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Five of the Best Baby Poems

Are these the greatest poems about babies?

Bad poetry inspired by people’s babies gave us one useful legacy: the phrase ‘namby-pamby’. Used to describe something weak, ineffectual, and slightly pathetic, the term was originally coined in reference to the work of the poet Ambrose Philips (1674-1749), who was widely mocked by his contemporaries for his babyish verses written in celebration of the offspring of the great and good. But poets have occasionally got it right, and succeeded in writing memorable and moving poems about babies. Here are five of the very best baby poems.

William Blake, ‘Infant Joy’. A baby is born, a little miracle with the gift of life. But what should the infant be called? ‘Joy’, of course, in honour of the joy of new life a baby represents! ‘Infant Joy’ was published in Blake’s 1789 collection Songs of Innocence, and like many of the poems that appeared in that volume, it had a counterpart in the later Songs of Experience, ‘Infant Sorrow’, which can be read here. Read the rest of this entry

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10 of the Best Poems about Journeys

10 classic poems of travelling

According to Thomas de Quincey, Wordsworth clocked up an estimated 180,000 miles during his lifetime, walking around his beloved Lake District (to say nothing of the Quantocks, where he lived near Coleridge during the 1790s). Given that there is a strong link between poets and travelling of various kinds – whether walking, sailing, or travelling in some more abstract, metaphorical or spiritual sense – we felt it was time we put together some of the greatest journey poems. Many, though not all, of these classic travelling poems are available in the excellent anthology, Nation’s Favourite Poems Of Journeys (Poetry).

Andrew Marvell, ‘Bermudas’. This poem, from the seventeenth-century poet Andrew Marvell, is set in the Atlantic ocean and focuses on a group of people aboard a boat, and clearly in exile from their native land. They spy the island of Bermuda, and sing a song in praise of the island. The next 32 lines of the poem comprise their song. The people aboard the boat praise God for leading them to this previously undiscovered island, which seems ‘far kinder’ than the island they have left behind, namely Britain. These people have endured and eluded sea-monsters and storms, and God has led them to safety on the ‘grassy stage’ of this new island. It is mentioned that they are fleeing England because of ‘prelates’ rage’, namely religious persecution – so ‘Bermudas’ is a poem about undertaking a difficult journey to find a new place where a community of people can start afresh. Read the rest of this entry

10 of the Best Poems by English Romantic Poets

The best examples of Romanticism

English Romanticism tends to be dominated by a few names: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats. Here, we’ve tried to strike a balance and offer ten of the very best Romantic poems from English literature, which ensures that these canonical figures are well-represented, while also broadening that canon to include some important but slightly less famous voices. We hope you like this short introduction to Romanticism told through ten classic Romantic poems…

William Wordsworth, ‘My heart leaps up’. This simple nine-line poem describes how the poet is filled with joy when he sees a rainbow, and how he hopes he will always keep that sense of enchantment with the natural world. The poem contains Wordsworth’s famous declaration, ‘The Child is father of the Man’, highlighting how important childhood experience was to the Romantics in helping to shape the human beings they became in adult life. Read the rest of this entry