Below, readers can explore some of the greatest sad poems in the English language. These were written by various authors, from Stevie Smith to Langston Hughes and Percy Bysshe Shelley. No matter one’s experience, there is sure to be at least one poem on this list that feels memorable and relatable.
Best Sad Poems
- 1 Home is so Sad by Philip Larkin
- 2 They Say My Verse is Sad by A.E. Housman
- 3 Sad and Alone by Maurice Manning
- 4 Rowing by Anne Sexton
- 5 Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe
- 6 Tears, Idle Tears by Alfred Lord Tennyson
- 7 Song: When I am dead, my dearest by Christina Rossetti
- 8 Dirge Over a Nameless Grave by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- 9 Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
- 10 Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost
- 11 Life’s Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar
- 12 Sorrow by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- 13 No worst, there is none by Gerard Manley Hopkins
- 14 Balloons by Sylvia Plath
- 15 Desert Places by Robert Frost
- 16 Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by Amiri Baraka
- 17 From Blank to Blank by Emily Dickinson
- 18 Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples by Percy Bysshe Shelley
- 19 The River God by Stevie Smith
- 20 The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes
- 21 Long Distance II by Tony Harrison
- 22 FAQs
This thoughtful, sad poem is about the importance of home. He delves into the emotions and events that come along with leaving home and uses personification. One’s home is a comforting space that suffers in the absence of those it cared for. Here are a few lines:
Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Read more Philip Larkin poems.
They Say My Verse is Sad by A.E. Housman
This short poem is about the poet’s understanding of his own writing. Unlike the other poems on this list, Housman uses the stanzas (two quatrains) in order to assert that his verse is not implicitly sad. It has a limited scope, he notes, in its assessment of universal themes important to all of humanity. He writes in order to give comfort to those who need it, he says. Here are a few lines:
They say my verse is sad: no wonder.
Its narrow measure spans
Rue for eternity, and sorrow
Not mine, but man’s
Read more A.E. Housman poems.
Sad and Alone by Maurice Manning
This contemporary poem discusses feelings of loneliness and solitude. The speaker sits alone, thinking about his past. This includes a series of disconnected images, such as the leaking roof of his house and the burial of a woman. Here are the first lines:
Well, this is nothing new, nothing
to rattle the rafters in the noggin,
this moment of remembering
and its kissing cousin the waking dream.
Explore more Maurice Manning poems.
This well-known Sexton poem was written two years before the poet took her life in 1974. It is the first piece in her final collection, The Awful Rowing Toward God. It is also considered a companion piece to the final poem in the collection, ‘The Rowing Endeth.’ The poem begins with:
A story, a story!
(Let it go. Let it come.)
The poet uses the text to discuss her depression, search for happiness, and progression towards God. She highlights the negative in her life but continues to row, hoping to reach a place that’s closer to God.
Read more Anne Sexton poems.
This well-known Poe poem describes a traveler’s experiences in an alternative world in which ghosts and ghouls haunt a cold and terrifying landscape. Throughout, the main character shares the many woes he has to contend with and how in this “dream-land” he’s able to address them. Here are the first lines:
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
Read more Edgar Allan Poe poems.
This thoughtful poem presents the emotional turbulence of the poet’s mind after seeing the beautiful natural setting of Tintern Abbey. It returns the poet to memories of a lost loved one, a theme that’s likely to be highly relatable. The poet begins with:
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.
Discover more Alfred Lord Tennyson poems.
This piece was first published in 1862 in her first volume of poetry, Goblin Market and Other Poems. The piece is incredibly moving and is addressed to a lover, telling them what she hopes will happen after her death. The first lines of the poem read:
When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
Explore more Christina Rossetti poems.
‘Dirge Over a Nameless Grave’ was composed with the intention of honoring the death of someone buried in a nameless grave. The poet also uses the text to speak about death and loss more generally. The poet describes a single tree sitting above the nameless grave that moves with the sadness of the scene. Here are the first four lines:
By yon still river, where the wave
Is winding slow at evening’s close,
The beech, upon a nameless grave,
Its sadly-moving shadow throws.
Read more Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poems.
This sad poem describes the connection between one’s outlook on life and the friends and community one attracts. The speaker notes that someone who is depressed will attract the same energy in their life. The poem begins with:
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
Discover more Ella Wheeler Wilcox poems.
This is a personal poem that deals with themes of depression. The speaker describes walking through the night and even in the rain. He passes people, but never meets their gaze. Some have suggested that the poem is delivered from the poet’s own perspective. The first stanza reads:
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
‘Life’s Tragedy’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar considers the elements of life that create tragedy and suffering. There are some things, he notes, that are undoubtedly painful. But, the speaker asserts that missing out on perfect love and the perfect song leads to a truly “accursed” life. The first stanza reads:
It may be misery not to sing at all,
And to go silent through the brimming day;
It may be misery never to be loved,
But deeper griefs than these beset the way.
Explore more Paul Laurence Dunbar poems.
This short lyric poem addresses a speaker’s depressive feelings. She describes all-encompassing sorrow and what it feels like. Throughout, readers can enjoy Millay’s skillful use of imagery. For example:
Sorrow like a ceaseless rain
Beats upon my heart.
People twist and scream in pain, —
Dawn will find them still again;
Discover more Edna St. Vicent Millay poems.
No worst, there is none by Gerard Manley Hopkins
This sorrowful poem describes the nature of a speaker’s depression. Throughout, he notes its highs and its lows. When the poem begins, the speaker says he is in a mental place that’s so bad and painful it would be almost impossible to tell if it worsened. The first two lines read:
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Explore more Gerard Manley Hopkins poems.
This unique poem compares balloons to childhood and, when they pop, to the intrusion of reality. Adulthood and all its complexities are contrasted with the light-hearted nature of childhood. This piece was also one of Plath’s final works before her death. A few lines are below.
Since Christmas they have lived with us,
Guileless and clear,
Taking up half the space,
Moving and rubbing on the silk
Read more Sylvia Plath poems.
‘Desert Places’ is a dark poem that uses a snowstorm to depict universal human loneliness and the inevitable return of depression. This poem is widely relatable and uses memorable images, such as the night sky, the snowfall, and the absence of plant life. The poem begins with:
Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.
The woods around it have it – it is theirs.
Discover more Robert Frost poems.
Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by Amiri Baraka
This is the best-known piece in the poet’s first collection of poems. Baraka introduces a depressed narrator engrossed with thoughts of dying. When they walk outside, they can’t help but envision the ground swallowing them up, the speaker says. The first lines continue:
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run to a bus…
Discover more Amiri Baraka poems.
‘From Blank to Blank’ is one of the only poems on this list that begins with a sad and dark tone and ends on a happier note. The poet spends the lines discussing how difficult life can be and the sorrowful emotions one might experience. By the end of the poem, one small act has provided the speaker with some optimism. The first lines read:
From Blank to Blank—
A Threadless Way
I pushed Mechanic feet—
Read more Emily Dickinson poems.
Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples by Percy Bysshe Shelley
This well-known poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley describes the feelings of alienation a speaker suffers and how he attempts to soothe his pain with nature. This should be a familiar scene to those acquainted with the work of the early and later Romantic poets. The speaker describes how he wants a great deal from life but has not been able to achieve the right amount of happiness. The poem begins with:
The sun is warm, the sky is clear,
The waves are dancing fast and bright,
Blue isles and snowy mountains wear
The purple noon’s transparent might,
The breath of the moist earth is light,
Explore more Percy Bysshe Shelley poems.
This unique contemporary poem is told from the perspective of a “River God.” It begins with the lines:
I may be smelly, and I may be old,
Rough in my pebbles, reedy in my pools,
But where my fish float by I bless their swimming
The lines go on, describing what the River God can and cannot accomplish. The one thing he wants more than anything is for a specific woman, someone he calls “my beautiful dear,” to stay with him.
Read more Stevie Smith poems.
This incredibly famous poem describes the performance of a blues musician in a club on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York. It is the title piece of his best-known collection of poetry. The last lines read:
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.
Discover more Langston Hughes poems.
Long Distance II by Tony Harrison
‘Long Distance II’ describes the various ways that grief can manifest through the experiences of a father and a child. It provides readers with a variety of memorable images associated with loss. The first lines read:
Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.
Read more Tony Harrison poems.
Some poems that might make readers cry include ‘Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples‘ by Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Desert Places‘ by Robert Frost, and ‘Life’s Tragedy‘ by Paul Laurence Dunbar. All three of these poems delve into subject matter that is dark and fearful.
It depends on the format that the poem takes. It could be a sonnet, dirge, elegy, ode, epitaph, or several other forms. Sad poems also tap into themes like depression, solitude, the inevitability of death, losing a loved one, and sickness.
The best way to write a sad poem is to begin by jotting down a few things that make one “sad” in their everyday life. Perhaps that is the loss of a pet, the death of a loved one, an illness, general depression, etc. Next, writers need to collect images associated with their chosen topic and combine them in a way that creates an interesting overall experience.