50 most poignant lines from poetry

Posted by
Abi Jackson

"Poetry begins with a lump in the throat" - so said the late, great Robert Frost. Whilst Frost was referring to the poet's writing process, the same can certainly be said of the ability poetry has to strike a chord - just a few beautifully composed lines can have more power and pull than whole reams of prose.

Enjoy some of the very best and most moving lines of poetry ever written - the ones that, once read, stay with you for days, months and even years to follow.

Click an image to launch the gallery. Did your favourite line of poetry make our list? Let us know in the comments section below.

  • Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

    "Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul, / And sings the tune without the words, / And never stops at all,"

    Hope Is The Thing With Feathers, Emily Dickinson

  • To My Wife

    "And when wind and winter harden / All the loveless land, / It will whisper of the garden, / You will understand."

    To My Wife, Oscar Wilde

  • I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

    "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"

    I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, William Wordsworth

  • Digging

    "Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun."

    Digging, Seamus Heaney

  • Dulce et Decorum est

    "Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, / Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs / And towards our distant rest began to trudge."

    Dulce et Decorum est, Wilfred Owen

  • Daddy

    "At twenty I tried to die / And get back, back, back to you. / I thought even the bones would do. / But they pulled me out of the sack, / And they stuck me together with glue."

    Daddy, Sylvia Plath

  • Stop all the clocks

    "He was my North, my South, my East and West. / My working week and my Sunday rest. / My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song. / I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong."

    Stop All The Clocks, WH Auden

  • The Minotaur

    "The bloody end of the skein / That unravelled your marriage, / Left your children echoing / Like tunnels in a labyrinth."

    The Minotaur, Ted Hughes

  • In Flanders Fields

    "We are the Dead. Short days ago / We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, / Loved and were loved, and now we lie / In Flanders Fields."

    In Flanders Fields, John McCrae

  • The Charge of the Light Brigade

    "Storm'd at with shot and shell, / Boldly they rode and well, / Into the jaws of Death, / Into the mouth of Hell / Rode the six hundred."

    The Charge of the Light Brigade, Alfred Lord Tennyson

  • If

    "If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds' worth of distance run - / Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, / And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!"

    If, Rudyard Kipling

  • Howl

    "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix / angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night"

    "Howl"', Allan Ginsberg

  • The Road Not Taken

    "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference."

    The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

  • I Carry Your Heart

    "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 the 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)"

    i carry your heart with me, EE Cummings

  • O Captain! My Captain!

    "O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done; / The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;"

    O Captain! My Captain!, Walt Whitman

  • A Dream Within A Dream

    "I stand amid the roar / Of a surf-tormented shore, / And I hold within my hand / Grains of the golden sand-- / How few! yet how they creep / Through my fingers to the deep, / While I weep - while I weep!"

    A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe

  • Warning

    "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 candles, and say we've no money for butter."

    Warning, Jenny Joseph

  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

    "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."

    I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

  • How Do I Love Thee?

    "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. / I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight / For the ends of being and ideal grace."

    How Do I Love Thee?, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  • The Soldier

    "If I should die, think only this of me: / That there's some corner of a foreign field / That is forever England."

    The Soldier, Rupert Brooke

  • These I Can Promise

    "I can promise all my heart's devotion; / A smile to chase away your tears of sorrow; / A love that's true and ever growing; / A hand to hold in your's through each tomorrow."

    These I Can Promise, Mark Twain

  • Kubla Khan

    "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree / Where Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea."

    Kubla Khan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  • Ode to Autumn

    "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"

    Ode to Autumn, John Keats

  • Sonnet 18

    "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate"

    Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

  • To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

    "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, / Old time is still a-flying: / And this same flower that smiles to-day / To-morrow will be dying."

    To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, Robert Herrick

  • The Panther

    "As he paces in cramped circles, over and over, / the movement of his powerful soft strides / is like a ritual dance around a center / in which a mighty will stands paralyzed"

    The Panther, Rainer Maria Rilke

  • Paradise Lost

    "Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit / Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste / Brought death into the World, and all our woe, / With loss of Eden, till one greater Man / Restore us, and regain the blissful seat, / Sing, Heavenly Muse"

    Paradise Lost, John Milton

  • Phenomenal Woman

    The span of my hips, / The stride of my step, / The curl of my lips. / I'm a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, / That's me."

    Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou

  • Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep, / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep."

    Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

  • If You Forget Me

    "But / if each day, / each hour, / you feel that you are destined for me / with implacable sweetness, / if each day a flower / climbs up to your lips to seek me, / ah my love, ah my own, / in me all that fire is repeated"

    If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda

  • Let America Be America Again

    "I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, / I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars. / I am the red man driven from the land, / I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek - / And finding only the same old stupid plan /Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak."

    Let America Be America Again, Langston Hughes

  • Heart, we will forget him!

    "Heart, we will forget him, You and I, tonight! / You must forget the warmth he gave, I will forget the light. / When you have done pray tell me, Then I, my thoughts, will dim. Haste! ‘lest while you’re lagging / I may remember him!"

    Heart, We Will Forget Him! Emily Dickinson

  • If You Think You are Beaten

    "Life's battles don't always go / To the stronger or faster man. / But sooner or later the man who wins, / Is the man who thinks he can."

    If You Think You are Beaten, Walter D. Wintle

  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    "Water, water, every where, / And all the boards did shrink; / Water, water, every where / Nor any drop to drink."

    The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  • Trees

    "A tree that looks at God all day, / And lifts her leafy arms to pray; / A tree that may in Summer wear / A nest of robins in her hair; / Upon whose bosom snow has lain; / Who intimately lives with rain."

    Trees, Joyce Kilmer

  • Strange Fruit

    "Southern trees bear a strange fruit, / Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, / Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, / Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees."

    Strange Fruit, Abel Meeropol

  • When You are Old

    "When you are old and grey and full of sleep, / And nodding by the fire, take down this book / And slowly read, and dream of the soft look / Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep"

    When You are Old, W. B. Yeats

  • Suicide in the Trenches

    "You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye / Who cheer when soldier lads march by, / Sneak home and pray you'll never know / The hell where youth and laughter go."

    Suicide in the Trenches, Siegfried Sassoon

  • An Evening

    "Scarcely a tear to shed; / Hardly a word to say; / The end of a summer day;/ Sweet Love dead."

    An Evening, Gwendolyn Brooks

  • When a Woman Loves a Man

    "When a woman loves a man, they have gone / to swim naked in the stream / on a glorious July day / with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle / of water rushing over smooth rocks, / and there is nothing alien in the universe."

    When a Woman Loves a Man, David Lehman

  • Dear, Though the Night Is Gone

    "Our whisper woke no clocks, / We kissed and I was glad / At everything you did, / Indifferent to those / Who sat with hostile eyes / In pairs on every bed, / Arms round each other's neck, / Inert and vaguely sad."

    "Dear, Though the Night Is Gone", WH Auden

  • Do not go gentle into that good night

    "Do not go gentle into that good night, / Old age should burn and rave at close of day; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

    Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas

  • A Girl

    "Tree you are, / Moss you are, / You are violets with wind above them. / A child - so high - you are, / And all this is folly to the world."

    A Girl, Ezra Pound

  • Happiness

    "Happiness. It comes on / unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really, / any early morning talk about it."

    Happiness, Raymond Carver

  • Fast Rode The Knight

    "Fast rode the knight / With spurs, hot and reeking, / Ever waving an eager sword, / 'To save my lady!'"

    Fast Rode The Knight, Stephen Crane

  • The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

    "Darkness settles on roofs and walls, / But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls; / The little waves, with their soft, white hands / Efface the footprints in the sands, / And the tide rises, the tide falls."

    The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • The Raven

    "But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only, / That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. / Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered - / Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before - / On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.' / Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'"

    The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe

  • A Red, Red Rose

    "O, my Luve's like a red, red rose, / That's newly sprung in June. / O, my Luve's like the melodie / That's sweetly played in tune."

    A Red, Red Rose, Robert Burns

  • The Children's Hour

    "Between the dark and the daylight. / When the night is beginning to lower, / Comes a pause in the day's occupations. / That is known as the Children's Hour."

    The Children's Hour, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • When We Two Parted

    "When we two parted / In silence and tears, / Half broken-hearted / To sever for years, / Pale grew thy cheek and cold, / Colder thy kiss; / Truly that hour foretold / Sorrow to this."

    When We Two Parted, George (Lord) Byron


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