The best thank you poems selected by Dr Oliver Tearle
‘Say it with flowers’, the old advertising slogan had it. But why not say it with a poem? Many poets have, indeed, given thanks to someone – a friend, a wife, a husband, a fellow writer – in a poem. Here are ten of the best poems to say thank you, poems of appreciation, and poems of thanks and gratitude. Thanks for reading!
Anne Bradstreet, ‘To My Dear and Loving Husband’.
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can …
An ideal poem to say ‘thank you’ to a husband: Bradstreet praises her ‘dear and loving husband’, whom she regards as the one who completes her. His love is more valuable to her than all the riches of the East, all the gold in the world. Her love for him, too, can never be exhausted. Note the images of money and wealth that populate the poem: ‘gold’, ‘riches’, ‘recompence’, ‘repay’, possibly picking up on the faint pun of ‘dear’ in ‘dear and loving husband’ (not just loved, but valuable to her – in a way that exceeds any monetary value). Bradstreet and her husband lived among the early colonies of Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century, where life was hard. It was a nascent civilisation still developing. It’s hardly surprising, then, that love and support are worth more than gold or treasure in such an environment.
John Greenleaf Whittier, ‘My Thanks’. A touching Thank You poem for a friend:
O friend beloved, whose curious skill
Keeps bright the last year’s leaves and flowers,
With warm, glad, summer thoughts to fill
The cold, dark, winter hours …
George Meredith, ‘Appreciation’.
I the last echoes of Diana’s horn
In woodland heard, and saw thee come, and cheered.
No longer wast thou then mere light, fair soul!
And more than simple duty moved thy feet …
A touching tribute to a woman’s beauty from this underappreciated Victorian poet, who did much to keep the sonnet alive in the nineteenth century.
Henrik Ibsen, ‘Thanks’. Although he’s far better-known as a playwright, celebrated as one of the founders of modern drama with plays such as A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler, Ibsen (1828-1906) was also a poet. In ‘Thanks’ (‘Tak’ in the original Norwegian), Ibsen thanks his wife Suzannah for supporting him during his writing career: ‘And therefore I write her, / Once, thanks in a verse.’
Henry Timrod, ‘Sonnet: I Thank You’. Timrod (1829-67) was an American poet who is sometimes referred to as ‘the Poet Laureate of the Confederacy’. This poem is not political, however, and is instead a marvellous ‘thank you’ poem which emphasises that the love, rather than the physical gifts or the flowers, is what matters:
I thank you, kind and best beloved friend,
With the same thanks one murmurs to a sister,
When, for some gentle favor, he hath kissed her,
Less for the gifts than for the love you send …
Emily Dickinson, ‘I went to thank Her’.
I went to thank Her –
But She Slept –
Her Bed – a funneled Stone –
With Nosegays at the Head and Foot –
That Travellers – had thrown –
This poem is often interpreted as a poem in memory of another female poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who died in 1861. Read this way, it’s a nice tribute from one poet to another, and a Thank You for her influence and inspiration.
Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, ‘Gratitude’. Perhaps no list of best ‘thank you’ poems would be complete without one thanking, not a human benefactor, but a divine one. Here, the English poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922) thanks God:
If gratitude a poor man’s virtue is,
’Tis one at least my sick soul can afford.
Bankrupt I am of all youth’s charities,
But not of thanks. No. Thanks be to the Lord!
Lucy Maud Montgomery, ‘Gratitude’. Montgomery (1874-1942) is best-known for her classic novel for children, Anne of Green Gables, set in Montgomery’s own country of Canada (on Prince Edward Island). But Montgomery was also a poet, and in this short poem she thanks her friend for the most valuable gift of all – a beautiful thought:
I thank thee, friend, for the beautiful thought
That in words well chosen thou gavest to me,
Deep in the life of my soul it has wrought
With its own rare essence to ever imbue me …
Carl Sandburg, ‘Our Prayer of Thanks’. Another ‘prayer of thanks’, this: the American poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) considers all the things to offer a prayer of thanks to God for: the laughter of children, the sunset and the stars, and much else.
Dana Gioia, ‘Thanks for Remembering Us’. Michael Dana Gioia (b. 1950) is the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California, where he teaches poetry. In December 2015 he became the California State Poet Laureate. In this poem, Gioia offers thanks for the flowers that were delivered to his house by accident – or did some unknown benefactor send them to say thank you for something? As the flowers begin to die, Gioia is left wondering whether he can really bear to throw out ‘a gift we’ve never owned’…
Discover more classic poetry with these birthday poems, short poems about death, and these classic war poems. We also recommend The Oxford Book of English Verse – perhaps the best poetry anthology on the market (we offer our pick of the best poetry anthologies here).
The author of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary critic and lecturer in English at Loughborough University. He is the author of, among others, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History and The Great War, The Waste Land and the Modernist Long Poem.
Image: Henrik Ibsen via Wikimedia Commons.