TOP TEN ON TUESDAY - POEMS

00:00 Jazz Blackwell 0 Comments

If you actually look at this blog on the reg, you may have noticed I didn't have a Coffee Talk post this Sunday. I'd like to give you some fantastical reason, preferably one involving valiant battles with dragons and riding into the sunset atop a sleek black stallion with Johnny Depp. I'd like to. But I feel I shouldn't lie to you people. The real reason? I got very drunk and maybe, kind of, slightly forgot.

I'm shit I know.

My horrible habits aside, I thought I'd go a step outside of books and novels and plays and talk about my favourite poems. It's rather easy, I think, when studying literature or running a literature blog to focus only on books and novels. I know my own personal poetry books often go forgotten about for weeks at a time before I remember to blow the dust off them and show them the love that they so deserve. So I thought it would be a good idea today to share with you, in no particular order, my all time favourite poems and why I love them so much.

10. An American Prayer - Jim Morrison.
 Favourite lines:
"O great creator of being, grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives,
The moths and atheists are doubly divine and dying, 
We live, we die and death not ends it." 

An American Prayer is the eponymous track from Jim Morrison's spoken-word album of poetry, set to music. A typically Morrison-esque criticism of the sensibilities of society, the poem criticizes the social injustices of the time and the little things that people allow to bog down their lives, whilst forgetting what it really means to live. An intriguing and thought-provoking piece though it is, I would definitely put an age stamp of 18+ on this poem and the entire album, due to the nature of some of the language and some mature content. 

9. The Raven - Edgar Allen Poe 
Favourite lines: 
" 'Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting,
'Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul has spoken! 
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven 'Nevermore'. "

I know, I know. How cliché can I get? The Raven is amongst everybody's favourite poems - particularly those of us who are slightly more in touch with our inner Goth than most. But it's up there with good reason. A fast paced and dramatic tale of lost love and mental torment, it's hauntingly beautiful and wonderfully atmospheric. I've been in love with it since I first heard it on The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror, and it still holds a very special place in my heart. 

8. Under the Balcony - Oscar Wilde. 
Favourite lines: 
"O ship that shakes on the desolate sea!
O ship with the wet white sail!
Put in, put in to the port to me! 
For my love and I would go,
To the land where the daffodils blow,
In the heart of a violet dale!"

Ah, Oscar. My one true love. The only man I need in my life. Anyone who knows me probably saw this coming a mile off. I've something of an obsession with Oscar Wilde - I fell in love with him at the tender age of 12, after seeing the biopic of his life starring my other true love, the wonderful Stephen Fry. I could write reams and reams about the general wonderfulness of Mr Wilde, but I'll spare you my gushing. It was difficult narrowing it down to just one of his poems to include in this list - I love them all so much. I decided on Under the Balcony because of its simplicity. It's a declaration of love, plain and simple. I also enjoy the cheeky reference to Shakespeare - 'wherefore art thou, Romeo', anyone? 

7. The Highwayman - Alfred Noyes. 
Favourite lines: 
" 'One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light,
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell shall bar the way.' "

This is one of the first poems I studied in any kind of depth - I distinctly remember 'dissecting' the poem and analysing each stanza on a chilly April morning in Mrs Simpson's Year Five Literacy class. Seems an odd choice of poem to put before a class of ten-year-olds, with hindsight. References to robbery, murder and suicide give the poem an altogether dark and macabre feel. It's a tragic love story - the kind that people often misinterpret Romeo and Juliet as being - and definitely worth a read if you get the chance. 

6. An Irish Airman Forsees His Death - W B Yeats.
Favourite lines: 
"I balanced all, brought all to mind, 
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind,
In balance with this life, this death." 

I'll admit that this is a relatively new poem to me. It was quoted (morbidly enough, as an epitaph) by the infinitely handsome Emmett Scanlan on BBC Three's now-cancelled zombie drama In The Flesh, and I fell in love with it as soon as I heard it. Much like the above poem, it has rather a dark feel - it is told through the eyes of a military pilot, who accepts that he is most likely going to die in action. As with Under the Balcony, I love the simplicity of the poem - there's no pomp or pretence. It is what it is, and to me, that's beautiful. 

5. A Smuggler's Song - Rudyard Kipling. 
Favourite lines: 
"Five and twenty ponies trotting through the dark, 
Brandy for the parson, baccy for the clerk, 
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie,
Watch the wall, my darling, while the gentlemen go by." 

Another poem from my junior school days, we studied this around the same time as The Highwayman. Although probably not the most mature or intellectually challenging piece on this list, I felt it was definitely worth a mention. Living on the coast as I do, I've always had something of an interest in pirates and smugglers, and am totally obsessed with Daphne Du Maurier's Jamaica Inn. If you're anything like me, you'll fall in love with this poem and it will be one of your favourites for years to come. 

4. One Bright Day In The Middle of The Night - Author Unknown. 
Favourite lines: 
"One bright day in the middle of the night, 
Two dead boys got up to fight, 
Back to back they faced each other, 
Drew their swords and shot each other,
A deaf policeman heard the noise, 
And ran to save the two dead boys. 
If you don't believe that this is true,
Ask the blind man, 
He saw it too." 

This is definitely not the most intellectually challenging poem on this list! My auntie Julie - a woman with a definite penchant for all things fun - taught it to my brother and I when we were children. I cherish this poem as I would any other relic from childhood. 

3. The Listeners - Walter De La Mare. 
Favourite lines: 
"But only a host of phantom listeners, 
That dwelt in the lone house then, 
Stood listening in the quiet moonlight, 
To that voice from the world of men." 

Another throwback to my junior school days, I remember spending many a lesson creating wax-crayon illustrations to accompany this poem. I love it now for the same reason that my admittedly bizarre young self liked it - it's intensely creepy to the point that it's almost unnerving. It tells the tale of a traveller visiting a house in a forest, keeping his side of an undisclosed promise, only to find it void of any human life. Interestingly enough, this is also where I learned the definition of the word 'phantom' is not necessarily 'ghost'. 

2. Antigonish - Hughes Mearns. 
Favourite lines: 
"Yesterday, upon the stair, 
I met a man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd go away." 

Another very creepy poem with a similar nonsensical vibe as One Bright Day, this is actually from a play rather than being a standalone piece Regardless, I love it because from a young age, I've had something of a morbid obsession with ghosts - like I said, I was a bizarre child. Interestingly, both this and One Bright Day are featured in the horror flick The Haunting in Connecticut - incidentally one of my favourite films - most likely due to the confusing and creepy nature of both. 

1. Ode - Arthur O'Shaughnessy. 
Favourite lines: 
"One man with a dream, at pleasure, 
Shall go forth and conquer a crown, 
And three with a new song's measure, 
Can trample an empire down." 

As much as I hate to get all sappy on you guys, this poem really does have a lot of sentimental value to me. I discovered it when I was at something of a dark point in my life and - silly though it may seem - this poem helped instil in me a feeling of hope when I had none. I'd often read it as a pick me up, and it helped me to feel as if I could face the day. 

BONUS MENTION: All That is Gold Does Not Glitter - JRR Tolkien

Favourite lines: 
"From the ashes a fire shall be woken, 
A light from the shadows shall spring, 
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king." 

I really considered putting this as a part of the main list but eventually decided against it, as it's generally known as a Tolkien quote, rather than as a poem in its own right. Still, I felt it was worth a mention as I - and I'm sure many of you - have a serious case of Tolkien Fever that seems like it's never going to let up. 

So that's all my favourite poems. What are yours? Let me know, or make your own post about it! 

Happy reading,
Jazz xo

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