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10 of the Very Best Poems about Grief and Mourning

The finest poems about grief

Grief is a part of life, and we will all know what it is to mourn at some point in our lives. Here are ten of the finest poems about the experience of grieving and mourning, taken from over 600 years of poetry…

Anonymous, ‘Why have ye no routhe on my child? This poem is a lament for a lost child: ‘rode’ is the ‘rood’ or Cross, and ‘routhe’ is ‘ruth’ or compassion – which is why someone who lacks compassion is described as ‘ruthless’. Click on the link above to read the poem, which is the sixth on our list of the best medieval poems. It’s the oldest poem on this list, dating back at least six centuries to the late fourteenth century, though it may be even older.

John Donne, ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’. As this poem’s title suggests, it’s a poem of farewell, written by Donne for his wife Anne in 1611-12 before he left England to go on a mission to Europe. Utilising metaphors of compass points and alchemical processes to describe the relationship between the husband and wife, ‘A Valediction’ is one of the finest examples of Metaphysical poetry. Read the rest of this entry

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10 of the Best Poems about Darkness

The greatest dark poems

Poetry isn’t all sweetness and light, of course. In fact, much of it is concerned with the darker aspects of the natural world, whether it’s the mystery or solemnity of night-time darkness or some other, more abstract or metaphorical kind of darkness (‘O dark dark dark’, as T. S. Eliot put it in Four Quartets). Here, we offer ten of the best poems about darkness of various kinds.

Charlotte Smith, ‘Written near a Port on a Dark Evening’. This sonnet was written by one of the great proto-Romantic poets of the second half of the eighteenth century. Smith’s sonnets anticipate Romanticism partly because nature in her poetry is so often feared with an awesome power that verges on the terrifying: ‘life’s long darkling way’ is brooding and full of menace here.

Lord Byron, ‘Darkness’. This poem was inspired by a curious incident: the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, which drastically altered the weather conditions across the world and led to 1816 being branded ‘the Year without a Summer’. The same event also led to Read the rest of this entry

10 of the Best Poems of Farewell

The greatest goodbye poems

Poets are often at their most poignant when saying goodbye – to lovers, to lost loved ones, or to a part of their lives they have left behind. Here are ten of the greatest poems about saying goodbye or farewell…

Michael Drayton, ‘Since There’s No Help, Come Let Us Kiss and Part’. One of the greatest ‘breaking-up’ poems, this sonnet was written by Michael Drayton (1563-1631), a Warwickshire poet born one year before Shakespeare. The poet tells his erstwhile lover that the best thing for them to do is to end their relationship, shake hands, and walk away – though in the closing sestet Drayton dares to dream that the relationship may yet be salvaged. The poem appeared towards the end of Drayton’s sonnet sequence Idea’s Mirror (1594).

John Donne, ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’. As this poem’s title suggests, it’s a poem of farewell, written by Donne for his wife Anne in 1611-12 before he left England to go on a mission to Europe. Read the rest of this entry