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Simple and succinct. Well chosen. I love this series of the ten best. So brilliantly synchronous! In this data-rich period of the last years, we have seen myriads of lists composed, the top 10 vehicles of the last fifty years, the top 40 songs of the week, the top contributers to humanity of the last years, the richest people in the World this year, and so forth.

It is a way for us in mass society to make sense of all the information that comes our way. Another reason for compiling such lists is that it clarifies our own visions, artistic, scientific, philosophical, etc. However, all lists are at best provisional. They are works in progress.

Things change. The most popular meme this week might not be the most popular meme next week. Our favourite cuisine this season may not be our favourite the next. In fact, we are creatures of change.

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We thrive on variety. So it should not come as a surprise to anyone that even our own lists will alter over time. Evan Mantyk has done us a great service in posting his list of the 10 Greatest Poems Ever Written, not because he was right after all, who could be right?

De gustibus non est disputandum. As Mr. Mantyk knows, by emphasizing poems of 50 lines or less not his exact requirement, but his example , one must exclude epics, poetic plays, narrative poems, dramatic monologues, didactic verse essays, satires and epistles, etc. One of the paradoxes of making a list of the greatest short poems ever written is in attributing greatness to the smaller works, when the very meaning of greatness implies a largeness of expanse, of vision, etc. Even he, I suspect, will change his list over time.

Here is his list.


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Daffodils William Wordsworth 4. On His Blindness John Milton 6. The Tyger William Blake 7. Ode on a Grecian Urn John Keats 8.

Ozymandias Percy Bysshe Shelley 9. The New Colossus Emma Lazarus The Road Not Taken Robert Frost What is remarkable about his list is its specificity and his analyses, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. As I read his list, however, I kept thinking, but what about this poem, or that poem? Other Shakespearean sonnets are also in competition with Sonnet Sonnet for me has always had a special place, because in its delivery, Shakespeare even goes so far as to suggest that if true love does not exist, then he never wrote a thing.

It is the Shakespearean sonnet that most moves me, so much so I recited it at the wedding of my college roommate many years ago. This shows one of the pitfalls of poetic placement; various poems may suggest more to us than others because of our own particular circumstances. One more example will suffice.

What appeals to me in that sonnet is its unusual vantage point, its precision, the use of particular words, like steep, and its terse landscaping. Death thou shalt die. But for me, the John Donne poem that takes my breath away is A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, with its extraordinary conceit of love with a mathematical compass. It is a linguistic tour de force that sweeps me away with its idealism, its learning, and its paradoxically intricate simplicity.

For me, nothing like it in English poetry reaches such a refined, intellectual brilliance; and for a long time, it has seemed a worthy paradigm to emulate in my poetry. I agree with Reid McGrath that it would be difficult to bench any of the all-stars Mr. Edwards and the Spider, etc.

And Ezra Pound and T. O Captain! O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead. This arm beneath your head!

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But I with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead. Critics such as Harold Bloom have suggested the Tyger is actually a gentle, playful creature.

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It is seen in his carvings as a smiling, toy-like beast. There was an error in Romantic literature that Satan was the hero of Paradise Lost but contemporary analysis suggests Adam is the hero, with Satan as an antihero. Satan became a mythical revolutionary telling God where to stick it for His oppressions.

Symmetry implies that order is addressed, a fearful order because it is misunderstood or new to the seer. The fact that Blake uses the word immortal in reference to eye and hand makes the poem extra enchanting— because he is calling poetry an immortal art that would not be what it is without a touch of the forbidden and the divine frenzy. The list was great, like all lists go by, interesting …… But once the shopping done, To the bin of time it goes.

For another one is on its way, for needs are different every day.

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So forget it. Learn to shop from your heart. Where do I start? While known more in America as a storyteller for children, he is best known in Ireland as a poet…. I hear in the darkness Their slipping and breathing. You can spend at the fair But your face you must turn To your crops and your care. And soldiers—red soldiers! The poems are beautiful, but the title is wrong. But, anyway, I love your list. Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Nothing by Goethe, Rilke, or Schiller? Or are great poems written only by native English speakers? First Letter by M. And as I pull the drapes in my room to the right, The moon engulfs everything with its warm light.

It retrieves from my memory, endless thoughts. I feel the whole lot like in dreams that come in lots. Virgin one you, thousand of wilds glow in your light. How many forests hide shimmer of water in their shade? As on top of the rough sheer size of the seas you drift, Over how many thousands of waves does your light shift?


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How many blossoming shores, what forts and castles too, Which flooded by your beauty, to yourself you put on view.