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Classic Poems Everyone Should Know

Chosen by Poetry Guide Margery Snyder

By

Here’s my list of essential classics everyone should know—old poems that form the tradition of the English language, linger in the memory of English speakers and shape our thoughts.

“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe (1598)

“Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove...”

Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare (1609)

“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state...”

The Sonnets at Shakespeare.about.com

“Song—A Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns (1794)

“O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June...”

Profile: Scottish bard Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)
Library: Poems by Burns

“The Tyger” by William Blake (1794)

“Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?...”

Profile: Visionary Poet/Artist William Blake (1757 - 1827)
Library: Poems by Blake
Burning Questions: Study Guide to Blake’s “The Tyger”

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth (1804)

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills...”

Profile: British Romantic Poet William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)
Library: Poems by Wordsworth
Memory and Nature: Study Guide to Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”

“Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats (1820)

a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
   “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
      Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Library: Poems by John Keats

“Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll (1871)

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe....”

“I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman (1900)

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong...”

Profile: American Bard of Liberation Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot (1915)

“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table....”

“The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats (1920)

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold...”

Profile: Irish Mystical/Historical Poet William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939)
Library: Poems by Yeats
Things Fall Apart: Study Guide to Yeats’ “The Second Coming”
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