Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) was a remarkable woman: as well as her writing, she is also celebrated for introducing smallpox inoculation to Britain, half a century before Edward Jenner developed vaccination against the disease. ‘A Hymn to the Moon’ is a wonderful short poem about the moon.
Written in July, in an arbour
Thou silver deity of secret night,
Direct my footsteps through the woodland shade;
Thou conscious witness of unknown delight,
The Lover’s guardian, and the Muse’s aid!
By thy pale beams I solitary rove,
To thee my tender grief confide;
Serenely sweet you gild the silent grove,
My friend, my goddess, and my guide.
E’en thee, fair queen, from thy amazing height,
The charms of young Endymion drew;
Veil’d with the mantle of concealing night;
With all thy greatness and thy coldness too. Read the rest of this entry
The best short poems for weddings
There are plenty of clichéd love poems out there which are popular at weddings, but what if two lovebirds want to find something a little more original and honest for their big day? These ten unsentimental poems are among the best non-clichéd poems in English literature, expressing fine sentiments without being overly sentimental.
Sir Philip Sidney, ‘My true love hath my heart, and I have his’. This poem, taken from Sidney’s much longer prose work the Arcadia, is one of the finest Elizabethan love poems, and also an early example of the English or ‘Shakespearean’ sonnet. It’s spoken by a shepherdess in Sidney’s pastoral epic, and in matter-of-fact lines describes the reciprocal arrangement between her and her rustic lover.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 29. We could have gone for the obvious one here – Sonnet 18, ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ – but we think this poem, about cursing your lot only to recall that you have the love of that special someone, speaks more immediately to most people’s experience of being in love (though not everyone likes it). How often do we count our blessings and remember that, among those blessings, we can say we are loved? If we can claim that, then we are among the lucky ones. Read the rest of this entry
10 classic Valentine poems
The association between Valentine’s Day and love is long-standing, and many poets have written about love and romance. But how many have written about the day itself? Are there any classic Valentine’s Day poems? The following top ten list is our pick of some of the best poetic Valentines from over six centuries of English poetry.
Geoffrey Chaucer, ‘The Parliament of Fowls’. Did Geoffrey Chaucer invent Valentine’s Day? The answer, as we’ve revealed elsewhere, is, in a way, both ‘yes’ and ‘no’; but this poem, an example of the popular medieval debate poem, certainly helped to popularise the connection between romance or love and the 14th of February. The Parlement of Foules’ was written some time in the 1380s, possibly in 1382, and features a parliament, or assembly, of birds, which have gathered together in order to choose their mates. As Chaucer’s narrator remarks, ‘For this was on seynt Volantynys day / Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.’ So it seems like the natural place to begin this selection of the best Valentine’s Day poems. Read the rest of this entry