The Pipkins: Gimme Dat Ding (1970)

July 6, 2008

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

nickpolowy July 6, 2008 at 10:42 pm

I’m sorry for the irrelevant little outburst here, but I have something for you concerning your April 17, 2006 blog entry on the poem and lyrics “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep”. 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Thanks and once again, sorry for the out-of-date response.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

Roger Bourland July 7, 2008 at 10:33 am

Hi Nick.

This text has a mysterious origin it seems. I had a man contact me 5 years ago saying that HE wrote the poem and didn’t care about getting royalties, but only that his name should be included as the author. I never heard from him again, nor did I get any confirmation that he was indeed the author. What is yu mother’s name? or maiden name? Does she have any documentation? Let me know.

Here is an article from 2004 saying that this mystery was finally solved by Dear Abby:

November 5, 2004
Mary E. Frye
Baltimore housewife whose poem Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep brought comfort to thousands
THE Baltimore housewife Mary E. Frye was acknowledged towards the end of her long life to be the undisputed author of Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep, the well-known bereavement verse which has brought comfort to mourners throughout the world for the past 70 years. There were many other claimants to its authorship, including attributions to traditional and native American origins.

Frye’s assertion that she wrote the piece was confirmed in 1998 after research by Abigail Van Buren, the newspaper columnist responsible for the popular column “Dear Abby”.

Frye had never written any poetry before 1932, when she and her husband had a young German Jewish girl, Margaret Schwarzkopf, staying with them. According to Frye, their guest had been concerned about her mother, who was ill in Germany, but she had been warned not to return home because of increasing anti-Semitic unrest. When her mother died, the heartbroken young woman told Frye that she never had the chance to “stand by my mother’s grave and shed a tear”.

Frye found herself composing a piece of verse on a brown paper shopping bag. Later she said that the words “just came to her” and expressed what she felt about life and death. Because people liked the free, open-air nature of her 12-line, untitled verse, she made many copies and circulated them privately. The verse demonstrated a remarkable power to soothe loss. It became popular, crossing national boundaries for use on bereavement cards and at funerals regardless of race, religion or social status.

Today, it is often a feature at memorial services for disasters where there has been a large loss of life, for example the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, or the 9/11 terror attack in New York in 2001. In Britain, a reading on the BBC television programme Bookworm in 1995 attracted more than 30,000 requests for copies. A year later, a Bookworm poll named it “the Nation’s Favourite Poem”.

Born Mary Elizabeth Clark in Dayton, Ohio, Frye was orphaned at the age of 3 and moved to Baltimore when she was 12. Although she had had no formal education, she was an avid reader with a remarkable memory. She married Claud Frye in 1927; he ran a clothing business while she grew and sold flowers.

Frye continued to write, often to support animal charities, but none of her subsequent work matched the impact of her first piece. She never published or copyrighted the poem, which over the years became subject to small changes. The modern definitive version is:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Widowed in 1964, Frye is survived by her daughter.

Mary Frye, housewife and poet, was born on November 13, 1905. She died on September 15, 2004, aged 98.

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