Poems about Tragedy

Life’s Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar

‘Life’s Tragedy’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar considers the elements of life that create tragedy and suffering. The speaker asserts that missing out on perfect love and the perfect song leads to an “accursed” life.

Life's Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar Visual Representation

Ultima Ratio Regum by Stephen Spender

‘Ultima Ratio Regum’ translates to English as “the last (ultimate) argument of kings,” which is an insinuation of war. In this poem, Spender portrays the effect of war on innocent, insignificant lives.

Ultima Ratio Regum by Stephen Spender Visual Representation

Barbed Wire by Henry Taylor

‘Barbed Wire’ is a poem about the tragic death of a horse on a summer afternoon. This piece explores the quick, sudden death of the horse.

Barbed Wire by Henry Taylor Visual Representation

Terence, This is Stupid Stuff by A. E. Housman

‘Terence, This is Stupid Stuff’ by A. E. Housman addresses a speaker’s poetry, how he feels about another’s opinion, and alludes to critiques of Housman’s own literary works.

In Tenebris: I by Thomas Hardy

‘In Tenebris: I’ by Thomas Hardy is one of three poems devoted to an exploration of the poet’s own grief. He was mourning the decline of his marriage and writing career.

The Death of a Toad by Richard Wilbur

‘The Death of a Toad’ by Richard Wilbur speaks on the death of a toad and relates the tragedy to the larger problem of humankind’s conflict with nature. 

La Figlia Che Piange by T.S. Eliot

‘La Figlia Che Piange’ by T. S. Eliot describes a speaker’s attempt to craft the perfect, yet tragic, love story and his obsession with its completion.

The Redbreast by Charlotte Richardson

‘The Redbreast’ by Charlotte Richardson describes the short and tragic life of a robin redbreast who sought out refuge at the speaker’s home.

Hitcher by Simon Armitage

‘Hitcher’ by Simon Armitage describes a brutal act of violence against a “free” hitchhiker committed by a speaker who is “under / the weather.” 

The Women Gather by Nikki Giovanni

‘The Women Gather’ is a short, free verse poem that speaks on how we judge one another and the essentially good nature of human beings. 

Partition by Sujata Bhatt

‘Partition’ by Sujata Bhatt depicts the simple tale of a woman going to a “railway station” to provide for distressed people, while her niece stays “in her garden” and “wish[es]” “she” could be brave enough to do the same.

On My First Son by Ben Jonson

‘On my First Son’ is a poem about a father who has lost a young son, and attempts to distance himself from the tragedy in numerous ways.

The Field of Waterloo by Thomas Hardy

‘The Field of Waterloo’, a poem written by Thomas Hardy, concerns the horror of war from the perspective of different creatures other than human beings.

The Send-Off by Wilfred Owen

‘The Send-Off’ is an anti-war poem and is atypically dark, which was a trademark of Wilfred Owen’s poetry.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death by William Butler Yeats

After losing his dear friend in World War I, William Butler Yeats wrote this particular poem, ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death. Robert Gregory, an Irish Airman, was accidentally shot down by an Italian Aviator, who happened to be a dear friend of Yeats.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death by William Butler Yeats Visual Representation

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