First Year

First Year Graduate Students

Poetry Course

First Year MA Preparatory

    An Overview ( ) 

This course will examine different forms of British and American poetry, i.e. prosody which comprises stanza forms, metrics, rhythm and rhyme, with examples from various ages and various schools of poetry. Traditional and modern forms will be discussed with the aim of enhancing the students' ability to understand and appreciate poetry (see also The following are some guidelines to the course:

The Sonnet 

  • What is a sonnet? Give a definition. 
  • What are the two famous forms of a sonnet? Explain the differences.
  • Who were the first poets to write the sonnet in English?
  • Are modern sonnets different from traditional ones? Explain.

The sonnet is a poem in 14 lines. There are two main forms: the Petrarchan (Italian), and the Shakespearean (English). However, there are other forms which are based on a combination between the two as the Spenserian sonnet. Sonnets were introduced in England by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503- 1542) and the Earl of Surrey (1517- 1547) in the early 16th century. Their sonnets were chiefly translations from the Italian of Petrarch and others. While Wyatt introduced the sonnets into English, it was Surrey who gave them the rhyme scheme, meter, and division into quatrains that now characterize the English sonnet. 

Traditionally, the theme of the sonnet is love, whether it is addressed to a beloved lady, a patron or to a divine being as in John Donne's devotional sonnets. John Milton's sonnets were mostly written for particular occasions and therefore are called occasional sonnets. During the Age of Reason (the 18th century) there were very few sonnets written, since emotions were suppressed rather than expressed in poetry during that period. However, the interest of writing love sonnets was revived during the Romantic period, and almost all the major Romantic poets, as Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and others wrote sonnets. The Victorians, as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and D.G. Rossetti, did not only write sonnets, but wrote sequences of them about love, or on a particular theme and to a particular individual. In the 20th century, the few poets who attempted to use the form, changed the themes to agree with modern, more realistic matters, as The Sonnets of the American poet, Ted Berrigan (1934-1983). ( visit; see also )
Examine the following examples:

 Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542)

** "My galley charged with forgetfulness..."

My galley charged with forgetfulness                           a
Through sharp seas in winter nights doth pass         b
ween rock and rock, and eke my foe (alas)                 b
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness.                     a
And every oar, a thought in readiness,                         a
As though that death were light in such a case;         c
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace                      c
Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness;                         a
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark distain,                          d
Have done the wearied cords great hinderance;        e
Wreathed with error and eke with ignorance,             e
The stars be hid that lead me to this pain.                    d
Drowned is reason that should me consort,                 f
And I remain, despairing of the port.                              f

Earl of Surrey (1517-1547)

** Love that doth reign and live within my thought

 Love that doth reign and live within my thought 

And built his seat within my captive breast, 

Clad in arms wherein with me he fought, 
Oft in my face he doth his banner rest. 
But she that taught me love and suffer pain, 
My doubtful hope and eke my hot desire 
With shamefaced look to shadow and refrain, 
Her smiling grace converteth straight to ire. 
And coward Love, then, to the heart apace 
Taketh his flight, where he doth lurk and 'plain, 
His purpose lost, and dare not show his face. 
For my lord's guilt thus faultless bide I pain, 
Yet from my lord shall not my foot remove,-- 
Sweet is the death that taketh end by love.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) wrote his sonnet cycle entitled Astrophel and Stella (1591), which contains over one hundred sonnets and a number of songs. Here is an example:

Not at the first sight, nor with a dribbed shot,
** Loue gaue the wound, which, while I breathe, will bleede;
But knowne worth did in tract of time proceed,
Till by degrees, it had full conquest got.
I saw and lik'd; I lik'd but loued not;
I lou'd, but straight did not what Loue decreed:
At length, to Loues decrees I, forc'd, agreed,
Yet with repining at so partiall lot.
Now, euen that footstep of lost libertie
Is gone; and now, like slaue-borne 
I call it praise to suffer tyrannie;
And nowe imploy the remnant of my wit
To make myselfe beleeue that all is well,
While, with a feeling skill, I paint my hell.



Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) also wrote a sonnet sequence, Amoretti (1595), in a linked rhyme form known as the Spenserian Sonnet . The rhyme scheme is, a-b a-b, b-c b-c, c-d c-d, e-e. The following example is taken from Amoretti, a sonnet cycle dealing with the theme of love.


*"One day I wrote her name upon the strand"

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
Vain man, said she, that dost in vain assay
A mortal thing so to immortalize!
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eek my name be wiped out likewise.
Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name;
Where, whenas death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.

William Shakespeare (1564- 1616) wrote 154 sonnets, which were written in the 1590s but not published until 1609. They are perhaps his most personal work. Many of them were addressed to a dark lady or to a young gentleman who are not exactly identified. The form of a Shakespearean sonnet, or an English one, consists of three quatrains and a couplet. The third quatrain generally introduces the main theme or "turn" called a volta. The usual rhyme scheme is a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. The lines are written in iambic pentameter which means that there are five feet or 10 syllables per line. An iambic foot is made of an unaccented (weak) syllable followed by an accented (strong) one.

Here are some examples:

** Sonnet XV (

When I consider every thing that grows 
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment; 
When I perceive that men as plants increase, 
Cheered and cheque'd even by the self-same sky, 
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease, 
And wear their brave state out of memory; 
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay 
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight, 
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay, 
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time for love of you, 
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

**Sonnet XXXIII                                                                                                                                                                                                

Full many a glorious morning have I seen 
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye, 
Kissing with golden face the meadows green, 
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy; 
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride 
With ugly rack on his celestial face, 
And from the forlorn world his visage hide, 
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: 
Even so my sun one early morn did shine 
With all triumphant splendor on my brow; 
But out, alack! he was but one hour mine; 
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now. 
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth; 
Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.

Sonnet LX

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, 
So do our minutes hasten to their end; 
Each changing place with that which goes before, 
In sequent toil all forwards do contend. 
Nativity, once in the main of light, 
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd, 
Crooked elipses 'gainst his glory fight, 
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound. 
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth 
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow, 
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth, 
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow: 
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand, 
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

 (for commentary see 


In the seventeenth century, John Donne (1572-1631) made use of the sonnet form to write devotional (religious) sonnets and was imitated by other Metaphysical poets. Here are some examples of Donne's Holy Sonnets:

Holy Sonnet X: Death, Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud, though some have call'd thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which yet thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more, must low
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men
And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then ?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

**Holy Sonnet XIV: Batter My Heart

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Read Donne's Holy Sonnet 14, Batter My Heart, and attempt the following questions:

  1. The sonnet form is used by Shakespeare mainly to express love or admiration, how does Donne employ the form for his own purpose? Give the differences.
  2. Explain the conceit in the fifth line. What other figurative language does the poet employ in this poem? How do figures of speech contribute to our understanding of the subject?
  3. How can you resolve the paradox in the last two lines? Had his conversion to the Anglican Church anything to do with the choice of the theme?
  4. What is the tone of the poem? Does the imperative first line affect the total all mood of the poem? Explain.
  5. Does the poem address our feelings or intellect or both? Is this a peculiarity of John Donne?
  6. Describe the rhyme scheme and suggest what contribution it makes to our understanding of the poem.


John Milton (1608-1674) is another seventeenth century well-known poet who was interested in writing sonnets, but he followed the Italian form. Here are some examples:

** Sonnet XIX       (For analysis see )

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask; But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

When Milton wrote this poem he was referring to his 
rapidly failing eyesight.

Modern American Sonnets:

Gwendolyn B. Bennet (1902-1981)

He came in silvern armour, trimmed with black--

He came in silvern armour, trimmed with black--
A lover come from legends long ago--
With silver spurs and silken plumes a-blow,
And flashing sword caught fast and buckled back
In a carven sheath of Tamarack.
He came with footsteps beautifully slow,
And spoke in voice meticulously low.
He came and Romance followed in his track . .
I did not ask his name--I thought him Love;
I did not care to see his hidden face.
All life seemed born in my intaken breath;
All thought seemed flown like some forgotten dove.
He bent to kiss and raised his visor's lace . . .
All eager-lipped I kissed the mouth of Death.

Tony Barnstone (1961- )

The Cave  

 I was the torch man, and I liked it, strange 
as that is to admit. It was the worst 
thing in the world. I'd sneak up into range 
and throw a flame in, just a burst. A burst 
is all it takes. It sucks the oxygen 
and then they burn alive or suffocate. 
My mouth still tastes that taste, burnt flesh. Back then, 
I felt nothing. I did my job. No hate, 
no nothing. The men liked me, called me Hot Shot. 
But it meant nothing when the Nips would rush 
out, clothes on fire and smoking, and we'd shoot 
them dead. It meant we lived. Nothing to gush 
about. I don't have anything to hide. 
Nothing. I shoved it all down deep inside. 



What is a quatrain? Give examples of poems written in quatrains. Visit Rubaiyat Omar Khayam Translated by Edward FitzGerald.

Another example of a poem written in quatrains is Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner. Here's Part I of the poem:

 ** Part I

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
`By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

The bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
Mayst hear the merry din.'

He holds him with his skinny hand,
"There was a ship," quoth he.
`Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.

He holds him with his glittering eye - 
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years' child:
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

"The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.

The sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon -"
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

"And now the storm-blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o'ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And foward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken - 
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white moonshine."

`God save thee, ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus! - 
Why look'st thou so?' -"With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross."

1. Why is The Ancient Mariner considered a "lyrical ballad"? What is a lyric poem and what is a ballad?
2. Describe the form of the poem (rhyme & meter).
3. How many characters do we have in the poem? Is the narrator the wedding guest himself?
4. Describe the dramatic elements in the poem.
5. Explain the poetic significance of repetition in the poem.


What is a tercet? Give some examples of poems written in tercets. Visit tercet examples . Give your own examples.


A good example of poems written in terza rima, a form of tercets, is Shelley's poem Ode to the West Wind:

** Ode To The West Wind

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: 0 thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wing'd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave,until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!


Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like Earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!


Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!


If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.


Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


  • Examine the terms: enjambementend-stopping, and caesura with reference to Shelley's poem.
  • Explain the images and figures of speech in the poem, indicating how they enhance the meaning the poet wants to convey.
  • What is the tone of the poem? Explain.


Tone is the poet's attitude towards the subject s/he is writing about. It is the poet's voice that can be sad or happy, arrogant or modest, serious or frivolous, a voice of wisdom or playfulness. We usually have clues or key words in the poem to guide us to the poet's tone as figures of speech, imagery, rhythm, irony, paradox, or even in the choice of words. Tone, therefore, may be ironic, serious, playful, sad, etc. The following poems are to be examined for their tone.

** Break, Break, Break

By Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)   

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.
O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!x
Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.


1. The poet is expressing subjective feelings. What is the tone of the poem? Give reasons.

2. Is the second stanza deviating from the main subject? Is there organic unity in the poem? Explain.

3. The poem can be described as sensuous (appealing to the senses). What are the words that refer to the senses?

4. In what way can we refer to the poem as a lyric? Explain.


Infant Joy

By William Blake (1757- 1827)

I have no name
I am but two days old. 
What shall I call thee?
I happy am
Joy is my name, --
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy but two days old.
Sweet joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while
Sweet joy befall thee.


By Ted Hughes

What am I? Nosing here, turning leaves over
Following a faint stain on the air to the river's edge
I enter water. Who am I to split
The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
Of the river above me upside down very clear
What am I doing here in mid-air? Why do I find
this frog so interesting as I inspect its most secret
interior and make it my own? Do these weeds
know me and name me to each other have they
seen me before do I fit in their world? I seem
separate from the ground and not rooted but dropped
out of nothing casually I've no threads
fastening me to anything I can go anywhere
I seem to have been given the freedom
of this place what am I then? And picking
bits of bark off this rotten stump gives me
no pleasure and it's no use so why do I do it
me and doing that have coincided very queerly
But what shall I be called am I the first
have I an owner what shape am I what
shape am I am I huge if I go
to the end on this way past these trees and past these trees
till I get tired that's touching one wall of me
for the moment if I sit still how everything
stops to watch me I suppose I am the exact centre
but there's all this what is it roots
roots roots roots and here's the water
again very queer but I'll go on looking


Gwendolyn Brooks (1917- 2000)

We Real Cool

We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die soon.

 (Read analysis )

Dramatic Monologue 

A poem in which a speaker addresses a silent listener or a group of listeners, usually not the reader. Examples include Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” and T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” A lyric may also be addressed to someone, but it is short and songlike and may appear to address either the reader or the poet. 

**My Last Duchess 

By Robert Browning (1812- 1889)

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
"Fra Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance, 
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)                      10
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say "Her mantle laps
Over my Lady's wrist too much," or "Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuff 
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough               20
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart  how shall I say? too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool 
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace - all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,          30
Or blush, at least. She thanked men, - good! but thanked
Somehow - I know not how - as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech - (which I have not) - to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark" - and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set                              40
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
--E'en then would be some stooping, and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat, 
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence                                50
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, 
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

Click here



Diction denotes the vocabulary or language used by a writer, it is precisely the choice and order of words. Words can be simple of complex, while structure or the arrangement can be ordinary or unusual. Language in poetry is compressed and arranged in a certain way in order, not only to convey meaning, but also to please and delight the reader. Therefore, words have to be arranged effectively in a poem, figures of speech are usually, but not always, used by poets to enhance the meaning and to be appreciated by readers. The poet's experience, observation or point of view is conveyed in a compressed language by using figures of speech as similes, metaphor, imagery, symbol...  etc. to give shades of meaning and warmth to the words. However, some poets avoid poetic diction and prefer simple words instead, so it is the use and arrangement of words in an unfamiliar way that count. Examine, for example, the following lyric poem by William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850):

**She dwelt among the untrodden ways

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
        Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
        And very few to love: 

A violet by a mossy stone 
        Half hidden from the eye!
- Fair as a star, when only one
        Is shining in the sky. 

She lived unknown, and few could know
        When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
        The difference to me!

  1. Wordsworth's Lucy Poems have been admired for their perfect diction and syntax. What is the tone of this poem? What is the dominant feeling here, is it a mixed feeling?
  2. Compare diction in the above poem to that of the following one by the 18th century poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771):


Poetry is rich in its pictorial quality; it gives lively and colourful mental images that appeal to our senses. The term that refers to such feature is imagery. The poet attempts to illustrate his visual impression of a certain experience, a certain vision, or sensation. Imagery is usually visual, however, sometimes the poet uses imagery that can correspond to our sense of hearing, auditory; our sense of touch, tactile; our sense of smell olfactory; or our sense of taste, gustatory. One of the most pictorial poets is Alfred Tennyson who is well-known for his visual vignettes. Another is John Keats. Imagery is best achieved through figures of speech. Examine imagery in the the following examples:

 I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud          

 by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Crossing the Bar 

By Alfred Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
    And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
    When I put out to sea, 
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
    Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
    Turns again home. 
Twilight and evening bell,
    And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
    When I embark; 
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
    When I have crossed the bar


** Ode to Autumn

By John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! 
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; 
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees, 
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease, 
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? 
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find 
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, 
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep, 
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook 
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers; 
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
Steady thy laden head across a brook; 
Or by a cider-press, with patient look, 
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? 
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, - 
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day 
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; 
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
Among the river sallows, borne aloft 
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; 
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft 
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft; 
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


A symbol is something that stands for something else. Symbolism is something you can see that has taken on a meaning beyond what the object actually is. It is attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.

** The Dolls

By W.B.Yeats

A DOLL in the doll-makers house 
Looks at the cradle and bawls: 
That is an insult to us.
But the oldest of all the dolls 
Who had seen, being kept for show,
Generations of his sort, 
Out-screams the whole shelf: Although 
There's not a man can report 
Evil of this place, 
The man and the woman bring 
Hither to our disgrace, 
A noisy and filthy thing.
Hearing him groan and stretch 
The doll-maker's wife is aware 
Her husband has heard the wretch,
And crouched by the arm of his chair, 
She murmurs into his ear, 
Head upon shoulder leant: 
My dear, my dear, oh dear, 
It was an accident.


Ted Hughes [1930-1998]


Now is the globe shrunk tight 
Round the mouse's dulled wintering heart 
Weasel and crow, as if moulded in brass, 
Move through an outer darkness 
Not in their right minds, 
With the other deaths. She, too, pursues her ends, 
Brutal as the stars of this month, 
Her pale head heavy as metal.

William Blake (1757-1827)

The Lamb

Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little lamb, I'll tell thee;
Little lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little lamb, God bless thee! 

Little lamb, God bless thee! 


When I Am Old.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!

When I am old .. I shall wear purple!
From Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet

Are of imagination all compact.

One sees more devils than vast hell can hold—

That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,

Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.

The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,

Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven.

And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.

Such tricks hath strong imagination,

That if it would but apprehend some joy,

It comprehends some bringer of that joy.

Or in the night, imagining some fear,

How easy is a bush supposed a bear!



The God Abandons Antony (1911)

C.P. Cavafy


When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

She Walks In Beauty

By Lord Byron 

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft. so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.




By Percy Bysshe Shelley

Unfathomable Sea! whose waves are years,
       Ocean of Time, whose waters of deep woe
  Are brackish with the salt of human tears!
       Thou shoreless flood, which in thy ebb and flow
  Claspest the limits of mortality!

     And sick of prey, yet howling on for more,
  Vomitest thy wrecks on its inhospitable shore;
      Treacherous in calm, and terrible in storm,
       Who shall put forth on thee,
       Unfathomable Sea?


 I, Too, Sing America 

by Langston Hughes

 I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.


I know why the caged bird sings 

by Maya Angelou

 A free bird leaps on the back

Of the wind and floats downstream 

Till the current ends and dips his wing 
In the orange suns rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for
The caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through
The sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright
Lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with
A fearful trill of things unknown
But longed for still and his
Tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.


My old man’s a white old man
And my old mother’s black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I’m sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well.
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I’m gonna die,
Being neither white nor black?



On Death

By  Khalil Gibran

Then Almitra spoke, saying, "We would ask now of Death."
And he said:
You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Short Poems by Jalalu Eddin Rumi

"I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was human,
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die human,
To soar with angels blessed above.
And when I sacrifice my angel soul
I shall become what no mind ever conceived.
As a human, I will die once more,
Reborn, I will with the angels soar.
And when I let my angel body go,
I shall be more than mortal mind can know.


     ***The temple of love is not love itself;

True love is the treasure,
Not the walls about it.
Do not admire the decoration,
But involve yourself in the essence,
The perfume that invades and touches you-
The beginning and the end.
Discovered, this replace all else,
The apparent and the unknowable.
Time and space are slaves to this presence.



I gaze into the heart, lowly it may be,
Thought the words be higher still.
For the heart is all the substance,
The speech an accident.
How many phrases will you speak,
Too many for me.
How much burning, burning will you feel,
Be friendly with the fire, enough for me.
Light up the fire of love inside,
And blaze the thoughts away.



Spiritual joys come only from solitude,
So the wise choose the bottom of the well,
For the darkness down there beats
The darkness up here.
He who follows at the heels of the world
Never saves his head. 



Visit the sick, and you will heal yourself.
The ill person may be a Sufi master,
And your kindness will be repaid in wisdom.
Even if the sick person is your enemy,
You will still benefit,
For kindness has the power to transform
Sworn enemies into firm friends.
And if there is no healing of bad feeling,
There certainly will be less ill will,
Because kindness is the greatest of all balms.


The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,
they’re in each other all along.



We are as the flute, and the music in us is from thee;
we are as the mountain and the echo in us is from thee.

We are as pieces of chess engaged in victory and defeat:
our victory and defeat is from thee, O thou whose qualities are comely!

Who are we, O Thou soul of our souls,
that we should remain in being beside thee?

We and our existences are really non-existence;
thou art the absolute Being which manifests the perishable.

We all are lions, but lions on a banner:
because of the wind they are rushing onward from moment to moment.

Their onward rush is visible, and the wind is unseen:
may that which is unseen not fail from us!

Our wind whereby we are moved and our being are of thy gift;
our whole existence is from thy bringing into being.


Secretly we Spoke

Secretly we spoke,

that wise one and me.

I said, Tell me the secrets of the world.

He said, Sh… Let silence

Tell you the secrets of the world. 


Oh, if a tree could wander
and move with foot and wings!
It would not suffer the axe blows
and not the pain of saws!
For would the sun not wander
away in every night ?
How could at ev?ry morning
the world be lighted up?
And if the ocean’s water
would not rise to the sky,
How would the plants be quickened
by streams and gentle rain?
The drop that left its homeland,
the sea, and then returned ?
It found an oyster waiting
and grew into a pearl.
Did Yusaf not leave his father,
in grief and tears and despair?
Did he not, by such a journey,
gain kingdom and fortune wide?
Did not the Prophet travel
to far Medina, friend?
And there he found a new kingdom
and ruled a hundred lands.
You lack a foot to travel?
Then journey into yourself!
And like a mine of rubies
receive the sunbeams? Print!
Out of yourself ? such a journey
will lead you to your self,
It leads to transformation
of dust into pure gold!


By Christina Rossetti

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Did I Not Say To You

By Jalaluddin Rumi

Did I not say to you, “Go not there, for I am your friend; in this 
mirage of annihilation I am the fountain of life?”
Even though in anger you depart a hundred thousand years
from me, in the end you will come to me, for I am your goal.
Did I not say to you, “Be not content with worldly forms, for I
am the fashioner of the tabernacle of your contentment?”
Did I not say to you, “I am the sea and you are a single fish;
go not to dry land, for I am your crystal sea?”
Did I not say to you, “ Go not like birds to the snare; come, for
I am the power of flight and your wings and feet?”
Did I not say to you, “ They will waylay you and make you
cold, for I am the fire and warmth and heat of your desire?”
Did I not say to you, “ They will implant in you ugly qualities
so that you will forget that I am the source of purity to you?”
Did I not say to you, “Do not say from what direction the ser-
vant’s affairs come into order?” I am the Creator without
If you are the lamp of the heart, know where the road is to the
house; and if you are godlike of attribute, know that I am your

'Look! This is Love'

By Jalaluddin Rumi

OH HAPPY DAY when in you presence,
my ruler, I shall die!
When near the sugar-treasure melting
like sugar I shall die!
Out of my dust will grow a thousand
of centrifolias
When in the shade of yonder cypress
in gardens I shall die.
And when you pour into my goblet
the bitter drink of death,
I'll kiss the goblet full of joy, dear,
and drunken I shall die.
I may turn yellow like the autumn
when people speak of death,
Thanks to your smiling lip: like springtime
and smiling shall I die.
I have died many times, but your breath 
made me alive again,
Should I die thus a hundred more times
I happily shall die!
A child that dies in mother's bosom,
that's how I am, my friend,
For in the bosom of His Mercy
and kindness, I shall die.
Say: Where would death be for the lovers?
Impossible is that!
For in the fountain of the Water
of Life - there I shall die.

** Snake 

by D. H. Lawrence (1885- 1930)

( see

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

Free Verse

JERUSALEM by Nizar Qabbani

I wept until my tears were dry

I prayed until the candles flickered

I knelt until the floor creaked

I asked about Mohammed and Christ

Oh Jerusalem, the fragrance of prophets

The shortest path between earth and sky

Oh Jerusalem, the citadel of laws

A beautiful child with fingers charred

and downcast eyes

You are the shady oasis passed by the Prophet

Your streets are melancholy

Your minarets are mourning

You, the young maiden dressed in black

Who rings the bells in the Nativity

On Saturday morning?

Who brings toys for the children

On Christmas eve?

Oh Jerusalem, the city of sorrow

A big tear wandering in the eye

Who will halt the aggression

On you, the pearl of religions?

Who will wash your bloody walls?

Who will safeguard the Bible?

Who will rescue the Quran?

Who will save Christ?

Who will save man?

Oh Jerusalem my town

Oh Jerusalem my love

Tomorrow the lemon trees will blossom

And the olive trees will rejoice

Your eyes will dance

The migrant pigeons will return

To your sacred roofs

And your children will play again

And fathers and sons will meet

On your rosy hills

My town

The town of peace and olives

Modernist Poetry

 anyone lived in a pretty how town by E. E. Cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


In a Station of the Metro 

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Subpages (1): Untitled