Will the real poet please stand up?

April 17, 2006

My publishing company, Yelton Rhodes Music, publishes several choral works that use the folowing poem, a poem we all had thought was written by someone called Mary Frye. We knew nothing of her, what her dates were or anything else.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
For I am not there I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am diamond glints of snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn’s rain
When you awake in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds encircled flight
I am the soft star that shines at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there
I did not die

I received the following correspondence from Peter Ramsey who claims to be the ACTUAL poet.

I wrote my original poem about 45 years ago in a moment of reflection… my thoughts today still.
Don’t think I had any one particular person in mind though.
The first line read, “Please don’t stand at my grave and weep.”
Minimal sharing of the poem took place; but at some time, probably within 5 years I changed the first line to read, “Do not stand at my grave and weep.”

I didn’t really think too much about the poem; only pulling it out if I could find it in moments of need, or if I came across it’s hiding place.
It was shared with radio stations in my hometown Adelaide, Australia, who often mailed it out to listeners who wanted it.
I also had access to teledex, fax, etc…
As we entered the computer age, I remember scanning the handwritten poem & also transcribing it.
It also opened up the world via internet etc.. It was widely shared now.
None of my pre Microsoft files remain.
I still have some files from 1990, & several a little later.

About 5 or 6 years ago I came across a webpage suggesting my poem was written by an unknown author about 1940 as a song.
As I have written & shared much of the million pages I have written as a hobby using pseudonym “Perter Ferter” it only made me chuckle.

About a month ago I heard a Katherine Jenkins song.
I decided to investigate Katherine on the internet.
The search page made reference to “Do not stand at my grave and weep.”
Searches of this, & I find 1.4 million references to the poem…. Many of them crediting Mary Frye as author…. All info from one source.

Knowing the facts about the poem, I didn’t know what to do but correct what appears to me to be a fabrication.
Mary Frye claims appear to be without substance…. No one has produced a copy of her poem so widely distributed by her.

If I had been aware in 2000 what was happening, I doubt 1.4 million pages would be assigned to the poem & the lie.

I note that others claim to writing it.. but they are the ones where verses & lines have been changed, added etc.. they are not a problem to me.
It was my intention that the poem has more meaning to comfort if it has unknown or anon author.
I am happy to fwd my longest surviving computer files.. & if I come across the handwritten version a copy of that too.
Like I said… Until recently I didn’t think it very important… I can write it from memory now anyway.

Hope I comfort everyone who loses someone….

I have also found this article at businessballs.com giving a thumbnail bio of Mary Frye with a bit of background stating that SHE actually is the poet in fact Abigail Van Buren (“Dear Abbey”) helped identify the “true” author — maybe.

There are a lot of nut cases out there, and Mr Ramsey seemed to be a sober enough chap, but I’m at a loss as to what to do. Any advice?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Roger Bourland July 7, 2008 at 10:28 am

[Nick sent me this on July 7, 2008]

Unfortunately I have nothing for you other than word-of-mouth, which is what I myself am struggling with in this story.

I’m 18 years old, living in Western New York. Growing up you hear stories about your parent’s past and their legacies, but one stood out to me from when I was little. I remember my mother talking about a poem that she wrote in high school, her grandfather had passed away and she went into a dark period where she locked herself away in her room and just listened to records and wrote, drew. One of the works that resulted from this week-long hide away is supposedly the poem “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep”- marked anonymous for fear that the dark subject would turn people off, make them think she was “weird”. She graduated in Fredonia, New York around ‘85 or ‘86, the year escapes me, but I’m not sure how well the poem could be tracked to Fredonia, if at all. The topic has always been a sensitive one with her, she doesn’t like to talk about it at all with anyone, just recently I went back to her about it when ironically, our all-county high school chorus was lined up to sing one of the musical arrangements with the lyrics. I showed her, remembering the story from when I was younger, and she neglected to talk about it yet again. Her outlook on the topic is that “its too late to claim it, no one would ever believe it”, so she tries to put it behind her. Being my mother, I want to believe it, I just don’t know if I can or if I should… But I did find that you were interested in the topic, as a lot of people are, thought I’d share it with at least you, not expecting any results from it… Its just interesting to think that there could be no deep poet behind it, no inspirational story about Jewish friends, just a heartbroken teenager who need to write something down, a regular person who sees death like every other person, which is why its so relative to our lives.

Thanks and once again, sorry for the out-of-date response. A response would be appreciated, just your thoughts, but is not necessary. Thanks a lot again.
-Nick Polowy

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