English Poems

English Poems: Stories of Life in Rhymes

How important is the place of English poems in English literature? These Poems are a major part of English literature. It is a great genre in the field of writing which is a complete package in itself and holds a significant place in the world of literature. The strengthening power behind English literature is the poems or poetry.

Poetry is a broad term and it isn’t easy to take into account all the poems in English Literature. This art of writing is present from the beginning and its history or evolution can be traced back to centuries. From the very beginning till now, English poems have gone through great revolutionary changes like social, societal, cultural, economic, political, psychological and moral etc.

Every factor or aspect has affected it and its effect can be seen in poems written in different ages, portraying the time period, lifestyle, and people’s thinking of that time.   

Poetic form and structure

Along with the change of time, the way of poetry writing also changed. There is a distinct difference in the poems of ancient time passing through many eras till present time, and this difference is brought about by using different poetic devices, forms and structure in writing.

English Poem’s structure and form varied from sonnet and ballad to free verses and blank verses. There is also a great variety of poetic devices such as rhyme, meter, symbol, imagery; such things enrich the poetry and enhance its aesthetic beauty and meaning.

Importance of English Poems of English poems

English Poems or Poetry is a mirror that shows the reality of life, experienced by people. Poets wrote about the hardship, the critical conditions they faced in their life at a specific time period. They portrayed the image of their surroundings and the reader of any age read these poems and went in depth of written work to understand the situation and the reason behind writing such works.


English Poetry is a name given to a vast and broad term of the literary world in the English language. A complete world with its own style and rules that evolved in our time. English Poems can be written in different forms such as lyrical poetry, narrative form and ballad. It has been categorized into different ages as old, middle, Renaissance, Romantic, Victorian and Modern English Poetry, and each has their own characteristics. Poetry provides a way to penetrate into the culture and society of any age and get insight into people’s thinking, emotions, and feelings. Along with the diversity of Poets from Chaucer to Shakespeare and from Wordsworth to T.S Eliot, there is also a great variety of poetic and literary devices, form, structure and writing rules that create a variation in expression. This poetry is a vision to look at human nature and life critically by occupying all themes as love, nature, politics, economical condition, spirituality and morality.

This is an art of life. Poems while using few words, gives aesthetic sense and a deeper understanding of the social, cultural and historical background. Poetry is an essential part of the literary world because by using poems or poetry as a tool people express their thoughts, feelings, emotions in unique and beautiful ways.

Poetry writing is important to give the reader a view to look at the world critically and learn more about life.

Historical Evolution of English Poems and Major Poets

On the basis of historical evolution, English Poetry can be divided into many distinct time periods such as old English Poetry, middle age, Renaissance or Elizabethan age, Romantic, Victorian, Modern. Poetry of each time period reflects the social, cultural, economic and political aspects of that time.

Poems written in the Old English period look as if they were written in some other language.  The English of that time was completely different from today’s English. The first poem of English history is thought to be a ‘Hymn to Creation’ which Bede attributed to Caedmon, and the epic ‘Beowulf; the most important poem’.

Most famous poets of the old English time period were Bede, Caedmon, King Alfred, Cynewulf. At that time most poems were written in epic form or on religion. Using proverbs, riddles and excess of alliteration are characteristics of old English poems.

In the Middle English period, mostly Poets wrote lyrical poems. Rhythm and rhyme were used in writing. Courtly love, moral and educational teachings are the themes of middle age poetry. The most famous poet of the age was Geoffrey Chaucer, best known for his Canterbury Tales.

He is called the ‘Father of English Poetry’. Other popular poets are Wycliffe, John Gower known for ‘Confessio Amantis’ and William Langland for ‘Piers Plowman. Then the Renaissance or Elizabeth age (Golden age), in which at one side Britain underwent immense changes, the English Poetry also adopted changes.

The poets started working on sonnet, rural poetry and theater. Major Poets were William Shakespeare, the greatest poet, writer and dramatist of English literature. Other great poets were Edmund Spenser, John Milton, John Donne and Andrew Marvell.

Eighteenth century’s poetry was satirical. Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift are dominant figures. This Classical age is also named as ‘Augustin age’ to describe Greek and Roman translator, writer and poet; Homer, Horace and Juvenal.

The best known and most important poems were written by Poets of the Romantic Age. The main objectives of these poems were love, nature, emotion and morality. Not much attention was paid on poetic rules of writing such as rhyme, rhythm and meter. Well known poets of the poems of Romantic age were William Blake, William Wordsworth, S.T Coleridge, P.B Shelley, Lord Byron and John Keats.

English Poems of Victorian Age was a combination of both romantic and classical works. The main subject of writing in poetry was morality, social issues, Industrial revolution and clash system. Great progress in literature was made in this age. Most famous poets were Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Mathew Arnold, William Butler Yeats, and Thomas Hardy.

Modern poetry used meter, rhyme, rhythm, allusion and symbolism as characteristics of poem writing. T.S Eliot, Ezra Pound were the greatest poets of the time. ‘The Waste land’ is the best-known poem of modern English Poetry.

Major themes in English Poetry

English Poems have different themes in different ages. Some important themes of that particular period are as under.

Themes of the poems of Anglo-Saxon period

The most used themes in Old English poems are ‘Beast of Battle’ and ‘Cliff of Death’ used for violence depiction.

Themes of the poems of Middle Ages

Themes of poetry of medieval time are dedicated to religion, faith, belief in saints, love, forgiveness, myths, gender and sexuality.

Themes of the poems of Elizabethan Age

The prevalent themes discussed in Renaissance poetry are humanity, religion, science and technology, class systems, art and exploration of society.

Themes of the poems of Romantic Age

The poems of the Romantic period are mainly addressed by themes such as Nature, revolution, Aestheticism, beauty, imagination, and inspiration.

Themes of the poems of Victorian Age

Major themes of Victorian Poetry are love, loss of innocence, social injustice, Industrial revolution, development of science, loss of faith in religion, class system etc.

Themes of the poems of Modern Age

There are many themes in modern age poetry including idealism, realism, imagism, sense of alienation, modernization loss of morality and stream of consciousness.

The Most Famous English Poems About Life

English literature is full of best poems about life. Top more than ten poems in English for students are as under.


It is an epic in old English that tells the story of a Scandinavian hero who killed monsters and a fire dragon. The main themes of the poem are courage, bravery, loyalty and battle between good and evil.

Canterbury Tales

It is a collection of twenty-four stories, written in 1392, about a pilgrimage journey to the shrine of St. Becket. This journey is towards spiritual renewal. This epic is a satire on society and human nature. It explores the themes of lies and deception, justice, love and desires. The main motive is that honor and honesty is valuable.

Shall I Compare thee to a summer’s day?

The sonnet 18, published in 1609, is the most popular one among all the sonnets written by William Shakespeare. In this he makes a comparison between his beloved and summer day, praising his beloved by saying that his beloved is more desirable and beautiful than summer day. The belief that love is immortal, more powerful and beautiful is the prevalent theme.

Paradise Lost

John Milton’s epic poem about Adam and Eve and the Fall. The main message that the poet tried to convey is the Man’s first disobedience and the gift of free will give man to make their choice.

The Rape of the Lock

Alexander Pope’s ‘The Rape of the Lock’ (1712) is a social satire on the absence of morality in the society of eighteenth century. The motive of this poem is to teach morality and development of virtues.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The longest poem by S.T Coleridge written in ballad form in 1797-98. A song of an old sailor’s sin and his punishment. It gives the message that before doing any act think about its consequences and beware that no one can escape from getting punishment after committing crime.


A poem Shelley wrote in 1817-1818, is about a statue of a king found in broken condition. This shows that the power of the mightiest king faded with time. Main lesson of the poems is that time spears nothing and destroys everything. And nothing is immortal in this world.

The Tyger

It is a William Blake’s collection, Song of Experience, in which he asks a question whether the same creating power has created him and lamb. It emphasizes the duality of nature who created both aspects of Good or gentle and harsh or Evil.

The Hollow man

A dramatic monologue written in 1925 by modern poet T.S. Eliot in what he pointed out the society of those stuffed men who lack morality, spirituality and have lost faith in religion.

The Road Not Taken

A narrative poem, by Robert Frost written in 1915, about a free will to make choices about what to do or what not to in the journey of life that shapes our coming life.

Kubla Khan

It is also named as ‘A vision in a Dream’   published in 1816. It is about the grand construction of a palace in Xanadu and the role of imagination in creation. Violence and artistic creativity are major themes of the poem.

In Memoriam

An elegy by Alfred Lord Tennyson showing his grief over the death of his best friend Arthur Henry Hallam. Love, faith and loss are the prevent themes of the poem.

The Raven

A narrative poem by American writer Edger Allan Poe published in 1845. It mainly revolved around the life of the narrator who is getting mad after realizing that he will never get over his love. This makes him despair and his grief overcome his ability to live in this society.

The Soldier

A Petrarchan sonnet by Rupert Brooke, published in 1915, is a patriotic poem showing the love bond between a soldier and his homeland for whom he is ready to sacrifice his life.

The Wasteland

The poem by T.S Eliot, first published in 1922, is a modernist work of English poetry.  It consists of five parts, The burial of the Dead, A Game of Chess, The Fire Sermon, Death by Water and What the Thunder Said. It explores the spiritual crises, disillusionment of society and the immorality of modern men.

And Still I Rise

It is a volume of Maya Angelou published in1978. This poem basically shows the struggle of a Black woman who faced oppression and racism in society. She has self-respect and confidence and believes that nothing can let her down.

Types of poems

Following are the important types of English poems.


It is a poem of 14 lines having specific rhyme scheme written in iambic pentameter.


It is a three lines Japanese form of poetry written in specific syllable pattern of 5-7-5.


It is a five lines humorous poem having strict rhyme scheme of AABBA and often contains puns.

Free verse

A poem which has creativity and flexibility in expressions without specific rhyme scheme.


A story telling poem having the theme of love adventure with simple rhyming scheme.


A poem of formal structure and elevated language a right to express praise, celebration are on specific subject.


It is a poem of grief loss and mortality which is often written in tribute or remembrance.


It is a poem of 19 lines having strict form and rhyming scheme.


A poem of 6 stanzas and each stanza has 6 lines.


It is a short witty poem of satirical or humorous message.


A long narrative poem having supernatural elements, elevated language, invocation to the muse, grand style and an epic hero.


It presents complex themes in symbolic way, didactic in nature and have deeper hidden meanings.


English Poems is an irreplaceable factor of English literature, and has maintained its place and significance throughout the literature of all era’s. It has a rich history that has influenced the reader and provides a vision to look at the world differently. English poetry has its own style, form, structure and writing rules that distinguishes it from works of other languages. It is a unique literary framework to present the unexplored beauty of world and life and gives the reader a deeper understanding of these aspects that transcends time and culture.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Caedmon was the first old English poet in the history of English Poetry and his first poem was ‘Caedmon’s Hymn’.

English Poetry can be divided into many ages as Old English, Middle English, Renaissance, Romantic, Victorian and Modern period. Each age or period mirrors social and cultural characteristics of their specific time.

It is an expression of thoughts in rhythmic composition of a language. It refers to an art which is called literary art. The poetry of English has wide range of forms like sonnets ballads, haiku, limerick, free verse and many others.

The most famous English poets includes William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Keats, P. B Shelley, Emily Dickinson. Robert Frost, T.S Eliot, Maya Angelou, Sylvia Path and many more.

Figurative language which is composed of simile, metaphor, personification, symbolism and many more. These literary devices are used to convey deeper meanings and for the richness of poetic expressions.

When we find repetition of similar sounds in the end of the lines of poetry this rhythmic repetition is called rhyme while meter tells us about stressed and unstressed syllables in the rhythmic structure.

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