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
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
Are these the greatest heart poems?
Poets have often written about the heart. Whether they’re discussing desire, or being broken-hearted by loss or unrequited love, or the boundless joy they feel in their hearts when encountering the wonders of the natural world. Here are ten of the best poems featuring hearts.
Sir Philip Sidney, ‘My true love hath my heart, and I have his’. The poem is taken from Sidney’s long prose work the Arcadia, a pastoral narrative which Sidney composed in around 1580. The speaker of the poem in Book III of the Arcadia is a shepherdess, pledging her love for her betrothed, a shepherd who rests in her lap; this poem sees her describing the ‘bargain’ struck between the two lovers.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 46. In this sonnet, Shakespeare argues that his eyes and heart are engaged in a fight to the death, over who should have the right to own the image of Shakespeare’s beloved, the Fair Youth. The poet’s heart argues that it knows the truth of the young man, and no eye, no matter how clear, has ever penetrated that truth. Shakespeare concludes that his eyes own his beloved’s outward visible appearance, while his heart has rights over what’s inside. Read the rest of this entry