19th Century Poems

The influential verse of the 19th century included the work of poets like William Wordsworth, John Keats, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, and many more. 19th-century poets are among the most influential and well-read of all time. Their incredible work has inspired generations of writers, reaching to the present day.

Dover Beach

by Matthew Arnold

‘Dover Beach’ by Matthew Arnold is dramatic monologue lamenting the loss of true Christian faith in England during the mid 1800s.

This is an incredibly important 19th-century poem. It is often cited as one of the best of the period, particularly among English writers. The poem explores topics that were incredibly important at the time (like the division between science and faith), as well as alluding to the country's history.

The sea is calm tonight.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair

Upon the straits; on the French coast the light

Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,

Because I could not stop for Death

by Emily Dickinson

‘Because I could not stop for death,’ Dickinson’s best-known poem, is a depiction of one speaker’s journey into the afterlife with personified “Death” leading the way.

This poem is certainly one of the most important of the 19th century.

Because I could not stop for Death –

He kindly stopped for me –

The Carriage held but just Ourselves –

And Immortality.

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 19th-century poem is a wonderful example of poetry published during the period. It utilizes many of the themes that Romanticism is known for a while also utilizing a very popular metrical pattern - iambic pentameter.

  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:

Explore more poems from the 19th Century

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

by Emily Dickinson

‘I’m Nobody! Who are you?’ by Emily Dickinson reflects the poet’s emotions. It reveals her disdain for publicity and her preference for privacy.

This is a good poem written during the 19th century. It's certainly one of the best of the period.

A Bird, came down the Walk

by Emily Dickinson

‘A Bird, came down the Walk’ by Emily Dickinson is a beautiful nature poem. It focuses on the actions of a bird going about its everyday life.

This is an interesting poem written during the 19th century that has been studied around the world.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

by Lewis Carroll

‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ is a narrative poem by Lewis Carroll. It was included in his 1871 novel ‘Through the Looking-Glass.’

This is a fantastic 19th-century poem by one of the most important poets of the period - Lewis Carroll. His poetry was highly influential, and this poem is no exception.

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. 

This excerpt is part of a longer poem published in 1812. It is, perhaps, the best-known excerpt from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage' and is a great example of Bryon's work and the poetry that authors of this period were interested in.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

by Emily Dickinson

‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’ by Emily Dickinson is a poem about hope. It is depicted through the famous metaphor of a bird.

This Dickinson poem is a great example of a 19th century poem but it is not as important as others written during the period.

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.

Whitman's poem is a prime example of 19th-century American poetry, which often celebrated nature, individualism, and the spiritual dimensions of life.

The Heart asks Pleasure – first

by Emily Dickinson

‘The heart asks pleasure first’ by Emily Dickinson depicts the needs of the heart. They are highly changeable and include pleasure and excuse from pain.

A well-known Dickinson poem that is important in comparison to other 19th century poems.

The Storm-Wind

by William Barnes

‘The Storm-Wind’ by William Barnes contrasts peace and danger with images of home and a terrifying storm. The poem emphasizes how much easier it is to appreciate the safety of home when the conditions outside are so inhospitable.

Barnes' life spanned almost the entire nineteenth century and much of his writing is consistent with the Victorian stereotype of admiring the natural English countryside.

Bards of Passion and of Mirth

by John Keats

‘Bards of Passion and of Mirth’ by John Keats is one of the poet’s early odes. In it, Keats confirms that bards, or authors, have two souls, with one rising to heaven, and the other staying on earth.

'Bards of Passion and of Mirth' is a great representative of the Romantic period of literature. It includes introspective themes with a keen eye on the honor of storytelling, writing, and singing, all of which were typical for Romantic poetry. In addition, Keats' original adaptation of the ode form is an excellent example of the new ways that Romantic poets broke away from tradition.

I have never seen “Volcanoes”

by Emily Dickinson

‘I have never seen “Volcanoes”’ by Emily Dickinson is a clever, complex poem that compares humans and their emotions to a volcano’s eruptive power. 

Dickinson's entire life took place during the nineteenth century and her work is, to a certain extent, contextually bound to this period. For instance, the volcanoes are imagined and based on accounts of them rather than ever having seen a photograph.


by Sir Walter Scott

‘Lochinvar’ is a ballad about a young and courageous knight who saves his beloved, the fair lady Ellen, from marrying another man.

While not the best-known, Sir Walter Scott’s Romantic ballad 'Lochinvar' is a good example of Victorian interest in Medieval literature. It is also an early example of how Romantic poets believed that the ballad was a form of high art. However, as a literary ballad, its main focus is on morality, history, and romance, making it a bit more mundane than most of the other famous ballads of the 19th century. While its simplicity makes for a fun read, it’s not the best example of Romantic ballads in general. Instead, it is a good example of how folklore found its way into some of the most respected poetry of the Romantic era.

The Confessional

by Robert Browning

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

"The Confessional" was written when Christianity, faith, and the church were both icons and had much debate around them. This poem was a perfect conduit for a time when the public was skeptical of the church and its practices. This certainly fueled those individuals' fires.

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun

by Emily Dickinson

‘My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun’ by Emily Dickinson is a complex, metaphorical poem. The poet depicts a woman who is under a man’s control and sleeps like a load gun.

A great, memorable poem of the 19th century.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

by Emily Dickinson

‘Tell the truth but tell it slant’ by Emily Dickinson is one of Dickinson’s best-loved poems. It explores an unknown “truth” that readers must interpret in their own way.

A great poem of the 19th century but doesn't represent the period completely.

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died

by Emily Dickinson

‘I heard a Fly Buzz – when I died’ by Emily Dickinson is an unforgettable depiction of the moments before death. The speaker emphasizes the stillness of the room and the movements of a single fly.

This is a great poem written during the 19th century but it is not representative of the best work of the period.


by Thomas Babington Macaulay

‘Horatius’ by Thomas Babington Macaulay is a long narrative ballad about Horatius Cocles, a legendary hero from early Roman history.

While this poem is nowhere near as complex or meaningful as some other 19th century poems by poets such as Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelly, and Byron, it is still an enduring testament to the Romantic era's revival of the ballad form. Likewise, it does not have too much depth and uses plain language to create a good story above all else.

Life Sculpture

by George Washington Doane

‘Life Sculpture’ by George Washington Doane is a poem heavily symbolic poem about realizing one’s true potential and purpose in life.

It's not the most memorable poem and the theme is a common one. The heavy religious overtones can also make it appear more inaccessible than it is to modern impressions.

Love of Country

by Sir Walter Scott

‘Love of Country’ presents a world in which patriotism is the most important virtue of all and the lack of it is unforgivable.

The poem forms part of Scott's 1805 narrative poem 'The Lay of the Minstrel' which in turn is set during the sixteenth century.

‘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. 

A good, but not particularly noteable piece of poetry from the 19th century. It does not evoke anything special about the period.

Each and All

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Each and All’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson depicts nature as interconnected and dependent on all other living and non-living things. The poet uses a few clever examples to demonstrate why he sees the world this way. 

A lovely poem of the 19th century but not one of the period's best.

Hiawatha’s Childhood

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

‘Hiawatha’s Childhood’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describes how the protagonist of ‘The Song of Hiawatha’ grew up and learned about his surroundings. It also focuses on the life of his grandmother.

This is an excerpt from what is certainly one of the greatest poems of the 19th century, but it does not, in itself, represent the best of 19th-century poetry. The poem has a wonderful style but lacks the impact that the entire 'Song of Hiawatha' has.

My Garden — like the Beach

by Emily Dickinson

‘My Garden — like the Beach’ by Emily Dickinson is a beautiful, short poem. It compares the speaker’s garden to the beach and the summer to the sea. Read the full poem, with a complete analysis.

This poem was written in the 19th century by one of the most important poets who worked and lived in that period. That being said, this poem is not one of the most important pieces of the 19th century.


by Robert Louis Stevenson

‘Requiem’ by Robert Louis Stevenson is a poem about accepting death and finding peace in going “home” after a long life. 

A great poem but not one that represents the best verse from the 19th century.

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

by Emily Dickinson

‘I felt a Funeral, in my Brain’ by Emily Dickinson is a popular poem. In it, she depicts a very unusual idea of life after death.

This is a wonderful poem written during the 19th century but it is not particularly evocative of the period.

Song of the Chattahoochee

by Sidney Lanier

‘Song of the Chattahoochee’ is a 19th century American poem that takes the perspective of the Chattahoochee river as it flows from northern Georgia to the sea.

'Song of the Chattahoochee' is a product of its time and makes some interesting implications about reconstruction in the American South. However, as a naturalistic poem, it pays less attention to the stylistic and thematic advents of the era, and thus, does not stand out too much among 19th-century poets.

I died for beauty but was scarce

by Emily Dickinson

‘I died for beauty but was scarce’ by Emily Dickinson reflects her fascination for death and the possible life to follow.

This poem is not particuarlly noteable among poems written during the 19th century but it is one of Dickinson's best.

Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter

by John Clare

‘Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter’ by John Clare is a beautiful nature poem that describes a specific area in Northamptonshire in winter. The poem focuses on plants and birds. 

This is a beautiful and transporting 19th-century poem that describes the winter season in memorable detail. Among John Clare's poems, it's very notable. It represents one of his favorite subjects--the natural world, very well. Although it is quite lovely, it is not one of the better-known poems of the 19th century.

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