Famous Inspirational Poems

Famous Inspirational Poems

Words of Wisdom: Powerful Poems of Motivation and Encouragement

Many poems, and poets for that matter, earn fame because of their ability to inspire others. Such poems give people the internal strength they need to overcome a problem, reach a goal, or let go of their resentment or guilt. Poems can even inspire people to work towards a cause or become a better person. Many famous poets had the keen ability to use the written word to reach hearts and souls, motivating people to action. They used their gift in the most noble of ways by creating powerful inspirational poems that touched, and continue to touch, people with a positive message even today.

36 Motivational Poems by Famous Poets

  1. 1. The Invitation

    The Invitation is a prose poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Many years after the poem was written and had become famous, the author wrote a book based on the poem, The Invitation (1999), by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Oriah is a spiritual counselor and story teller, among other things. This poem offers an invitation to every single one of us to "show up" in the universe. She reminds us that we do not serve the universe by being small. Rather, we serve the universe by making the most out of our lives.

    It doesn't interest me
    what you do for a living.
    I want to know
    what you ache for

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    The Invitation By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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    I love this more than words. I think of these words often, especially in times that I feel as though I haven't done much through the years, and I'm sweetly reminded that I HAVE done so much!...

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  3. 2. If

    Rudyard Kipling was an English poet who lived from 1865-1936. He also wrote many children's stories. The poem's line, "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same," is written on the wall of the players' entrance at Wimbledon.

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too:

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    I was never an avid reader nor appreciated poetry most of my life. My dad sent me this poem for my 28th birthday, printed along with a lovely card. Living many miles away from him I often...

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  5. 3. Still I Rise

    Maya Angelou is one of the most celebrated American Poets of our time. Born in 1928, her life has spanned much of the African American struggle for racial equality. She was a confidant of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In this poem about African American Courage, Angelou embodies the power, courage and tenacity of the African American experience.

    You may write me down in history
    With your bitter, twisted lies,
    You may tread me in the very dirt
    But still, like dust, I'll rise.

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    Still I Rise By Maya Angelou

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    "Still I Rise" is a verbalized legacy formed from the roots and depth of her heart. Maya Angelou exhilarated how to overcome life barriers as she exhaled a fulfilling visual capacity of a...

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  6. 4. Phenomenal Woman

    Maya Angelou is one of the most influential women of our time. Her writing pulls on the hearts of many readers. In addition to her proliferous writing career, Maya Angelou has been a civil rights activist. This poem shows how even though someone is not beautiful on the outside compared to society's standards, there is an inner beauty that makes a woman even more beautiful.

    Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
    I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
    But when I start to tell them,
    They think I'm telling lies.

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    Phenomenal Woman By Maya Angelou this poem is a Classic that deals with every women in the world. This poem shows that beauty is compare by what society thinks a woman should looked like,...

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  7. 5. Keep Going

    Edgar Guest (1881-1959) was a prolific American poet – publishing a poem every day in the Detroit Free Press for 30 years. Known as the People’s Poet, Edgar Guest wrote easy-to-read poems about many relatable topics. He wrote encouraging life messages about topics such as family and work. This particular poem encourages readers not to give up when they are faced with challenges. Even when things are not going well, keep pushing on. You never know how close you are to success and making it to the other side.

    When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
    When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
    When the funds are low and the debts are high,
    And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

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    I've had this poem on my desk for the past 40 years of my life. In my darkest moments, it's given me light and a way to look beyond the clouds around me. It's a classic motivational...

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  8. 6. Good Timber

    Douglas Malloch (1877-1938), known as the "Lumbermen's Poet," compares good men to good timber in this famous metaphorical poem. The message of this poem is that people, like trees, grow and reach their true potential by overcoming adversity. It is only through struggles, like a tree fighting through forest growth to reach the sun, that we grow and discover our true potential. Malloch lived in Michigan where he grew up amongst logging camps and lumber yards. He wrote his first published poem when he was still a boy; it was published in the Detroit News.

    The tree that never had to fight
    For sun and sky and air and light,
    But stood out in the open plain
    And always got its share of rain,

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    Poetry is a passionate way of expressing our innermost thoughts, emotions, spirit, and love, amongst other things. As I read this poem, I thought of a very humble gentleman who lost his...

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  9. 7. Have You Earned Your Tomorrow

    This famous poem, "Have You Earned Your Tomorrow", is by Edgar A. Guest who was known as the People's Poet for his simple uplifting style of writing poetry, and first published in the Detroit Free Press around 1916. There are different versions of the poem around and it has been attributed to other authors and with other titles such as "The Day's Results", "The Day's Work", "At Day's End", and "Is Anybody Happier".

    Is anybody happier because you passed his way?
    Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?
    This day is almost over, and its toiling time is through;
    Is there anyone to utter now a kindly word of you?

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    This is a very inspiring poem. I am a health care professional working with elderly nursing home care patients... many are alone with various combinations of impairments in hearing, seeing,...

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  10. 8. Invictus

    We are the master of our destiny. We are responsible for our own happiness. This famous inspirational poem charges us to accept responsibility for our lives no matter our circumstances. Invictus in Latin means unconquered.
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), an English Poet, had one of his legs amputated at the age of 17. The poem, which he wrote while healing from the amputation, is a testimony to his refusal to let his handicap disrupt his life. Indeed, he led a meaningful life as a poet and editor until he passed away at age 53.

    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.

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    Invictus By William Ernest Henley

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    Once I was a good student. I have always been an obedient and gentle person. Then I failed in my life for the first time in the year 2002. Something happened and I fell right from the top and...

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  11. 9. Equipment

    Edgar A. Guest was born in 1881 in England, but his family moved to the United States when he was 10. It is believed that he wrote more than 11,000 poems. Guest wrote about family, work, children, and God. In this poem, he shows that each person has the ability to do amazing things, but we must each work hard to get to where we want to be. We must look within ourselves to find the strength and courage needed to do great things with what God has given us. This is a poem of encouragement and motivation. Within each stanza are sets of rhyming couplets.

    Figure it out for yourself, my lad,
    You've all that the greatest of men have had,
    Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes,
    And a brain to use if you would be wise.

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    I lost my wife Donna in April 2021. Edgar Albert Guest's poem is inspiring me to carry on and get on with things. Life is too short.

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  12. 10. The Road Not Taken

    This poem by Robert Frost (1874-1963) is probably one of the most famous and celebrated American poems. The poem depicts the agony of a decision making and the rewards of forging your own path. The subject of the poem is faced with a decision of taking the "safe" route that others have taken before or breaking new ground. He says that he took the "road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." He finds that making original and independent choices makes life rewarding.
    The Road Not Taken has four stanzas of five lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAAB.

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could

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    The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost

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    I think you are correct that the poem may be about a higher calling to pursue the best way. I also can agree as you stated he may have meant something else. Or he possibly did mean what you...

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  13. 11. Dreams

    Langston Hughes was an American poet who became famous for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. He was the first African American to support himself as a writer. In this poem, Langston Hughes shares the importance of having dreams. Without dreams, our lives do not feel complete. We do not have anything to work toward, so holding onto the dreams strengthens and empowers us. In this short poem, he pulls the reader’s attention to this theme by using the repetition of the phrase, “Hold fast to dreams.” Dreams is written in Quatrains (4 line stanzas) and follows the ABCB rhyme scheme.

    Hold fast to dreams
    For if dreams die
    Life is a broken-winged bird
    That cannot fly.

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    Dreams By Langston Hughes

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    I so get it. Dreams are hope to a lot of us. I've heard it said that before you get it you have to dream it. I think when we stop dreaming we stop reaching, and when we stop reaching we stop...

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  14. 12. See It Through

    Many of the poems by Edgar Guest (1881-1959) are encouraging and share important life lessons. In this poem, he shares powerful advice about standing strong in the face of trials and dark days. The poetic technique of repetition is used at the end of each stanza with the line, “See it through.” That brings the reader's attention to the themes of courage and perseverance.

    When you’re up against a trouble,
    Meet it squarely, face to face;
    Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
    Plant your feet and take a brace.

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    I was feeling down, discouraged, confused and all sorts of unpleasant ways today. Going through a failed marriage, raising two young boys by myself, but moreover struggling with my own...

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  15. 13. Equality

    Racism and discrimination continue to plague our society, and those themes are clearly seen in this poem by famous poet Maya Angelou. She was not only an author and poet. Maya Angelou was also a civil rights activist. In this poem, she encourages people to keep moving forward. Don’t give up the fight for equality. The repetition of “Equality, and I will be free,” draws the reader’s attention to this poem's important and emotional message.

    You declare you see me dimly
    through a glass which will not shine,
    though I stand before you boldly,
    trim in rank and marking time.

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    Truely inspirational poem. This is the cry of present time that it is the 21st century and people are still struggling for equality, which is far from reach for many.

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  16. 14. A Psalm Of Life

    This inspiring poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (1807 - 1882) was first published in 1838. It uses an ABAB rhyming pattern. Longfellow explained the poem's purpose as "a transcript of my thoughts and feelings at the time I wrote, and of the conviction therein expressed, that Life is something more than an idle dream." A very famous line from the poem is, "Footprints on the sands of time".

    Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
    Life is but an empty dream!—
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
    And things are not what they seem.

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    My deceased husband introduced me to this poem 55 years ago, and I've always considered it a great gift.

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  17. 15. The Will To Win

    When we want something, we must be willing to fight for it. We must put in the necessary work and make sacrifices to achieve our goals. Berton Braley (1882-1966) was an American poet who completed high school in only two years.

    If you want a thing bad enough
    To go out and fight for it,
    Work day and night for it,
    Give up your time and your peace and

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    I like how I became motivated to proceed with caution concerning my worldly desire. I do not want my faith and hope to be misplaced. When my will is invoked by deep feelings of want for...

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  18. 16. Caged Bird

    Caged Bird By Maya Angelou was first published in her book, "Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?" in 1983. The poem is a Metaphor illustrating the differences between African-Americans and Whites during the civil rights era. The author, a black woman who grew up in the South during this era, is expressing her feelings at the discrimination she faced during her life. Her first autobiography published in 1970 is titled, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

    The free bird leaps
    on the back of the wind
    and floats downstream
    till the current ends

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    I remember this poem from my guided reading class in 5th grade. I remember it well. This poem really touched me, and reading it again just made my day. This poem, I remember it being about...

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  19. 17. It Couldn't Be Done

    Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959) published more than twenty volumes of poetry and over 11,000 poems. His first published poem and many more were published in the Detroit Free Press where he was a columnist. He later had both popular radio and television shows. Guest has been called "the poet of the people." Of his poems he said, "I take simple everyday things that happen to me and I figure it happens to a lot of other people and I make simple rhymes out of them."

    Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
    But he with a chuckle replied
    That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
    Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.

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    I memorized this poem more than 30 years ago and though I'm now 72, I still find myself quoting it often. In fact, I quote it almost every time I find myself engaged in an extremely difficult...

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  20. 18. Human Family

    In this beautiful and powerful poem, Maya Angelou, teaches us that we are all people, and so much more alike than different. Imagine the change we would see in the world if we all lived this simple truth!

    I note the obvious differences
    in the human family.
    Some of us are serious,
    some thrive on comedy.

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    With so much sadness and feeling alone in the world today, reading these words reminded me there are so many others that feel the same. And it's so important for us all to remember all humans...

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  21. 19. Be The Best Of Whatever You Are

    In this poem, Douglas Malloch (1877-1938) shares an encouraging message for readers of all ages. Although we don't all hold prestigious jobs, we can all be the best at who we are. Our position in life doesn't make us more or less valuable. The beauty of this world is shown when each person does what he has been called to do and does it with great pride. When we measure our success by the standards of this world, many of us will feel as though we've fallen short. Douglas Malloch reminds us that success is measured by being the best at whoever you are. Like many, he came from humble roots, but he used his gift of writing to touch the lives of many people.

    If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill,
    Be a scrub in the valley — but be
    The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
    Be a bush if you can't be a tree.

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    Two years ago I was in depression and isolated. I felt frequently that I was worthless and deserved no love, no appreciation, no friends. I kept myself aloof from everyone, thinking that I...

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  22. 20. The Paradoxical Commandments

    This selection, entitled, "The Paradoxical Commandments", was written by Kent M. Keith in 1968 when he was a 19 year old Harvard Student. Since then, it has been quoted by millions and even mistakenly attributed to Mother Teresa who had a version hung as a poem on a wall in her Children's Home in Calcutta. The text contains 10 commandments. The theme and the paradox is to persevere in doing good for humanity and acting with integrity even if your efforts aren't appreciated.

    People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
    Love them anyway.

    If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

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    The Paradoxical Commandments By Kent M. Keith

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    This poem is very touching. I think the poem is all about staying positive no what happens in life. People won't appreciate you for the your good deeds, but still have a positive attitude...

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