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The death of a dear friend or loved one is not only a time for grief and mourning; it is also a time for remembrance. It is a time, as William Shakespeare put it in Sonnet 30, for “sessions of sweet silent thought” in which we “summon up remembrance of things past.” The joys of companionship, shared experience, and fond memories are perfectly captured and contrasted with sadness and grief in Shakespeare’s beautiful sonnet on the passing of a treasured friend.
In the poem, remembrance brings tears and woe at first, but upon deeper and longer reflection (and undoubtedly the healing passage of time), the poet arrives at a peace which has its focus on the cherished memories of their time together:
If you are called upon to speak at a memorial service or life celebration event, Shakespeare’s When to the Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought is an ideal funeral poem for a friend.
Here is the full text:
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.