Youth Poems


by Frances Cornford

‘Childhood’ explores the transitory moment when a child becomes aware of the passing of time, and the process of growing old.

As indicated by the title, Cornford's poem is focused on youth and its fragility.

I used to think that grown-up people chose

To have stiff backs and wrinkles round their nose,

And veins like small fat snakes on either hand,

On purpose to be grand.

Corinna’s Going A-Maying

by Robert Herrick

‘Corinna’s Going A-Maying’ is a carpe diem (Latin for “seize the day”) poem in which the speaker urges his beloved, Corinna, to arise from bed and join him in the festivities of May Day already in progress.

Youth is one of the topics with which 'Corinna's Going A-Maying' can most easily be associated. The entire poem is on the carpe diem idea that one should take action and live joyously while still a youth, as life is fleeting and ephemeral. 'Corinna's Going A-Maying' functions as a meditation on the nature of youth.

Get up, get up for shame, the Blooming Morne

Upon her wings presents the god unshorne.

See how Aurora throwes her faire

Fresh-quilted colours through the aire:

The Dancing

by Gerald Stern

‘The Dancing’ by Gerald Stern is an emotionally complex poem that wrestles with feelings of joy and bittersweetness inspired by a fond memory.

The poem is about a memory of the speaker's youth which, for one reason or another, they pine for. Whether its just to be young again, to be reunited with their parents in a moment of happiness, or even a much larger desire for a time when the world had just achieved some semblance of peace.

In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture

and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots

I have never seen a postwar Philco

with the automatic eye

Next Day

by Randall Jarrell

‘Next Day’ by Randall Jarrell is a confessional poem with a conversational tone that articulates the complex emotions of aging and change.

In 'Next Day,' the speaker looks back at her younger years and wishes that she could be wild, attractive, and desirable again. However, these thoughts only lead the speaker back to reality, as she is older, lonely, ignored, and withering. Her friend's recent death puts another layer of perspective onto her age, as she sees that she is nearing ever-closer to death.

Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,

I take a box

And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.

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. 

Youth is one of the most important topics at work in this poem. The speaker is interested in using one's youth before it fades and leaves one empty of love.

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,

Sonnet 18

by William Shakespeare

‘Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?,’ also known as ‘Sonnet 18,’ is one of the Fair Youth poems. It is addressed to a mysterious male figure that scholars have been unable to identify.

The poem implies that youth is a time of great potential and promise but also acknowledges that it is fleeting and subject to the ravages of time. Shakespeare's reflections on youth reflect his understanding of the transience of human existence and his belief in the importance of seizing the moment and living life to the fullest.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

The Good Teachers

by Carol Ann Duffy

‘The Good Teachers’ by Carol Ann Duffy describes the school life of a young girl who has strong opinions about which teachers are good and which are not.

You run round the back to be in it again

No bigger than your thumbs, those virtuous women

size you up from the front row. Soon now,

Miss Ross will take you for double History.

Goblin Market

by Christina Rossetti

‘Goblin Market’ is one of Christina Rossetti’s most famous and well-studied poems. The symbolism in the poem has led to a number of interpretations. One could argue that it is a metaphor for drug addiction or female purity.

The poem celebrates the joys and freedoms of youth, while also exploring the challenges and uncertainties of growing up. The goblin market can be read as a metaphor for the transition from childhood innocence to adult understanding.

Morning and evening

Maids heard the goblins cry:

“Come buy our orchard fruits,

Come buy, come buy:

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.

The poem's title and first line indicate that the speaker's loved one died while in the midst of their youth, likening their beauty and prime of life to the image of a flower in bloom. This metaphor serves to connect to powerful images in the Romantic movement: the lushness of nature with the inevitable finality of death. But, someone dying not from natural causes in old age but rather unexpectedly while still blessed with youth only contributes to the poem's tragedy.

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;

The Barefoot Boy

by John Greenleaf Whittier

‘The Barefoot Boy’ by John Greenleaf Whittier is a highly relatable poem that speaks on universal themes of aging and the beauty and joy of youth. The poem celebrates a young boy’s freedom and mourns the coming of age. 

Youth is a very important topic at work in this 19th-century poem. The speaker is describing a young boy who, with no regard for responsibility or danger, runs in the woods with the animals and lives as he pleases. This is something that one loses as one ages.

Blessings on thee, little man,

Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!

With thy turned-up pantaloons,

And thy merry whistled tunes;

Up in the Wind

by Edward Thomas

‘Up in the Wind’ captures a public house history with the nature surrounding it, and how it impacts others.

There is an element of youthful rebellion and frustration in this poem as the girl attempts to, in a rather irresponsible way, stop people from visiting the tavern. She struggles to come to terms with the fact that the land is no longer the same and will likely face more development in the future.

I could wring the old thing's neck that put it there!

A public-house! it may be public for birds,

Squirrels and suchlike, ghosts of charcoal-burners

Imagining Their Own Hymns

by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

‘Imagining Their Own Hymns’ by Brigit Pegeen Kelly is a memorable poem that speaks about the difference between how something appears and its reality. 

One of the major topics of this poem is the speaker's youth and the way she's struggling to deal with the realities of the adult world. She finds a great deal about adults to be false.

What fools they are to believe the angels

in this window are in ecstasy. They

do not smile. Their eyes are rolled back in annoyance

not in bliss, as my mother’s eyes roll back

Chocolate Cake

by Michael Rosen

‘Chocolate Cake’ by Michael Rosen is an upbeat children’s poem that describes a child’s lack of control when it comes to his favorite dessert. 

Youth is an important part of this children's poem. The speaker was a child when the events of the poem were playing out; this is something that, no doubt, added to his inability to control himself.

I love chocolate cake.

And when I was a boy

I loved it even more.

Please Mrs. Butler

by Allan Ahlberg

‘Please Mrs. Butler’ by Allan Ahlberg is a children’s poem that conveys a frustrating and purposeless conversation between a student and their teacher. 

The main character of this poem is a student asking their teacher for help with problems.

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps copying my work, Miss.
What shall I do?

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 boy in the poem is young and naive, as evidenced by his "empty joy" and his early morning whistling. His suicide highlights the loss of youthful potential and innocence that is often sacrificed in war.

I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,

And whistled early with the lark.

Don’t kill yourself today

by Hannah Dains

‘Don’t kill yourself today’ by Hannah Dains is a thoughtful and powerful poem about suicide. The poet explores all the reasons someone has to stay alive and expresses her love for those struggling with depression.

The poem speaks to a younger audience, offering reasons to stay alive that might resonate with younger readers. It acknowledges that suicide affects people of all ages but offers hope and encouragement specifically to younger readers.

Don’t kill yourself today

Because your Netflix free trial still has a week left.

Don’t kill yourself today

because no one else will finish off the chicken in the fridge.

Jest ‘Fore Christmas

by Eugene Field

‘Jest ‘Fore Christmas’ is a humorous, five-stanza poem that’s written from the perspective of a young boy looking forward to Christmas.

This poem's speaker is a young boy whose age is seen through his language use and a naughty attitude. He speaks about how happy he is to be a boy, not a girl, and how he sicks dogs on cats, along with other mischievous actions.

Father calls me William, sister calls me Will,

Mother calls me Willie, but the fellers call me Bill!

Mighty glad I ain't a girl - ruther be a boy,

Without them sashes, curls, an' things that's worn by Fauntleroy!

The Tale of Custard the Dragon

by Ogden Nash

‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ by Ogden Nash is a ballad about a young girl, Belinda, and her four pets, one of whom is a cowardly dragon named Custard.

The poem is written in a childlike, playful style and features a young girl, Belinda, and her collection of pets, including a kitten, mouse, dog, and dragon.
Belinda lived in a little white house, With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse, And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon, And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.  


by Amanda Gorman

‘Earthrise’ by Amanda Gorman is a powerful contemporary poem about climate change, the Apollo 8 mission to the moon, and the future of the Earth.

This poem is directed at everyone, but no one more than the youth of the world, which the poet knows iswill be responsible for making change in the future.

We’ve known (Stanza 4)

That we’re caught in the throes

Of climactic changes some say

Will just go away,

A Fairy Tale

by Amy Lowell

A Fairy Tale, as the title of Amy Lowell’s work invokes, is something that nearly everyone can relate to. A

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.

Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter

by John Crowe Ransom

‘Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter’ by John Crowe Ransom is an elegy for Whiteside’s daughter, a young girl who passed away suddenly. It’s unclear why she died, but, the speaker spends the bass majority of this poem depicting her lively and playful life.


by Andrew Forster

Whilst Brothers is laden with nostalgia it does evoke sadness at the emotional distancing between the narrator and his sibling.

Brown Penny

by William Butler Yeats

‘Brown Penny’ by William Butler Yeats is an expression of the various levels of honest “love” that follow us from birth to death.


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 Robert Browning

Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue ‘Confessions,’ as the title says, is written in the confessional mode and is about a speaker’s secretive meetings with a girl.

Crossing the Loch

by Kathleen Jamie

In this poem, ‘Crossing the Loch’, Kathleen Jamie uses a young female speaker to tell a story through a conversation


by Undefined Poet

‘Cynthia’ is a humorous example of slam poetry from the comedy movie ’22 Jump Street.’ It is performed by Jonah Hill’s character, Morton Schmidt, on stage. 

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