Brit Lit Poems

I developed a love for poetry sometime in college.  I remember going to the used book store in Provo and spending several hours trying to find the perfect volume, overwhelmed by the choices and reading too quickly to really get anything out of it. I settled on a green hardcover volume filled with American poems and read one or two every night. I bookmarked my favorites and transcribed them to friends and family in my thank you notes. Since we got married I haven’t really spent much time reading poems, but the section of British Literature that I’m working through is focused on the poetry during and just after the Elizabethan Era and though it’s hit or miss for me (I sometimes can’t grasp what the authors are getting at, no matter how hard I try) I have found a few new favorites to add to my list of pieces I’d like to revisit again and again. Sometimes Em for Marvelous posts poems on her site, which I always enjoy. I hope she’ll pick it back up again when her wedding planning is over.


by John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Still to Be Neat

by Ben Jonson
Still to be neat, still to be dressed,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powdered, still perfumed;
Lady, it is to be presumed,
Though art’s hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.

Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free;
Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the adulteries of art.
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.

On the Death of my First and Dearest Child, Hector Philips,
born the 23rd of April, and died the 2nd of May 1655.
Set by Mr. Lawes

by Katherine Philips
Twice forty months in wedlock I did stay,
Then had my vows crowned with a lovely boy.
And yet in forty days he dropped away;
O swift vicissitude of human joy!

I did but see him, and he disappeared,
I did but touch the rosebud, and it fell;
A sorrow unforeseen and scarcely feared,
So ill can mortals their afflictions spell.

And now (sweet babe) what can my trembling heart
Suggest to right my doleful fate or thee?
Tears are my muse, and sorrow all my art,
So piercing groans must be thy elegy.

Thus whilst no eye is witness of my moan,
I grieve thy loss (ah, boy too dear to live!)
And let the unconcerned world alone,
Who neither will, nor can refreshment give.

An offering too for thy sad tomb I have,
Too just a tribute to thy early hearse;
Receive these gasping numbers to thy grave,
The last of thy unhappy mother’s verse.

7 thoughts on “Brit Lit Poems

  1. You are so sweet! My senior seminar was on Brit Lit (though not poetry), so it has a special place in my heart. Will do my best to start up the poem category again soon! :)

  2. I just recently read Love Letters of Great Men VOL. 1 and this was my favorite:

    “Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us – I can live only wholly with you or not at all – Yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits – Yes, unhappily it must be so – You will be the more contained since you know my fidelity to you. No one else can ever possess my heart – never – never – Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves. And yet my life in V is now a wretched life – Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men – At my age I need a steady, quiet life – can that be so in our connection? My angel, I have just been told that the mailcoach goes every day – therefore I must close at once so that you may receive the letter at once – Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – Be calm – love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all – farewell. Oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
    ever thine
    ever mine
    ever ours”

    Beethoven knew how to get the ladies.

  3. My husband is a professional spoken work artist (he’s been on BET, performed at colleges, fairs, weddings, and conferences and gets paid for it too).

    He’s written me two poems and our daughter a poem.

    We wrote our own wedding vows and his were beautiful.

    Having a poet as a husband is amazing.

  4. In college, when I studied that John Donne poem, the professor pointed out it was all about sex. Read it again, with that in mind. No less lovely, but meaning shifts.

    Jenna Reply:

    The line “It leans, and hearkens after it,
    And grows erect, as that comes home” is quite fun.

  5. You remind me of grad school! I was the crazy lady who decided to get a Masters in English lit after having only taken two literature classes as an undergrad. And I chose 18th century prose and poetry as one of my first classes. It was tough — really tough. After reading Anglican sermons for most of the term, we finally got to poetry, and I loved some of it. John Donne was my favorite because he seemed to have so much more passion that most of the others; and I loved everything about “The Flea.” I ended up writing my term paper on George Herbert. He had some great visual poems.

    Hmmm.. I think I should go read some poetry before the girls wake up. Thanks for the inspiration! Maybe I’ll start posting poems on my site every so often. It’s a great idea.

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