Time Poems

On the Beach at Night Alone

by Walt Whitman

‘On the Beach at Night Alone’ by Walt Whitman is a powerful poem. In it, Whitman discusses how everything that has ever existed or will ever exist is connected.

The poem explores the concept of time and how all things, past, present, and future, and all lives and deaths are part of a larger pattern that spans the universe. Whitman suggests that time is not linear but cyclical, with everything repeating and evolving in an endless cycle.

A vast similitude interlocks all,

All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,

All distances of place however wide,

All distances of time, all inanimate forms,

Explore more poems about Time

Indian Weavers

by Sarojini Naidu

‘Indian Weavers’ explores the inevitability of death while celebrating the cycles of human existence and experience.

Naidu appears to conflate the single day that passes in the poem with an entire life cycle in order to distort the readers' perception of time.

Weavers, weaving at break of day,

Why do you weave a garment so gay? . . .

Blue as the wing of a halcyon wild,

We weave the robes of a new-born child.

The Flock

by Derek Walcott

‘The Flock’ is a poem that meditates on the cyclical nature of time and the passage of the seasons. Through vivid imagery and a somber tone, the poet reflects on the inevitability of winter’s end, the unchanging nature of the world, and his own place within this cycle of time.

The topic of time is one of the primary themes that the poem addresses. The poet depicts it through the use of seasons and many different allusions to change and the migration of birds.

The grip of winter tightening, its thinned

volleys of blue-wing teal and mallard fly

from the longbows of reeds bent by the wind,

arrows of yearning for our different sky.

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.

Time does not appear to have eased the narrator's pain at being separated from the place or person that they love. If anything, time has made it more difficult for them to feel close to those memories at all.

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.  


by Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Days’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a short allegorical poem reflecting on the passage of time and the expectations of humans that come and go with it. It is celebrated as one of the best transcendental poems of the 19th century.

The speaker uses time to introduce their main point, which is man's desire. Throughout the poem, there are glimpses of this topic marked by the presence of "days," and the speaker even dwells a bit on time's immortality.

Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,

Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes,

And marching single in an endless file,

Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.

More Strong Than Time

by Victor Hugo

‘More Strong Than Time’ by Victor Hugo is a powerfully romantic poem that declares love as withstanding the withering effects of time.

Time is obviously a major part of the poem, and the speaker views this force as being responsible for the decay and destruction of many things. But there is one thing that time cannot eradicate: the love between the speaker and their beloved. Time might have the power to kill, but the speaker makes it clear that even death would not put out the fire in their heart.

Since I have set my lips to your full cup, my sweet,

Since I my pallid face between your hands have laid,

Since I have known your soul, and all the bloom of it,

And all the perfume rare, now buried in the shade;


by Victor Hugo

‘Sunset’ by Victor Hugo is a poignant poem that uses the setting sun to explore the speaker’s views on time and life’s various cycles, coming to the conclusion that the grim finality of human life is softened by the continuation of nature’s beauty.

Time is a central topic in the poem as the speaker views the cycle of sunrise and sunset as a powerful visualization of that force. Sending it sweeping across the landscape to affect change upon nature and humankind alike, but not equally. The speaker perceives time as ushering each individual to a personal and final death. Yet time does not have such potency in eroding nature.

The sun set this evening in masses of cloud,

The storm comes to-morrow, then calm be the night,

Then the Dawn in her chariot refulgent and proud,

Then more nights, and still days, steps of Time in his flight.


by Percy Bysshe Shelley

‘Ozymandias’ is about the nature of power. It is an important piece that features how a great ruler like Ozymandias, and his legacy, was prone to impermanence and decay.

The theme of time is central to 'Ozymandias,' as the poem reflects on the passage of time and the decay of even the mightiest empires. It is a powerful reminder to value the present and focus on making a positive impact while we still can.

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

Be Drunk

by Charles Baudelaire

‘Be Drunk’ by Charles Baudelaire is a stirring poem meant to incite the reader to passion about life.

Time in the poem is seen as a primary catalyst of human suffering, and Baudelaire's speaker advocates for being drunk to avoid being a martyr to it. Although it's unclear what exactly is so damaging about time, one can assume a variety of reasons that range from a fear of impending death to life's fleeting length.

You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

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.

The poem highlights the ephemeral nature of beauty and the passage of time. The speaker recognizes that the joy and beauty of the butterfly's flight are fleeting and will soon come to an end.

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!

Carpe Diem

by William Shakespeare

‘Carpe Diem’ by William Shakespeare is a love song from Twelfth Night, sung by Feste the clown/fool. It’s about love and youth. 

The passage of time is the primary reason, the speaker alludes in this poem, that love fails. One's beauty changes and the love one once enjoyed is no longer the same.

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?

O stay and hear! your true-love's coming

That can sing both high and low;

Trip no further, pretty sweeting,

[love is more thicker than forget]

by E.E. Cummings

‘[love is more thicker than forget]’ by E.E. Cummings conveys the idea that love can be a source of hope, comfort, and joy in times of darkness.

While not discussed explicitly, time is an important part of the equation in this poem about love. Cummings suggests that love has no limits and that time cannot impact it.

love is more thicker than forget

more thinner than recall

more seldom than a wave is wet

more frequent than to fail

Jenny Kiss’d Me

by Leigh Hunt

‘Jenny Kiss’d Me’ by Leigh Hunt is a powerful declaration of happiness in the face of the passage of time. A great deal of joy can be found in a single happy memory, the speaker suggests. 

Time is the most important topic at work in this short poem. The speaker alludes to the passage of time and even addresses "Time" directly. He tells Time that it can take everything away from him besides his happy memory of a kiss.

Jenny kiss’d me when we met,

Jumping from the chair she sat in;

Time, you thief, who love to get

Sweets into your list, put that in!


I Saw From the Beach

by Thomas Moore

‘I Saw From the Beach’ by Thomas Moore is a thoughtful poem. It considers the soul and passion and how the two things change over time as one ages. 

Time is a recurrent theme in the poem, as the speaker reflects on the passing of time and the fleeting nature of life's early promises.

I saw from the beach, when the morning was shining,

A bark o’er the waters move gloriously on;

I came when the sun o’er that beach was declining,

The bark was still there, but the waters were gone.

The Minuet

by Mary Mapes Dodge

‘The Minuet’ by Mary Mapes Dodge alludes to the many changes that the passage of time presents. This is specially related to the way that one speaker’s grandmother has changed.

Time is a critical part of this poem. If it weren't for the passage of time, there would be little to explore in this children's poem. The speaker is amused by how much time has passed and has difficulty imagining their grandmother as a young woman.

Grandma told me all about it,

Told me so I couldn’t doubt it,

How she danced—my Grandma danced!—

Long ago

Apostrophe to the Ocean

by Lord Byron

‘Apostrophe to the Ocean’ by Lord Byron is an excerpt from Byron’s long, epic poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.’ The excerpt includes seven stanzas from the poem, starting with stanza CLXXVIII, or 178, and ending with stanza 184. 

Time is one of the many elements of life that impacts humanity but does not impact the ocean. Cities and people rise and fall, and the ocean stays the same. Time does not wrinkle the ocean's face as it does humanity's.

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society where none intrudes,

By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:

Dear Basketball

by Kobe Bryant

‘Dear Basketball’ by Kobe Bryant depicts the poet’s love for the sport. He expresses his appreciation for basketball and how it made him into the person he became.

The poem acknowledges that a great deal of time has passed since Bryant started playing basketball and that he's changed a lot since then.

From the moment

I started rolling my dad’s tube socks

And shooting imaginary

Game-winning shots

29 April 1989

by Sujata Bhatt

‘29 April 1989’ by Sujata Bhatt is a sweet, little piece about a mother’s sudden found pleasure in nature’s soggy musicality.

A Quoi Bon Dire

by Charlotte Mew

‘A Quoi Bon Dire’ by Charlotte Mew, explores the process of aging and deals with topics such as loss and death. Here’s a complete analysis.

A Song of Success

by Robert Service

There’s something strangely endearing about using the phrase “a song of” in the titles of art. The phrase is an

A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map

by Stephen Spender

‘A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map’ by Stephen Spender explores the Spanish Civil War through the lyrical depiction of one man’s death. It is marked by a stopwatch, the olive trees, and the continued conflict around him. 

Air and Angels

by John Donne

‘Air and Angels’ by John Donne depicts the unsual nature of the speaker’s love. He knows they have to come togther and allow their love to encircle one another.

Twice or thrice had I lov'd thee,

Before I knew thy face or name;

So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame

Angels affect us oft, and worshipp'd be;

As I Walked Out One Evening

by W.H. Auden

‘As I Walked Out One Evening’ by W. H. Auden is a poem about the unconquerable nature of death and the imperfect nature of love. This piece was first published in 1940 in the poet’s collection Another Time.

Carpe Diem

by Robert Frost

‘Carpe Diem’ by Robert Frost is a poem that encourages the reader to live in the present and comments on people’s tendency to focus on the past and the future instead.

Age saw two quiet children

Go loving by at twilight,

He knew not whether homeward,

Or outward from the village,


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. 


by Gillian Clarke

‘Clocks’ by Gillian Clarke is a unique and deep poem that reflects the passage of time and the wonders of growing older.

Constancy by Joseph Brodsky

by Joseph Brodsky

‘Constancy’ by Joseph Brodsky describes what it means to change over time, specially when moving from one’s own home to another wholly unknown environment. 


by Alfred Kreymborg

‘Crocus’ by Alfred Kreymborg is a five stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines or quatrains. These


by Seamus Heaney

‘Exposure’ by Seamus Heaney discusses the poet’s role in a society and how he might contribute helpfully to the discourse of the time. 

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