Compassion Poems

From The Complaints of Poverty

by Nicholas James

‘The Complaints of Poverty’ by Nicholas James uses rhetorical devices and rhyme to give the rich a good look at how unpleasant it is to be poor. James indirectly challenges the stigmas associated with both wealth and poverty, inviting the rich to treat poor people with compassion, sympathy, and generosity.

This poem is a call for compassion, sympathy, and pity for the poor who need help to put food on the table. By tracing the monotonous, restless days and nights of the poor, the poet reveals how diligent and persevering the poor must be to carry on with their lives day to day.


by Stevie Smith

‘Parrot’ is a moving exploration of imprisonment and suffering set against the backdrop of the modern, urban world.

Smith's poem attempts to invoke the readers' sympathy and compassion for the sickly bird.

Ruins of a Great House

by Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott’s ‘Ruins of a Great House’ combines themes of historical and cultural abuse with factual reasoning and literary references to bring together a massive emotional conflict in the Speaker’s perception.

This poem might not start with compassion of any kind, but the amount of compassion is outstanding by the end. The poem's Speaker feels emotionally conflicted about their resentment towards the British because they colonized and hurt so many people. But, the Speaker uses history to remember that England was also a colony at one point and has also been abused by others. So, while not forgiving the British, the Speaker shows remarkable compassion for them.

Poem About My Rights

by June Jordan

‘Poem About My Rights’ by June Jordan is a one-stanza poem revealing a speaker’s thoughts on misogyny, sexism, and racism from their experience. It is celebrated for accurately portraying the struggles of women and men of color in a patriarchial and predominantly white society.

About two-thirds of the poem reveals the persona to be compassionate. It is apparent with her awareness of the struggles in Africa and her thoughts for children.

The Complaints of the Poor

by Robert Southey

‘The Complaints of the Poor’ by Robert Southey takes place in a city, likely London, and describes the desperate measures poverty drives people to. 

Clearly, the narrator and his companion feel compassion for the impoverished men and women they meet in this poem.

Nude Interrogation

by Yusef Komunyakaa

‘Nude Interrogation’ by Yusef Komunyakaa is one of the best examples of prose poetry, and it captures the struggles of Vietnam War veterans after their return home.

The speaker's broken state in 'Nude Interrogation' by Yusef Komunyakaa is difficult to see, as it invokes compassion in the listener. The veteran-speaker's difficulty understanding reality, separating the past from the present, and telling the truth about his experiences are heartbreaking.


by Mark Doty

‘Brilliance’ by Mark Doty describes a dying man who wants to control his own life. He eventually opens himself up to new experiences.

Maggie, the nurse in the story, is providing end-of-life care to a dying man. Her job requires her to be compassionate toward people who are dealing with difficult situations. Maggie has good instincts regarding her patient; she can see that bringing new life and new joy into his home might help him deal with the experience of death. To that end, she suggests getting goldfish and talks him through what the experience might entail. Her compassion is crucial for the dying man, since without it he would likely have been unable to take the leap to open his heart.


by Hilda Doolittle

‘Circe’ by Hilda Doolittle is a poem that gives voice to Circe, a goddess and master of magical enchantments. Despite her power, she laments that she cannot control love.

Doolittle used several devices to make 'Circe' relatable to a very universal audience, including leaving out her lover's name. In doing so, the character of Circe invokes compassion in the listener. Anyone who has ever felt love, especially unrequited love, understands how Circe is feeling, adding to the emotional impact of the poem.

On Joy and Sorrow

by Kahlil Gibran

‘On Joy and Sorrow’ by Kahlil Gibran is a meditative, insightful, poetic essay that makes interesting implications about the inseparable emotions of joy and sorrow.

The speaker of 'On Joy and Sorrow' is an exceedingly compassionate, kind, and wise person. This compassion goes two ways as he speaks to his listener and audience, inspiring them to see the universality of emotions such as joy and sorrow. His teachings, posed gently, appeal to everyone who listens, allowing others to see that he, too, has experience with the constantly changing emotions of joy and sorrow.

To a Dead Friend

by Langston Hughes

‘To a Dead Friend’ by Langston Hughes is a depressing poem about the ways death can permanently alter one’s ability to see or feel joy.

The reader definitley develops a sense of compassion for the speaker over the course of the poem. As it becomes increasingly clear the speaker is severely undone by the death of their friend, the reader is spurred to sympathy/empathy for their loss.

The House by the Side of the Road

by Sam Walter Foss

‘The House by the Side of the Road’ by Sam Walter Foss was a once-popular American poem about caring for and helping other people. 

The speaker shows a great deal of compassion for all people.

To My Brother

by Lorna Dee Cervantes

‘To My Brother’ by Lorna Dee Cervantes captures the intense bittersweetness of remembering a childhood checkered by both strife and happiness.

Although contained mostly within the subtext, it's clear that the poem inspires feelings of love between the speaker and their brother. It's because of their relationship (and the fact that neither ever had to suffer alone) that they are able to persist through each day.

Two Armies

by Stephen Spender

‘Two Armies’ by Stephen Spender describes two armies on a devastating battlefield where every individual is suffering. Their common humanity is highlighted. 

The speaker tries to evoke compassion in the reader for both sides of the army and reminds them that both sides contain human beings longing for home and family.

Sunlight on the Garden

by Louis MacNeice

‘Sunlight on the Garden’ by Louis MacNeice is a poem about change, death, and accepting that life eventually ends.

The poet feels compassion towards his ex-wife and the happy times they had together.

At First

by Amanda Gorman

‘At First’ by Amanda Gorman is a poem about language in the COVID-19 pandemic. The poem uses text messages to speak about how the pandemic changed everyone. 

The poet uses a compassionate tone throughout this piece, suggesting that everyone will make it through COVID-19 and feel more connected to those around them after it's over.


by Hone Tuwhare

‘Monologue’ by Hone Tuwhare is a contemporary poem about the difficulties workers face when looking for a job and how temporary those jobs can be. 

The speaker feels compassion for those who, like him, are seeking out a more permanent job that they can depend on for more than a short period.

In This Place (An American Lyric)

by Amanda Gorman

‘In This Place (An American Lyric)’ is a moving poem about American life and the tragedies, acts of bravery, and hope that shape the nation. 

Compassion is a very clear feeling that Gorman conveys in this text. Her speaker feels love and appreciation for the many diverse people in the United States.

The Ballad of Aunt Geneva

by Marilyn Nelson

‘The Ballad of Aunt Geneva’ by Marilyn Nelson is about a Black woman’s life, relationships, and work. It is based on local rumors and assumptions about her character.

While there is a great deal of judgment in this poem, the speaker also seems to feel a form of compassion for Aunt Geneva. She's related to them and therefore feels closer to them than to others.

A Dream

by William Blake

‘A Dream’ by William Blake paints a compassionate and thoughtful picture of the natural world through the personified story of an ant.

a man who had fallen among thieves

by E.E. Cummings

E. E. Cummings’ ‘a man who had fallen among thieves’ is a modern retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan who helped a robbed man lying unconscious on the road. In this poem, the speaker helps one such person who faced a similar accident.

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. 

Apparently with no surprise

by Emily Dickinson

In ‘Apparently with no surprise,’ Emily Dickinson explores themes of life, death, time, and God. The poet takes the reader to a moving snapshot of life and death.

At Grass

by Philip Larkin

‘At Grass’ by Philip Larkin is a poem about fame and happiness. It focuses on racehorses and how they found new homes away from their previous lives.

Auld Lang Syne

by Robert Burns

‘Auld Lang Syne’ is a poem that addresses old acquaintances and the memories associated with them at the end of a year. It is a famous poem that is sung all across the world.

Caged Bird

by Maya Angelou

‘Caged Bird’, or ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ as the poem is sometimes referred to, by Maya Angelou, is arguably one of the most moving and eye-opening poems ever written.


by Eavan Boland

‘Cityscape’ by Eavan Boland is a complex, allusion-filled poem that describes Dublin and the Blackrock Baths, and presents contrasting images of past and present. 

Elegy V: His Picture

by John Donne

‘Elegy V’ by John Donne is addressed to the poet’s lover. He asks her to accept him when he returns, despite the fact that he’s going to look and act differently.

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