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writers english poems

The 32 Most Iconic Poems in the English Language

Plus some bonus poems, because we love you.

Today is the anniversary of the publication of Robert Frost’s iconic poem “ Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening ,” a fact that spurred the Literary Hub office into a long conversation about their favorite poems, the most iconic poems written in English, and which poems we should all have already read (or at least be reading next). Turns out, despite frequent (false) claims that poetry is dead and/or irrelevant and/or boring, there are plenty of poems that have sunk deep into our collective consciousness as cultural icons. (What makes a poem iconic? For our purposes here, it’s primarily a matter of cultural ubiquity, though unimpeachable excellence helps any case.) So for those of you who were not present for our epic office argument, I have listed some of them here.

NB that I limited myself to one poem per poet—which means that the impetus for this list actually gets bumped for the widely quoted (and misunderstood) “The Road Not Taken,” but so it goes. I also excluded book-length poems, because they’re really a different form. Finally, despite the headline, I’m sure there are many, many iconic poems out there that I’ve missed—so feel free to extend this list in the comments. But for now, happy reading (and re-reading):

William Carlos Williams, “ The Red Wheelbarrow ”

The most anthologized poem of the last 25 years  for a reason. See also: “ This is Just to Say ,” which, among other things, has spawned a host of memes and parodies .

T. S. Eliot, “ The Waste Land ”

Without a doubt one of the most important poems of the 20th century. “It has never lost its glamour,” Paul Muldoon observed . “It has never failed to be equal to both the fracture of its own era and what, alas, turned out to be the even greater fracture of the ongoing 20th century and now, it seems, the 21st century.” See also: “ The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock .”

Robert Frost, “ The Road Not Taken ”

Otherwise known as “ the most misread poem in America .” See also: “ Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening .” And “ Birches .” All begin in delight and end in wisdom, as Frost taught us great poems should.

Gwendolyn Brooks, “ We Real Cool ”

This blew my mind in high school, and I wasn’t the only one .

Elizabeth Bishop, “ One Art ”

Bishop’s much loved and much discussed ode to loss, which Claudia Roth Pierpont called “a triumph of control, understatement, wit. Even of self-mockery, in the poetically pushed rhyme word “vaster,” and the ladylike, pinkies-up “shan’t.” An exceedingly rare mention of her mother—as a woman who once owned a watch. A continent standing in for losses larger than itself.”

Emily Dickinson, “ Because I could not stop for Death – ”

The truth is, there are lots of equally iconic Dickinson poems , so consider this a stand-in for them all. Though, as Jay Parini has noted , this poem is perfect, “one of Dickinson’s most compressed and chilling attempts to come to terms with mortality.”

Langston Hughes, “ Harlem ”

One of the defining works of the Harlem Renaissance, by its greatest poet. It also, of course, gave inspiration and lent a title to another literary classic: Lorraine Hansberry’s  A Raisin in the Sun .

Sylvia Plath, “ Daddy ”

To be quite honest, my favorite Plath poem is “ The Applicant .” But “Daddy” is still the most iconic, especially if you’ve ever heard her read it aloud .

Robert Hayden, “ Middle Passage “

The most famous poem, and a terribly beautiful one, by our country’s first African-American Poet Laureate (though the position was then called Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress). See also: “ Those Winter Sundays , which despite what I wrote above may be equally as famous.”

Wallace Stevens, “ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird ”

This one takes the cake for the sheer number of “thirteen ways of looking at x” knockoffs that I’ve seen. But please see also: “ The Emperor of Ice-Cream .”

Allen Ginsberg, “ Howl “

With  On the Road , the most enduring piece of literature from the mythologized Beat Generation, and of the two, the better one. Even the least literate of your friends would probably recognize the line “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness . . .”

Maya Angelou, “ Still I Rise “

So iconic, it was a Google Doodle .

Dylan Thomas, “ Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night ”

I mean, have you seen Interstellar ? (Or  Dangerous Minds or  Independence Day ?)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “ Kubla Khan ”

Or Citizen Kane ? (See also: “ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner .”)

Percy Bysshe Shelley, “ Ozymandias “

. . . or  Breaking Bad ?

Edgar Allan Poe, “ The Raven ”

We had some votes for “ Annabel Lee ,” on account of its earworminess, but among the  many appearances  and references of Poe in pop culture, “The Raven” is certainly the most common.

Louise Glück, “ Mock Orange “

One of those poems passed hand to hand between undergraduates who will grow up to become writers.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, “ We Wear the Mask “

Dunbar’s most famous poem, and arguably his best, which biographer Paul Revell described as “a moving cry from the heart of suffering. The poem anticipates, and presents in terms of passionate personal regret, the psychological analysis of the fact of blackness in Frantz Fanon’s  Peau Noire, Masques Blancs,  with a penetrating insight into the reality of the black man’s plight in America.”

e.e. cummings, “ i carry your heart with me “

As quoted at many, many weddings.

Marianne Moore, “ Poetry “

All else aside, the fact that it starts with hating poetry has made it a favorite among schoolchildren of all ages. See also: “ The Fish .”

Rudyard Kipling, “ If “

According to someone in the Literary Hub office who would know, this poem is all over sports stadiums and locker rooms. Serena Williams is into it , which is proof enough for me.

Gertrude Stein, “ Sacred Emily “

Because a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

William Blake, “ The Tyger ”

Tyger, tyger, burning bright . . . Blake famously wrote music to go along with his poems—the originals have been lost, but this verse has been widely interpreted by musicians as well as repeated to many sleepy children.

Robert Burns, “ To a Mouse “

As (further) immortalized by John Steinbeck.

Walt Whitman, “ Song of Myself ”

The most famous poem from Whitman’s celebrated  Leaves of Grass , and selected by Jay Parini as  the best American poem of all time . “Whitman reinvents American poetry in this peerless self-performance,” Parini writes, “finding cadences that seem utterly his own yet somehow keyed to the energy and rhythms of a young nation waking to its own voice and vision. He calls to every poet after him, such as Ezra Pound, who notes in  “A Pact”  that Whitman “broke the new wood.””

Philip Larkin, “ This Be The Verse “

We know, we know, it’s all your parents’ fault.

William Shakespeare, “ Sonnet 18 ” (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”)

Like Dickinson, we could have put several of Shakespeare’s sonnets in this slot. Most people only recognize the first couplets anyway.

Audre Lorde, “ Power “

A uniquely American poem, written in 1978, that should be outdated by now, but still is not.

Frank O’Hara, “ Meditations in an Emergency “

Courtesy Don Draper, circa season 2.

John McCrae, “ In Flanders Fields “

Probably the most iconic—and most quoted—poem from WWI. Particularly popular in Canada, where McCrae is from.

Lewis Carroll, “ Jabberwocky “

Still the most iconic nonsense poem ever written.

W. B. Yeats, “ The Second Coming “

Otherwise known as “ the most thoroughly pillaged piece of literature in English .” Just ask our hero Joan Didion. Joan knows what’s up.

One more thing. The above list is too white and male and old, because our literary iconography is still too white and male and old. So, here are some other poems that we here at the Literary Hub office also consider iconic, though they are perhaps not as widely anthologized/quoted/referenced/used to amp up the corny drama in films as some of the above (yet).

Adrienne Rich, “ Diving into the Wreck ”

One of my very favorites from Rich’s rich (sorry) oeuvre. I read it in college and have been quoting it ever since.

Patricia Lockwood, “ Rape Joke “

The poem that officially broke the internet in 2013.

Lucille Clifton, “ Homage to My Hips “

She’s just . . . so . . . damn . . . sexy. See also: “ To a Dark Moses ” and “ won’t you celebrate with me ,” because Clifton is the greatest.

Lucie Brock-Broido, “ Am Moor “

This happens to be my own personal favorite Brock-Broido poem, though almost any would do here.

Sappho, “ The Anactoria Poem ” (tr. Jim Powell)

I’m breaking my rule about the poems being written in English to include Sappho, whose work is uniquely appealing for being almost lost to us. The Anactoria poem is her most famous, though I have to say I also have a major soft spot for this fragment, translated by Anne Carson:

Go                     [ so we may see [ ] lady

of gold arms     [ ] ] doom ]

And when I say “soft spot” I mean it sends me into ecstatic fits.

Kevin Young, “ Errata “

The greatest wedding poem that no one ever reads at their wedding.

Mark Leidner, “ Romantic Comedies “

For those who enjoy snorting their coffee while reading poetry.

Muriel Rukeyser, “ The Book of the Dead “

A long, legendary poem, written in 1938, about the illness of a group of miners in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. “Coming hot on the heels of modernist long poem masterpieces like Eliot’s “The Wasteland” or Stein’s “Tender Buttons,” the poem’s deliberate lucidity isn’t just an aesthetic choice—it’s a political one,” Colleen Abel wrote in  Ploughshares . “Rukeyser, from the beginning of “Book of the Dead,” seeks the reader’s participation in the journey to Gauley Bridge. The reader is implicated from the first section, “The Road,” in which Rukeyser calls outward to her audience: “These are roads you take when you think of your country.” The disaster Rukeyser is about to explore is a part of “our country” and the reader will have no choice but to confront it.”

Carolyn Forché, “ The Colonel “

What you have heard is true. This poem is unforgettable.

Rita Dove, “ After Reading Mickey in the Night Kitchen for the Third Time Before Bed “

Again, a thousand poems by Rita Dove would do; this is the one that sticks in my brain.

Nikki Giovanni, “ Ego Tripping “

I mean, “I am so hip even my errors are correct” should probably be your mantra. Watch Giovanni perform her poem here .

Terrance Hayes, “ The Golden Shovel “

Hayes’s homage to Gwendolyn Brooks is a masterpiece in its own right.

Emily Temple

Emily Temple

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The 36 Most Famous Poems Ever Written in the English Language

“To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” — Robert Graves

pen and poetry

The inauguration of President Joe Biden included a somewhat uncommon performance: a poetry reading. Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, became the youngest poet in recent memory to read at a presidential inauguration. 

Only four presidents have chosen to include poets in their inaugural ceremonies, making 22-year-old Gorman the sixth poet to perform at one . Her performance stole the show—and got us thinking about all the poetry that has defined our lives. Below, we’ve compiled a list of 38 famous poems in the English language. Read on and relive the words that moved us the most.

Related: 11 Poetry Books That Even Non-Poetry Readers Will Enjoy  

1. The Raven  

by Edgar Allen Poe

Deep into that darkness peering,

Long I stood there, wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals

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.

2. The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

3. Because I could not stop for Death  

by Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality. 

4. Sonnet 18

by William Shakespeare

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;

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st 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.

Related: 10 Words Shakespeare Invented That We Still Use Today   

5. Kubla Khan  

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

6. The Second Coming  

by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre 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.

7. The Lady of Shalott  

by Alffred, Lord Tennyson

Willows whiten, aspens shiver.

The sunbeam showers break and quiver

In the stream that runneth ever

By the island in the river

Flowing down to Camelot.

Four gray walls, and four gray towers

Overlook a space of flowers,

And the silent isle imbowers

The Lady of Shalott.

8. She Walks in Beauty  

by Lord Byron

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.

Related: 20 Best Love Poems of All Time   

9. O Captain! My Captain!  

by Walt Whitman

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

10. I Have a Rendezvous With Death  

by Alan Seeger

I have a rendezvous with Death

At some disputed barricade

When Spring comes back with rustling shade

And apple blossoms fill the air.

When Spring brings back blue days and fair

11. I'm nobody! Who are you?

I'm nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!

They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!

12. Ode to a Nightingale  

by John Keats

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,

Clustered 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

13. The Waste Land  

by T.S. Eliot

 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.

14. Paul Revere's Ride  

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

But mostly he watched with eager search

The belfry tower of the Old North Church,

As it rose above the graves on the hill,

Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.

And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height

A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!

He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,

But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight

A second lamp in the belfry burns.  

15. The Red Wheelbarrow

by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

16. Fire and Ice

by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

17. Ozymandias  

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

“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.

Related: How Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Came to Life  

by Rudyard Kipling

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 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!

19. We Wear the Mask  

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

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20. Still I Rise  

by Maya Angelou

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard

’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Related: Must-Read Books by Black Authors  

21. Jabberwocky  

by Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

     Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

     And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

     The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

     The frumious Bandersnatch!” 

22. Unnamed

by Rupi Kaur

on the sacrifices

of a million women before me

what can i do

to make this mountain taller

so the women after me

can see farther

Related: 8 Stunning Poetry Collection Books Like Milk and Honey  

23. How Do I Love Thee?  

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

24. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds  

by Kristina Louisa Carr

A kaleidoscopic mirage is born from the light

While words spoken in whispers calmly excite

Snowflakes of feathers are refreshing in July

A dragon is crowned visiting from Shanghai

Strawberries become mountains to explore

A room without doors I'm trying to ignore

From the corner the North Wind is blowing

Green marbles in a vase are brightly glowing

25. A Lesson for This Sunday  

by Derek Walcott

The mind swings inward on itself in fear

Swayed towards nausea from each normal sign.

Heredity of cruelty everywhere,

And everywhere the frocks of summer torn,

The long look back to see where choice is born,

As summer grass sways to the scythe's design. 

26. Once Upon a Time  

by Gabriel Okara

And I have learned too

to laugh with only my teeth

and shake hands without my heart.

I have also learned to say,’Goodbye’,

when I mean ‘Good-riddance’:

to say ‘Glad to meet you’,

without being glad; and to say ‘It’s been

nice talking to you’, after being bored.

27. Who Said It Was Simple

by Audre Lord

There are so many roots to the tree of anger   

that sometimes the branches shatter   

before they bear.

Sitting in Nedicks

the women rally before they march   

discussing the problematic girls   

they hire to make them free.

An almost white counterman passes   

a waiting brother to serve them first   

and the ladies neither notice nor reject   

the slighter pleasures of their slavery.   

But I who am bound by my mirror   

as well as my bed

see causes in colour

as well as sex

and sit here wondering   

which me will survive   

all these liberations.

Related: 10 Unapologetic Books About Race in America  

28. Where the Sidewalk Ends  

by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends

And before the street begins,

And there the grass grows soft and white,

And there the sun burns crimson bright,

And there the moon-bird rests from his flight

To cool in the peppermint wind.

Related: Hello, Old Friends: 17 Classic Children's Books  

29. Anecdote of the Jar

by Wallace Stevens

I placed a jar in Tennessee,   

And round it was, upon a hill.   

It made the slovenly wilderness   

Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.   

The jar was round upon the ground   

And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.   

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,   

Like nothing else in Tennessee.

30. The Return 

by Ezra Pound

See, they return; ah, see the tentative

Movements, and the slow feet,          

The trouble in the pace and the uncertain      


See, they return, one, and by one,     

With fear, as half-awakened; 

As if the snow should hesitate           

And murmur in the wind,      

  and half turn back;     

These were the "Wing'd-with-Awe,"         


Gods of the wingèd shoe!      

With them the silver hounds, 

  sniffing the trace of air!         

Haie! Haie!   

  These were the swift to harry;        

These the keen-scented;         

These were the souls of blood.          

Slow on the leash,      

  pallid the leash-men!

31. My Shadow  

by Robert Louis Stevenson

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

32. No Man Is an Island

by John Donne

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

33. Theme for English B

by Langston Hughes

It's not easy to know what is true for you or me

at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what

I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:

hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.

(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?

34. Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802  

by William Wordsworth

This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,

Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie

Open unto the fields, and to the sky;

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep

In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

35. The People Upstairs

by Ogden Nash

The people upstairs all practise ballet

Their living room is a bowling alley

Their bedroom is full of conducted tours.

Their radio is louder than yours,

They celebrate week-ends all the week.

When they take a shower, your ceilings leak.

They try to get their parties to mix

By supplying their guests with Pogo sticks,

And when their fun at last abates,

They go to the bathroom on roller skates.

I might love the people upstairs more

If only they lived on another floor. 

36. The Fish

by Marianne Moore

wade through black jade.        Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps        adjusting the ash-heaps;               opening and shutting itself like

an injured fan.        The barnacles which encrust the side        of the wave, cannot hide               there for the submerged shafts of the

sun, split like spun        glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness        into the crevices—               in and out, illuminating

the turquoise sea        of bodies. The water drives a wedge        of iron through the iron edge               of the cliff; whereupon the stars,

pink rice-grains, ink-        bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green        lilies, and submarine               toadstools, slide each on the other.

Related: Our Favorite Short Nature Quotes from Books  

Featured photo: Álvaro Serrano / Unsplash

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Top 10 all time favourite english poets, observed every year on march 21, the world poetry day celebrates the emotional flow of words, rhyme, and rhythm of poets all across the world. from shakespeare, rudyard kipling to robert frost and sylvia plath, the list is endless..

India Today Web Desk

By India Today Web Desk : ''Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words'' - Robert Frost

Observed every year on March 21, the World Poetry Day celebrates the emotional flow of words, rhyme, and rhythm of poets all across the world; it celebrates poetry, a fine representation of one's cultural and linguistic expression. Right from childhood, our English classes have been incomplete without various beautiful poems, which also motivated us to write few of our own. From Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling to Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath, the list is endless.

Check out the list of top famous English poets of all time.

1. W.B Yeats

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English History

Famous Poets from England and Around the World

These great poets are forever immortal in their works. Their thoughts and dreams and fears are forever impressed upon those who care to read their works.

In fact many famous poets have helped to shape the form of modern thought and have had huge cultural contributions not only in their life times but in today's society too.

Famous English Poets

William Shakespeare : was born in 1564. He was The Bard of Avon and at the same time a highly revered poet and playwright. In fact, he is considered to be the greatest English writer in the field of drama and literature. England hails him as its national poet, and the world is grateful for his literary contributions.

William Blake : More than just a poet, William Blake was also recognized as a painter as well as a mystic. He claimed that he was influenced by divine forces. Such radical views caused damage to his reputation at the time but after his death his talent become known far and wide. Perhaps his most famous prose was The Tiger.

Rudyard Kipling : born in 1865 and died in 1936. His father taught arts and crafts at a school of art in Bombay, India. At the time India was of course ruled by the British. "Ruddy" as he was often affectionately referred to, was actually brought up by a local woman in the service of his parents (called an ayah) and his first language was therefore Hindustani. Kipling received the Nobel Prize in 1907.

William Wordsworth : Known for immortal works such as "Lucy Gray", "Lyrical Ballads" and "Yarrow River". He is one of the most noted poet during the Romantic Age. And most known for breathing life into fictitious character such as "Lucy Gray" to aid him in his loneliness. The Bronte Sisters : the three Bronte sisters ( Anne , Charlotte and Emily ) from Haworth in Yorkshire are well known Victorian poets and novelists, like many contemporary female writers, they originally published their poems and novels under male pseudonyms. In recent years their works have been adapted into famous movies and television shows and they are considered some of the greatest writers of all time.

Other Famous Poets

This website is dedicated to the history of England but there were also many poets who were born and lived outside of England, e.g. in India, Ireland and the United States, who had a significant influence on poetry in the English speaking world.

William Butler Yeats: was born in the Irish city of Dublin during 1865 and died in 1939. He came from an Irish Protestant family. His early years were spend in London and later he also spent much time in Slingo, one of the most beautiful counties on the Irish West Coast. This area made an indelible impression on him and was later depicted in a number of his poems. He won the Nobel Price for Literature in 1923. A few of his works that will never be forgotten by lovers of poetry include "Brown Penny", "He wishes for the cloths of Heaven", "The Second Coming" and "September 1913".

Rabindranath Tagore: must be the greatest writer modern India has so far produced. He was a Bengali poet and novelist who won the Nobel Prize in 1913. He was also awarded a British knighthood in 1915, but during 1919 he surrendered this again as a form of protest against the massacre that took place at Amritsar where British troops killed more than 400 Indian protestors who held a demonstration against colonial rule.

Edgar Allan Poe: was born on January nineteenth in 1809 in Boston Massachusetts. He was a poet as well as a writer, editor, and literary critic. At a very young age, he became an orphan. When he grew older, he attended the University of Virginia, but did not finish due to financial issues. His work mainly focused on macabre and mystery as subjects and themes. He wrote short stories that were fictional and early in his career, he went by an anonymous name called the Bostonian. Of his collection of poems, The Raven is his most famous and recognized work.

Walter Whitman: was born May thirty first in 1819 in Long Island. He wrote essays, books, and journals in addition to poetry. He also worked as a government clerk, teacher, and volunteer nurse for the American army during the Civil War. He was known for the unusual symbolism in his poetry and also for being controversial since some of his poems dealt with sexuality.

Emily Dickinson: was born December 10th in 1830 in Amherst Massachusetts. Her poems had many subjects, such as immorality and death. She wrote almost eighteen hundred poems but in her lifetime, less than twelve were ever published. The rest were published after her death when her sister discovered them.

Robert Frost: was born on March twenty sixth in 1874 in San Francisco California. His work involved realistic accounts of rural life. Before becoming a poet, he attended Harvard and worked as a farmer and an English teacher. The first poem he got published was called My Butterfly: An Elegy. In his lifetime, he received four Pulitzer Prizes for his poetic works.

Oscar Wilde: was born in 1854 in Ireland. He was a celebrity in London during the Victorian era and considered to be one of the literary geniuses of his time. His sharp wit was made known in his works that included poems such as The Sphinx and The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

Robert Southey: A Rebellious and Influential Poet

Robert Southey was born in 1774, the son of a wealthy wine merchant. He was expelled from Westminster School for editing a magazine entitled the Flagellant and then went on to study at Balliol College, Oxford. There he became friendly with S.T. Coleridge; together they established their Pantisocratic Society, which preached Utopian ideals of social […]

Poet Laureate

A poet laureate is a poet appointed by a government or monarch to receive formal recognition for their work. The position can be traced back to Ancient Greece, and the first English poet laureate was appointed in 1668. Over the years, the role of poet laureate has evolved, and today it often includes other responsibilities […]


Romanticism is a complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Western Europe, and gained strength during the Industrial Revolution. It was partly a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature, and […]

Charlotte Brontë

Born: April 21, 1816, Thornton, England Died: March 31, 1855 (aged 38), Haworth, England Years Active: 1845—1855 Notable Works: Jane Eyre (1847), Shirley (1849), Villette (1853), The Professor (1857) Charlotte Brontë (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855) is one of the most famous Victorian women writers and poets. She was the eldest of the […]

Emily Brontë

Born: July 30, 1818, Thornton, England Died: December 19, 1848 (aged 30), Haworth, England Years Active: 1845—1848 Notable Works: Wuthering Heights (1847) Emily Jane Brontë (30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet and one of the most famous women writers from the 19th century. She is best known for […]

Anne Brontë

Born: January 17, 1820, Thornton, England Died: May 28, 1849 (aged 29), Scarborough, England Years Active: 1836—1849 Notable Works: Agnes Grey (1847), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) Anne Brontë (17 January 1820 – 28 May 1849) was an English novelist and poet, best known for her two novels Agnes Grey and The Tenant of […]

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340s – 25 October 1400) was an English author and poet, most known for his The Canterbury Tales. He is widely considered one of the greatest English poets of the Middle Ages and has been called the “father of English literature”. Chaucer had a career in the civil service as a bureaucrat, courtier, […]

John Dryden

Born: August 19, 1631, Northamptonshire, England Died: May 12, 1700 (aged 68), London, England Notable Works: “Absalom and Achitophel”, “Marriage à-la-Mode”, “Mac Flecknoe”, “The Indian Queen”, “The Conquest of Granada of the Spaniards”, “King Arthur”, “Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen”, “Annus Mirabilis”, “The Hind and the Panther”, “Of Dramatic Poesie, an Essay” John Dryden […]

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Born: August 14, 1792, Sussex, England Died: July 8, 1822 (aged 29), Gulf of La Spezia, Kingdom of Sardinia (now Italy) Notable Works: “Ode to the West Wind, “Ozymandias”, “Music, To a Skylark”, “The Cloud”, “The Mask of Anarchy”, “When Soft Voices Die” Percy Bysshe Shelley (4 August 1792 — 8 July 1822) was a […]

Born: c. June 11, 1572, Westminster, England Died: c. August 16, 1637 (aged 65), London, England Notable Works: Every Man in His Humour, Volpone, or The Fox, The Alchemist, Bartholomew Fair (Benjamin) Ben Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 — c. 16 August 1637) was an English playwright and poet, best known for his satirical plays […]

writers english poems

The Best English Poets of All Time

Ranker Books

Who is the best English poet? From the Renaissance, to the Jacobean era, to the Restoration, to the modern day, great English poets have been making readers think across the ages. If you love to debate, "Who is the best poet in English literature?" then this is the list for you. 

Written works have the ability to make us feel. They make us want to believe, be inspired, and live vicariously through the stories we read on the page. This list of English poets and their works demonstrate this particular skill. It all begins with the words written on the page. Whether short or long form, poetry is often illusory, and full of rich imagery or hidden meaning. It is these elements which provoke readers to dig deeper and make poetry so engaging and moving.

The best of poems and poets are read throughout the ages. They are read from generation to generation and taught throughout school to young students. Poets and their poetry have the ability to take us places and into the lives of those we’ve never imagined. Poets are often tortured souls or great thinkers who show readers a new view of the world they never would have imagined.  This list includes the great English poets, such as Rudyard Kipling, John Keats, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William Shakespeare. 

These greatest English poets provide the kind of emotional connection to the written word that few can. So, who are the best of the famous English poets? Vote up the absolute best English poets on the list below, or add a famous poet from England who is truly great, but isn't already on the list.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

John Keats

John Milton

John Milton

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley

William Blake

William Blake

writers english poems

Interesting Literature

Five of the best poems about writing poetry.

The best poems about the act of writing, selected by Dr Oliver Tearle

Writing poetry can be intensely rewarding, but unfortunately, the words don’t always come. And at some point or another, most poets have found themselves in the grip of writer’s block (something we’ve termed colygraphia , because let’s face it, it’s never going to be taken seriously until it has a Greek name). The following five poems are all about the struggle to write a poem; they are among the best poems about the actual act of writing poetry.

1. Sir Philip Sidney, ‘ Loving in Truth ’.

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show, That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,— Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know, Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,— I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe; Studying inventions fine her wits to entertain, Oft turning others’ leaves, to see if thence would flow Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburn’d brain …

This poem, which opens Sidney’s 1580s sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella – the first substantial sonnet sequence written in English – sets up the cycle of poems which follows. We find Sidney seated at his desk, chewing his quill, trying to find the right words to convey the pain of unrequited love he is feeling (the love which the sequence as a whole wonderfully chronicles).

Sidney says that he made the mistake of studying other writers’ words and trying to emulate them in order ‘to paint the blackest face of woe’. Sidney then creates a somewhat unusual ‘family’ whereby Invention (i.e. the poet’s creativity) is the child of Nature (Mother Nature, of course), but Invention is being governed here not by his natural mother, Nature, but by his stepmother or ‘step-dame’, Study.

The conclusion he comes to is breathtakingly simple and has resonated with writers throughout the ages.

2. Ted Hughes, ‘ The Thought-Fox ’.

Seamus Heaney 2

Curiously, the poem had its origins in one of the most significant events of Hughes’s young life. While he was studying English at the University of Cambridge, Hughes found that studying poetry was having a deleterious effect on his own poetry: he was writing virtually no new poetry, because he felt suffocated by the ‘terrible, suffocating, maternal octopus’ of literary tradition.

But it was another animal, the fox, that made up Hughes’s mind for him. While trying to work on a literary-critical essay for his degree, Hughes retired to bed at 2am, having been unable to write the essay. That night, he had a dream that a large fox walked into his room, its eyes filled with pain. It came up to his desk, laid a bleeding hand on the blank page where Hughes had tried and failed to write his essay, and said: ‘Stop this – you are destroying us.’

Hughes, who had a lifelong interest in portents, took this as a sign. In his third year, he transferred from English to anthropology and archaeology – and his poetry-writing took off again. This story probably provided Hughes with the genesis for ‘The Thought-Fox’ – a poem in which Hughes struggles, not to write an analysis of a poem, but the poem itself.

As we’ve discussed elsewhere , the poem’s opening line may be a subtle nod to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s ‘The Windhover’ .

3.  Carol Ann Duffy, ‘ The Love Poem ’.

This poem appeared in Duffy’s 2005 volume Rapture , and is a poem about the difficulty of writing a love poem. Duffy explores this difficulty – the notion that ‘everything has already been said by everybody else’ – by quoting snippets from famous love poems from ages past, such as those by John Donne , William Shakespeare , and Elizabeth Barrett Browning .

‘The Love Poem’ shows that Duffy is aware of the rich tradition of love-poem sequences in English literature: it is a poem that feels the weight of these former masters – Shakespeare, Sidney, Donne, Shelley, Barrett Browning – and finds it difficult to write a love poem that won’t sound like a bad pastiche or copy of these literary greats. ‘I love you’, as Jacques Derrida was fond of pointing out, is always a quotation.

We have analysed this poem here .

4. Jane Kenyon, ‘ Not Writing ’.

Jane Kenyon (1947-95) was an American poet whose work evinces a spare, pared back style. This sparse style works particularly well in ‘Not Writing’, Kenyon’s short poem about writer’s block. We love the way ‘papery nest’ makes us want to read ‘eaves’ as ‘leaves’ in this delicate, finely worded poem.

5. Oliver Tearle, ‘ Underpass ’.

Metromania’s religion: here you set your epic’s opening, journeyman’s false start.

Now put the lines down, see just what you get: chthonic forms the dead will come to write, frustrated shadows of the never-yet.

This poem, from our founder-editor Dr Oliver Tearle, a poet and literary critic, acknowledges that all poetry-writing is about standing on the shoulders of giants.

The ‘chthonic forms’ of the dead helped Odysseus the ‘journeyman’ just as the ghosts of dead writers help the contemporary poet to express what he or she wishes to say. This densely layered and allusive poem carries notes with it (in the link provided above), acknowledging the difficulty of writing in the shadow of so many great poets.

That concludes our pick of five great poems about writing, or not writing – poems about writer’s block, struggling to sit down and write a poem. Are there any classics we’ve missed off our list?

writers english poems

Image: Seamus Heaney in the studio with his portrait by Colin Davidson. Painted in 2013. Via Frankenthalerj  on Wikimedia Commons .

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writers english poems

writers english poems

Gary Snyder’s “Axe Handles.”

writers english poems

Check out the Yeats poem I posted for February. Definitely a love poem for writers.

writers english poems

(Shakespeare) Sonnet 77…

Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear, Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste; These vacant leaves thy mind’s imprint will bear, And of this book, this learning mayst thou taste. The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show Of mouthed graves will give thee memory; Thou by thy dial’s shady stealth mayst know Time’s thievish progress to eternity. Look what thy memory cannot contain, Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find Those children nursed, deliver’d from thy brain, To take a new acquaintance of thy mind. These offices, so oft as thou wilt look, Shall profit thee and much enrich thy book.

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Top best poems of all time

10 Best Poems of All Time in the English Language

By bizhan romani.

Poetry is such a vibrant genre. One that’s capable of expressing multiple figures of speech, evoking diverse emotions, and constantly pushing the barriers of impact and awareness. Poetry can be meaningful, rhythmic and it has a certain beauty to it.

In the words of Victorian Poet, Matthew Arnold, ‘The Crown of Literature is indeed poetry’. The implication of this statement posits that poetry is a royal institution that must be protected, preserved, and generational. However, if history is any indication, it’s apparent that poetry hasn’t always been treated like the Crown of Literature.

In the past, poetry was infused into speech, books, and way of life. At this time, there was a clear-cut structure that laid the foundation of poetry and indeed it was prioritized. In medieval times, Kings and Queens were appraised through the colloquial of poetry. Basking and relishing in the intricately woven yarns of adoration weft into lines and stanzas of diverse poems. Lovers were seen expressing their deepest emotions via this verbal art. It was such a time to be alive.

In this era, it’s safe to say that the crown has been left unprotected for way too long. Although still inspirational and impactful, it’s apparent that the development of modern poetry had somewhat diffused the antiquated elegance of the genre.

While it is used to reflect multiple events, emotions, and constructs, the use of modern-day poetry leans towards impacting social justice and highlighting political flaws in diverse world countries. Thus, the genre has taken on a new narrative, one fueled by change and resilience. This is commendable and so many poets bear the accolades for this movement. Knowledge, they say, is power and in an attempt to uplift and preserve the Crown, this piece is highlighting a handful of the best poems of all time.

What Is Great Poetry? 

‘Come, read to me some poem, Some simple and heartfelt lay, That shall soothe this restless feeling, And banish the thoughts of the day’  – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The meaning or representation of great poetry will be reflected in the following poems but first, there are certain qualities that these poems have in common. For poetry to be deemed as ‘great’ or ‘the best’ these qualities are non-negotiable for the poet;

Awareness:   The poet must possess an acute awareness of experience. For this to be true, he/she must be mentally stimulated or conscious whilst paying grave attention to diverse experiences as well as their emotional impacts. In essence, the poet needs to be properly conscious, smart, and aware as no dullard ever wrote great poetry in the history of poetry.

Intangible Imagination:  The poet must have an imagination so fanciful and creative that it incites multiple relationships between experiences. These relationships are brand new and unique but their reality had never been mentally conceived by anyone else. In other words, the poet must be able to create new metaphors and meanings as it is believed that a poem without fresh metaphors isn’t a good one and one without any metaphors at all shouldn’t be called poetry, regardless of its elements, meaning, form, devices , or emotional impact.

Application:  The poet must be able to apply those metaphors into words, thereby amplifying the impact of the scenario which evokes the precise emotional impact that’s intended by the poet, in the reader. This is done by choosing and applying the words, exploring sounds, and the use of rhythms as intentionally as songwriters of great song lyrics do when they’re strategically analyzing the emotional implication of every word, sentence, sound, rhythm, pause, and the unified arrangement of it.

As much as the greatness of a poem isn’t dependent on the reader or audience as in the case of spoken word, a great poem can only be appreciated by people who understand it. This being said, it’s worthy to note that the poets who authored these poems might be reflected as the best poets of all time in the English language.

However, the selection of these poems is purely subjective. It’s a matter of preference and taste as there’s neither a metric of measurement nor criteria that determine which poem deserves to make this list. In essence, if you feel a particular poem was excluded from or should be stripped from this list, you are entitled to create your list depending on how you see fit.

Then read from the treasured volume

    The poem of thy choice,

And lend to the rhyme of the poet

    The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,

    And the cares, that infest the day,

Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,

    And as silently steal away.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow-

In no particular order, here are the 10 best poems of all time in the English Language

1. A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

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.  

Longfellow was such a celebrated poet whose poems depicted his brilliance. His poem, ‘A Psalm of Life’ is nine stanzas long and each stanza seems to highlight a different train of thought.

However, in conclusion, the poem glorifies life, its purpose, all it is, and all it can be. The poem is a kind of invocation to mankind, inspiring them to remain on the path of righteousness as it is the right way to live life.

2. Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

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.”

The greatest kings and rulers like Napoleon, Julius Caesar, and even Charlemagne all have a common character, their inability to outlive the empires they created.

Shelley ’s Ozymandias is a classic morality tale, one taken from the perspective of a traveler who only saw the remains of the great Ozymandias, ruler of Ancient Egypt in its depleting statues. This ruler was fierce and feared in every sense of the words, but like all things, his reign was outlived by those who came after him.

This poem reminds the reader of the inescapable and destructive forces of time, history, and nature, which all living things are susceptible to. The poem also depicts that reign, success, power, tenure, money, health, and prosperity are not eternal as they can only last so long before being swept into the ‘lone and level sands.’

3. Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats (1795-1821)

Here’s a snippet of the poem

“Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape

Of deities or mortals, or of both,

In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?”

John Keat ’s ‘Ode on a Grecian urn’ is somewhat remedial to Shelly’s ‘Ozymandias’. The poem depicts the art on Grecian urn as timeless and indestructible as it had survived for thousands of years while witnessing the birth and demise of great empires, men of valor and power, trees, priests, and all that have life.

Year after year, decade by decade, century after century, while the world rose and tumbled, the art depicted on this Grecian urn seemed invulnerable, living on for what seemed like an eternity.

In essence, the poem is about the timelessness of art alongside its use as a medium of escape from ignorance, human nature, and certain death as it allows one to approach another life form and explore truths through its beauty.

4. Invictus by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeoning 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.

Invictus which the Latin translation for Unconquerable is a poem that is quite the inspirational piece. The poet, William Ernest Henley wrote this poem while being hospitalized for a recurring health condition and the poem is a clarion call for perseverance through turmoil and hardship.

The poem is scripted to uplift the human spirit to fight through any circumstance. ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’, hence, take charge of your life and fight those fears head-on. Invictus might just be the poem you need when going through a hard time.

5. Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, 

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon my self and curse my fate, 

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, 

Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope, 

With what I most enjoy contented least, 

Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

(Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate, 

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

This list would be incomplete without one of the best playwrights, writers, and poets of all times, William Shakespeare . This poem depicts how love can positively affect one’s psyche as it offers reparations or compensation for losses and setbacks.

The poem posits that the company of a loved one outweighs material things like fame and wealth. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 deviates from the usual narrative of physical beauty and erotic desire which the writer usually enunciates in his works and focuses on how the abstract construct of love can offer succour for material losses.

6. Harlem by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore- 

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over-

Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

Like a heavy load

Or does it explode?

Harlem by Langston Hughes is a poem that explains the possibilities of dreams that are put on hold. This poem reflected the post-world war II mood of African-Americans. As the Great Depression and the war was over, for African- Americas, the dreams and everything it took was still being deferred.

This poem was initially created to highlight the systemic disparity, institutional racism, and segregation against blacks that prevents them from achieving their dreams, however, it is still applicable to the dreams of others.

7. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost(1874-1963)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And 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.

  The Road Not Taken is a poem by Robert Frost that highlights the ambiguity of life’s choices as it highlights the times when a decision is needed. The poem’s ambiguity stems from the measure of determinism versus free will as it’s all about the possibilities enjoyed or forfeited when a decision or a road is plowed at the expense of the other.

The question of how to make a difference in the world is also depicted in this poem and The Road Not Taken is known as the most misread poem in America.

8. Opportunity by John James Ingalls (1833-1900)

Master of human destinies am I;

Fame, love, and fortune on my footsteps wait.

Cities and fields I walk. I penetrate

Deserts and seas remote, and, passing by

Hovel and mart and palace, soon or late,

I knock unbidden once at every gate.

If sleeping, wake; if feasting, rise, before

I turn away. It is the hour of fate,

And they who follow me reach every state

Mortals desire, and conquer every foe

Save death; but those who hesitate

Condemned to failure, penury, and woe,

Seek me in vain, and uselessly implore.

I answer not, and I return no more. 

John James Ingalls , a U.S Senator in the 19th century, penned down this ode to the simple but profound principle that ‘opportunity knocks but once.’

The poem depicts the fleeting nature of opportunities and how one must prepare to receive those opportunities once they do come knocking, as there might not be a second chance.

9. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

Still, I Rise is a poem by Maya Angelou about the strengths, valor, and resilience of a black woman or the oppressed. It is a poem about overcoming prejudicial systems and injustice. When it’s recited by victims it forms an anthem of hope for the oppressed.

This poem depicts the unrelenting strengths of the inflicted, rising every time amidst being cast down, beat up, and broken. It’s a highly celebrated poem in the African-American community.

10. No Man Is An Island by John Donne (1572-1631)

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

This poem spells out the connection humanity should have. It also highlights the dependency of mankind as no one is wholly self-sufficient. The poet, John Donne who was Christian depicted this link mankind has, but the intent of the poem is being preached in diverse religions which just proves that no single person has all the answers, hence, no man is an island.

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Wrapping It Up

Poetry is a verbal expression of art, one which enlightens while evoking awareness, consciousness, and emotion. Dating back to prehistoric times, poetry has been utilized by kings, pharaohs, leaders, and even presidents. Hence it is the crown of literature.

Being of the royal order, certain poems constitute the pride of poetry and this piece has highlighted ten of those poems in no particular order. These poems had been written by great writers and poets and what influences their greatness is their timelessness. This is because they are still applicable in the 21st century and like the Grecian Urn, they’re likely to remain indestructible for generations to come.

Also read “ Top 10 best novelists of all time ”

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5 thoughts on “10 Best Poems of All Time in the English Language”

The poem of thy choice,

The beauty of thy voice.

And the cares, that infest the day,

And as silently steal away.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow- Classic and beautiful! This is my favorite.

Indeed it’s a beautiful piece. Thanks for your feedback.

Was Shakespeare a writer, or a poet?

Being a writer and a poet are not mutually exclusive. Shakespeare was a writer, a poet, and a playwright. He is widely considered to be the world’s greatest playwright and one of its finest poets.

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18 Famous Poets and Their Most Influential Poems

Poetry has changed continuously throughout the centuries. But these famous poets have stood the test of time with their distinct styles and contribution to poetry. Who are they? In this article, we’ll go over the most well-known poets and their popular poetry. 

Table of Contents

1. William Shakespeare

painting of William Shakespeare

Born in 1564, William Shakespeare is one of the greatest poets in English literature. His plays have been staged and adapted countless times over the centuries and across the globe. 

Although better known as a playwright, Shakespeare pioneered the sonnet form in English. 

This accomplishment alone sets him among the best poets in the world. Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets include:

With over a hundred poems to his name, Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the world’s most celebrated writers as well. 

2. Maya Angelou

photo of female poet Maya Angelou

Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, this poet and activist worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She worked an impressive array of jobs, from streetcar operator to sex worker to journalist. 

She wrote numerous poems, several autobiographies, and news reports. Angelou was a recipient of the  Presidential Medal of Freedom  (2010) and a  Pulitzer Prize nominee  (1972). Her best-known poems are “Caged Bird” and “Still I Rise.” 

Angelou remained active until she died in 2014, arguably making her one of the best female poets of the 21st century as well as the 20th.

3. Robert Frost

photo of poet Robert Frost reading.

Born in 1874, this quintessential American poet filled his verse with scenes of New England life. 

During Frost’s long life, poetry underwent many radical changes in form, but Frost’s style remained consistent and uniquely his.

In fact, Frost had a long, prolific career and won four Pulitzer Prizes, securing his place among the best poets of the 20th century. He was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in 1962 and delivered a poem at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. He died in 1963. 

His “The Road Not Taken” is one of the best-known American poems of the 20th century.

4. Emily Dickinson

picture of female poet Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson is not only one of the most famous female poets, but she is also among the  best American authors . 

After school, Dickinson remained in her parent’s household her entire life. She was not precisely the recluse she’s often depicted as, but she never married, traveled, or worked outside the home. 

She wrote almost 1800 poems, stitched into packets, discovered, and published only after she died in 1886. Her spare, elliptical style is unmistakable in the classic “ Because I could not stop for Death. “

5. William Butler Yeats

photo of William Butler Yeats

Born in 1865, W.B. Yeats was a poet, playwright, and later senator of the Irish Free State. Though he was born into a prosperous Anglo-Irish Protestant family, Yeats’ nationalism shows in his fusion of mysticism and Irish folklore. 

He was also deeply involved in Irish politics around the period of the Irish uprising against British rule in 1916. Many of his compatriots were imprisoned or executed for their activity. 

Yeats won the  Nobel Prize in Literature  in 1923. His best-known poems include:

6. John Keats

painting of John Keats

This English Romantic poet was only 25 when he died of tuberculosis, but he left an impressive body of work behind. 

Keats was born in 1795 into a family of modest means and trained to be a physician. However, he gave up medicine to devote himself to poetry. He was not financially successful, but many consider him to be one of the best poets of the 19th century. 

He died in 1821 in Italy, where he had hoped the drier air would alleviate his tuberculosis. His best-known poems are “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “To Autumn.”

7. Sylvia Plath

photo of Sylvia Plath

Born in Boston in 1932, this American poet of the Confessional school showed early promise as a student at Smith College. 

After winning a Fulbright fellowship to study in England, Plath met and married fellow poet Ted Hughes. Her marriage was tumultuous, and she struggled with mental illness for many years. 

Her novel “ The Bell Jar”  recounts these struggles in a semi-autobiographical fashion. In 1963,  unfortunately, she took her own life. 

Her best-known poem, which seems to foreshadow her death, is “Lady Lazarus.” In 1982, she was posthumously awarded  the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry .

8. William Wordsworth

painting of William Wordsworth

This English poet, born in 1770, was one of the earliest leaders of the Romantic movement. 

Wordsworth’s poetry expresses a deep appreciation of nature and people’s ordinary lives. He was also an ardent supporter of the French Revolution in his youth and traveled to France to witness it firsthand. 

He returned to England and continued with his poetry and activism on behalf of the common people. However, he adopted more conservative views as he aged and settled in the Lake District in northern England. 

He spent his later years there, immersing himself in the dramatic landscapes of his home. He was appointed  poet laureate of England  in 1843, a position he held until his death in 1850. 

Two of Wordsmoth’s most famous poems are “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” and “The World Is Too Much with Us.”

9. Walt Whitman

picture of Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, born in 1819, is a towering figure in the American literary landscape. His poetry celebrates the self, the soul, and the fellowship of all people in expansive, unconventional verse. 

A printer by trade, Whitman also worked as a journalist, publisher, and even a carpenter before becoming an established poet. His life was as unconventional as his verse. Many of his works came under criticism for indecency or immorality. 

“Song of Myself” and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed” are his two most celebrated poems. The latter is a quiet, somber tribute to Abraham Lincoln, written shortly after his assassination.

10. Edgar Allan Poe

picture of Edgar Allan Poe, a well-known poet.

Poe is best remembered for tales of horror and suspense like “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” He significantly shaped modern prose fiction, but he considered himself mainly a poet. 

Poe was born in 1809 and orphaned when he was only two years old. He was taken in and educated by John Allen, possibly his godfather, though he never formally adopted Poe. 

Poe received an excellent education but had tumultuous young adulthood. He was kicked out of the University of Virginia for accumulating gambling debts and was forced to make his own living. 

He worked steadily at many magazines as an editor and a writer. In 1836, he married his thirteen-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm. Their marriage was by all accounts a happy one until Virginia died in 1847. Poe’s behavior became more erratic after that, and he died in 1849. His best-known poems are “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee.”

sculpture of Homer

Like other poetry of the time, Homer’s  epics were made to be performed aloud, possibly to music . Very little is known about Homer, and  it’s possible that there was no single poet by that name . 

Whatever the identity of the poet (or poets) responsible,  “The Iliad”  tells the story of the Trojan War. 

Another famous poem is  “The Odyssey,”  which recounts the travels and adventures of the warrior Odysseus and his ten-year journey home from the Trojan War. 

The poems as we know them today were likely written down in the 6th century BC, at least two centuries after Homer’s death. It’s impossible to overstate their importance to Western literature. Everyone from Virgil to James Joyce has drawn inspiration from Homer’s work.

12. Langston Hughes

black and white photo of poet Langston Hughes

Born in 1902, Hughes became one of the most famous poets of the Harlem Renaissance. His youth was very mobile, and he had lived in six different cities by the time he reached adulthood. His adulthood was also full of motion. 

While he pursued writing, he traveled to Europe, West Africa, and Mexico. He also worked many jobs as a cook, sailor, farmer, and nightclub doorman. 

Hughes’ poetry often mimics the rhythms of blues and jazz. It employs the simple, direct speech of Black daily life. This style of language was not always well-received, especially by some members of the Black intelligentsia. 

They sought to distance themselves from the plain speech of regular people while Hughes embraced it fully. Today Langston Hughes’ legacy is undeniable. Among his best-known poems are:

13. Oscar Wilde

picture of Oscar Wilde

Born in 1854, this Anglo-Irish poet and playwright was known for his flamboyant fashion sense and witty writing. 

Wilde was a disciple of the movement known as aestheticism, which preached art for art’s sake. Wilde’s writings display a sharp wit and flair for wordplay. 

He also had his share of critics, who found his writing superficial and disapproved of his personal life. Wilde made no great effort to hide his homosexuality. 

In 1895, he was convicted of “sodomy and gross indecency” after quarreling with his lover’s father. Wilde’s two-year sentence to hard labor destroyed his health and career but was the inspiration for his only major poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”

14. Dante Alighieri

photo of famous poet Dante Alighieri

Dante was a towering figure of the Italian Renaissance and the first major poet to write in Italian. In fact, he argued passionately for Italian to stand on equal footing with Latin as a literary language. Though a native of Florence, Dante spent much of his life in exile due to his political activity. 

His masterpiece  “The Divine Comedy”  takes its narrator on a guided tour through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. It’s no coincidence that many of Dante’s political enemies are in Hell alongside mythical and legendary evildoers.

15. Pablo Neruda

photo of Pablo Neruda

Born Ricardo Eliezer Neftali Reyes y Basoalto in 1904, this Chilean poet began his career as a diplomat. Neruda was not associated with any particular poetic movement but possessed his own style. 

Neruda won the  Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971  and is one of the most famous poets in any language. His best-known work translated into English is the collection  “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.”

16. William Blake

painting of William Blake

Many scholars and students consider poet, painter, and engraver William Blake as one of the best poets of the 18th century. 

His boldly mystical works, illustrated by Blake himself, anticipate many later developments by the Romantic poets of the 19th century. His best-known works are  “Songs of Innocence,” “Songs of Experience,” and the lyrics to the famous hymn “Jerusalem.”

17. John Milton

painting of John Milton

John Milton is among the most famous poets of the English language. Unknown to many, he also had a busy career as Oliver Cromwell’s Latin secretary during the Commonwealth period after the English Civil War. 

Milton’s best-known work is  “Paradise Lost.”  It is a long epic poem about the fall of the rebel angels from Heaven and the temptation of Adam.

18. Percy Bysshe Shelley

painting of Percy Bysshe Shelley

This giant of the English Romantic period was close to the most influential literary figures of his time. He was friends with the poet Byron, and his wife Mary Shelley was the author of  Frankenstein . Shelley was born into an affluent family and attended Oxford, but he led a politically and socially unconventional life.

He and Mary lived mainly on the Continent with a revolving cast of friends and confidants until his death by drowning in 1822. He is best remembered for the poem “Ozymandias,” which contemplates an ancient ruin and the fleeting nature of power.

Who is Your Favorite Poet?

Do you agree with this list? Are there any poets missing from the list? Do you think some of the poets mentioned don’t deserve to be on our list? 

Let us know by leaving a comment. 

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Top 20 Famous Poems: Inspiring Poems For Your Next Essay

Are you looking for famous poems to study for your next essay? Then, check out these top 20 poems to inspire your next writing project.

Poetry has a way of capturing human emotion and conveying it in the written word through rhyme and meter. Many famous poets have made their mark on literature worldwide, writing everything from love poems to nonsense poems that explore the way words can work together to create verse.

Taking a closer look at famous poems can help to truly understand the impact that poetry has had. Here are 20 works of famous poetry that have impacted the world of literature.

1.“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

2. “stopping by woods on a snowy evening” by robert frost, 3. “the road not taken” by robert frost, 4. sonnet 18 by william shakespeare, 5. “do not go gentle into that good night” by dylan thomas, 6. “i wandered lonely as a cloud” by william wordsworth, 7. “how do i love thee” by elizabeth barrett browning, 8. “she walks in beauty” by lord byron, 9. “the waste land” by t.s. eliot, 10. “the raven” by edgar allan poe, 11. “jabberwocky” by lewis carroll, 12. “o captain my captain” by walt whitman, 13. “invictus” by william ernest henley, 14. “the love song of j. alfred prufrock” by t.s. eliot, 15. “fire and ice” by robert frost, 16. “every day you play” by pablo neruda, 17. “because i could not stop for death” by emily dickinson, 18. “if-” by rudyard kipling, 19. “paul revere’s ride” by henry wadsworth longfellow, 20. “ozymandias” by percy bysshe shelley.

Maya Angelou

“ Still I Rise ” is in the third poetry collection by American poet Maya Angelou. This poem pays homage to the human spirit even as it overcomes discrimination and hardship. To write, Angelou tapped into her experiences as a black American woman.

In the poem, Angelou talks bout how others have downplayed her , her accomplishment, and her people, trying to break her spirit. And yet, she rises above these problems to find success.

“You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

Written in 1922, “ Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening ” uses imagery, personification, and repetition to create a memorable poem. It displays iambic tetrameter and appears on the surface to have a simple meaning. This poem is distinctive in how simple it appears, yet how well it holds to the meter and rhyme scheme. Simplicity and accuracy are not easy to attain.

“Whose woods these are I think I know.  His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.“

Perhaps one of the most commonly-studied poems in American literature, “ The Road Not Taken ,” talks about a young man traveling through the forest when he comes to a fork in the road. He chooses the “one less traveled by” and states it has made all the difference. The final lines of this poem have become part of modern society, showing up in movies, commercials, and graduation speeches every year.

Many people know the final lines of this poem, even if they do not know that they came from a famous American poet. The poem’s lines are now part of over 400 book titles or subtitles, and that fact alone, combined with its general popularity, earns it a spot on this list.

“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.”

Perhaps one of his most famous love poems, Sonnet 18 , starts with one of Shakespeare’s most iconic lines. As he compares his lady love to a summer’s day, hearts swoon, and romantics take note.

Sonnet 18 follows the 14-line structure of most English sonnets. It has three quatrains and a couplet and follows iambic pentameter. The poem’s romantic lines make it a favorite to quote to an object of affection.

“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.”

This famous poem by Dylan Thomas is read at two out of every three funerals . It captures the feelings brought on by death and highlights how people who love someone want them to fight against the reality of the end of life.

“ Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night ” is particularly popular because it sounds so beautiful when read aloud. Thomas got much of his income from working on the radio, and as such, he learned the power of the spoken human voice. This understanding is reflected in the cadence of his verses.

“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.”

Also known as “Daffodils,” this famous poem from William Wordsworth was written in the early 1800s. It took its inspiration from a walk Wordsworth took with his sister around Glencoyne Bay, where the two came upon a large field of daffodils.

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud ” is popular due to its rich imagery. When someone reads it, they can picture the daffodils dancing on the hill. However, unlike other famous poems, it does not necessarily have a double meaning but is simply a tribute to something beautiful in nature.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How Do I Love Thee” is the title of Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This romantic poem indicates that the different ways the speaker loves the object of her affections simply cannot be counted.

Throughout the poem, Browning exudes her passionate love for her husband . She even indicates that her love fills the quiet moments that happen in a home when two people live together. It follows the traditional abba, abba, cd, cd, cd sonnet rhyme scheme.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace.”

This short, lyrical poem follows the iambic tetrameter pattern. It was written in 1814 by Lord Byron, who was inspired by Anne Beatrix Wilmont, his first cousin’s wife when he saw her at a party. “ She Walks in Beauty ” was put to music by Isaac Nation and is considered an excellent example of Romanticism in poetry.

This poem is on the list of famous poetry because of how many times it has been quoted. It has references in The Philadelphian, television shows like M.A.S.H. , Bridgerton, and White Collar, among others.

“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.”

Considered one of the most influential poems of the 20th century, this poem has dissonance that mirrors what Eliot felt was the fracture of his time. Even though it was written for the 20th century, it still holds value in modern society when society still feels quite disjointed.

Throughout the lines of this poem, Eliot explores his disgust at the state of society following World War I. “ The Waste Land ” explores the thought of spiritual emptiness, which is what Eliot believed he saw in the world around him.

“April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain.”

Considered one of the first poems written in America , “The Raven” holds a special place in literature. This poem is considered one about grief, showing several examples of onomatopoeia with the raven tapping and rapping on the chamber door.

The repetition in “ The Raven ” drives the reader towards the end of the poem, where the author quotes the final “nevermore.” The death of his wife, Virginia, in the event that likely triggered the poem because of Poe’s grief over the loss of his wife.

“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 some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. ’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door—             Only this and nothing more.’”

Lewis Carroll was a novelist, but he often used poetry in his novels. “ Jabberwocky ” is a nonsense poem that was part of Carroll’s 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass . It tells the story of killing a mythical creature named “the Jabberwock.” In the book, Alice finds the poem in a book when she visits the Red Queen.

With so many unknown words, “ Jabberwocky ” confuses even Alice in the book. The poem is in ballad style, an exciting way to study the style with nonsensical words. Yet it leaves many unanswered questions, which fits the world of Wonderland that Carroll is trying to create.

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.”

“O Captain, My Captain ” is a poem that shows an extended metaphor style. Whitman wrote it in 1865 after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The poem is a tribute to Lincoln and his impact on the country during such a pivotal time in history.

In the three-stanza poem, Whitman compares Lincoln to a ship’s captain. Whitman also uses the literary device of juxtaposition to show the difference between the victory the country was experiencing and the death of its leader, who could not enjoy the victory. In the final stanza, he uses personification when talking about the shores, potentially representing the masses of people welcoming the ship, not knowing that the captain is slain.

“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.”

“ Invictus ” is an important poem in British literature written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley. Its final quatrain is the most famous of the piece, indicating that each master the fate of their soul.

Henley battled tubercular arthritis throughout his life, diagnosed at just 12 years of age. This painful disease was challenging to live with, and he was in the hospital for the amputation of his knee when he wrote “Invictus .” Knowing the personal trials, the author was dealing with makes the poem even more inspiring to the reader.

“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.”

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is another famous piece by T.S. Eliot. It was his first professionally-published poem , and literary critics believe it marked the initiation of the shift between Romantic verse and Modernism.

The poem looks at the psyche of a modern man, who is simultaneously eloquent but emotionally stilted. In the poem, the speaker indicates he wants to reach out to his love interest, only to feel he cannot do so. What follows is a monologue that laments the lack of emotional connection that the author can create. You might also enjoy our list of Mary Oliver poems .

“Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an overwhelming question… Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” Let us go and make our visit.”

Poet laureate Robert Frost has another short poem that is among the most famous in literature. “ Fire and Ice ” discusses the end of the world using an untraditional rhyme scheme. It asks whether the world will end in an inferno or an ice storm.

Some literary scholars believe “ Fire and Ice” were inspired by Dante’s Inferno , while others claim a conversation with astronomer Harlow Shapley was the basis. In the end, Frost wrote a poem that did not draw any conclusion about how the world will end but instead left the idea up to the reader.

“Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.”

Not all of the poets on this list come from American or English literature. For example, Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda was from Chile and won the Prize for his contributions to literature. He was known for his ability to produce poems full of deep passion, even when talking about everyday things.

“ Every Day You Play ” is a romantic poem that implies sensuality and references flowers while talking about the love interest. It contains one of Neruda’s most famous literary lines, “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”

“My words rained over you, stroking you. A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body. Until I even believe that you own the universe. I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells, dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses. I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” is an elegy poem by Emily Dickinson. The six-stanza poem is written as a personal encounter with Death , a male character who drives a carriage. It indicates the speaker is not afraid of Death, which is a kind companion on this final journey.

This poem is divided into quatrains with an abcb rhyming pattern. The drive-in in the story symbolizes Dickinson’s life, and eventually, Death takes her into the afterlife. The final stanza, in which the speaker is now dead, is more abstract than the rest of the poem. If you are interested in learning more, learn the answer to the question is Dr. Seuss poetry .

“Because I could not stop for Death— He kindly stopped for me— The Carriage held but just Ourselves—  And Immortality.”

Though he is more famous for his novels, including The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling was also a skilled poet named English Nobel laureate for his work. “ If- ” is, perhaps, his most famous poem. The work is written to serve as parental advice to Kipling’s son, John, advocating for him to look beyond what other people think of him and to make the most out of life’s difficult situations.

Each couplet in the poem starts with the word “if.” it expresses its meaning clearly, serving as a mantra to live by, which may have been Kipling’s goal. Throughout the lines, Kipling gives practical advice for dreaming and planning  while keeping one’s head grounded in realistic goals.

“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;”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow is often revered as one of the most influential American poets , and “Paul Revere’s Ride” is one of his most famous pieces. While this poem does not have much literary analysis because it tells the tale of Revere’s famous ride, its regular rhyme and measure give the impression of a horse galloping through the towns.

Through this poem, Longfellow memorialized Paul Revere’s famous ride. He received inspiration from a tour of Boston he took, giving him the chance to see many of the sights of the famous day for himself. He did take some poetic license in his work, but his line “one, if by land, and two, if by sea” immortalized the signal lanterns that were part of the historic event.

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year.”

“ Ozymandias ” is a sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley, a 19th-century English Romantic poet. The poem received its inspiration from the Rameses II statue on display at the British Museum during Shelley’s time. It warns against hubris and arrogance, which are common in great leaders.

The sonnet uses iambic pentameter. It showcases the sad image of a fallen statue that once stood to head the greatness of the Pharaoh. Where once a mighty king ruled the land, nothing is left but a decaying, wrecked statute. To learn more, check out our round-up of the best 10 concrete poems !

“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.”

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