5 Great English Poems

“To the person in the bell jar,” Sylvia Plath writes, “blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.” No doubt she is a great poet and sometimes her assertions seem true but these five poems, which I am going to mention, according to me, say othewise. They say world is not a bad dream but it is a reality that could be managed using metaphors and similies. They implicitly say and encourage, be a poet and make life and every experience a lyric of the poetry.

  1. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

2. The Frog and The Nightingale by Vikram Seth

Once upon a time a frog

Croaked away in Bingle Bog

Every night from dusk to dawn

He croaked awn and awn and awn

Other creatures loathed his voice,

But, alas, they had no choice,

And the crass cacophony

Blared out from the sumac tree

At whose foot the frog each night

Minstrelled on till morning night

Neither stones nor prayers nor sticks.

Insults or complaints or bricks

Stilled the frog’s determination

To display his heart’s elation.

But one night a nightingale

In the moonlight cold and pale

Perched upon the sumac tree

Casting forth her melody

Dumbstruck sat the gaping frog

And the whole admiring bog

Stared towards the sumac, rapt,

And, when she had ended, clapped,

Ducks had swum and herons waded

To her as she serenaded

And a solitary loon

Wept, beneath the summer moon.

Toads and teals and tiddlers, captured

By her voice, cheered on, enraptured:

“Bravo! “ “Too divine! “ “Encore! “

So the nightingale once more,

Quite unused to such applause,

Sang till dawn without a pause.

Next night when the Nightingale

Shook her head and twitched her tail,

Closed an eye and fluffed a wing

And had cleared her throat to sing

She was startled by a croak.

“Sorry — was that you who spoke? “

She inquired when the frog

Hopped towards her from the bog.

“Yes,” the frog replied. “You see,

I’m the frog who owns this tree

In this bog, I’ve long been known

For my splendid baritone

And, of course, I wield my pen

For Bog Trumpet now and then”

“Did you… did you like my song? “

“Not too bad — but far too long.

The technique was fine of course,

But it lacked a certain force”.

“Oh! “ the nightingale confessed.

Greatly flattered and impressed

That a critic of such note

Had discussed her art and throat:

“I don’t think the song’s divine.

But — oh, well — at least it’s mine”.

“That’s not much to boast about”.

Said the heartless frog. “Without

Proper training such as I

- And few others can supply.

You’ll remain a mere beginner.

But with me, you’ll be a winner”

“Dearest frog”, the nightingale

Breathed: “This is a fairy tale -

And you are Mozart in disguise

Come to earth before my eyes”.

“Well, I charge a modest fee.”

“Oh! “ “But it won’t hurt, you’ll see”

Now the nightingale inspired,

Flushed with confidence, and fired

With both art and adoration,

Sang — and was a huge sensation.

Animals for miles around

Flocked towards the magic sound,

And the frog with great precision

Counted heads and charged admission.

Though next morning it was raining,

He began her vocal training.

“But I can’t sing in this weather”

“Come, my dear — we’ll sing together.

Just put on your scarf and sash,

Koo-oh-ah! ko-ash! ko-ash! “

So the frog and nightingale

Journeyed up and down the scale

For six hours, until she was shivering

and her voice was hoarse and quivering.

Though subdued and sleep-deprived,

In the night her throat revived,

And the sumac tree was bowed,

With a breathless, titled crowd:

Owl of Sandwich, Duck of Kent,

Mallard and Milady Trent,

Martin Cardinal Mephisto,

And the Coot of Monte Cristo,

Ladies with tiaras glittering

In the interval sat twittering -

And the frog observed them glitter

With a joy both sweet and bitter.

Every day the frog who’d sold her

Songs for silver tried to scold her:

“You must practice even longer

Till your voice, like mine grows stronger.

In the second song last night

You got nervous in mid-flight.

And, my dear, lay on more trills:

Audiences enjoy such frills.

You must make your public happier:

Give them something sharper snappier.

We must aim for better billings.

You still owe me sixty shillings.”

Day by day the nightingale

Grew more sorrowful and pale.

Night on night her tired song

Zipped and trilled and bounced along,

Till the birds and beasts grew tired

At a voice so uninspired

And the ticket office gross

Crashed, and she grew more morose -

For her ears were now addicted

To applause quite unrestricted,

And to sing into the night

All alone gave no delight.

Now the frog puffed up with rage.

“Brainless bird — you’re on the stage -

Use your wits and follow fashion.

Puff your lungs out with your passion.”

Trembling, terrified to fail,

Blind with tears, the nightingale

Heard him out in silence, tried,

Puffed up, burst a vein, and died.

Said the frog: “I tried to teach her,

But she was a stupid creature -

Far too nervous, far too tense.

Far too prone to influence.

Well, poor bird — she should have known

That your song must be your own.

That’s why I sing with panache:

“Koo-oh-ah! ko-ash! ko-ash! “

And the foghorn of the frog

Blared unrivaled through the bog.

3. The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

4. Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

5. In the Wings by Kamla Das

My vocabulary

Is limited.

My thoughts limitless.

How shall I pass them on

To you and you and you

waiting in the wings?



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