English Poems

English poetry has a long history dating back to the medieval period, with important works such as ‘Beowulf’ and ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.’ However, it was during the Renaissance period that English poetry truly flourished, with the works of William Shakespeare, John Donne, and Ben Jonson, among others.

In the 18th century, the Romantic movement emerged, with poets such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lord Byron pushing the boundaries of poetic expression with their emotive and personal works. This era also saw the rise of female poets such as Mary Shelley and Charlotte Smith, who challenged societal norms with their feminist and revolutionary ideas.

The Victorian period saw the rise of poets such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who explored themes of love, death, and morality. The 20th century brought about the modernist movement, with poets such as T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Dylan Thomas experimenting with language and form to create works that were both intellectually challenging and emotionally resonant.

Character of the Happy Warrior

by William Wordsworth

‘Character of the Happy Warrior’ by William Wordsworth is a poem about what it means to be a “happy warrior” and what the elements of this kind of person’s life would be. 

This is a 19th-century poem written by a very famous English author - William Wordsworth. But this is not his best poem nor is it the best poem written in the history of the English language.

  Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he

That every man in arms should wish to be?

—It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought

Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought

Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:

L’Envoi (1881)

by Rudyard Kipling

‘L’Envoi’ by Rudyard Kipling reflects on the nature and purpose of poetry and considers the poet’s legacy.

This poem is an example of the rich literary tradition of England. Kipling was a British author who lived during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and his work is often associated with the imperialist attitudes of that time. However, 'L'Envoi' is a departure from that theme, focusing instead on the fleeting nature of fame and the importance of connecting with readers on a deeper level.

Rhymes, or of grief or of sorrow

Pass and are not,

Rhymes of today—tomorrow 

  Lie forgot.

The Angel

by William Blake

William Blake’s ‘The Angel,’ told through the frame of an angel that appears in a dream to the narrator throughout the course of their life. This poem was published in Blake’s collection “Songs of Experience” in 1794.

This poem is a work of English poetry, written in the language and poetic traditions of England. It is part of a rich tradition of English literature that spans centuries and encompasses a wide range of styles and themes.

I dreamt a dream! What can it mean?

And that I was a maiden Queen

Guarded by an Angel mild:

Witless woe was ne’er beguiled!


The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

by Edward Lear

‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat’ by Edward Lear is a simple, joy-filled poem that tells the marriage story of an owl and a cat. 

This poem is a delightful example of nonsense verse that tells the story of an unlikely friendship between two animals who fall in love and get married. The poem's playful tone and whimsical imagery make it a beloved classic of children's literature that has endured for generations and a great example of poetry from England.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea-green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

The Shadow Bride

by J.R.R. Tolkien

‘The Shadow Bride’ conceptualizes the contrast between light and darkness, as well as stillness and movement through personification.

Tolkien is one of the most prominent poets and writers that England has ever had to offer, especially in the genres of fantasy and adventure. Although his usual medium consists of elaborate prose, he is also perfectly proficient in poetry, and the change of the writing style throughout 'The Hobbit' trilogy is refreshing.

There was a man who dwelt alone

Beneath the moon in shadow.

He sat as long as lasting stone,

And yet he had no shadow.

The Windhover

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

‘The Windhover’ is an incredibly important poem that Hopkins considered to be his best. It uses symbolism to speak about God and faith.

This is a very important English poem written in the 19th century. The poem deals with themes of God and nature, wrapping them together in a beautiful depiction of faith.

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

The Tables Turned

by William Wordsworth

In ‘The Tables Turned,’ Wordsworth invites us to break free from the constraints of modern society and rediscover the natural world’s beauty and wisdom.

As far as great English poems go, this one has good structure, form, syntax, and use of literary devices. Yet, it's not a poem that is above others; nothing special makes it better than other English poems. It falls a bit short in content and unique interest, both of which have been done by others over the years.

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;

Or surely you'll grow double:

Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;

Why all this toil and trouble?

Polar Exploration

by Stephen Spender

‘Polar Exploration’ reflects upon peaceful isolation and urban life, particularly how the latter appears to make the former impossible.

Like many of Spender's, the poem is concerned with urban development in England, finding fault in many of its elements.

Our single purpose was to walk through snow

With faces swung to their prodigious North

Like compass iron. As clerks in whited Banks

With bird-claw pens column virgin paper


Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,’ is a translation of a Greek lyric poem in which the speaker explains that love constantly (and annoyingly) inhabits their heart.

'Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow' is an excellent example of English poetry during the transition between the popular Neoclassical movement to the Romantic school of poetry. Browning was an incredibly influential poet in England, and she was a competitor with Tennyson for the English poet Laureate in the early 1800s.

Thou indeed, little Swallow,

A sweet yearly comer.

Art building a hollow

New nest every summer.

Oh! Snatched Away in Beauty’s Bloom

by Lord Byron

‘Oh! Snatch’s Away in Beauty’s Bloom’ by Lord Byron is a beautiful poem about grief and the importance of expressing such emotions as a means of catharsis.

This poem is a deeply affecting example of Byron's emotionally charged poetry, as well as of English Romanticism from the early 19th century. A masterful poet of the period and region, it reveals a number of the ideals close to his heart and mind within its verses. Representing an entangling of everything from his love of nature, brooding mind, and defense of sentimentality.

Oh! snatched away in beauty’s bloom,

On thee shall press no ponderous tomb;

But on thy turf shall roses rear

Their leaves, the earliest of ' the year;

Portrait of Zimri

by John Dryden

‘Portrait of Zimri’ by John Dryden is a political satire that showcases how people in power can be consumed by hollow and pretentious self interest.

This is one of Dryden's best works. He was one of the leading neo-classical poets from England. This short poem from the longer epic work is one of the best political satires about Restoration England.

Some of their chiefs were princes of the land:

In the first rank of these did Zimri stand:

A man so various, that he seem'd to be

Not one, but all Mankind's Epitome.


The Planster’s Vision

by John Betjeman

‘The Planster’s Vision’ by John Betjeman satirizes the goals of men who indiscriminately demolish buildings of cultural or aesthetic significance.

As England's poet laureate for a time, Betjeman was a revered poet and broadcaster. His experience in writing within a variety of spheres and worlds afforded his poems a modern eclecticism. This poem was borne out of his involvement in writing for the "Architectural Review," which led to his eventual activism within the conservationist movement regarding England's older structures.

Cut down that timber! Bells, too many and strong,

Pouring their music through the branches bare,

From moon-white church-towers down the windy air

Have pealed the centuries out with Evensong.

To a Butterfly

by William Wordsworth

There are two poems by the title ‘To a Butterfly’ in William Wordsworth’s 1807 poetry collection, “Poems, in Two Volumes.” The first poem is the best-known in comparison to the latter one.

'To A Butterfly' is a classic example of English poetry, using rhyme, meter, and formal language. The poem's focus on nature and the imagination, as well as its celebration of the beauty and wonder of the world, are also characteristic of the English poetic tradition.

Stay near me - do not take thy flight!

A little longer stay in sight!

Much converse do I find in thee,

Historian of my infancy!

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. 

This is a poem written by an English poet but not one that represents the best of English poetry.

Deep in the winter plain, two armies

Dig their machinery, to destroy each other.

Men freeze and hunger. No one is given leave

The Lady of Shalott

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a popular ballad that illustrates the life of a woman isolated in a tower in a tower far from what she wants to live and experience.

On either side the river lie

Long fields of barley and of rye,

That clothe the wold and meet the sky;

And thro' the field the road runs by

To many-tower'd Camelot;

The Sea and the Hills

by Rudyard Kipling

‘The Sea and the Hills’ by Rudyard Kipling depicts the ocean, its heaving waves, incredible winds, and ever-present danger. It has evoked longing in men throughout time and will continue to do so, just as one longs to return home. 

Kipling is a poet that is very closely associated with Britain, particularly Victorian Britain. However, the sea is a universal symbol which resonates across the world equally.

Who hath desired the Sea? - the sight of salt water unbounded -
The heave and the halt and the hurl and the crash of the comber wind-hounded?
The sleek-barrelled swell before storm, grey, foamless, enormous, and growing
Stark calm on the lap of the Line or the crazy-eyed hurricane blowing -

The Way Through the Woods

by Rudyard Kipling

‘The Way through the Woods’ by Rudyard Kipling explores the hidden depths of a forgotten road, once traversed but now concealed beneath the resurgent power of the natural world.

Rudyard Kipling was a well-known English poet whose best-known poem, 'If,' is studied around the world. Each piece of his poetry, including this poem, is regarded as an important contribution to English literature. It should be noted though, that among his poems, this piece is generally not considered to be his best and is far outranked by other poems by English poets.

They shut the road through the woods

      Seventy years ago.

Weather and rain have undone it again,

      And now you would never know

There was once a road through the woods

The Eagle

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

‘The Eagle’ is a powerful poem that captures the majesty and strength of the majestic bird, inspiring readers to reach for the heights of their own potential.

This poem is an excellent example of English poetry, with its use of vivid imagery, powerful language, and emphasis on the natural world. The poem is a great representation of the Romantic poetry movement in England and its focus on individualism, emotion, and imagination.

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; 

Close to the sun in lonely lands, 

Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The Confessional

by Robert Browning

‘The Confessional’ by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue following a woman who is betrayed for her blind faith.

This poem is excellent, but it's nothing spectacular in English poetry. It does not stand to be unique among its peers or set a new standard. Still, it is well written with an interesting story and topic and should be considered an excellent English poem overall.

It is a lie---their Priests, their Pope,

Their Saints, their ... all they fear or hope

Are lies, and lies---there! through my door

And ceiling, there! and walls and floor,

There, lies, they lie---shall still be hurled

Till spite of them I reach the world!


A Red, Red Rose

by Robert Burns

‘A Red, Red Rose’ by Robert Burns is a poem that is in the ballad formation of four-line stanzas with ABBA rhyme schemes.

O my Luve is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.

A Child’s Garden

by Rudyard Kipling

‘A Child’s Garden’ by Rudyard Kipling is written from the perspective of a young sick boy who is dreaming of escaping his confining and frightening life by taking to the sky in an airplane.

Now there is nothing wrong with me

Except -- I think it's called T.B.

And that is why I have to lay

Out in the garden all the day.

On Being Human

by C.S. Lewis

‘On Being Human’ by C.S Lewis is incredibly unique and fascinating as it deals with both the physical and the spiritual realm as compared to one another.

C.S. Lewis is a very well-known English-language writer. He is, though, perhaps better known for his novels than he is for his poems. That being said, this poem is still worth reading.

Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence

Behold the Forms of nature. They discern

Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities

Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.

The Badger

by John Clare

‘The Badger’ by John Clare is a narrative poem that portrays the cruelty and danger that animals face in the natural world.

This poem is widely considered to be a well-crafted and poignant poem by an English author. It showcases Clare's skill in using vivid descriptions and narrative structure to create a powerful and moving portrait of animal suffering.

When midnight comes a host of dogs and men

Go out and track the badger to his den,

And put a sack within the hole, and lie

Till the old grunting badger passes by.

The Beach

by Robert Graves

‘The Beach’ by Robert Graves is a poem about the contrast between childhood innocence and an adult mindset. The poem depicts this dichotomy by demonstrating the difference between how a boatman and a group of children interact with the ocean.

This is a wonderful poem written by an English poet. But, it is not among the country's most influential or well-remembered. Many others rank higher in terms of influence.

Louder than gulls the little children scream

Whom fathers haul into the jovial foam;

But others fearlessly rush in, breast high,

Laughing the salty water from their mouthes—

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.

This poem is a representative example of English poetry in its focus on the natural world, understated emotions, and exploration of complex themes and experiences. The poem reflects Larkin's unique voice and style, as well as his engagement with the broader tradition of English poetry.

The eye can hardly pick them out

From the cold shade they shelter in,

Till wind distresses tail and mane;

Then one crops grass, and moves about


by John Dryden

‘Dreams’ by John Henry Dryden presents a vivid illustration of the ways in which dreams are steeped in paradox and irrationality.

This is a famous English poem from Dryden that is timeless in its lucid exploration of dreams as a shared phenomenon and presents the beauty of the poet's direct style. The plainspoken astuteness of his verse makes him one of the more accessible poets of the period,d and this poem pinpoints exactly wh ass he's able to compose verses that utilize unvarnished diction to create compelling images and figurative language.

Dreams are but interludes which Fancy makes;

When monarch Reason sleeps, this mimic wakes:

Compounds a medley of disjointed things,

A mob of cobblers, and a court of kings:

My True Love Hath My Heart

by Philip Sidney

‘My True Love Hath My Heart’ by Sir Philip Sidney is a Shakespearean sonnet. It captures the intensity and depth of two people who experience love at first sight.

This is a Shakespearean sonnet from one of England’s early poetic champions and defenders - Sir Philip Sidney. The poem delves into the complexities of love at first sight through the poet's use of beautiful and memorable language.

My true-love hath my heart and I have his,

By just exchange one for the other given:

I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss;

There never was a bargain better driven.


by Lord Byron

‘Solitude’ describes how a person can feel content and supported in nature, yet isolated and alone when surrounded by other people.

The descriptions of nature are consistent with the reality of the English countryside. As a member of the Romantic movement, Byron drew great inspiration from the epic power of his natural surroundings.

To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fell,

To slowly trace the forest's shady scene,

Where things that own not man's dominion dwell,

And mortal foot hath ne'er or rarely been;

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