Sadness Poems

Yellow Stars and Ice

by Susan Stewart

‘Yellow Stars and Ice’ captures the unattainable nature of memory, even when it feels tantalizingly close at hand.

The poem's central figure expresses their sadness in many ways, often linking their personal sense of loss to natural occurrences, as suggested by the title. The poem is also profoundly affecting and evokes sadness in the reader, who cannot help but feel the narrator's sense of anguish as they cannot reach the one they love.

I am as far as the deepest sky between clouds

and you are as far as the deepest root and wound,

and I am as far as a train at evening,

as far as a whistle you can't hear or remember.  

Explore more poems about Sadness

The Portrait

by Stanley Kunitz

‘The Portrait’ by Stanley Kunitz is a sad poem about the speaker’s ill-fated attempt to learn more about their deceased father.

There is a profound level of sadness felt when reading this poem. Which stems from the tragedy of watching this cycle of trauma repeat itself. The mother passing on her anger and grief to her child by tearing up the portrait and slapping them, an act the speaker has never nor likely will ever forget.

The Nightingale

by Philip Sidney

‘The Nightingale’ is a unique love-lyric that exploits the classical myth of Philomel to morph the personal rue of a lovelorn heart into a superb piece of poetry.

Sadness lies beneath every line of the poem. The poet is sad about his unfulfilled love, Procne is sad about her husband Tereus and her sister Philomela and Philomela is sad about what Tereus, her sister's husband did to her. She is sad about losing her virginity without her consent and becoming impure.

an afternoon nap

by Arthur Yap

‘an afternoon nap’ by Arthur Yap explores the lacunae in the modern education system and how it results in anxiety and stress in students.

In this poem, both the mother and son feel sad. The absence of compassion and love is what makes the audience feel sorry for both.

Death of a Young Woman

by Gillian Clarke

Explore ‘Death of a Young Woman,’ where Clarke depicts how a loved one’s death lets a person free from their inward, endless suffering.

In 'Death of a Young Woman,' Clarke shows how there could be a sense of relief coupled with a tinge of sadness when one dies after a long period of suffering.

The Double Shame

by Stephen Spender

‘The Double Shame’ by Stephen Spender conveys a depiction of what the world feels like when one loses a very important person in their life. Everything is transformed in a way that makes a living from day to day difficult. 

The speaker describes someone's extraordinarily painful sadness and how it impacts their everyday life.

The Machinist, Teaching His Daughter to Play the Piano

by B.H. Fairchild

‘The Machinist, Teaching His Daughter to Play the Piano’ by B.H. Fairchild is a free verse poem about how the creative process can connect a father and daughter.

The cold, difficult relationship that the machinist has with his daughter is sad enough as it is but only gets sadder as the listener realizes that the machinist is cold because he is bitter about having to work so hard to give his daughter the freedom and life she wants.

Gacela of Unforseen Love

by Federico Garcia Lorca

‘Gacela of Unforseen Love’ explores the relationship between love and despair through a remembered romance which has run its course.

The narrator appears to feel a keen sense of sadness, perhaps bordering on anguish as a result of their lost love. This is in keeping with Lorca's melodramatic poetic style.

“Venice — Venus?” (#5 from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

“Venice — Venus?” by Hilda Doolittle is an insightful poem about Doolittle’s reasons for writing despite critiques. Doolittle reveals that her ultimate source of inspiration is divine.

Though the majority of Doolittle's poem comes off as confident and resolute, the lines I can't get away from it, / I've tried to;" are a bit disheartening, as they reveal that Doolittle feels trapped in her own poetic work. In addition, the force of the line "write, write or die" is severe and threatening, invoking pity from Doolittle's audience.


by Gillian Clarke

 ‘Sunday’ by Gillian Clarke was inspired by the poet’s personal experience of attempting to enjoy a Sunday morning but then being reminded of all the suffering that’s going on in the world. 

Ultimately, the narrator's sadness is nothing in comparison to those that they read about. Furthermore, the scant few lines that relate to that sadness shows how little time people in Britain actually spend thinking about the suffering of others.

Mr. Flood’s Party

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

‘Mr. Flood’s Party’ by Edwin Arlington Robinson describes a man’s later years in life and how lonely he has become. It suggests that a long life is not always a blessing. 

Mr. Flood is clearly deeply sad about everything he has lost.

“Take me anywhere” (from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

In “Take me anywhere, anywhere;” by Hilda Doolittle, the poet-speaker addresses a lover, expressing the way in which she takes refuge in their affection.

"Take me anywhere, anywhere;" is a bittersweet poem, expressing the longing that Hilda Doolittle feels for love. By frequently alluding to her former lovers and her personal past, she takes a tour of her romantic history, as if trying to figure out where it all went wrong. However, Hilda's narrative is at the forefront of the poem, and as she pines for the attention of her lover, it is clear that she knows that she's the problem.


by Jean Bleakney

Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.

This poem contains a sad and heart-touching story about a mother's attempt to rearrange the cowrie shells that she picked up with her children a long time ago.


by Léonie Adams

Apostate’ by Léonie Adams describes the freedom a speaker sees in the joyful stars and how she aches to live as they do. 

The poem has a melancholic tone, and the speaker's sense of loss and uncertainty may evoke feelings of sadness or empathy in readers.

A Muse of Water

by Carolyn Kizer

‘A Muse of Water’ by Carolyn Kizer is a unique poem that places women as a force of nature, like water, that men attempt to control, redirect, and oppress.

'A Muse of Water' presents an argument that women, like nature, have been hurt by modernization and civilization. The desperation, sadness, and grief that the water and women both feel in the poem at the loss of their freedom and beauty are very bleak and saddening. Additionally, the poem offers very little hope for reparation.

Little Boy Blue

by Eugene Field

‘Little Boy Blue’ by Eugene Field is a beautiful, heartbreaking poem that describes the aftermath of a child’s death. It focuses on the child’s toys and how, despite many years having gone by, they’re still waiting for him. 

Sadness is the overwhelming emotion that readers are meant to feel when engaging with the three stanzas of this Field poem. It focuses on the death of a child and the stubborn persistence of his toys.

My Kate

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘My Kate’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a sorrowful elegy dedicated to a morally righteous and important woman who has passed away. 

The poem's speaker is quite sad about Kate's passing, as are those she alludes to throughout the text. She expects that anyone reading the text will feel the same sadness.

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 is clearly quite saddened by the turn his life has taken.

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.

The life depicted in this poem is one of utter sadness and hunger, which is enough to break the heart of almost any listener. With this exceedingly emotional appeal, James hopes that the wealthy will see that the poor are more than worthy of help. At the very least, he hopes that the wealthy will stop looking down on the poor and cease oppressing them.

Before She Died

by Karen Chase

‘Before She Died’ by Karen Chase is a poem about how someone’s death, or impending death, changes the way that one understands the world. 

Sadness is certainly the most important emotion felt in this poem. The speaker feels it, and the reader will likely feel some of their sorrow after reading the poem's ten lines.

‘Twas the old — road — through pain—

by Emily Dickinson

‘Twas the old — road — through pain—’ by Emily Dickinson describes a woman’s path from life to death and her entrance into Heaven. 

The speaker feels some sadness for the woman who is on life's journey. But, at the same time, its a journey that everyone is on.

Death in the Arctic

by Robert Service

Robert Service’s ‘Death in the Arctic’ tells a bleak, dark story in such an evocative way that even after the poem finishes, the reader can’t help but wonder for more.

The poem is filled with imagery and language that evokes a sense of sadness and loss. The narrator speaks of sorrow and describes a feeling of being alone.

Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea

by Sylvia Plath

‘Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea’ by Sylvia Plath explores imagination. Reality, the speaker realizes, doesn’t always live up to what one imagined.

There is a clear sadness in this poem that's demonstrated through the poet's use of imagery and the speaker's tone. The poem alludes to loss, heartbreak, and many different worries.

Suicide in the Trenches

by Siegfried Sassoon

‘Suicide in the Trenches’ is an incredibly tragic poem. Siegfried Sassoon explores the mental deterioration of a young soldier in the trenches of WW1 and his suicide.

The soldier's suicide is a poignant reminder of the senseless loss of life that often accompanies war and the sadness and grief that it causes for families and loved ones. The poem evokes a sense of melancholy and sadness in its portrayal of the soldier's death.

The Idea of Ancestry

by Etheridge Knight

‘The Idea of Ancestry’ by Etheridge Knight is concerned with family relationships and how important being with those you’re related to is. 

This poem is filled with sadness revolving around the speaker's incarceration and separation from his family.

The Wind in the Dooryard

by Derek Walcott

‘The Wind in the Dooryard’ by Derek Walcott was written after the death of Eric Roach, a well-respected poet who died by suicide in 1974. This poem is dedicated to his life and work. 

Walcott expreinces sadness in this poem regarding the death of a fellow poet. He uses language that makes this emotion come through very clearly.

Beach Burial

by Kenneth Slessor

‘Beach Burial’ by Kenneth Slessor is a deeply emotional poem about the cost of war. It uses hard-to-forget images of bodies washing up on a beach to highlight this fact.

There is a distinct element of sadness in this poem. The imagery lends itself to a sad and depressing tone quite easily. Readers will also likely feel a lingering sadness for the sailors after the poem ends.

The Sheep Child

by James Dickey

‘The Sheep Child’ by James L. Dickey is a surprising and memorable poem that describes a half-sheep, half-human child that frightens the local farm boys into controlling their sexual lust. 

The second part of the poem is filled with sadness. It is narrated by the sheep child and describes the creature's short, doomed life.

At Pegasus

by Terrance Hayes

‘At Pegasus’ by Terrance Hayes is a powerful poem about identity that uses a youthful memory and a contemporary experience to speak about life.

This poem is tinged with sadness as the speaker looks back on his youth and remembers what it was like to play with his friend Curtis. He feels as though he's lost the freedom and pure joy of his youth, something he sees playing out in front of him in the club.

Claudette Colvin Goes to Work

by Rita Dove

‘Claudette Colvin Goes to Work’ by Rita Dove depicts the life and struggles of Claudette Colvin, who is best known as a civil rights activist.

While the speaker does not explicitly say that she's sad, the poet's use of language (which is overwhelmingly dreary and exhausted-feeling) suggests that her day-to-day life does include intense moments of sadness.

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