Spanish is a beautiful language and has produced many great poets and poems. In the poems listed below, you’ll discover some of the most famous Spanish poems that are not only suitable for funerals and memorial services but also highlight some behaviors and customs of cultures around the world.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Spanish Poems for a Funeral or Memorial Service
- Spanish Poems About Grief
- Spanish Poems for Día de los Muertos
If you're searching for poems to recite at a funeral service, you might be interested in our post-loss checklist. It can help you understand all of the tasks you might encounter after losing a loved one.
Spanish Poems for a Funeral or Memorial Service
In this short selection of poetry, you'll discover just a few of the most famous Spanish poets in the world. Tragedy and heartbreak are depicted in their work.
1. "Dame la Mano (Give Me Your Hand)" by Gabriela Mistral
Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral wrote poetry because she felt it was as intrinsic to her as breathing. In her poem, "Give me Your Hand," the reader sees this in the lines: "Grass in the wind and nothing more / Grass in the wind is all we'll be." Here we're reminded of the solitude that lovers feel; a place in the wild where nothing but you and your love exist.
It'll work well as a memorial service poem when describing the tale of an enduring love that continues to dance even though one-half has parted.
2. "Song of the Rider" by Federico García Lorca
If you’re seeking a funeral poem that is neither elaborate nor detailed, Lorca's "Song of the Rider" may suit your needs. It follows a horse rider, carrying his olives on a long, unending road. On his brave, black pony, the rider knows he'll never make it to his destination, yet he continues onward.
These lines of poetic persistence and drive will speak to you if your loved one was filled with duty and honor but never tired of life's path.
3. "Alba de Mi Silencio (Dawn of My Silence)" by Julia de Burgos, translation by Jack Agüeros
Julia de Burgos was a 20th Century poet and activist, writing for social justice. Her poem, "Dawn of My Silence," reflects that plight while embracing the strong-willed nature of women.
You might choose this fitting poem to embrace the matriarch in your family as one who defied tradition to secure her children's and grandchildren's futures.
4. "Al Partir (On Leaving)" by Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda
In Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda's poem, you'll discover an impending bittersweet voyage. She watches as the crewmen's labor hoists the sail while lamenting at leaving such a lovely home. She writes, "Farewell, my Eden, land so dear! / Whatever in its furor fate now sends, / Your cherished name will grace my ear!"
It's a fitting funeral poem not only because the poet's journey begins at the end of a day but because it seems effortless once the sails are full.
5. “Echo of the Park” by Romina Freschi, translation by Jeannine Marie Pitas
Freschi's poem is no shorter than a book. However, that leaves ample room for choosing specific lines to commemorate your loved one well. It works for a memorial mass because the reader can pull from it the most intimate knowledge of their loved one while layering it within the beauty of Freschi's park.
6. “Coplas por la Muerte de su Padre” by Jorge Manrique
Castilian poet Jorge Manrique wrote this famous poem to honor his late father in the 15th Century. You can choose from any one of the three sections (or all) to best represent your father’s life and legacy.
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Spanish Poems About Grief
Poems offer a chance for posthumous fame for any poet. That rings true for the poets in the few poems selected below, especially for the final poet who has gained global acclaim.
7. "Running Water" by Alfonsina Storni, translation by Muna Lee
From the interpretation of a memorial or funeral poem, you could imagine the narrator as your deceased loved one. They move over land, sands, and water as if by energy currents or a wandering. Yet, this dreamland comes to a complete stop—as if to say that life is worth living. And though you may wish to be with the narrator, you're hindering your own life.
8. "My Name (A Family Anti-Elegy)" by Excilia Saldaña
Elegies are serious poems, full of grief and melancholy. And while their very purpose is to express words for one particular person, you can pluck from the poet's elegy to find appropriate selections. For example:
"I don't miss what I've never had; I don't aspire to what I don't have. Rather for that other thing: My name of the foot and the path, my name. My name of palm fiber and mire, my name. My name of fat and smoke, my name. My name of cotton and fire, my name.”
9. "Into Death Bravely" by Jimmy Santiago Baca
Jimi Santiago Baca's poetry is reflective of his Apache and Chicano descent. He is not quick with words, but each one is imperative to the story. "Into Death Bravely" is equally about reluctance and acceptance of uncontrollable fate.
10. "Marine" by José Rodriguez
Rodriguez's poem seems fitting if you are holding a memorial to scatter ashes at the beach. In those ceremonies, many choose to write the name of their loved one in the sand. As such, you'll find "Marine" a fitting tribute to life continuing at sea.
11. "Sonnet XCIV” by Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda’s “Sonnet XCIV” feels like a palpable rush of love. It could be read from the perspective of a father speaking to his children or a grandmother sending her will to little ones. Here’s an excerpt:
If I die, survive me with such sheer force
that you waken the furies of the pallid and the cold,
from south to south lift your indelible eyes,
from sun to sun dream through your singing mouth.
I don’t want your laughter or your steps to waver,
I don’t want my heritage of joy to die.
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Spanish Poems for Día de los Muertos
Mexican funeral traditions embrace Day of the Dead celebrations and are traditional to their art, music, and literature. While many other cultures shy away from the subject of death, Mexicans openly communicate their feelings about the dead with friends and family.
12. "The Moon Wakes" by Federico García Lorca
Día de Los Muertos commences at midnight on November 2nd. This start time makes Lorca's "The Moon Wakes" a fitting poem for a few reasons. First, although the moon is at once a calming guide, acting as a magician exposing the loneliness of hearts, it also creates a kind of sameness among mourners. We're all sad, but gleaming faces in the moonlight.
13. “Through the Eyes of the Soul” by Xayacamachan of Tizatlan
Xayacamachan was a 15th Century Aztec poet most well-known for his contributions to Day of the Dead poetry. Here, Xayacamachan imagines what a soul would say upon learning of their death. They would insist you live as happily as possible, enjoying all that is possible. Because once it’s over, there is, frankly, no more life to live.
14. " Al Claro de Luna (In the Light of The Moon) Delmira Agustini
Delmira Agustini was a 20th Century Uruguayan poet from the coastal town of Montevideo. Her poem, "In the Light of the Moon," is a poem from which you'll pluck many purposeful lines. The following ones feature the moonlight, reflecting the beginning of your celebrations at midnight:
I love that pale moon…
And on the altar of the nights, like a lighted flower.
And drunk with strange perfumes, my soul the incense rendered.
Because she is the light of innocence…
15. “Día de los Muertos Literary Calavera” by Luis Topiltzin Dominguez Burton
Burton’s satirical poem is similar to traditional Calaveras, but instead of making fun of political figures, he’s having a bit of fun with his friends. In it, he writes of some escapades of friends in San Francisco.
If you’re writing your own Calavera, use the poem as a reference point for some ideas.
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Celebrating Spanish Poets and Poetry
Reading poetry is a great way to learn about a language and culture. Luckily, in the poems above, you were introduced to poets from across the Americas to Castile, Spain. And if you look into each one separately, you find some very different customs when it comes to death and dying. However, the one similarity is that death is a part of the process of life, and although a family member may have passed, they’ll always remain part of the family.
- Behar, R. (n.d.). Bridges to Cuba/Puentes a Cuba. University of Michigan Press. muse.jhu.edu/chapter/1765138
- C. (2014, March 25). Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda. Words for the Year. wordsfortheyear.com/2014/03/25/love-sonnets-by-pablo-neruda/
- Chavez, X. (2018, October 23). Literary Calaveras. www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/smithsonian-latino-center/2018/10/23/literary-calaveras/
- Federico García Lorca. (n.d.). Fourteen Poems of Love and Death. Poetry in Translation. www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Spanish/Lorca.php
- Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda. (2020, September 29). Poem with translation, retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gertrudis_G%C3%B3mez_de_Avellaneda
- Gomez, S. (2019, March 4). 9 Poems by Gabriela Mistral About Life, Love, and Death. Literary Ladies Guide. www.literaryladiesguide.com/classic-women-authors-poetry/10-poems-by-gabriela-mistral-about-life-love-and-death/
- Jorge Manrique. (2020, September 20). Poem with translation, retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jorge_Manrique
- Latin American Literature Today. (n.d.). www.latinamericanliteraturetoday.org/
- Monroe, H. (n.d.). June 1925 Running Water. Poetry Foundation. Originally printed in Poetry, A Magazine of Verse, Vol. XXVI, No. III. www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/issue/70470/june-1925
- Poems for Day of the Dead. (n.d.). sddayofthedead.org/poems.htm
- Poems - Quotes - Poetry. (n.d.). www.poemhunter.com/
- Poetry Foundation. (n.d.). www.poetryfoundation.org/
- Publish your poetry online. (n.d.). All Poetry. allpoetry.com/
- The Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda - Poems | Academy of American Poets. (n.d.). Poets.org. poets.org/poem/song-despair