I thought it would be fun to take a day off of serious writing and share poems instead. Please share your favorite poems in the comments, along with links for readers who may want to save them. And don’t forget to share why you like them!
When I was a preteen and young teen, I developed an appreciation for poems that were extremely sad, because of the way they made me feel. My favorite poem was “Out, Out—,” by Robert Frost. It’s not particularly long, so I’ll share it in full:
By Robert Frost
What can I say? I was 13 or something—it spoke to me. I actually memorized the whole thing and recited it at speech competitions, feeling very much like Anne of Green Gables in her poetry recitation contests.
Another poem I loved was Enoch Arden, by Tennyson. I found it in a tiny book of poetry at my grandparents’ house, which I sat down and perused in a quiet moment when I was around the same age. This poem is more heartwarming than the Frost poem, but equally sad—to this day, I can’t get through the end without crying. It’s also much, much longer.
I’ll give you just a taste of the beginning:
By Alfred Tennyson
Long lines of cliff breaking have left a chasm;
And in the chasm are foam and yellow sands;
Beyond, red roofs about a narrow wharf
In cluster; then a moulder’d church; and higher
A long street climbs to one tall-tower’d mill;
And high in heaven behind it a gray down
With Danish barrows; and a hazelwood,
By autumn nutters haunted, flourishes
Green in a cuplike hollow of the down.
Here on this beach a hundred years ago,
Three children of three houses, Annie Lee,
The prettiest little damsel in the port,
And Philip Ray the miller’s only son,
And Enoch Arden, a rough sailor’s lad
Made orphan by a winter shipwreck, play’d
Among the waste and lumber of the shore,
Hard coils of cordage, swarthy fishing-nets,
Anchors of rusty fluke, and boats updrawn,
And built their castles of dissolving sand
To watch them overflow’d, or following up
And flying the white breaker, daily left
The little footprint daily wash’d away.
A narrow cave ran in beneath the cliff:
In this the children play’d at keeping house.
Enoch was host one day, Philip the next,
While Annie still was mistress; but at times
Enoch would hold possession for a week:
`This is my house and this my little wife.’
`Mine too’ said Philip `turn and turn about:’
When, if they quarrell’d, Enoch stronger-made
Was master: then would Philip, his blue eyes
All flooded with the helpless wrath of tears,
Shriek out `I hate you, Enoch,’ and at this
The little wife would weep for company,
And pray them not to quarrel for her sake,
And say she would be little wife to both.
While I never tried to memorize Enoch Arden—it was way too long—I did set in memorizing another set of poems. You know, the ones in the Lord of the Rings. This one was my absolute favorite, because it felt downright magical:
Galadriel’s Song of Eldamar
I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold,
and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came
and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon,
the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strand of Ilmarin
there grew a golden Tree.
Beneath the stars of Ever-eve
in Eldamar it shone,
In Eldamar beside the walls
of Elven Tirion.
There long the golden leaves have grown
upon the branching years,
While here beyond the Sundering Seas
now fall the Elven-tears.
O Lórien! The Winter comes,
the bare and leafless Day;
The leaves are falling in the stream,
the River flows away.
O Lórien! Too long I have
dwelt upon this Hither Shore
And in a fading crown
have twined the golden elanor.
But if of ships I now should sing,
what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear me ever
back across so wide a Sea?
As I sit here thinking about poems, I’m suddenly realizing that as much as I love poetry—and I do—the poems that impressed themselves on me during my teen years are still my favorite. Perhaps there’s something about that developmental age that made me especially impressionable, or eager to grasp on to pieces that made me feel things.
What about the rest of you? What poems do you enjoy? What poets do you recommend? What makes some poems speak too you—and others not?
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