Hamlet’s Eulogy to Ophelia

Hello, everyone—

Something I like to do on occasion is to slightly alter the lyrics for a song I enjoy. The poem below was inspired by Michael W. Smith’s “Welcome Home,” a song mourning over the loss of the singer’s father and his welcome into heaven. My poem is from Prince Hamlet’s point of view as he watches Ophelia’s funeral. His reaction to her death helps us to better appreciate his character, as Dr. Leland Ryken, on page 67 of his aforementioned guide to Hamlet, said here:

“When Ophelia lived, Hamlet repudiated her. Now that she is dead, he regains his love for Ophelia…As Hamlet now accepts a relationship that in his distraught state he had cruelly destroyed, he rises in our estimation.”

Maynard Mack, in “The World of Hamlet,” offers yet another insight into the significance of the scene, essentially saying that Ophelia’s death, along with a few other events in act V, scene I, is one of the first signals Shakespeare gives us of Hamlet’s transformation:

“Hamlet accepts his world and we discover a different man….[Shakespeare] leads us to expect an altered Hamlet, and then…provides him.” (Op. Cit.)

I hope you enjoy the poem!

I durst not believe I am here
Forced to bid farewell
Maiden, my heart canst not imagine thee dead
Yet still thou art i’ th’ grave
I pray and weep

Ophelia, lady of Elsinore
Angels surround thee through th’ night
Farewell, my love

Mine heart dost break when I see
Thy sweet countenance
Laertes outfaces me
Not e’er believing my love
I am sorry

Ophelia, lady of Elsinore
Angels surround thee through the night
Farewell my love

Thy virtues dost mock mine reproach
I dost love thee so
As good Horatio
Comforts me in vain
Farewell my love

Thou shalt see thy Lord
Thou wilt see His face, sweet maid
Farewell my love

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.'” ~First Corinthians 15:51-54, NKJV


~Sarah Merly


December 12, 2017

Isaiah 53