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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 11/04/02 - 

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

THE 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.
Far 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 helicopter crash.
The 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. 

The Times can 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. 

Inquiries 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. 

And although read frequently at funerals and appearing on dozens of websites, it appears never to have been widely published in print. 

According 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 world. 

It 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. 

It 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. 

Inquiries 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.

The 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.' 

Nevertheless, 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 grieve. 

A 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 on. 

'I 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.' 

Dr Carr was asked by Buckingham Palace to include the poem in the funeral order of service shortly after the death of the Queen Mother. 

The 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. 

Dr Carr said that the poem had been included to serve as a meditative piece while the congregation waited for the funeral to begin. 

'Increasingly people are doing this sort of thing in service sheets. Pieces such as this provide a framework for meditation while people are waiting. 

'I was not moved by it as poetry so much as struck by its being apposite to this funeral.'

Who is the poet?

Anyone who can identify the poet is asked to contact The Times today on 020-7782 5000 or by email andrew.norfolk@thetimes.co.uk 


April 11, 2002

Elegy for a royal funeral belongs to Everyman


THEY are a dozen simple lines of anonymous verse that the Queen chose to grace the order of service for her mother’s funeral. 

Since 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. 

Last 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. 

Spread 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. 

Its 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. 

Versions 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. 

The 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 friend. 

In 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. 

Mr 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. 

Strachan, 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. 

Mr 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 that.” 

Joe 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.” 

In 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 dependence. 

He was shown the poem by a colleague at work and said that including it on his website “seemed the right thing to do”. 

The 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 funeral. 

The 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. 

Elizabeth 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 Perth. 

“Within 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. 

“It has been a wonderful source of consolation for so many people.”

April 11, 2002

Mystery verse's author finds the critics unkind

THE 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. 

Literary 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. 

Instead 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. 

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 loved one would also have enjoyed it, that is all that matters in circumstances like these,” he said. 

Poets 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 time. 

It does not spell out in its final line which choice the poet will make, which is another trait of modern verse. 

Ruth 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 the reader. 

“It is a calm, unshowy poem and a clever and feeling choice.” 

Others however, have not been as kind to the unknown author. 

Despite 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. 

Alan 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. 

“It’s a nothing piece of writing. There is nothing to appraise. It’s just someone making a point in a very banal way.”


Below is repeated the later correspondence in August 2002 between me and David Harkins - the likely original author of the piece

From: MALYNDA HARKINS [mailto:malynda.harkins@virgin.net]
Sent: 15 August 2002 18:06
To: andrew@mcleman.net
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 "Remember Me."
Sent it off - along with many other poetic attempts to various publishers/poetry magazines,
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 have lived.
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 paint instead.

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
E-mail  davidharkins@msn.com

Yours sincerely

David Harkins


My reply - 30th August 2002

Thanks David 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. 

The comment 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.

Thanks for contacting me and it must be re-assuring to you that your skills and work have at least  now such a wide and appreciative audience.


Andrew McLeman

Is this the end of the story? Will David get the proper credit? - Watch this space!

Email:* andrew@mcleman.net  
(sorry this e-mail is not now an "automatic" link and so we would ask you to simply to copy/paste it into an e-mail header- (the reason is that spammers and virus originators are now trawling the internet and using these e-mail links to send out their messages and/or  viruses as if they came from us!)