English-speaking
has been given at least six different titles and the sex
of the deceased switches between versions. Some are even
written in the first person.
is often wrongly attributed to Charles Brent, the
Canadian-born Episcopalian bishop of the Philippines in
the years before the First World War, who wrote several
poems but not She Is Gone.
At the Poetry Library at the Royal Festival Hall in
London, which has records of every English language poem
published since 1912, extensive searches revealed no
trace of the verse.
at The Poetry Society also drew a blank. No one there
knew of the poem and no one, it was made clear, wished
to say anything about its literary merits.
world's most extensive English and American literature
database, Literature Online, known as the Chadwyck-Healey
database, also had no record of the poem. Nor is there
any sign of it in Granger's Index to Poetry, a
2,048-page tome from the Columbia University Press which
lists the titles and first lines of almost every
English-language poem ever published. One member of
staff at the Poetry Library, who tried but failed to
identify the author, said of the verse: 'It is the sort
of thing you find on cards that you pick up in churches,
or maybe in a magazine.'
the words summed up the Queen's wish, which she
expressed in her broadcast to the nation, that people
should celebrate the life of her mother rather than
Palace spokeswoman said last night: 'I understand that
Her Majesty found the poem in a memorial service card.
It very much reflected her thoughts on how the nation
should celebrate the life of the Queen Mother. To move
do not know whose memorial service the poem came from. I
am not sure that we will ever know that. Many of them
are sent in.'
Carr was asked by Buckingham Palace to include the poem
in the funeral order of service shortly after the death
of the Queen Mother.
poem was one of the first items to be faxed from the
Palace when talks began about the order of service,
which was finalised last Friday. The Dean said it was
the first time a work of this nature had appeared in the
order of service connected with the Royal Family.
Carr said that the poem had been included to serve as a
meditative piece while the congregation waited for the
funeral to begin.
people are doing this sort of thing in service sheets.
Pieces such as this provide a framework for meditation
while people are waiting.
was not moved by it as poetry so much as struck by its
being apposite to this funeral.'
is the poet?
who can identify the poet is asked to contact The Times
today on 020-7782 5000 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
for a royal funeral belongs to Everyman
are a dozen simple lines of anonymous verse that the
Queen chose to grace the order of service for her
then, they have been published in newspapers across the
Commonwealth, broadcast on television and radio and read
by countless millions of people around the world.
night it emerged that the graceful elegy for a lost
Queen may have a history that is possibly common and
perhaps even a little prosaic.
by word of mouth and the Internet, it has appeared on
dozens of Internet sites, although it has apparently
never been widely published in a book or anthology. The
author has remained stubbornly anonymous.
authorship has been wrongly attributed to, among others,
Charles Henry Brent, a famous Episcopalian missionary
bishop in the Philippines during the early 20th century,
and to a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, Lady Elizabeth
Bassett, who died in November 2000.
of the poem appear on Web pages dedicated to the memory
of a 15-year-old American baseball star, a 76-year-old
Australian man and a 52-year-old Scottish woman.
oldest Internet version dates back only to 2000, and
none of the people who used the poem knew anything of
its origins; all had been handed a copy by a
Melbourne, Australia, James Taris gave the 12-line verse
the title Celebration of Life and used it to
conclude a biography of his father, John Tsibouriaris,
who died in January this year at the age of 76.
Tsibouriaris fought in the Greek civil war before
emigrating to Australia in 1955, and his son was sent
the poem by a friend after it was used last summer
following the death of Shirley Strachan, one of the
country’s most famous rock musicians.
the lead singer of the 1970s glam rock group Skyhooks,
whose fame never quite spread beyond Australia, was
killed in a helicopter crash at the age of 49 and the
poem was read at his memorial service.
Taris, 47, said: “I just loved the fact that it was so
positive. When my father died, I wanted to remember the
good times, and this seemed the perfect way to say
Pangallo’s 15-year-old son, Mike, died in his sleep
during a sleepover at a friend’s house in June 2001,
the victim of an extremely rare heart defect from which
no one knew the young baseball star suffered. On the
devastated family’s memorial website, which records
the many events packed into a vibrant young life lived
in Milford, Ohio, the poem is given the title You Can
Go On and is narrated in the first person: “You
can shed tears because I am gone/Or you can smile
because I have lived.”
Mid Calder, Scotland, Andrew McLeman called the poem Courage
as he used it to pay tribute to his wife, Ruth, a tax
officer who died in February this year at the age of 52
after a long and brave battle against alcohol
was shown the poem by a colleague at work and said that
including it on his website “seemed the right thing to
tale of how the poem came into Mr McLeman’s hands
tells a story that seems to have been repeated all over
the world in recent years. He received it from his work
colleague, who had been given a copy by a friend, who
had received it from her cousin, who was given it by the
minister who officiated at her daughter’s
minister, the Rev Peter Cameron, had a very personal
reason for knowing the poem: he read it aloud during the
funeral service for his own daughter, Kitty, who died
last April from a brain tumour at the age of 20.
Cameron, Kitty’s mother, said last night that the poem
had an extraordinary effect on everyone who was at her
daughter’s funeral in St Mary’s, Dunkeld, near
a month, it was used at another six funerals in the
area,” Mrs Cameron said. “People thought my husband
had written it, and they kept ringing up and asking if
was OK to use it.
has been a wonderful source of consolation for so many
April 11, 2002
verse's author finds the critics unkind
POEM that the Queen chose for the front of her
mother’s funeral service sheet contains only a handful
of elusive clues as to its author.
critics commented on its highly impersonal style, while
some described it as a banal and characterless piece of
writing. They said that the style in which it was
written bore little resemblance to poetic verse, which
points to the possibility that it was not meant as
poetry at all.
the six couplets were more likely to have been written
as a thought for the day, possibly by a young person
attempting to express their feelings.
to comment on the merit of the verse, Andrew Motion,
Poet Laureate, said that its importance was “not so
much in the literary value but how much it means to the
person involved”. “If the person has a genuine
fondness for it and knows their loved one would also
have enjoyed it, that is all that matters in
circumstances like these,” he said.
say that the verse, written last century, achieves its
powerful effect by simple, litany-like repetition.
Similar to traditional prayer poems, it uses the phrases
“you can” and “or you can” and picks out direct
opposites to convey its simple message. If the technique
of structuring the poem’s thought is highly
traditional, its vocabulary, however, is of our own
does not spell out in its final line which choice the
poet will make, which is another trait of modern
Padel, a poet, said: “This is very carefully not a
personal poem; borrowing from the aura of prayer it
addresses the universal ‘you’. It does not tidy the
emotion up in ribbon but simply puts the choice before
is a calm, unshowy poem and a clever and feeling
however, have not been as kind to the unknown
the surge in popularity that the poem is likely to
enjoy, the publishers Faber and Faber said that they had
no plans to print the anonymous work.
Jenkins, the poet and deputy editor of The Times
Literary Supplement described it as an “absolutely
characterless piece of writing”. “It is difficult to
tell who wrote it as there is nothing humane about it at
all. It doesn’t sound like someone old, that is all I
can say,” he said.
a nothing piece of writing. There is nothing to
appraise. It’s just someone making a point in a very
Below is repeated the later
correspondence in August 2002 between me and David Harkins - the
likely original author of the piece
MALYNDA HARKINS [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 15 August 2002 18:06
Subject: so-called "Queen Mother poem"
Dear Andrew Mcleman
While surfing the net I came across a piece by you about the so-called
"Queen Mother poem."
I actually wrote this poem 20 yrs ago. I considered it to be a piece of
"poetic prose" rather then poetry. I called the piece
Sent it off - along with many other poetic attempts to various
alas to no avail. I never once got a positive reply. And, looking back,
I can hardly blame anyone.
I was hopeless, hadn't a clue.
My original version is as follows -
"Do not shed tears when I have gone but smile instead because I
Do not shut your eyes and pray to God that I'll come back but open your
eyes and see all that I have left behind.
I know your heart will be empty because you cannot see me but still I
want you to be full of the love we shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live only for yesterday or you
can be happy for tomorrow because of what happened between us yesterday.
You can remember me and grieve that I have gone or you can cherish my
memory and let it live on.
You can cry and lose yourself, become distraught and turn your back on
the world or you can do what I want -
Smile, wipe away the tears, learn to love again and go on."
Underneath this I included the following line from Samuel Beckett
"I can't go on. I must go on. I'll go on."
I more or less gave up trying to write poetry in 1984. Instead I tried
my hand at writing plays. And guess what: I was no good at writing plays
either. In 1987 I achieved my one success. Wrote a one-act play
"Pam." It ran for
one night at our local community centre. In 1987 I got married and,
apart from one or two attempts
at writing a play in the early 90s, gave up writing altogether. Now I
I didn't know the piece was used at funerals or anything until I read it
in the newspapers at the time of the Queen Mother's funeral.
For what it's worth I believe a copy of "Remember Me" was
lying around in some publishers/poetry
magazine office way back when, someone picked it up, and after reading
through the piece found it appropriate
for a funeral/message of condolence.
I didn't write "Remember Me" as the result of losing a loved
one or anything like that, I just wrote it.
At the time of the Queen Mother's funeral I contacted various national
newspapers (Times, Daily Mail etc)
telling them basically what I'm telling you.
I contacted the BBC website "comments boards."
I wrote to the Royal Family (the Queen & Prince Charles) shortly
after the funeral. Telling them my story.
I actually sent Prince Charles my surviving copy of "Remember
Me." His Private Secretary wrote and thanked me.
Other then dating my only surviving original copy (which I sent to
Prince Charles), or someone coming forward
- who actually recalls me sending the piece to, say, their publishers
office, I cannot really prove what I say.
My writing was so spectacularly unsuccessful, you see. No poetry I ever
wrote - apart from one or two
poems in our local newspaper - was ever published. What I will say,
though is: You will never come across this particular piece before
1980/81. I know this simply because "Remember Me" did not
exist until I wrote it.
And I wrote it in 1980/81.
I'm not after making money out of this or anything like that. I just
wish to put the record straight.
If you require more info please do not hesitate to contact me
Tel: 016973 32239
reply - 30th August 2002
for your message. ( - sorry for the delay in replying but I have just
returned from two weeks holiday to a crammed full inbox!)
I think you are putting yourself down too much on your skills as a
writer, as whatever the experts say on its merits as a literary piece,
the poem has positive sentiments and is very helpful and supportive when
you lose a loved one. Presumably this is why both the Queen myself (and
many others) chose it as a memorial.
provided to the Times by Andrew Motion - ("Declining
to comment on the merit of the verse, Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate, said
that its importance was “not so much in the literary value but how
much it means to the person involved”. “If the person has a genuine
fondness for it and knows their that loved one would also have enjoyed
it, is all that matters in circumstances like these,” he said )
- I think is fair, but some of the
other comments made on its literary merit are pompous scribblings
by people who simply don't fully understand the emotions involved.
I got involved at the time of the Q'Mums funeral as the Times (Andrew
Norfolk) was doing a piece on the origins of the poem, and my site was
one of the few places it was (at that time) it was to be 'found' on the
internet. Presumably you have read the story and the articles reproduced
on the website.
I don't know if Andrew Morton ever did a further follow up piece, and
I'm surprised that considering you contacted them that you were not at
least approached as he seemed (at the time) putting in a lot of effort
in the search. It is possible that the info simply didn't go to the
right person, or perhaps they had a lot of cranks writing in claiming to
have written it!
While you may never make anything from it and I have no idea how you can
prove it, you should be consoled that the poem was already in wide
"hand to hand" circulation before the QM funeral and
inevitably even wider since then. It may have not been penned from any
loss of your own but I can assure you that the sentiment expressed is
certainly a great comfort to those that have. I will be happy to credit
you with the original authorship on my website, and will also pass your
original message and this reply to Andrew Morton at the Times.
contacting me and it must be re-assuring to you that your skills and
work have at least now such a wide and
Is this the end of the story?
Will David get the proper credit? - Watch this space!
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