Abandonment Poems

In the desolate sphere of abandonment and betrayal, some poets wrote verses of exquisite sweetness and some explored the dark side of this theme. “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” The poet has rightly said that those who have not shed a tear cannot even know the value of happiness.

Like tragedy purges the soul of excess emotions, these poems will take the excess of emotions out of readers’ hearts and make their minds more balanced.

The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance (translated by Ezra Pound)

by Li Bai

‘The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance’ (translated by Ezra Pound) by Li Bai captures the lovelorn yearning of a woman waiting for her lover late at night in a picturesque scene of melancholic beauty.

Despite the discomfort of waiting outside late at night, the speaker persists for probably far longer than they should, eventually retiring to their room where they keep a lookout still. Yet, it's not an overwhelming sense of hope that Li Bai's imagery leaves you with. But rather this profound and resounding sense of abandonment that's experienced by the speaker.

The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew,

It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings,

And I let down the crystal curtain

And watch the moon through the clear autumn.

The Snowman on the Moor

by Sylvia Plath

‘The Snowman on the Moor’ explores the turbulent and abusive relationship between the speaker (presumably Plath herself) and her male spouse.

Both partners in the poem attempt to abandon each other physically and emotionally yet cannot separate. This is despite the unhealthy relationship in which they find themselves. Due to the poem's realism, many readers will likely sense this emotion from the poem's first few lines.

Stalemated their armies stood, with tottering banners:

She flung from a room

Still ringing with bruit of insults and dishonors

The Triumph of Achilles

by Louise Glück

‘The Triumph of Achilles’ depicts the titular hero as he mourns the loss of his beloved companion Patroclus.

The poem explores this theme in two primary ways. Firstly, it suggests that Achilles has been abandoned by his companion, Patroclus, when he died and left Achilles alone in the world. However, the only reason Patroclus fought and died was because Achilles would not, thus implying it was Achilles who abandoned the cause.

In the story of Patroclus

no one survives, not even Achilles

who was nearly a god.

Easter Hymn

by A. E. Housman

‘Easter Hymn’ by A. E. Houseman unearths the contradictions between religious teachings and their implementation. The poet is juxtaposing biblical moments of violence with modern ones to highlight the incomplete nature of Christ’s promise to save humanity from itself.

There is an implied sense of abandonment that permeates the final stanza of the poem. The speaker questions in the form of a plea: if Jesus is up in heaven and can see the way their teachings have been twisted, they must put a stop to it.

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,

You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,

Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright

Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night

The Young Housewife

by William Carlos Williams

‘The Young Housewife’ by William Carlos Williams is a short poem that intimately envisions a few moments in the life of a lonely woman confined to her home.

One of the more prominent emotions elicited from the poem is the sense of abandonment that is perceived in the housewife through the speaker's observations. She is a woman left alone to wander around a house that is not hers but her husband's. Her sadness and loneliness are palpable even to a complete stranger who recognizes the feeling in her.

At ten a.m. the young housewife

moves about in negligee behind

the wooden walls of her husband’s house.

I pass solitary in my car.

Childhood Ideogram

by Larry Levis

‘Childhood Ideogram’ by Larry Levis immerses readers in a nostalgic journey, where vivid imagery and contemplative reflections unravel the complexities of identity, memory, and the transient nature of time.

This poem by Larry Levis evokes the emotion of abandonment through the speaker's sense of loss and longing. 'Childhood Ideogram' captures a feeling of being abandoned or disconnected, both in the speaker's questioning of their parentage and in their solitary moments at recess. The absence of certain individuals and the uncertainty surrounding their whereabouts contribute to a pervasive feeling of abandonment, creating a sense of emptiness and longing for connection that permeates the poem.

I lay my head sideways on the desk,

My fingers interlocked under my cheekbones,

My eyes closed. It was a three-room schoolhouse,

White, with a small bell tower, an oak tree

Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg

by Richard Hugo

‘Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg’ by Victor Hugo is a 20th century poem about nostalgia and living on past glory.

Philipsburg went from being a lovely town to being an abandoned place. The difference is clear, and people (especially the ones with a sense of adventure) are leaving in their numbers because of this. The poem does a very good job of evoking this emotion with the use of imagery, which provides a vivid picture of the situation. Richard Hugo's ‘Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg’ does a fair job in this aspect.

You might come here Sunday on a whim.

Say your life broke down.

The last good kiss you had was years ago.


by Ambrose Bierce

‘Elegy’ by Ambrose Bierce parodies another famous elegy in order to humorously critique the self-indulgence of such poetic lamentations.

A sense of abandonment pervades Bierce's parody. The cur signals the departure of daylight, the herd meanders around a hill, and even a wise man heads home. All these exits, of course, allude to the death of the loved one for which the speaker is now trying and failing to compose an elegy. In a way, the most powerful image in the whole scene is one only implied: the speaker abandoned by all, writing meaningless words in the dark.

The cur foretells the knell of parting day;

The loafing herd winds slowly o’er the lea;

The wise man homewards plods; I only stay

To fiddle-faddle in a minor key.

Everything I touch

by Kobayashi Issa

‘Everything I touch’ by Kobayashi Issa is a beautiful Japanese haiku written by one of the four great haiku masters. This piece speaks on what one might receive in return when they reach out with tenderness.

The poem hints at the fear of abandonment that often accompanies our interactions with others. Even when we approach our relationships with care and attention, there is always the possibility that we will be let down or left behind.

Everything I touch

with tenderness, alas,

pricks like a bramble

Black Hair

by Gary Soto

‘Black Hair’ by Gary Soto is a contemporary poem that offers an introspective look at a child watching a baseball game.

The speaker in this poem feels abandoned and alienated by their community. Though this emotion is prominent in the first two stanzas of the poem, the final stanza shifts to a more positive outlook on the future and what the speaker hopes to achieve.

At eight I was brilliant with my body.

In July, that ring of heat

We all jumped through, I sat in the bleachers

Of Romain Playground, in the lengthening

Explore more poems about Abandonment

A Murmur in the Trees— to note

by Emily Dickinson

‘A Murmur in the Trees— to note’ by Emily Dickinson is a poem about nature’s magic. It includes mysterious images of fairy men, glowing lights in the woods, and the murmuring of trees. 

Rather than abandoning a person, the poem appears to suggest people should abandon their cynicism and doubt in order to live a more fulfilled life. This is shown in the final stanza, when the speaker calls on the reader to abandon the road.

A Murmur in the Trees – to note –

Not loud enough – for Wind –

A Star – not far enough to seek –

Nor near enough – to find –

Domestic Peace

by Anne Brontë

‘Domestic Peace’ laments a transformed household, contrasting external calm with internal desolation, emphasizing the profound impact of emotional connections.

This poem elicits the emotion of abandonment through its portrayal of a once-happy household now marked by desolation. The absence of an unnamed element creates a sense of emptiness and isolation within each family member, evoking feelings of being forsaken or left behind. The yearning for the return of harmony amplifies this emotional abandonment.

Why should such gloomy silence reign;

And why is all the house so drear,

When neither danger, sickness, pain,

Nor death, nor want have entered here?

A Jet Ring Sent

by John Donne

‘A Jet Ring Sent’ by John Donne describes how a speaker’s beloved returned his promise ring. The speaker meditates on the nature of their relationship and how it is symbolized by the black ring. 

Thou art not so black as my heart,

    Nor half so brittle as her heart, thou art ;

What would'st thou say ? shall both our properties by thee be spoke,

    —Nothing more endless, nothing sooner broke?

Amethyst Beads

by Eavan Boland

‘Amethyst Beads’ by Eavan Boland alludes to Greek mythology and the suffering of a child, Persephone, after she was separated from her mother, Demeter.

Cousin Kate

by Christina Rossetti

‘Cousin Kate’ speaks to the circumstance of women during the Victorian era. The period in which Rossetti wrote this poem makes the message all the more meaningful.

I was a cottage maiden

Hardened by sun and air,

Contented with my cottage mates,

Not mindful I was fair.

Fairer through Fading — as the Day

by Emily Dickinson

‘Fairer through Fading — as the Day’ by Emily Dickinson describes the sun and the value of all things. She uses the day as a symbol for what’s lost and will come again.

Fairer through Fading — as the Day

Into the Darkness dips away —

Half Her Complexion of the Sun —

Hindering — Haunting — Perishing —

Going to See King Lear

by Jackie Kay

‘Going to See King Lear’ by Jackie Kay describes what happens when a young girl is taken to see a traumatizing play by her mother.

Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience)

by William Blake

‘Holy Thursday’ by William Blake depicts the poor children of London attending church on Holy Thursday. Specifically, Blake describes their songs, appearance, and how their existence challenges the message the church is trying to convey.

Is this a holy thing to see, 

In a rich and fruitful land,

Babes reducd to misery,

Fed with cold and usurous hand?


by Alfred Lord Tennyson

With blackest moss the flower-plots

Were thickly crusted, one and all:

The rusted nails fell from the knots

That held the pear to the gable-wall.


by Alice Meynell

‘Renouncement’ by Alice Meynell is a passionate poem in which the speaker fights to fend off thoughts of the person she loves. She refuses to allow herself to think about this person during the day.

Sonnet 143

by William Shakespeare

‘Sonnet 143,’ also known as ‘Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch,’ uses a simile to depict the speaker’s feelings for the Dark Lady. He is described as a crying infant desperate for his mother’s return.

Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch

One of her feathered creatures broke away,

Sets down her babe, and makes all swift dispatch

In pursuit of the thing she would have stay;

The Forsaken Merman

by Matthew Arnold

‘The Forsaken Merman’ by Matthew Arnold is a melancholy poem in which the speaker, a merman, grieves the loss of his human wife. He’s left alone with their children without the woman he loves.

The Little Boy Lost

by William Blake

‘The Little Boy Lost’ by William Blake is the story of a young child who while out searching for his father gets lost in the woods. 

Father, father, where are you going

       O do not walk so fast.

Speak father, speak to your little boy

       Or else I shall be lost,

The Lost Leader

by Robert Browning

In ‘The Lost Leader’, Browning criticises those who have abandoned liberal political ideologies and embraced the conservative lifestyle.

Just for a handful of silver he left us,

       Just for a riband to stick in his coat –

Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,

       Lost all the others she lets us devote;

Void in Law

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Void in Law’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning depicts the scuffle many Victorian women endured after getting married. The woman has been left alone with no real resources by a husband who prefers to spend time with his mistress.

Sleep, little babe, on my knee,

Sleep, for the midnight is chill,

And the moon has died out in the tree,

And the great human world goeth ill.

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