Home » Uncategorized » National Poetry Day 2018: 28 of the most powerful lines ever written

National Poetry Day 2018: 28 of the most powerful lines ever written

On National Poetry Day, falling on 4 October we recognise the moving spirit of poetry and its transformative effect on culture. In honour of these celebrations, here stands a small collection of singular lines, stanzas, and notions possessing of a power which springs the most moving of thoughts and feelings off of the page and into the humming imagination of its readers.

Because I could not stop for Death, / He kindly stopped for me; / The carriage held but just ourselves / And Immortality
‘Because I could not stop for Death’, Emily Dickinson

And when wind and winter harden / All the loveless land, / It will whisper of the garden, / You will understand
‘To My Wife’, Oscar Wilde

But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper / And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper / In an elementary world; There is something down there and you want it told 
‘Dark Pines Under Water’, Gwendolyn MacEwen

This is the way the world ends / not with a bang but a whimper
‘The Hollow Men’, TS Eliot

Out of the ash I rise / With my red hair / And I eat men like air
‘Lady Lazarus’, Sylvia Plath

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, / Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs / And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
‘Dulce et Decorum est’, Wilfred Owen

I love you as certain dark things are to be loved / in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
‘Sonnet XVII’, Pablo Neruda

I would like to be the air / that inhabits you for a moment / only. I would like to be that unnoticed / & that necessary
‘Variation on the Word Sleep’, Margaret Atwood

they speak whatever’s on their mind / they do whatever’s in their pants / the boys i mean are not refined / they shake the mountains when they dance
‘the boys i mean are not refined’, ee cummings

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done; / The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won
‘O Captain! My Captain!’, Walt Whitman

Don’t like the / fact that he learned to hide from the cops before he knew / how to read. Angrier that his survival depends more on his ability / to deal with the “authorities” than it does his own literacy
‘Cuz He’s Black’, Javon Johnson

The weight of the world / is love / Under the burden / of solitude, / under the burden / of dissatisfaction / the weight, / the weight we carry / is love
‘Song’, Allen Ginsberg

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill/ Of things unknown but longed for still/ And his tune is heard on the distant hill/ For the caged bird sings of freedom
‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’, Maya Angelou

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst  / Are full of passionate intensity ‘
The Second Coming’, WB Yeats

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave / Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; / Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave. / I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned
‘Dirge Without Music’, Edna St Vincent Millay

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love / If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles
‘Leaves of Grass’, Walt Whitman

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! / The world forgetting, by the world forgot. / Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! / Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d
‘Eloisa to Abelard’, Alexander Pope

Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, / Or bends with the remover to remove: / O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, / That looks on tempests, and is never shake
‘Sonnet 116’, William Shakespeare

Tree you are, / Moss you are, / You are violets with wind above them. / A child – so high – you are, / And all this is folly to the world
‘A Girl’, Ezra Pound

You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies, / You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise
‘Still I Rise’, Maya Angelou

you are much more than simply dead/  I am a dish for your ashes / I am a fist for your vanished air / the most terrible thing about life/ is finding it gone
‘The Unblinking Grief’, Charles Bukowski

At twenty I tried to die / And get back, back, back to you. / I thought even the bones would do./ But they pulled me out of the sack, / And they stuck me together with glue
‘Daddy’, Sylvia Plath

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix / angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night
‘Howl’, Allan Ginsberg

She had blue skin,/ and so did he./ He kept it hid/ and so did she./ They looked for blue/ their whole life through./ Then passed right by–/ and never knew
‘Masks’, Shel Silverstein

Do not go gentle into that good night, / Old age should burn and rave at close of day; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light
‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’, Dylan Thomas

Water, water, every where, / And all the boards did shrink; / Water, water, every where / Nor any drop to drink
‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart / I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars / I am the red man driven from the land, / I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek – / And finding only the same old stupid plan / Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak
‘Let America Be America Again’, Langston Hughes

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye / Who cheer when soldier lads march by, / Sneak home and pray you’ll never know / The hell where youth and laughter go
‘Suicide in the Trenches’, Siegfried Sassoon

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