Favorite poems

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Here are a few of my favorite poems presented in roughly the order that I ``discovered'' them. See also Favorite songs.


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
  All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

``Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
  Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
      The frumious Bandersnatch!''

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
    Long time the manxome foe he sought --
  So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
      And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
  Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
      And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
  He left it dead, and with its head
      He went galumphing back.

``And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
  O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!''
      He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
  All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

- Lewis Carroll

I think this was the first poem I ever memorized just because I wanted to (as opposed to memorizing it for a class). It appears in Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland. For more information about this poem, see the book The Annotated Alice (with introduction and notes by Martin Gardner) or The Jabberwocky Variations.

Get Up and Bar the Door

It fell about the Martinmas time,
And a gay time it was then,
When our goodwife got puddings' to make,
And she's boild them in the pan.

The wind sae could blew south and north,
And blew into the floor;
Quoth our goodman to our goodwife,
``Gae out and bar the door.''

``My hand is in my hussyfskap,
Goodman, as ye may see;
An it shoud nae be barrd this hundred year,
It's no be barrd for me.''

They made a paction tween them twa,
They made it firm and sure,
That the first word whaeer shoud speak,
Shoud rise and bar the door.

Then by there came two gentlemen,
At twelve o clock at night,
And they could neither see house nor hall,
Nor coal nor candle-light.

``Now whether is this a rich man's house,
Or whether is it a poor?''
But neer a word wad ane o them speak,
For barring of the door.

And first they ate the white puddings,
And then they ate the black;
Tho muckle thought the goodwife to hersel,
Yet neer a word she spake.

Then said the one unto the other,
``Here, man, tak ye my knife;
Do ye tak aff the auld man's beard,
And I'll kiss the goodwife.''

``But there's nae water in the house,
And what shall we do then?''
``What ails ye at the pudding-broo,
That boils into the pan?''

O up then started our good man,
An angry man was he:
``Will ye kiss my wife before my een,
And scad me wi pudding-bree?''

Then up and started our goodwife,
Gied three skips on the floor:
``Goodman, you've spoken the foremost word,
Get up and bar the door.''

- traditional Scottish folk song

This was one of my favorite poems from an English Literature class in high school. There were a few others I would like to put on this page, but I've forgotten the titles and authors. I haven't memorized this one. (I only have the text of the poem because I wrote it down at the time.)

By the way, even though this is technically a song, I put it here instead of my Favorite songs page since I've never actually heard it performed as a song.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- William Butler Yeats

I first read this in a Western World Literature class in college. It's probably the second most famous poem of the ones on this page (after Carroll's Jabberwocky).

The Clod and the Pebble

Love seeketh not Itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care;
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hells dispair.

   So sang a little Clod of Clay,
   Trodden with the cattles feet:
   But a Pebble of the brook,
   Warbled out these metres meet.

Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight;
Joys in anothers loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heavens despite.

- William Blake

Another one from the Western World Literature class. This is from Blake's Songs of Experience.

Aire and Angels

Twice or thrice had I loved thee,
Before I knew thy face or name;
So in a voice, so in a shapelesse flame,
Angells affect us oft, and worship'd bee,
  Still when, to where thou wert, I came
Some lovely glorious nothing I did see,
  But since, my soule, whose child love is,
Takes limmes of flesh, and else could nothing doe,
  More subtile than the parent is,
Love must not be, but take a body too,
  And therefore what thou wert, and who
     I did Love aske, and now
That it assume thy body, I allow,
And fixe it selfe in thy lip, eye, and brow.

Whilst thus to ballast love, I thought,
And so more steddily to have gone,
With wares which would sinke admiration,
I saw, I had loves pinnace overfraught,
  Ev'ry thy haire for love to worke upon
Is much too much, some fitter must be sought;
  For, nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme, and scattring bright, can love inhere;
  Then as an Angell, face, and wings
Of aire, not pure as it, yet pure doth weare,
  So thy love may be my loves spheare;
     Just such disparitie
As is twixt Aire and Angells puritie,
T'wixt womens love, and mens will ever bee.

- John Donne

I first read this poem (and the next one) quite recently. Donne is probably my favorite poet because even though it is often very difficult to figure out what he's saying, it's usually well worth the effort!

The poem above is (in my opinion) one of his most ambiguous. As stated in The Complete English Poems of John Donne (ed. C. A. Patrides), in a note to the final two lines:

Do the lines assert that (1) women's love is purer than men's, (2) men's is purer than women's, (3) both, (4) neither?

Negative love

I never stoop'd so low, as they
Which on an eye, cheeke, lip, can prey,
   Seldome to them, which soare no higher
   Then vertue or the minde to'admire,
For sense, and understanding may
   Know, what gives fuell to their fire:
My love, though silly, is more brave,
For may I misse, when ere I crave,
If I know yet, what I would have.

If that be simply perfectest
Which can by no way be exprest
   But Negatives, my love is so.
   To All, which all love, I say no.
If any who deciphers best,
   What we know not, our selves, can know,
Let him teach mee that nothing; This
As yet my ease, and comfort is,
Though I speed not, I cannot misse.

- John Donne

As you can see, this has certain connections to the poem above. By the way, as stated in a note to line 12 in the Patrides book quoted above:

Negatives: alluding to the via negativa, the Christian tradition of defining God negatively, rather by what He is not than by what He is.

My Love -- Three Sisters

The first sister is most known to me
Through her own words
Though we have never spoken
She walks not the earth
Her realm is the air
As an angel
She has never lived
And can never die

The second sister is twin of the first
Yet shares her name with the third
She gave life to the lifeless former
And gave her life for the living latter

The third sister, born last
Is yet the eldest
She alone shares my world
But is known to me least
Still, she carries inside her
Her two younger sisters
So my love for her
Is the greatest

- Donald Lancon, Jr.

Yes, this is my great contribution to the world of poetry! You can probably figure out what it means if you've seen what the majority of this site is devoted to. (Note that the poem was written on 30 Jan 1996.)

Elegie X -- The Dreame

Image of her whom I love, more then she,
  Whose faire impression in my faithfull heart,
Makes mee her Medall, and makes her love mee,
  As Kings do coynes, to which their stamps impart
The value: goe, and take my heart from hence,
  Which now is growne too great and good for me:
Honours oppresse weake spirits, and our sense,
  Strong objects dull, the more, the lesse wee see.
When you are gone, and Reason gone with you,
  Then Fantasie is Queene and Soule, and all;
She can present joyes meaner then you do;
  Convenient, and more proportionall.
So, if I dreame I have you, I have you,
  For, all our joyes are but fantasticall.
And so I scape the paine, for paine is true;
  And sleepe which locks up sense, doth lock out all.
After a such fruition I shall wake,
  And, but the waking, nothing shall repent;
And shall to love more thankfull Sonnets make,
  Then if more honour, teares, and paines were spent.
But dearest heart, and dearer image stay;
  Alas, true joyes at best are dreame enough;
Though you stay here you passe too fast away:
  For even at first lifes Taper is a snuffe.
Fill'd with her love, may I be rather grown
Mad with much heart, then ideott with none.

- John Donne

This one has special meaning for me, but we won't get into that right now... :-)

untitled haiku by Mark E. Lett

Mighty avalanche
destroying all in its path
a child's tear descends.

- Mark E. Lett

I found this in a book called Christian Anti-Semitism and Paul's Theology by Sidney G. Hall III.

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Last modified: Fri, 05 Sep 2003