Happy St. George’s Day!
To celebrate I have gathered a fine collection of English poets and example poems.
Sit down with a cup of tea & enjoy!
Ode to Pity by Jane Austen
Ever musing I delight to tread
The Paths of honour and the Myrtle Grove
Whilst the pale Moon her beams doth shed
On disappointed Love.
While Philomel on airy hawthorn Bush
Sings sweet and Melancholy, And the thrush
Converses with the Dove.
Gently brawling down the turnpike road,
Sweetly noisy falls the Silent Stream–
The Moon emerges from behind a Cloud
And darts upon the Myrtle Grove her beam.
Ah! then what Lovely Scenes appear,
The hut, the Cot, the Grot, and Chapel queer,
And eke the Abbey too a mouldering heap,
Cnceal’d by aged pines her head doth rear
And quite invisible doth take a peep.
The Tree: An Old Man’s Story by Thomas Hardy
Its roots are bristling in the air
Like some mad Earth-god’s spiny hair;
The loud south-wester’s swell and yell
Smote it at midnight, and it fell.
Thus ends the tree
Where Some One sat with me.
Its boughs, which none but darers trod,
A child may step on from the sod,
And twigs that earliest met the dawn
Are lit the last upon the lawn.
Cart off the tree
Beneath whose trunk sat we!
Yes, there we sat: she cooed content,
And bats ringed round, and daylight went;
The gnarl, our seat, is wrenched and sunk,
Prone that queer pocket in the trunk
Where lay the key
To her pale mystery.
“Years back, within this pocket-hole
I found, my Love, a hurried scrawl
Meant not for me,” at length said I;
“I glanced thereat, and let it lie:
The words were three –
‘Beloved, I agree.’
“Who placed it here; to what request
It gave assent, I never guessed.
Some prayer of some hot heart, no doubt,
To some coy maiden hereabout,
Just as, maybe,
With you, Sweet Heart, and me.”
She waited, till with quickened breath
She spoke, as one who banisheth
Reserves that lovecraft heeds so well,
To ease some mighty wish to tell:
“‘Twas I,” said she,
“Who wrote thus clinchingly.
“My lover’s wife–aye, wife!–knew nought
Of what we felt, and bore, and thought . . .
He’d said: ‘I wed with thee or die:
She stands between, ’tis true. But why?
Do thou agree,
And–she shalt cease to be.’
“How I held back, how love supreme
Involved me madly in his scheme
Why should I say? . . . I wrote assent
(You found it hid) to his intent . . .
She–DIED . . . But he
Came not to wed with me.
“O shrink not, Love!–Had these eyes seen
But once thine own, such had not been!
But we were strangers . . . Thus the plot
Cleared passion’s path.–Why came he not
To wed with me? . . .
He wived the gibbet-tree.”
– Under that oak of heretofore
Sat Sweetheart mine with me no more:
By many a Fiord, and Strom, and Fleuve
Have I since wandered . . . Soon, for love,
Distraught went she –
‘Twas said for love of me.
Images by Richard Aldington
Like a gondola of green scented fruits
Drifting along the dark canals of Venice,
You, O exquisite one,
Have entered into my desolate city.
The blue smoke leaps
Like swirling clouds of birds vanishing.
So my love leaps forth toward you,
Vanishes and is renewed.
A rose-yellow moon in a pale sky
When the sunset is faint vermilion
In the mist among the tree-boughs
Art thou to me, my beloved.
A young beech tree on the edge of the forest
Stands still in the evening,
Yet shudders through all its leaves in the light air
And seems to fear the stars –
So are you still and so tremble.
The red deer are high on the mountain,
They are beyond the last pine trees.
And my desires have run with them.
The flower which the wind has shaken
Is soon filled again with rain;
So does my heart fill slowly with tears,
Until you return.
Read more English poets here
And from the Nation’s Poet Laureates:
The Poet Laureate dates back to 1616 (Ben Johnson), the first official holder was John Dryden in 1668. There were 10 Poet Laureates before Wordsworth:
- John Dryden (1668),
- Thomas Shadwell (1689),
- Nahum Tate (1692),
- Nicholas Rowe (1715),
- Laurence Eusden (1718 – the youngest Poet Laureate, a title I hold too),
- Colley Cibber (1730),
- William Whitehead (1757- after Thomas Gray refused the position),
- Thomas Warton (1785),
- Henry James Pye (1790),
- Robert Southey (1813 – on the refusal of Walter Scott),
Wordsworth Poet Laureate of England in 1843
The World Is Too Much With Us; Late And Soon
by William Wordsworth
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed- and gazed- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Alfred Tennyson Poet Laureate of England in 1850
The Merman by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Who would be
A merman bold,
Under the sea,
With a crown of gold,
On a throne?
I would be a merman bold,
I would sit and sing the whole of the day;
I would fill the sea-halls with a voice of power;
But at night I would roam abroad and play
With the mermaids in and out of the rocks,
Dressing their hair with the white sea-flower;
And holding them back by their flowing locks
I would kiss them often under the sea,
And kiss them again till they kiss’d me
And then we would wander away, away,
To the pale-green sea-groves straight and high,
Chasing each other merrily.
There would be neither moon nor star;
But the wave would make music above us afar —
Low thunder and light in the magic night —
Neither moon nor star.
We would call aloud in the dreamy dells,
Call to each other and whoop and cry
All night, merrily, merrily.
They would pelt me with starry spangles and shells,
Laughing and clapping their hands between,
All night, merrily, merrily,
But I would throw to them back in mine
Turkis and agate and almondine;
Then leaping out upon them unseen
I would kiss them often under the sea,
And kiss them again till they kiss’d me
O, what a happy life where mine
Under the hollow-hung ocean green!
Soft are the moss-beds under the sea;
We would live merrily, merrily.
Alfred Austin Poet Laureate of England in 1896
Love’s Blindness by Alfred Austin
Now do I know that Love is blind, for I
Can see no beauty on this beauteous earth,
No life, no light, no hopefulness, no mirth,
Pleasure nor purpose, when thou art not nigh.
Thy absence exiles sunshine from the sky,
Seres Spring’s maturity, checks Summer’s birth,
Leaves linnet’s pipe as sad as plover’s cry,
And makes me in abundance find but dearth.
But when thy feet flutter the dark, and thou
With orient eyes dawnest on my distress,
Suddenly sings a bird on every bough,
The heavens expand, the earth grows less and less,
The ground is buoyant as the ether now,
And all looks lovely in thy loveliness.
Robert Bridges Poet Laureate of in 1913
John Masefield Poet Laureate in 1930
Cecil Day-Lewis Poet Laureate in 1968
John Betjeman Poet Laureate in 1972
Ted Hughes Poet Laureate in 1984
As I would see it again through your children’s eyes.
Through your eyes it was foreign.
Plain hedge hawthorns were peculiar aliens,
A mystery of peculiar lore and doings.
Anything wild, on legs, in your eyes
Emerged at a point of exclamation
As if it had appeared to dinner guests
In the middle of the table. Common mallards
Were artefacts of some unearthliness,
Their wooings were a hypnagogic film
Unreeled by the river. Impossible
To comprehend the comfort of their feet
In the freezing water. You were a camera
Recording reflections you could not fathom.
I made my world perform its utmost for you.
You took it all in with an incredulous joy
Like a mother handed her new baby
By the midwife. Your frenzy made me giddy.
It woke up my dumb, ecstatic boyhood
Of fifteen years before. My masterpiece
Came that black night on the Grantchester road.
I sucked the throaty thin woe of a rabbit
Out of my wetted knuckle, by a copse
Where a tawny owl was enquiring.
Suddenly it swooped up, splaying its pinions
Into my face, taking me for a post.
And the final two I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking to several times, in fact Andrew Motion talked to me about this blog (2014)! I felt honoured that he knew it existed.
Andrew Motion Poet Laureate in 1999
With acknowledgments to “Rain” by Cynthia Barnett
WordPress formatting has misrepresented the layout of this poem, please read it from the original source.
Carol Ann Duffy Poet Laureate in 2009