My favorite poems

A repeat from a couple of years ago. My favorites haven’t changed though!

They are varied in topic, mood and complexity, spanning the centuries and my exposure to poets and poetry at various times in my life, and with various people. We read poetry aloud in my home when I was a child, and later when my daughter was a child. I recall reading and studying poets in high school and college. Most poems remind me of one of these times in my life. The sound and composition of poetry is as important to me as the meaning – sometimes more important. Read them out loud to yourself or a friend.

First of all, I have two favorite poems by a favorite poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hopkins was a Catholic, a Jesuit priest, and many of his poems are devotional. That is certainly true of these two poems. Regardless, their beauty of language and form are stunning.

The Windhover is another name for the Kestrel, a type of falcon. This poem is praised as both a great nature poem (about the ‘mastery’ of the bird of prey in flight, as it ‘hovers’ on, and rides, the wind) and a great religious poem (the last six lines, along with the poem’s dedication, liken the majesty of the bird to the masterful power of Christ). Hopkins himself called this “the best thing I ever wrote.”

The Windhover

To Christ Our Lord

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
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

My second favorite Hopkins poem is this one about the beauty of  the “dappled things” of God’s creations.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

The next poem on my list is by Robert Browning. To me, it is a love song to the mountains.

Song from the play, Pippa Passes

The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn:
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!

For a while in high school, John Donne was a favorite poet of mine. He wrote on religious themes later in life, but his earlier works are sometimes quite bawdy! This poem is still a favorite.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

I became a fan of T.S. Eliot while in college, and I loved this poem although I wasn’t exactly sure at first what it was all about. Garrison Keillor hates it, which reinforces my belief that I am in the correct camp. The imagery is beautiful. The satire tasty. I’m including only the first two verses here, and LINK to the complete poem.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

A love poem by a modern poet, e.e. cummings. I selected this as a reading at my daughter’s wedding, and she agreed it was perfect! That was more than two decades ago, and the love remains.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Finally (for the purpose of this post, not my last favorite), a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll. My daughter memorized it for school in about 5th grade, and I learned it right along with her. I still remember parts from memory, but not all.

Whether or not Carroll was taking drugs at the time it was written is up for debate. I think not.

According to Wikipedia, this nonsense poem may have been partly inspired by The Lambton Worm, a legend from County Durham in North East England in the UK. The story takes place around the River Wear, and is one of the area’s most famous pieces of folklore.


‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


This entry was posted in Poetry, The Culture, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to My favorite poems

  1. czarina33 says:

    Mama and I loved this one by eye Cummings

    in Just-]
    in Just-
    spring when the world is mud-
    luscious the little
    lame balloonman

    whistles far and wee

    and eddieandbill come
    running from marbles and
    piracies and it’s

    when the world is puddle-wonderful

    the queer
    old balloonman whistles
    far and wee
    and bettyandisbel come dancing

    from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




    balloonMan whistles

    Liked by 1 person

  2. czarina33 says:

    One year In college I participated in poetry reading competitions using several Edna St. Vincent Millay poems. Here is one.

    What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”
    What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
    I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
    Under my head till morning; but the rain
    Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
    Upon the glass and listen for reply,
    And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
    For unremembered lads that not again
    Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

    Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
    Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
    Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
    I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
    I only know that summer sang in me
    A little while, that in me sings no more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. czarina33 says:

    Another from the above mentioned competition. I won, of course.

    I think I should have loved you presently”
    I think I should have loved you presently,
    And given in earnest words I flung in jest;
    And lifted honest eyes for you to see,
    And caught your hand against my cheek and breast;
    And all my pretty follies flung aside
    That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
    Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,
    Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.
    I, that had been to you, had you remained,
    But one more waking from a recurrent dream,
    Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,
    And walk your memory’s halls, austere, supreme,
    A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
    Who would have loved you in a day or two.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lucille says:

    The English merchant ship John Wood approaching Bombay (Mumbai), India; oil on canvas by J.C. Heard, c. 1850.

    Sea Fever (1902)
    John Masefield

    I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
    And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
    And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

    I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
    Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
    And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
    And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

    I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
    To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
    And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
    And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.


    I was probably in 4th grade when friends of my parents gave them a box of books. In it was a book of poems which I immediately glommed onto because it had a sailing ship on the cover; and this poem was included. Always loved it. I haven’t seen the book in recent years, which probably means I gave it away in one of my “downsizing” moves.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. czarina33 says:

    Another Millay

    My candle burns at both ends;
    It shall not last the night.
    But ah my foes
    And all my friends
    It gives a lovely light.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.