Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.We believe these to be some of the best lines ever spoken by a literary artist. Indeed the eloquence and activeness of poems influence people of all mindsets. Different people have different interpretations for the same poem and it means something different to each one of us. Even as kids we are taught various poems in schools.
On World Poetry day here are some of the poems we grew up with.
The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost The famous poem immortalized by the lines, “The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep” has confused literary audience from the beginning. Robert Frost was inspired to write the poem by Edward Thomas’s (Popular English Critic) habit regretting whatever path the pair took during their long walks in the countryside. It was intended as a light joke to tease Thomas. Instead Thomas sent him an admiring note praising his work.
Ode to the West Wind By Percy Bysshe Shelley The poem that stuck with us throughout our childhood. This is the first one that comes to our minds everytime we talk about poems. In this poem, Shelley appeals to the West Wind to infuse him with a new spirit and a new power hoping that the wind will help spread his ideas throughout the world. Some have interpreted his poem as his lamenting over his inability to help England owing to his being in Italy. Probably what made this poem so hard to understand was the fact that it was written in archaic English.
Rime of the Ancient Mariner By Samuel Taylor Coleridge No such list will ever be complete without the mention of this poem. We all remember this poem with the lines “Water Water everywhere not a drop to drink”. Interestingly, the poem is inspired by James Cook’s voyage who was looking for the fabled Great Southern Continent. The poem has been widely criticized for being obscure. The use of archaic english didn’t help. Nevertheless the poem also contributed to the birth of the idiom ‘Albatross around one’s neck”.
The Brook By Alfred Lord Tennyson This musical poem is based on the journey of life and very metaphorically explains the beauty of hope and kindness. Like the brook our lives start from a small place and have its own ups and downs. Written in the 1800s it’s astonishing how the essence of the poem is still valid in the modern world. Apart from it’s relationship to life, it was also in a way a tribute to nature. The poem was written at a time when England was losing some of it’s natural beauty owing to the advent of the industrial revolution and many Victorian authors such as Tennyson celebrated the lovely landscapes that were often threatened by the rise of this new culture.
If By Rudyard Kipling One of the most profound poems we probably learnt in school. It’s one of the most inspirational texts ever. In India, a framed copy of the poem was affixed to the wall before the study desk in the cabins of the officer cadets at the National Defence Academy, at Pune and Indian Naval Academy, at Ezhimala. Khushwant Singh (famous Indian Historian) compared it to Gita saying that they both share the same message. The poem was also recited by actor Ricky Tomlinson in the movie Mike Bassett: England Manager.
The Solitary Reaper By William Wordsworth The talks about a young maiden reaping in the fields singing to herself and that anyone passing by should either stop are pass without disturbing her. The poem was inspired by his stay at the village of Strathyre in the parish of Balquhidder in Scotland in September 1803.
Daffodils By William Wordsworth This poem is one of Wordworth’s most famous poems. The inspiration for the poem came from a walk Wordsworth took with his sister Dorothy around Glencoyne Bay. Interestingly, his wife Mary had also contributed a few lines in the poem. So in a way, his entire household has written this poem.
Seven Stages By William Shakespeare This isn’t really a poem but a monologue from one of Shakespeare’s popular plays ‘As you like it’. However, it had a very important role in everyone’s life. It talks about how everything that begins has an end and how life ultimately ends in the same ways as it began.According to T. W. Baldwin, Shakespeare's version of the concept of the ages man is based primarily upon Palingenius' book Zodiacus Vitae, a school text he would have studied at the Stratford Grammar School, which also enumerates stages of human life.
Frog and the Nightingale By Vikram Seth This poem has different interpretations to different audiences. Some call it as exposing the role of critics towards any fresh talent while others see it as exploitation of simple and genuine talent. Like any other fable the poem conveys a message to the readers. To have confident in one’s talents.
Night of the Scorpion By Nissim Ezekiel This poem that displays the harsh reality of life in a very subtle manner. How a helpless son watches his mother suffer. How a husband tries desperate measures to save his wife. And finally how when she recovers she just prays to god that she was the one who got stung (by a Scorpion) instead of her children. It came from a religious background and Nissim wrote this poem trying to give the impression of anger.
The effects that these poems have had on our childhoods cannot be understated. Be it the sublime ‘Road Not Taken’ or the inspirational ‘If’, our lives have been deeply molded by these literary gems. On World Poetry Day, we take this opportunity to thank these poets and other honorable artists that we couldn’t mention today for their contribution to making this world a beautiful place.