Famous Poems

Famous Poems

Best Classic Poems On Life's Struggles

Since the dawn of civilization, artists of all forms have sought to express the essence of the human condition and the full range of human experience. Poetry has been one of the most common forms of this expression from the ancients until now. These words have an ability to capture the abstract emotions and concrete experiences that have been part of our humanity throughout the ages. Turning to the words of classic poems can help us to clarify and understand our own experiences better by connecting us to those others who have sought to do the same.

16 Poems by Famous Poets

  1. 1. Harlem

    We all dream of what we want to experience in life, but what happens when those dreams are put on hold or ignored? That’s what Langston Hughes attempts to answer in this poem. None of the possibilities are positive, making the reader realize the importance of pursuing dreams. Langston Hughes was a key contributor during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. He wrote many poems about what life was like for African Americans.

    What happens to a dream deferred?

    Does it dry up
    like a raisin in the sun?

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    A wonderful poem by Langston Hughes, some dreams drift off with the morning mist, others come through if one persists..... A dream differed is a dream put on hold until the time comes for...

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  3. 2. I, Too

    Langston Hughes (1902-1967) settled in Harlem, New York, in 1924 and was a prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, he wrote of the reality that faced many in the black community and how they were regarded as “less than” by other people. The poem ends with the hope that one day it would be different. He shared the expectation that those who looked down on them would be ashamed.

    I, too, sing America.

    I am the darker brother.
    They send me to eat in the kitchen

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  5. 3. Clinching The Bolt

    It needed just an extra turn to make the bolt secure,
    A few more minutes on the job and then the work was sure;
    But he begrudged the extra turn, and when the task was through,
    The man was back for more repairs in just a day or two.

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  6. 4. Life Is Fine

    In this poem, the speaker is considering giving up on life, but he can’t go through with it. He finds that since he hasn’t died, he has something to live for. This poem has a strong sense of structure. It’s made up of single lines and quatrains with the ABCB rhyme scheme.

    I went down to the river,
    I set down on the bank.
    I tried to think but couldn't,
    So I jumped in and sank.

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    Everyone is born for a purpose, but we forget that in pursuit of money. Then God gifted me with poetry and uses it as a medium to educate people, and in each of my poems there is a story...

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  7. 5. All The World's A Stage

    William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is regarded by many as one of the greatest poets/playwrights in history. This poem is an excerpt from his play "As You Like It." The poem compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and catalogs seven stages in a man's life: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, aging man, and finally facing imminent death. The poem suggests that each stage in a man's life calls upon him to play another role.

    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,

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    He gets tired of his childhood and hastens to grow up; then he becomes nostalgic about his childhood. To gain wealth, he would endanger his health; then to regain his lost health, he spends...

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  8. 6. Beat! Beat! Drums!

    Walt Whitman was known as the founding father of American poetry. This poem was first published in 1861, the year the Civil War began. Although this poem depicts life during wartime in the 1860s, it shows a broad picture of how war changes the everyday lives of communities. No matter the time period, war impacts people in many ways.

    Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
    Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
    Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
    Into the school where the scholar is studying,

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  9. 7. Let America Be America Again

    For many people, it has been a struggle to attain the American dream. Langston Hughes (1902-1967) shares how many groups of people have not been able to experience the America that people dream it to be. They have struggled for freedom and equality. Langston Hughes himself experienced the difficulty of living out his dream of being a writer because it was difficult to earn money in that profession. Although this poem has a very somber feel, hope is presented at the end. Many of the lines in this poem use alliteration (multiple words beginning with the same sound).

    Let America be America again.
    Let it be the dream it used to be.
    Let it be the pioneer on the plain
    Seeking a home where he himself is free.

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  10. 8. My Wage

    This poem encourages us to get the most out of life and push the boundaries. Famous poet Jessie B. Rittenhouse encourages us not to become complacent. We need to keep pushing forward. Sometimes we aim too low, and where you aim, you will hit.

    I bargained with Life for a penny,
    And Life would pay no more,
    However I begged at evening
    When I counted my scanty store;

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  11. 9. Theme For English B

    This poem, published in 1949, is told from the perspective of a young black student who, through a class assignment, takes a look at how he relates and doesn’t relate to his white professor. He is searching for how his experiences can compare to those of his white classmates. However, it goes beyond the issue of race. Any human who has struggled with identity can connect with this poem written by an influential leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

    The instructor said,

    Go home and write
    a page tonight.

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    This poem!! I felt a tug in my heart because it was truly a story of truth from your heart! Very well expressed, and I can't say but one thing more. If we keep our ears open we learn from...

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  12. 10. Aerialist

    Sylvia Plath lived in both the United States and England during her life. Most of the poems written by Plath were crafted in the last months of her life. This poem was written on her 30th birthday, just a few months before her death in 1963.

    Each night, this adroit young lady
    Lies among sheets
    Shredded fine as snowflakes
    Until dream takes her body

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  13. 11. What Are Heavy?

    Christina Rossetti reflects on things that are heavy, brief, frail, and deep. She shares both concrete items and metaphorical ones, whether it’s a state of mind or moment in time. It’s a poem that makes the reader reflect on the meaning of life.

    What are heavy? Sea-sand and sorrow;
    What are brief? Today and tomorrow;
    What are frail? Spring blossoms and youth;
    What are deep? The ocean and truth.

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    It’s pure perfection, this poem. It couldn't have been said any better and yet be any more poetic and precise. Beautiful. This poem shall stand the test of time, For it's got so much...

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  14. 12. Who Am I?

    Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) writes this poem in the form of a free verse riddle. It follows no specific structure or rhyme scheme. When we find out the answer to the riddle, we see that this poem uses personification to describe it. Carl Sandburg’s interest in President Abraham Lincoln (“Honest Abe”) led him to write two multi-volume biographies. These biographies brought Sandburg the honor of the 1939 Pulitzer Prize in History.

    My head knocks against the stars.
    My feet are on the hilltops.
    My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of universal life.
    Down in the sounding foam of primal things I reach my hands and play with pebbles of destiny.

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  15. 13. Though All The Fates

    Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American author, poet, abolitionist, and historian. Ralph Waldo Emerson was Thoreau’s neighbor, mentor, and friend. Both had Transcendental ideas, which was the American version of Romantic Idealism. Transcendentalists believed in focusing on the spiritual instead of material concerns. They believed society had tarnished the purity of an individual. Themes of Transcendentalism can be found in this poem. Though something seems firm and unwavering, you don’t see what is happening below the surface. Staying true to who we are will pay off in the end and keep you from destruction. This poem is made up of rhyming couplets.

    Though all the fates should prove unkind,
    Leave not your native land behind.
    The ship, becalmed, at length stands still;
    The steed must rest beneath the hill;

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  16. 14. The Bells

    "The Bells" was published in 1849 after the death of Edgar Allan Poe.
    The poem has four parts to it; each part becomes darker and darker as the poem progresses from "the jingling and the tinkling" and "rhyming and the chiming" of the bells in Parts 1 and 2 to the "clamor and the clangor" of the bells in Part 3 and finally the "moaning and the groaning" of the bells in part 4.
    The poem makes extensive use of Onomatopoeia, a poetic device where words are used that imitate sounds. Tinkle, wells, cells, swells, shriek are just a few examples of the many words in the poem used to vividly express the noise of THE BELLS!

    I.

    Hear the sledges with the bells—
    Silver bells!

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  17. 15. America The Beautiful

    • By Katharine Lee Bates

    Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write this poem while on a trip to Colorado Springs in 1893. When she reached the top of Pikes Peak, she had this to say. “All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse." The first version of “America the Beautiful” was published in a weekly journal, The Congregationalist, on July 4, 1895. Revisions were made in 1904 and then again in 1913 to become the version we know today. It became a patriotic song sung to Samuel A. Ward’s tune “Materna."

    O beautiful for spacious skies,
    For amber waves of grain,
    For purple mountain majesties
    Above the fruited plain!

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  18. 16. Life

    In life, we often look too far into the future or linger too long on the past that we miss what’s right in front of us. No matter where our path leads, let’s find joy in the moment. Let’s enjoy all the things that come our way. Famous poet Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) was a preacher for nearly 20 years, and he was known as one of the best preachers in New York City.

    Let me but live my life from year to year,
    With forward face and unreluctant soul;
    Not hurrying to, nor turning from the goal;
    Not mourning for the things that disappear

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1 - 16 of 16 Poems

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