Famous Family Poems

Famous Family Poems

Feel the Power of Family through These Classic Poems

To be part of a family is to be in a relationship. There is an opportunity for a closeness and trust that cannot occur outside family. With this possibility for closeness is the possibility of hatred and estrangement. It is not easy to maintain positive relationships with those that we are naturally closest to. There are tensions that exist between family members that are not present in other relationships. Being in close proximity means that you know a person's great attributes as well as their faults. Maintaining family relationships are a tremendous challenge.

24 Poems about Family by Famous Poets

  1. 1. The Children's Hour

    The Children's Hour was first published in 1860 in The Atlantic Monthly. The 3 children in the poem are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's own daughters.
    In the early 1900's this poem was frequently taught in schools to young children. It is about the father child relationship and the enduring love of a father for his children.

    Between the dark and the daylight,
    When the night is beginning to lower,
    Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
    That is known as the Children's Hour.

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    Beautifully written...loved every word of it. So pure and wonderful!

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  3. 2. Mother, A Cradle To Hold Me

    When we are small, our mothers are everything to us. Her arms were made to cradle us and provide for all our needs. At first, we don’t want to be separated from her. As time passes, a mother helps us become more independent. Even in our teenage years, we still love our mother even though we don’t show it well, and we finally come to realize the wisdom she has. This is a great Mother’s Day poem that thanks her for her guidance and unconditional love. No matter our stage of life, whether an infant, young child, teenager, or adult, our mother’s love for us is unconditional.

    It is true
    I was created in you.
    It is also true
    That you were created for me.

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  5. 3. Life's Scars

    A poem full of wisdom about relationships. How ironic is it that the people we love, the most important people in our lives, are the ones we often treat the worst. While the guests who come into our lives temporarily, we always treat politely and with a smile. Shouldn't it be the opposite?

    They say the world is round, and yet
    I often think it square,
    So many little hurts we get
    From corners here and there.

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    Life's Scars By Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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    The writer has hit the nail on the head. We treat strangers with grace and family with scorn. Our family will disapprove of our life choices, whereas strangers will not. A depressed soul...

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  6. 4. Only A Dad

    Edgar Guest (1881-1959) was a prolific poet who wrote many encouraging messages about everyday life. This poem captures the essence of a man who loves his family so much to sacrifice for them day in and day out. While he doesn't have much, he works hard for his family and shows self-control and determination when things don't go his way. This poem uses rhyming couplets and the repetition of “only a dad” to create a well-structured piece.

    Only a dad, with a tired face,
    Coming home from the daily race,
    Bringing little of gold or fame,
    To show how well he has played the game,

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    Hello everyone. It’s a Monday morning, and I’ve just begun working, but somewhere in my mind throughout the day I keep remembering my dad and his deeds. No matter how tired I become, I still...

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  7. 5. On Aging

    Aging can be a tricky topic, one that’s difficult for people to navigate. Famous poet Maya Angelou (1928-2014) shares her thoughts on this topic. Although the speaker knows her body doesn’t work quite like it used to, she doesn’t want to be treated differently. Even though her body has changed, she is still the same person she used to be, and she doesn’t allow aging to bring her down. She still has value and the ability to live a full life. Maya Angelou was a very influential person, and her writing exudes confidence and authenticity.

    When you see me sitting quietly,
    Like a sack left on the shelf,
    Don’t think I need your chattering.
    I’m listening to myself.

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    Reading this poem was very heartfelt and personal. Maya Angelou has always been my favorite author of all times, but reading this particular poem reminds me of my grandmother who I was lucky...

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  8. 6. The Stick-Together Families

    There's nothing quite as valuable as family for those lucky enough to have one. That is the theme of this poem, The Stick-Together Families, published in 1917 in the book Just Folks by Edgar A. Guest from Detroit, Michigan. Guest (1881 -1959) wrote a poem a day, seven days a week for thirty years as a columnist for the Detroit Free Press. He was known as the People's Poet for his poems championing the traditional values of the typical American family of the first half of the 20th century.

    The stick-together families are happier by far
    Than the brothers and the sisters who take separate highways are.
    The gladdest people living are the wholesome folks who make
    A circle at the fireside that no power but death can break.

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    My husband was in the Navy when we met. We were from different states. When he was discharged, we decided to live in a state that was between our two states, making our travels home about...

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  9. 7. The Responsibility Of Fatherhood

    Becoming a parent changes many things about your priorities and your outlook on life. In this famous poem, Edgar Guest (1881-1959) shares how life was before children and what changed once he became a father. The speaker realizes that he needs to be a better person because there’s a little one who will look up to everything he does, whether it’s good or bad. Edgar Guest wrote many poems on the topic of family. This poem is made up of octaves (eight line stanzas) that follow the rhyme scheme ABABCDCD.

    BEFORE you came, my little lad,
    I used to think that I was good,
    Some vicious habits, too, I had,
    But wouldn't change them if I could.

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  10. 8. Home And The Office

    Edgar Guest (1881-1959) shares valuable advice about enjoying time at home with your family, no matter the burdens that have been placed on your shoulders at work during the day. Home should be a place to let it all go and soak up the memories with those you love. Edgar Guest was known for writing poems about everyday life that had an encouraging message.

    Home is the place where the laughter should ring,
    And man should be found at his best.
    Let the cares of the day be as great as they may,
    The night has been fashioned for rest.

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  11. 9. Midnight In The Pantry

    The poet, Edgar Guest (1881-1959), creates a comedic tone about searching for a midnight snack. While it’s enjoyable to go out to eat and enjoy the sights and sounds of town, nothing compares to finding something delectable to eat in your own pantry.

    You can boast your round of pleasures, praise the sound of popping corks,
    Where the orchestra is playing to the rattle of the forks,
    And your after-opera dinner you may think superbly fine,
    But that can’t compare, I’m certain, to the joy that’s always mine

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  12. 10. Father

    The speaker sees his father as a mighty man when it comes to endeavors outside the house, but when it comes to getting things fixed at home, it’s better left to someone else. This poem has a humorous tone and uses irony that the father can do tough things and solve the big problems of the world, but he is unable to mend a chair. This poem is made up of octaves (stanzas that consist of eight lines each).

    My father knows the proper way
    The nation should be run;
    He tells us children every day
    Just what should now be done.

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  13. 11. My Papa's Waltz

    Theodore Roethke is the small boy in this poem. His father died when he was just fifteen. Roethke struggled with mental illness all his life. His first book of poetry, Open House, was published in 1941. His relationship with his father occupied a large part of his writings.
    In this poem it is unclear if the memories of his drunk father putting him to bed are happy or sad, abusive or merry, scary or sweet.

    The whiskey on your breath
    Could make a small boy dizzy;
    But I hung on like death:
    Such waltzing was not easy.

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  14. 12. Mother To Son

    Langston Hughes was a prominent writer during the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, a mother uses the metaphor of life being like a staircase to give advice to her son. While there are difficult times, you must keep moving like you would while walking up a staircase.

    Well, son, I'll tell you:
    Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
    It's had tacks in it,
    And splinters,

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    I was not a very good student when I was in school. I did the minimal amount of work required, retained little and barely paid attention. In 1965, my 8th grade English teacher read MOTHER TO...

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  15. 13. Men At Forty

    • By Donald Justice

    As time passes, life changes. As people age, they become more reminiscent as they move farther from their childhoods. This poem shows the actions of a man entering the second half of his life. The poem is split into stanzas, but they do not follow a specific rhyme scheme. Donald Justice (1925-2004) was a teacher of poetry, and he experimented with and mastered a variety of poetic techniques.

    Men at forty
    Learn to close softly
    The doors to rooms they will not be
    Coming back to.

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  16. 14. On Children

    "On Children" by Kahlil Gibran uses vivid imagery and metaphor. The poem describes the ways in which children enrich the lives of those who raise them, and speaks to the transformative power of parenthood. The lines "You may give them your love but not your thoughts" and "You may house their bodies but not their souls" uses rich imagery to describe the unique and separate nature of the relationship between parents and children. The lines "You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth" and "For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you" use metaphors of arrows and crucifixion to describe the love and struggles of parenting. On Children" is a beautifully written and deeply affecting poem that speaks about the enduring bond between parent and child.

    Your children are not your children
    They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself
    They come through you but not from you
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you

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  17. 15. The Little Boy And The Old Man

    Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) is a poet known for his wonderful and funny poems for children. But, many of his poems contain nuggets of wisdom for adults as well. In this poignant poem, the poet illustrates the indignities of growing old. The "little old man" has reverted back to a "little boy" and his own children now treat him as a little boy.

    Said the little boy, sometimes I drop my spoon.
    Said the little old man, I do that too.
    The little boy whispered, I wet my pants.
    I do too, laughed the old man.

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  18. 16. Home

    Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959) was born in England and moved with his family to America at age 10. He started working for the Detroit Free Press while still a teenager and went on to became a columnist for the newspaper, where for 30 years he published a new poem each day. This poem is also published in his book, It takes A Heap o' Livin' (1916). He was appointed Poet Laureate of Michigan in 1952. The purposeful grammar and spelling mistakes in the poem imply that the simple profound wisdom contained within are common knowledge to all.

    It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home,
    A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam
    Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind,
    An' hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind.

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    "Home" seems to capture so many concepts that both test families and bond them together. I heard this poem read by my aunts and uncles many times at family gatherings. It became ingrained in...

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  19. 17. A Father To His Son

    Carl Sandburg lived from 1878-1967. Some of his works have received Pulitzer Prizes, and Sandburg had a middle school named after him. In this poem, a father is thinking about the advice he wishes to impart to his son.

    A father sees his son nearing manhood.
    What shall he tell that son?
    "Life is hard; be steel; be a rock."
    And this might stand him for the storms

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  20. 18. A Cradle Song

    A poem from his book, Songs of Innocence, and of experience by William Blake, a lullaby of unparalleled beauty.

    Sweet dreams form a shade
    O'er my lovely infant's head;
    Sweet dreams of pleasant streams
    By happy, silent, moony beams.

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    Family where life begins and love never ends.

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  21. 19. A Holiday

    Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American poet who lived from 1850-1919. She was known as a poet even before she graduated high school. Many of her poems touch on themes of family and relationships. In this poem, The wife wants her husband to demonstrate he still loves her, "to prove the life of love", by spending quality time over the holiday with her and their children. Quality time on a holiday is how to take care of your family and demonstrate your love, not gifts! The Husband doesn't get it. He thinks she doesn't appreciate his hard work. He is running a business to take care of her, he just bought her a valuable gift and yet she still wants more from him.

    The Wife
    The house is like a garden,
    The children are the flowers,
    The gardener should come methinks

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  22. 20. One Sister Have I In Our House

    This poem is about Emily Dickinson's sister-in-law, Susan. Emily lived with her sister, Lavinia, ("One Sister have I in our house"), and she had a sister-in-law, Susan, her brother Austin's wife, who lived next door, ("one a hedge away"). "There's only one recorded" (Lavinia is her only biological sister). "But both belong to me" (she considers Susan to be a sister too, although they are actually sisters-in-law).

    One Sister have I in our house,
    And one, a hedge away.
    There's only one recorded,
    But both belong to me.

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