Er....dunno really. I had to learn Gray's Elegy by heart at school (all 32 stanzas). It's OK, but frankly there are poems which are just as stirring alas no one uses or learns poetry much these days. Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach, Tennyson's Ulysses, TS Eliot's Alfred J Prufrock, Shelley's Ozymandias, all have the same sentiments...all are splendid.
At the moment, I think I'd go for this one, from Billy-boy:
Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say 'This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.'
So should my papers yellow'd with their age
Be scorn'd like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.
One of my favourite poems (on a similar theme) has always been Andrew Marvell's "To his Coy Mistress". I can only say that it would work on me!
Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Should'st rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state;
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Desserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity;
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.
Now, therefore, while youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow chapped pow'r.
Let us roll all our strength up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near; I like it.
There are more references to life and death in all books of quotations than for any other subject.
At this time in human history we are more aware than ever of the amazing discoveries and inventions
that are to come. Unfortunately we probably won't be around for the best of them. I'd love to live forever.