Most Famous Poems From The Greatest Poets of All Time
“In science, one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite.”
– Paul Dirac
Most Beautiful and Famous Poems From The Greatest Poets In History: If you are an ardent lover of poetry, chances are that the question ‘What are the most beautiful and famous poems ever written in English?’ might have puzzled you more than often. We all have specific interests, mindsets, and understanding about a thing, And it applies here also.
What one person thinks is beautiful may not be what another person thinks it to be. Beauty, as our forefathers have reminded us tirelessly, lies in the eyes of a beholder, whether it is the beauty of a lady or a child or a flower or a poem or a sunset or a painting or something else.
The list of most famous poems is curated using a variety of metrics to showcase our best poems. That’s why many good poems and poets had to be left off of this list. In combination with our editors’ recommended poems based on poetic techniques, we bring you the most famous poems on Lifelords. Hope you will surely enjoy all the poems on this list. Happy Reading!
25. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night By Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
This very famous poem, a villanelle, by Dylan Thomas was written as Thomas’ father lay on his deathbed. The message that Thomas was conveying to his father was his passionate desire that his father not take death “lying down.” He is expressing the feeling that so many have felt as they watched a close friend, parent, or lover slip away. The message to his father is, “Don’t Go! Fight! Death is an injustice! Show your passion for life, by not going gentle into that “good” night.”
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
24. The Waste Land By Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888–1965)
Thomas Stearns Eliot OM was a poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary critic, and editor. He is considered one of the 20th century’s major poets. The Waste Land is widely regarded as one of the most important poems of the 20th century and a central work of English-language modernist poetry. While it is not considered Eliot’s masterpiece by many critics, it is undoubtedly his most famous poem. We are just sharing a part of this long classic poem. To read the full poem please visit the below link.
I. The Burial of the Dead
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Read Full Poem At: The Waste Land
23. The Cry of The Children By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning is considered one of the most distinguished and best-loved poets in the history of England. Elizabeth was educated at home and began writing poetry at the age of four. In the early years of her youth, she had to face an unknown illness that degraded her mobility to a great extent. “The Cry of the Children” is a poem that examines children’s manual labor forced upon them by their exploiters. It was published in August 1843 in Blackwood’s Magazine.
Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
Ere the sorrow comes with years?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, —
And that cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows ;
The young birds are chirping in the nest ;
The young fawns are playing with the shadows ;
The young flowers are blowing toward the west—
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
They are weeping bitterly!
They are weeping in the playtime of the others,
In the country of the free.
Do you question the young children in the sorrow,
Why their tears are falling so?
The old man may weep for his to-morrow
Which is lost in Long Ago —
The old tree is leafless in the forest —
The old year is ending in the frost —
The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest —
The old hope is hardest to be lost :
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
Do you ask them why they stand
Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,
In our happy Fatherland?
They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
And their looks are sad to see,
For the man’s grief abhorrent, draws and presses
Down the cheeks of infancy —
“Your old earth,” they say, “is very dreary;”
“Our young feet,” they say, “are very weak !”
Few paces have we taken, yet are weary—
Our grave-rest is very far to seek!
Ask the old why they weep, and not the children,
For the outside earth is cold —
And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering,
And the graves are for the old!”
“True,” say the children, “it may happen
That we die before our time!
Little Alice died last year her grave is shapen
Like a snowball, in the rime.
We looked into the pit prepared to take her —
Was no room for any work in the close clay :
From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her,
Crying, ‘Get up, little Alice! it is day.’
If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower,
With your ear down, little Alice never cries ;
Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her,
For the smile has time for growing in her eyes,—
And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in
The shroud, by the kirk-chime!
It is good when it happens,” say the children,
“That we die before our time!”
Read Full Poem At: The Cry of The Children
22. Solitude By Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)
‘Solitude’ is Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s most famous poem. The idea for the poem came as she was traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, to attend the Governor’s inaugural ball. On her way to the celebration, there was a young woman dressed in black sitting across the aisle from her. The woman was crying. Miss Wheeler sat next to her and sought to comfort her for the rest of the journey.
When they arrived, the poet was so unhappy that she could barely attend the festivities. As she looked at her own face in the mirror, she suddenly recalled the sorrowful widow. It was at that moment that she wrote the opening lines of “Solitude.” It was first published in an 1883 issue of The New York Sun.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
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21. Nature By Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Henry David Thoreau was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher. Thoreau’s books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry amount to more than 20 volumes. This poem is calming, relaxing, and vivid. This poem will make you realize that nothing is more comforting than being with nature. … The poet, Henry David Thoreau is a person who loved nature, he loved it so much he builds a house next to a pond isolated from everyone else, just him alone with nature.
O Nature! I do not aspire
To be the highest in thy quire,—
To be a meteor in the sky,
Or comet that may range on high;
Only a zephyr that may blow
Among the reeds by the river low;
Give me thy most privy place
Where to run my airy race.
In some withdrawn, unpublic mead
Let me sigh upon a reed,
Or in the woods, with leafy din,
Whisper the still evening in:
Some still work give me to do,—
Only—be it near to you!
For I’d rather be thy child
And pupil, in the forest wild,
Than be the king of men elsewhere,
And most sovereign slave of care:
To have one moment of thy dawn,
Than share the city’s year forlorn.
20. A Child’s Hymn By Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Charles John Huffam Dickens popularly known as Charles Dickens was a famous English novelist. He is considered the greatest poet of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature’s most iconic novels and characters. A Child’s Hymn and Lucy’s Song are his two most beautiful poems.
Hear my prayer, O heavenly Father,
Ere I lay me down to sleep;
Bid Thy angels, pure and holy,
Round my bed their vigil keep.
My sins are heavy, but Thy mercy
Far outweighs them, everyone;
Down before Thy cross, I cast them,
Trusting in Thy help alone.
Keep me through this night of peril
Underneath its boundless shade;
Take me to Thy rest, I pray Thee,
When my pilgrimage is made.
None shall measure out Thy patience
By the span of human thought;
None shall bound the tender mercies
Which Thy Holy Son has bought.
Pardon all my past transgressions,
Give me strength for days to come;
Guide and guard me with Thy blessing
Till Thy angels bid me home.
19. In Memoriam A. H. H. By Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
In Memoriam A. H. H. is the most famous work of Alfred Lord Tennyson and is considered one of the great poems of the 19th century. A.H.H., or Arthur Henry Hallam, was a close friend of Tennyson. He died of a stroke at the young age of 22 in 1833. His death had a deep impact on Tennyson, who wrote many lyrics, over the next 17 years, related to the death of his dear friend. The poem consists of 131 sections, a prologue, and an epilogue; and is primarily an elegiac work.
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.
Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.
We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.
Forgive what seem’d my sin in me;
What seem’d my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.
Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
Read Full Poem At: In Memoriam A. H. H.
Best and Famous Short Classic Poems Of All Time
18. The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet known for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. Frost was honored frequently during his lifetime and is the only poet to receive four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. ‘The Road Not Taken’ is one of the most famous poems of Frost. This poem deals with that big noble question of “How to make a difference in the world?” One of the most prominent qualities of this poem is that it begins in delight and ends in wisdom.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
Robert Frost poetAnd sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves, no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
17. The Raven By Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
In the New York Mirror of January 29, 1845, appeared, from advance sheets of the American Review, his most famous poem, “The Raven,” which gave him national fame at once. Poe then became editor of the Broadway Journal, a short-lived weekly, in which he republished most of his short stories, in 1845.
This story is very popular because it encapsulates the feeling of despair from losing something very close to you. People can also relate to this story because it allows the readers to follow a character through drastic changes, possible changes that they are going through themselves.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’ Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’ Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Read Full Poem At: The Raven
16. Invictus By William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)
Invictus is a short inspirational poem written by the Victorian-era British poet William Ernest Henley. The meaning of Invictus is unconquerable or undefeated in Latin. This poem was written in 1875 and published in 1888. It depicts the poet’s attempt to motivate himself when there is no hope at all. Invictus is a poem that focuses on the human spirit and its ability to overcome adversity. It is a rallying cry for those who find themselves in dark and trying situations, who have to dig deep and fight for their lives.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods maybe
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
15. If By Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
India-born British Nobel laureate poet Rudyard Kipling is one of the best-known of the late Victorian poets and storytellers. He was also awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907. ‘If’ is a poem of the ultimate inspiration that tells us how to deal with different situations in the future confidently. The poet conveys his ideas about how to win this life, and after all, how to be a good human being.
This poem was written to his son who later went to fight in the First World War. The poem consisting of four stanzas bears eight sets of lines respectively. This poem is also written beautifully in rhyme and is a paean to British stoicism and masculine rectitude.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
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14. The Second Coming By William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
William Butler Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. This Irish Poet maintained his cultural roots, featuring Irish legends and heroes in many of his poems and plays. However, it’s a difficult task to chose one single poem from his vast and great poetry collection but many experts consider ‘The Second Coming’, the most thoroughly pillaged piece of literature in English.
This poem prophesies that Christ’s Second Coming is due and that the anarchy that has arisen all around the world (partly because of the events of the First World War) is a sign that this Second Coming cannot be far off. The ‘gyre’ metaphor Yeats employs in the first line (denoting circular motion and repetition) is a nod to Yeats’s mystical belief that history repeats itself in cycles.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
13. O Captain! My Captain! By Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Walt Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. The title of the poem, ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ refers to Abraham Lincoln as a captain of the ship. Here, the ‘ship’ is a symbol of the civil war fought for liberating the slaves. This poem is written in the form of an elegy meaning a funeral song.
Walt Whitman wrote this poem as a mourning poem for President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination by John Wilkes Booth. Whitman used very strong figurative language throughout the poem to express his respect and to mourn the loss of Abraham Lincoln. The poem, which was highly popular at that time, is an extended metaphor intended to memorialize Lincoln’s life and work.
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you, bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
12. Ozymandias By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets. Among his best-known works are Ozymandias, Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, and the political ballad ‘The Mask of Anarchy’. Ozymandias is first and foremost a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of political power, and in that sense, the poem is Shelley’s most outstanding political sonnet.
The title of “Ozymandias” refers to an alternate name of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. In “Ozymandias,” Shelley describes a crumbling statue of Ozymandias as a way to portray the transience of political power and to praise art’s power of preserving the past.
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
11. She Walks in Beauty By Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)
George Gordon Byron, known simply as Lord Byron, was an English peer, who was a poet and politician. He was one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement and is regarded as one of the greatest English poets. ‘She Walks in Beauty’ is perhaps Lord Byron’s best-loved and most widely anthologized lyric poem. The poem celebrates the enchanting beauty of the women, and the poet is captivated by it.
He wrote this poem about Mrs. Wilmot, his cousin Robert Wilmot’s wife. She Walks In Beauty is a lyrical, rhyming poem that focuses on female beauty and explores the idea that physical appearance depends upon inner goodness and if in harmony, can result in the romantic ideal of aesthetic perfection.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
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10. The Prelude By William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads. The Prelude is considered the greatest work of Wordsworth. It is a semi-autobiographical poem of his early years that he revised and expanded a number of times.
It was posthumously titled and published by his wife in the year of his death, before which it was generally known as “the poem to Coleridge”. Wordsworth was Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death from pleurisy on 23 April 1850.
—Was it for this
That one, the fairest of all Rivers, lov’d
To blend his murmurs with my Nurse’s song,
And from his alder shades and rocky falls,
And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice
That flow’d along my dreams? For this, didst Thou,
O Derwent! travelling over the green Plains
Near my ‘sweet Birthplace’, didst thou, beauteous Stream
Make ceaseless music through the night and day
Which with its steady cadence, tempering
Our human waywardness, compos’d my thoughts
To more than infant softness, giving me,
Among the fretful dwellings of mankind,
A knowledge, a dim earnest, of the calm
That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.
When, having left his Mountains, to the Towers
Of Cockermouth that beauteous River came,
Behind my Father’s House he pass’d, close by,
Along the margin of our Terrace Walk.
He was a Playmate whom we dearly lov’d.
Oh! many a time have I, a five years’ Child,
A naked Boy, in one delightful Rill,
A little Mill-race sever’d from his stream,
Made one long bathing of a summer’s day,
Bask’d in the sun, and plunged, and bask’d again
Alternate all a summer’s day, or cours’d
Over the sandy fields, leaping through groves
Of yellow grunsel, or when crag and hill,
The woods, and distant Skiddaw’s lofty height,
Were bronz’d with a deep radiance, stood alone
Beneath the sky, as if I had been born
On Indian Plains, and from my Mother’s hut
Had run abroad in wantonness, to sport,
A naked Savage, in the thunder shower.
Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up
Foster’d alike by beauty and by fear;
Much favour’d in my birthplace, and no less
In that beloved Vale to which, erelong,
I was transplanted. Well I call to mind
(‘Twas at an early age, ere I had seen
Nine summers) when upon the mountain slope
The frost and breath of frosty wind had snapp’d
The last autumnal crocus, ’twas my joy
To wander half the night among the Cliffs
And the smooth Hollows, where the woodcocks ran
Along the open turf. In thought and wish
That time, my shoulder all with springes hung,
I was a fell destroyer. On the heights
Scudding away from snare to snare, I plied
My anxious visitation, hurrying on,
Still hurrying, hurrying onward; moon and stars
Were shining o’er my head; I was alone,
And seem’d to be a trouble to the peace
That was among them. Sometimes it befel
In these night-wanderings, that a strong desire
O’erpower’d my better reason, and the bird
Which was the captive of another’s toils
Became my prey; and, when the deed was done
I heard among the solitary hills
Low breathings coming after me, and sounds
Of undistinguishable motion, steps
Almost as silent as the turf they trod.
Nor less in springtime when on southern banks
The shining sun had from his knot of leaves
Decoy’d the primrose flower, and when the Vales
And woods were warm, was I a plunderer then
In the high places, on the lonesome peaks
Where’er, among the mountains and the winds,
The Mother Bird had built her lodge. Though mean
My object, and inglorious, yet the end
Was not ignoble. Oh! when I have hung
Above the raven’s nest, by knots of grass
And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
But ill sustain’d, and almost, as it seem’d,
Suspended by the blast which blew amain,
Shouldering the naked crag; Oh! at that time,
While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
Blow through my ears! the sky seem’d not a sky
Of earth, and with what motion mov’d the clouds!
Read Full Poem At: The Prelude
9. The Tyger By William Blake (1757-1827)
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and engraver, who remained largely unknown during his lifetime but rose to prominence after his death. He is now considered one of the leading lights in the history of English poetry and his work has only grown in popularity. The main theme of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger” is creation and origin.
The speaker is in awe of the fearsome qualities and raw beauty of the tiger, and he rhetorically wonders that the same God could make something so gentle and small as a lamb, could also make a powerful predatory tiger. The fiery imagery used throughout the poem conjures the tiger’s aura of danger.
“The Tyger” in the poem represents evil and beauty too, “the forest of the night” represents unknown challenges, “the blacksmith” represents the creator, and “the fearful symmetry” symbolizes the existence of both good and evil.
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
8. On His Blindness By John Milton (1608-1674)
John Milton was an English poet of the late Renaissance period. The author of Paradise Lost is widely recognized for his epic poem on the fall of Satan and Adam and Eve’s ejection from the Garden of Eden.
This poem was written by him after he got blind in his mid-career. This poem has a beautiful measure, a simple and clear meaning, and manages to talk about the ferment of emotion with an enforced serenity.
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
7. A Psalm of Life By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator who wrote many lyric poems known for their musicality and often presenting stories of mythology and legend. He became the most popular American poet of his day and had success overseas. ‘A Psalm of Life’ is Longfellow’s one of the most famous poems which describe the purpose of life, and how one should handle the sorrow and struggles along the way.
The poem begins with the speaker contradicting a listener who wants to explain life to him as a matter of numbers and figures. In this inspirational poem, the poet glorifies life and its possibilities. It is an invocation to mankind to follow the path of righteousness, the right way to live this life.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Famous Poems That Will Refresh Your Mind and Soul
6. Hymn To Aphrodite By Sappho Translated By Edwin Arnold (650-600 B.C.)
“Hymn to Aphrodite” sometimes referred to as “Ode to Aphrodite” or “Fragment 1” is my favorite poem and many scholars considers it as one of the greatest poem ever written in the history of poetry. It is the only poem of the ancient Greek lyric poet Sappho to survive in its entirety. The original poem was written in Latin which was later translated by scholars like Edwin Arnold and William Harris.
“Hymn to Aphrodite” begins with the unidentified speaker calling on the immortal goddess Aphrodite, daughter of the mighty Zeus, to use her unique skills to ensnare a reluctant lover. She entreats the goddess not to ignore her pleadings and so breaks a heart that is already stricken with grief.
Sappho’s poem is filled with the speaker’s longing and desire for a loved one. The words used to describe her pain at her lover’s abandonment indicate the heights of obsession and impatience. This poem is made up of seven stanzas of four lines each. The first three lines of each stanza are much longer than the fourth.
Shimmering-throned immortal Aphrodite,
Daughter of Zeus, Enchantress, I implore thee,
Spare me, O queen, this agony and anguish,
Crush not my spirit
Come to me now, if ever thou in kindness
To my voice calling to thee in the distance,
Heeding, and coming from the mansions golden
Of thy great Father,
Yoking thy chariot, borne by the most lovely
Consecrated birds, with dusky-tinted pinions,
Waving swift wings from utmost heights of heaven
Down through the ether;
Swiftly they vanished, leaving thee, O goddess,
Smiling, with face immortal in its beauty,
Asking why I grieved, and why in utter longing
I had dared call thee;
Asking what I sought, thus hopeless in desiring,
Wildered in brain, and spreading nets of passion–
Alas, for whom? and saidst thou, ‘Who has harmed thee?
‘O my poor Sappho!
‘Though now he flies, ere long he shall pursue thee;
‘Fearing thy gifts, he too in turn shall bring them;
‘Loveless to-day, to-morrow he shall woo thee,
‘Though thou shouldst spurn him.’
Come then, I pray, grant me surcease from sorrow,
Drive away care, I beseech thee, O holy goddess!
Fulfil for me what I yearn to accomplish,
Be thou my ally.
Source: Hymn To Aphrodite
5. Gitanjali By Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian poet, musician, painter, educator, dramatist, novelist, short story writer, and social reformer. Tagore was truly a unique versatile genius the world has ever seen. This legendary writer and poetic philosopher won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, after which he became a literary sensation overnight. He was the first non-European to receive such an honor.
Tagore inspired a whole generation through his writings and has left a lasting literary legacy. Tagore’s Gitanjali (Song Offerings): An Anthology of Poems is a wonderful piece of poetry and a celebrated gift of labor to the whole of humanity. The profoundly sensitive, fresh, and beautiful verses of Gitanjali which are viewed as spiritual and mercurial in nature have been hailed by the literary geniuses of the world.
Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands, my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.
When thou commandest me to sing it seems that my heart would break with pride, and I look to thy face, and tears come to my eyes.
All that is harsh and dissonant in my life melts into one sweet harmony ⎯ and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird on its flight across the sea.
I know thou takest pleasure in my singing. I know that only as a singer I come before thy presence.
I touch by the edge of the far-spreading wing of my song thy feet which I could never aspire to reach.
Drunk with the joy of singing I forget myself and call thee friend who art my lord.
I Kow not how thou singest, my master! I ever listen in silent amazement.
The light of thy music illumines the world. The life-breath of thy music runs from sky to sky. The holy stream of thy music breaks through all stony obstacles and rushes on.
My heart longs to join in thy song but vainly struggles for a voice. I would speak, but speech breaks not into song, and I cry out baffled.
Ah, thou hast made my heart captive in the endless meshes of thy music, my master!
4. The Aeneid By Virgil [Publius Vergilius Maro] (70-15 B.C.)
The Aeneid, Book I, [Arms and the man I sing] is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who traveled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. The Aeneid is widely regarded as Virgil’s masterpiece and one of the greatest works of Latin literature.
Arms and the man I sing, who, forced by fate
And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate,
Expelled and exiled, left the Trojan shore.
Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore;
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latin realm and built the destined town,
His banished gods restored to rights divine,
And settled sure succession in his line;
From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long glories of majestic Rome.
O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate,—
What goddess was provok’d, and whence her hate;
For what offense the Queen of Heav’n began
To persecute so brave, so just a man;
Involv’d his anxious life in endless cares,
Expos’d to wants, and hurried into wars!
Can heav’nly minds such high resentment show,
Or exercise their spite in human woe?
Against the Tiber’s mouth, but far away,
An ancient town was seated on the sea,—
A Tyrian colony; the people made
Stout for the war, and studious of their trade:
Carthage the name; belov’d by Juno more
Than her own Argos, or the Samian shore.
Here stood her chariot; here, if Heav’n were kind,
The seat of awful empire she design’d.
Yet she had heard an ancient rumor fly,
(Long cited by the people of the sky,)
That times to come should see the Trojan race
Her Carthage ruin, and her tow’rs deface;
Nor thus confin’d, the yoke of sov’reign sway
Should on the necks of all the nations lay.
She ponder’d this, and fear’d it was in fate;
Nor could forget the war she wag’d of late
For conqu’ring Greece against the Trojan state.
Besides, long causes working in her mind,
And secret seeds of envy, lay behind;
Deep graven in her heart the doom remain’d
Of partial Paris, and her form disdain’d;
The grace bestow’d on ravish’d Ganymed,
Electra’s glories, and her injur’d bed.
Each was a cause alone; and all combin’d
To kindle vengeance in her haughty mind.
For this, far distant from the Latian coast
She drove the remnants of the Trojan host;
And sev’n long years th’ unhappy wand’ring train
Were toss’d by storms, and scatter’d thro’ the main.
Such time, such toil, requir’d the Roman name,
Such length of labor for so vast a frame.
Now scarce the Trojan fleet with sails and oars
Had left behind the fair Sicilian shores,
Entering with cheerful shouts the watery reign,
And plowing frothy furrows in the main,
When, laboring still, with endless discontent
The Queen of Heaven did thus her fury vent:—
“Then am I vanquished? must I yield?” said she,
“And must the Trojans reign in Italy?”
So Fate will have it, and Jove adds his force;
Nor can my power divert their happy course.
Could angry Pallas, with revengeful spleen,
The Grecian navy burn and drown the men?
She, for the fault of one offending foe,
The bolts of Jove himself presumed to throw;
With whirlwinds from beneath she tossed the ship
And bare exposed the bosom of the deep:
Then, as an eagle gripes the trembling game,
The wretch , yet hissing with her father’s flame,
She strongly seized, and with a burning wound,
Transfixed and naked, on a rock she bound.
But I, who walked in awful state above,
The majesty of heaven, the sister-wife of Jove,
For length of years my fruitless force employ
Against the thin remains of ruined Troy.
What nations now to Juno’s power will pray,
Or offerings on my slighted altars lay?
Most Famous And Memorable Poems of All Times
3. Ode To A Nightingale By John Keats (1795-1821)
John Keats was an English Romantic poet who rose to fame after his death and, by the end of the 19th century, became one of the best-loved English poets. His work was in publication only for four years before he died at the age of twenty-five. He is most renowned for the six great odes, written a couple of years before his death in 1819. A nightingale built its nest near Keats’ home in the spring of 1819 and inspired by its song, Keats wrote this famous ode in a single day.
This poem gives us an insight into his perception of creativity and composition. Some may argue over this poem as the finest work of Keats. Because ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ and ‘To Autumn’ are also considered as some of the most perfect poems in the English language.
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?
2. Holy Sonnet 10: Death, Be Not Proud By John Donne (1572-1631)
John Donne is an eminent figure in the world of poetry. His epic poem ‘Holy Sonnet 10’ often called ‘Death, Be Not Proud’, is truly a masterpiece. This poem is so great because of its universal application. That’s why this extremely famous poem has been read at countless funerals and public occasions. Death is a perennial subject of fear and despair. But, this sonnet seems to say that it need not be this way.
Fear of death is so natural an instinct and Death itself so all-encompassing and inescapable for people, that the spirit of this poem and applicability of it extends to almost any fear or weakness of character that one might have. Through this poem Donne leaves a powerful lesson to learn from: confront what you fear head-on and remember that there is nothing to fear on earth if you believe in a soul.
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
1. Sonnet 18, Shall I Compare Thee By William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest writer in the English language. Sonnet 18 is the most famous of the Shakespeare sonnets and it’s definitely one of the most beautiful poems of his poetry collection. This poem is strikingly and refreshingly bold, profound, and uplifting in every sense. In this poem Shakespeare uses such delicate images to convey this great sense of beauty, we are compelled to say it is truly one of the most beautiful.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
These are some of the best classical poetry for you to enjoy. However, we have tried our best to find and select the finest and most famous poetic works, it’s not an easy task to list all poems of those literary geniuses. We have shortlisted only small and medium-sized poems for this list. Hence some extraordinary poems like Homer’s Iliad, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and Lord Byron’s mock-epic Don Juan are intentionally left off here.
If you’re looking for more poems to fill your thirst for poetry or want a place to share your poetry you can visit The Poetry Foundation and Familyfriendpoems. What are your favorite poems? Please tell us in the comment box below. Also, don’t forget to share these poems with your friends and followers on social media.
“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.”
– Rita Dove