Previously, we’ve gathered together some of the best poems about the colour red and some of the best poems about the colour white. But what about if we put those two colours together? What are the best poems about the colour pink, whether they’re poems about pink flowers, being ‘in the pink’, or other ‘pink’ things?
Below, we introduce some of the finest ‘pink’ poems.
1. Henry King, ‘The Pink’.
But ’tis your uncontrolled power
Goddess-like to produce a flower,
And by your breath, without more seed,
Make that a Pink which was a Weed.
Because I would be loth to miss
So sweet a Metamorphosis,
Upon what stalk soere I grow
Disdain not you sometimes to blow
And cherish by your Virgin eye
What in your frown would droop and die …
We’ve attributed this fine seventeenth-century poem to Henry King (1592-1669), but some critics and editors have raised doubts about whether King wrote it. Either way, it’s a short little poem on the conceit of ‘metamorphosis’, and one’s power to breathe a ‘perfume’ so sweet that it transforms all around it into something sweeter – turning, for instance, a worthless old weed into a beautiful pink.
2. Emily Dickinson, ‘Frequently the Woods Are Pink’.
Frequently the woods are pink –
Frequently are brown.
Frequently the hills undress
Behind my native town.
Oft a head is crested
I was wont to see –
And as oft a cranny
Where it used to be …
This clever poem by one of the most original poets of the nineteenth century, the US poet Emily Dickinson (1830-86), is all about the way the natural world changes with the passing seasons: the woods are pink with blossom during the spring and summer, but brown during autumn and winter.
3. Christina Rossetti, ‘Colour’.
What is pink? a rose is pink
By a fountain’s brink.
What is red? a poppy’s red
In its barley bed …
Christina Rossetti (1830-94) was one of the Victorian era’s greatest and most influential poets. She was the younger sister (by two years) of the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She composed her first poem while still a very young girl; she dictated it to her mother. It ran simply: ‘Cecilia never went to school / Without her gladiator.’ Goblin Market and Other Poems was the first collection of her poetry to be published, and it was the book that brought her to public attention. She went on to influence a range of later poets, including Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ford Madox Ford, and Elizabeth Jennings. Philip Larkin was an admirer, praising her ‘steely stoicism’.
Some of the best poems by Rossetti are almost singsong in their form and rhythm, like nursery-rhymes. Indeed, her best-known poem, ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, is a good example of this, with its repetitions of simple words. In this poem about the nature of colour, Rossetti considers the associations of a number of colours, but she begins with pink: the colour of a rose by a fountain.
4. Rudyard Kipling, ‘Pink Dominoes’.
Next morn I knew that there were two
Dominoes pink, and one
Had cloaked the spouse of Sir Julian Vouse,
Our big Political gun …
Published in 1886 when the precocious Kipling was still in his early twenties, is based on his experiences in India: the poem is about a mix-up at a posh fancy-dress ball in India, when a young woman, engaged to the poem’s speaker, is one of two women wearing a pink cloak at a party. The speaker promptly mistakes his boss’s wife for his young betrothed, with a surprising outcome.
A ‘domino’ here is a large cloak, and refers to the tradition of wearing a disguise to one of the high-class parties in upper-class colonial Indian society.
5. Henry Lawson, ‘The Pink Carnation’.
I may walk until I’m fainting, I may write until I’m blinded,
I might drink until my back teeth are afloat,
But I can’t forget my ruin and the happy days behind it,
When I wore a pink carnation in my coat …
Lawson (1867-1922) was an Australian ‘bush poet’. In this poem, the line about the titular pink carnation acts as a refrain, concluding each stanza of this poem which is nostalgic and wistful but also touching.
6. Siegfried Sassoon, ‘In the Pink’.
This is not one of Sassoon’s best-known war poems, but it deserves to be better-known. The focus of the poem is a soldier named Davies, sleeping in a barn during wartime and writing home to his sweetheart. His mind wanders to Sundays at home before the war, and how happy and simple life was.
But in the final stanza, Sassoon contrasts these pleasant memories with the wartime reality, with the poem ending on a dark note as Sassoon tells us Davies’ fate. He may be ‘in the pink’ – a colloquial idiom meaning ‘healthy’ and ‘well’ – but how long will that last?
7. Claude McKay, ‘Adolescence’.
There was a time when in late afternoon
The four-o’clocks would fold up at day’s close.
Pink-white in prayer, and ’neath the floating moon
I lay with them in calm and sweet repose …
McKay (1889-1948) was a leading African-American poet of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s, and here he looks back on his teenage years and the freedom and carefree air he had then. A fine poem shot through with nostalgia.
8. Ted Hughes, ‘A Pink Wool Knitted Dress’.
We’ll conclude this pick of pink poems with a late poem by Ted Hughes (1930-98), the best-known English nature poet of the second half of the twentieth century and the husband of Sylvia Plath. In 1998, the year of his death, Hughes published Birthday Letters, a collection of candid poems about his relationship with Plath.
In this poem, focusing on Plath’s ‘pink wool knitted dress’ which she wore on the day of their marriage in 1956, Hughes attempts to strip away all of the assumptions people have about his troubled marriage to Plath and tell his side of the story.