‘The Brook’: A Poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Just as rivers flow into the sea, so brooks flow into larger rivers, as Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) highlights in this charming poem, ‘The Brook’: ‘And out again I curve and flow / To join the brimming river, / For men may come and men may go, / But I go on for ever.’

The Brook

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorpes, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

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‘The Dream’: A Poem by John Donne

What if you were dreaming about someone, only to be woken up by the very person you had been dreaming about? This scenario is the focus of this lesser-known John Donne poem, ‘The Dream’, which – as in a number of other John Donne poems – sees the poet trying to seduce the woman to sleeping with him…

‘The Dream’ by John Donne

Dear love, for nothing less than thee
Would I have broke this happy dream;
It was a theme
For reason, much too strong for fantasy,
Therefore thou wak’d’st me wisely; yet
My dream thou brok’st not, but continued’st it.
Thou art so true that thoughts of thee suffice
To make dreams truths, and fables histories;
Enter these arms, for since thou thought’st it best,
Not to dream all my dream, let’s act the rest.

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‘To the River Charles’: A Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

‘Thou hast taught me, Silent River! / Many a lesson, deep and long; / Thou hast been a generous giver; / I can give thee but a song.’ In ‘To the River Charles’, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82), who is best known as the author of Hiawatha, praises the Charles river in Massachusetts.

‘To the River Charles’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

River! that in silence windest
Through the meadows, bright and free,
Till at length thy rest thou findest
In the bosom of the sea!

Four long years of mingled feeling,
Half in rest, and half in strife,
I have seen thy waters stealing
Onward, like the stream of life.

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‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’: A Poem by John Clare

John Clare (1793-1864) is still a rather overlooked figure in English Romanticism and nature poetry, but he’s been called the greatest nature poet in English literature (by his biographer, Jonathan Bate). His poem ‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’ shows Clare’s wonderful sensitivity to vowel sounds, as he explores the patterns found within nature by focusing on the nest of the bird, which is described as ‘poet-like’. For a good edition of John Clare’s poetry, we recommend John Clare: Major Works from Oxford University Press.

‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’ by John Clare

Just by the wooden brig a bird flew up,
Frit by the cowboy as he scrambled down
To reach the misty dewberry—let us stoop
And seek its nest—the brook we need not dread,
’Tis scarcely deep enough a bee to drown,
So it sings harmless o’er its pebbly bed
—Ay here it is, stuck close beside the bank
Beneath the bunch of grass that spindles rank

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‘The Glory of the Garden’: A Poem by Rudyard Kipling

‘Our England is a garden that is full of stately views, / Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues’. So begins ‘The Glory of the Garden’, a classic poem about English gardens from one of the most popular poets of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936).

‘The Glory of the Garden’ by Rudyard Kipling

Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.

For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You’ll find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dung-pits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts, and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

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