When Poetry Is Awesome

Day after day, day after day, we stuck, nor breath nor motion; as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.

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

I almost never read poetry. For the record, I have nothing against it. Poetry is a wonderful form of literary expression—heck, I’ve even written a few poems—but it’s not my cup of tea. I’ll take novels or short stories over poems any day.

Nevertheless, I occasionally stumble upon some poetic jewel: a phrase, verse or stanza of dazzling magnificence. The two stanzas above from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” amaze me. In just a few well-chosen words, the poet conveys the quiet desperation of sailors lost at sea.

Then there’s this stanza from “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which I find incredibly epic even out of context:

Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die: into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.

My other favorites include the poem “Invictus” and the first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 12. So… much… awesome.

What’s your favorite poem or snippet of poetry? Let us know in the comments!

4 thoughts on “When Poetry Is Awesome

  1. I love the cadence of the words mostly; the music in poetry. Interesting fact: C.S. Lewis made a conscious effort to write like poetry in his prose, ensure that there was a rhythm to it.

    It’s too bad you don’t appreciate a lot of poetry, but I get it. Still, great choices in Coleridge and Tennyson. Then there’s Alexander Pope. Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Donne, Keats, Shelley, Eliot, and all of the Greek Epics and Shakespeare. My rule of thumb though (with exceptions): any poetry written post 1950 is most likely not worth it.

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