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Best Famous Robert Graves Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Robert Graves poems. This is a select list of the best famous Robert Graves poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Robert Graves poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Robert Graves poems.

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by Robert Graves | |

Dew-drop and Diamond

 The difference between you and her
(whom I to you did once prefer)
Is clear enough to settle:
She like a diamond shone, but you
Shine like an early drop of dew
Poised on a red rose petal.
The dew-drop carries in its eye Mountain and forest, sea and sky, With every change of weather; Contrariwise, a diamond splits The prospect into idle bits That none can piece together.


by Robert Graves | |

When Im Killed

 When I’m killed, don’t think of me
Buried there in Cambrin Wood,
Nor as in Zion think of me
With the Intolerable Good.
And there’s one thing that I know well, I’m damned if I’ll be damned to Hell! So when I’m killed, don’t wait for me, Walking the dim corridor; In Heaven or Hell, don’t wait for me, Or you must wait for evermore.
You’ll find me buried, living-dead In these verses that you’ve read.
So when I’m killed, don’t mourn for me, Shot, poor lad, so bold and young, Killed and gone — don’t mourn for me.
On your lips my life is hung: O friends and lovers, you can save Your playfellow from the grave.


by Robert Graves | |

Dead Cow Farm

 An ancient saga tells us how
In the beginning the First Cow 
(For nothing living yet had birth 
But Elemental Cow on earth) 
Began to lick cold stones and mud:
Under her warm tongue flesh and blood 
Blossomed, a miracle to believe: 
And so was Adam born, and Eve.
Here now is chaos once again, Primeval mud, cold stones and rain.
Here flesh decays and blood drips red, And the Cow’s dead, the old Cow’s dead.


More great poems below...

by Robert Graves | |

A Pinch of Salt

 When a dream is born in you
With a sudden clamorous pain,
When you know the dream is true
And lovely, with no flaw nor stain,
O then, be careful, or with sudden clutch
You'll hurt the delicate thing you prize so much.
Dreams are like a bird that mocks, Flirting the feathers of his tail.
When you seize at the salt-box, Over the hedge you'll see him sail.
Old birds are neither caught with salt nor chaff: They watch you from the apple bough and laugh.
Poet, never chase the dream.
Laugh yourself, and turn away.
Mask your hunger; let it seem Small matter if he come or stay; But when he nestles in your hand at last, Close up your fingers tight and hold him fast.


by Robert Graves | |

Not Dead

 Walking through trees to cool my heat and pain, 
I know that David’s with me here again.
All that is simple, happy, strong, he is.
Caressingly I stroke Rough bark of the friendly oak.
A brook goes bubbling by: the voice is his.
Turf burns with pleasant smoke; I laugh at chaffinch and at primroses.
All that is simple, happy, strong, he is.
Over the whole wood in a little while Breaks his slow smile.


by Robert Graves | |

Symptoms of Love

 Love is universal migraine,
A bright stain on the vision
Blotting out reason.
Symptoms of true love Are leanness, jealousy, Laggard dawns; Are omens and nightmares - Listening for a knock, Waiting for a sign: For a touch of her fingers In a darkened room, For a searching look.
Take courage, lover! Could you endure such pain At any hand but hers?


by Robert Graves | |

On Giving

 Those who dare give nothing
Are left with less than nothing;
Dear heart, you give me everything,
Which leaves you more than everything-
Though those who dare give nothing
Might judge it left you less than nothing.
Giving you everything, I too, who once had nothing, Am left with more than everything As gifts for those with nothing Who need, if not our everything, At least a loving something.


by Robert Graves | |

In Broken Images

 He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.
He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images; I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.
Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance; Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.
Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact; Questioning their relevance, I question their fact.
When the fact fails him, he questions his senses; when the fact fails me, I approve my senses.
He continues quick and dull in his clear images; I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.
He in a new confusion of his understanding; I in a new understanding of my confusion.


by Robert Graves | |

The Naked And The Nude

 For me, the naked and the nude 
(By lexicographers construed 
As synonyms that should express 
The same deficiency of dress 
Or shelter) stand as wide apart 
As love from lies, or truth from art.
Lovers without reproach will gaze On bodies naked and ablaze; The Hippocratic eye will see In nakedness, anatomy; And naked shines the Goddess when She mounts her lion among men.
The nude are bold, the nude are sly To hold each treasonable eye.
While draping by a showman's trick Their dishabille in rhetoric, They grin a mock-religious grin Of scorn at those of naked skin.
The naked, therefore, who compete Against the nude may know defeat; Yet when they both together tread The briary pastures of the dead, By Gorgons with long whips pursued, How naked go the sometime nude!


by Robert Graves | |

Wild Strawberries

 Strawberries that in gardens grow 
 Are plump and juicy fine, 
But sweeter far as wise men know 
 Spring from the woodland vine.
No need for bowl or silver spoon, Sugar or spice or cream, Has the wild berry plucked in June Beside the trickling stream.
One such to melt at the tongue's root, Confounding taste with scent, Beats a full peck of garden fruit: Which points my argument.
May sudden justice overtake And snap the froward pen, That old and palsied poets shake Against the minds of men.
Blasphemers trusting to hold caught In far-flung webs of ink, The utmost ends of human thought Till nothing's left to think.
But may the gift of heavenly peace And glory for all time Keep the boy Tom who tending geese First made the nursery rhyme.


by Robert Graves | |

Like Snow

 She, then, like snow in a dark night,
Fell secretly.
And the world waked With dazzling of the drowsy eye, So that some muttered 'Too much light', And drew the curtains close.
Like snow, warmer than fingers feared, And to soil friendly; Holding the histories of the night In yet unmelted tracks.


by Robert Graves | |

Down Wanton Down!

 Down, wanton, down! Have you no shame 
That at the whisper of Love's name, 
Or Beauty's, presto! up you raise 
Your angry head and stand at gaze? 

Poor bombard-captain, sworn to reach 
The ravelin and effect a breach-- 
Indifferent what you storm or why, 
So be that in the breach you die! 

Love may be blind, but Love at least 
Knows what is man and what mere beast; 
Or Beauty wayward, but requires 
More delicacy from her squires.
Tell me, my witless, whose one boast Could be your staunchness at the post, When were you made a man of parts To think fine and profess the arts? Will many-gifted Beauty come Bowing to your bald rule of thumb, Or Love swear loyalty to your crown? Be gone, have done! Down, wanton, down!


by Robert Graves | |

Id Love To Be A Fairys Child

 Children born of fairy stock
Never need for shirt or frock,
Never want for food or fire,
Always get their hearts desire:
Jingle pockets full of gold,
Marry when they're seven years old.
Every fairy child may keep Two ponies and ten sheep; All have houses, each his own, Built of brick or granite stone; They live on cherries, they run wild-- I'd love to be a Fairy's child.


by Robert Graves | |

Counting The Beats

 You, love, and I,
(He whispers) you and I,
And if no more than only you and I
What care you or I?

Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.
Cloudless day, Night, and a cloudless day; Yet the huge storm will burst upon their heads one day From a bitter sky.
Where shall we be, (She whispers) where shall we be, When death strikes home, O where then shall we be Who were you and I? Not there but here, (He whispers) only here, As we are, here, together, now and here, Always you and I.
Counting the beats, Counting the slow heart beats, The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats, Wakeful they lie.


by Robert Graves | |

Call It a Good Marriage

 Call it a good marriage - 
For no one ever questioned 
Her warmth, his masculinity,
Their interlocking views;
Except one stray graphologist
Who frowned in speculation 
At her h's and her s's, 
His p's and w's.
Though few would still subscribe To the monogamic axiom That strife below the hip-bones Need not estrange the heart, Call it a good marriage: More drew those two together, Despite a lack of children, Than pulled them apart.
Call it a good marriage: They never fought in public, They acted circumspectly And faced the world with pride; Thus the hazards of their love-bed Were none of our damned business - Till as jurymen we sat on Two deaths by suicide.


by Robert Graves | |

To Juan at the Winter Solstice

 There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.
Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues, Or strange beasts that beset you, Of birds that croak at you the Triple will? Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns Below the Boreal Crown, Prison to all true kings that ever reigned? Water to water, ark again to ark, From woman back to woman: So each new victim treads unfalteringly The never altered circuit of his fate, Bringing twelve peers as witness Both to his starry rise and starry fall.
Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty, All fish below the thighs? She in her left hand bears a leafy quince; When, with her right hand she crooks a finger, smiling, How many the King hold back? Royally then he barters life for love.
Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched, Whose coils contain the ocean, Into whose chops with naked sword he springs, Then in black water, tangled by the reeds, Battles three days and nights, To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore? Much snow if falling, winds roar hollowly, The owl hoots from the elder, Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup: Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses: There is one story and one story only.
Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling, Do not forget what flowers The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave, Her sea-blue eyes were wild But nothing promised that is not performed.


by Robert Graves | |

Mermaid Dragon Fiend

 In my childhood rumors ran
 Of a world beyond our door—
Terrors to the life of man
 That the highroad held in store.
Of mermaids' doleful game In deep water I heard tell, Of lofty dragons belching flame, Of the hornèd fiend of Hell.
Tales like these were too absurd For my laughter-loving ear: Soon I mocked at all I heard, Though with cause indeed for fear.
Now I know the mermaid kin I find them bound by natural laws: They have neither tail nor fin, But are deadlier for that cause.
Dragons have no darting tongues, Teeth saw-edged, nor rattling scales; No fire issues from their lungs, No black poison from their tails: For they are creatures of dark air, Unsubstantial tossing forms, Thunderclaps of man's despair In mid-whirl of mental storms.
And there's a true and only fiend Worse than prophets prophesy, Whose full powers to hurt are screened Lest the race of man should die.
Ever in vain will courage plot The dragon's death, in coat of proof; Or love abjure the mermaid grot; Or faith denounce the cloven hoof.
Mermaids will not be denied The last bubbles of our shame, The Dragon flaunts an unpierced hide, The true fiend governs in God's name.


by Robert Graves | |

A Dead Boche

 To you who’d read my songs of War 
And only hear of blood and fame, 
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before) 
”War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same, 
Today I found in Mametz Wood
A certain cure for lust of blood: 

Where, propped against a shattered trunk, 
In a great mess of things unclean, 
Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk 
With clothes and face a sodden green,
Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired, 
Dribbling black blood from nose and beard.


by Robert Graves | |

Lost Love

 His eyes are quickened so with grief, 
He can watch a grass or leaf 
Every instant grow; he can 
Clearly through a flint wall see, 
Or watch the startled spirit flee 
From the throat of a dead man.
Across two counties he can hear And catch your words before you speak.
The woodlouse or the maggot's weak Clamour rings in his sad ear, And noise so slight it would surpass Credence--drinking sound of grass, Worm talk, clashing jaws of moth Chumbling holes in cloth; The groan of ants who undertake Gigantic loads for honour's sake (Their sinews creak, their breath comes thin); Whir of spiders when they spin, And minute whispering, mumbling, sighs Of idle grubs and flies.
This man is quickened so with grief, He wanders god-like or like thief Inside and out, below, above, Without relief seeking lost love.


by Robert Graves | |

The Cool Web

 Children are dumb to say how hot the day is,
How hot the scent is of the summer rose,
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky,
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.
But we have speech, to chill the angry day, And speech, to dull the rose's cruel scent.
We spell away the overhanging night, We spell away the soldiers and the fright.
There's a cool web of language winds us in, Retreat from too much joy or too much fear: We grow sea-green at last and coldly die In brininess and volubility.
But if we let our tongues lose self-possession, Throwing off language and its watery clasp Before our death, instead of when death comes, Facing the wide glare of the children's day, Facing the rose, the dark sky and the drums, We shall go mad no doubt and die that way.


by Robert Graves | |

Love and Black Magic

 To the woods, to the woods is the wizard gone;
In his grotto the maiden sits alone.
She gazes up with a weary smile At the rafter-hanging crocodile, The slowly swinging crocodile.
Scorn has she of her master’s gear, Cauldron, alembic, crystal sphere, Phial, philtre—“Fiddlededee For all such trumpery trash!” quo’ she.
“A soldier is the lad for me; Hey and hither, my lad! “Oh, here have I ever lain forlorn: My father died ere I was born, Mother was by a wizard wed, And oft I wish I had died instead— Often I wish I were long time dead.
But, delving deep in my master’s lore, I have won of magic power such store I can turn a skull—oh, fiddlededee For all this curious craft!” quo’ she.
“A soldier is the lad for me; Hey and hither, my lad! “To bring my brave boy unto my arms, What need have I of magic charms— ‘Abracadabra!’ and ‘Prestopuff’? I have but to wish, and that is enough.
The charms are vain, one wish is enough.
My master pledged my hand to a wizard; Transformed would I be to toad or lizard If e’er he guessed—but fiddlededee For a black-browed sorcerer, now,” quo’ she.
“Let Cupid smile and the fiend must flee; Hey and hither, my lad.


by Robert Graves | |

Free Verse

 I now delight 
In spite 
Of the might 
And the right 
Of classic tradition, 
In writing 
And reciting 
Straight ahead, 
Without let or omission, 
Just any little rhyme
In any little time 
That runs in my head; 
Because, I’ve said, 
My rhymes no longer shall stand arrayed
Like Prussian soldiers on parade
That march, 
Stiff as starch, 
Foot to foot, 
Boot to boot, 
Blade to blade,
Button to button, 
Cheeks and chops and chins like mutton.
No! No! My rhymes must go Turn ’ee, twist ’ee, Twinkling, frosty, Will-o’-the-wisp-like, misty; Rhymes I will make Like Keats and Blake And Christina Rossetti, With run and ripple and shake.
How pretty To take A merry little rhyme In a jolly little time And poke it, And choke it, Change it, arrange it, Straight-lace it, deface it, Pleat it with pleats, Sheet it with sheets Of empty conceits, And chop and chew, And hack and hew, And weld it into a uniform stanza, And evolve a neat, Complacent, complete, Academic extravaganza!


by Robert Graves | |

Warning to Children

 Children, if you dare to think
Of the greatness, rareness, muchness
Fewness of this precious only
Endless world in which you say
You live, you think of things like this:
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel
Tempts you to untie the string.
In the parcel a small island, On the island a large tree, On the tree a husky fruit.
Strip the husk and pare the rind off: In the kernel you will see Blocks of slate enclosed by dappled Red and green, enclosed by tawny Yellow nets, enclosed by white And black acres of dominoes, Where the same brown paper parcel - Children, leave the string alone! For who dares undo the parcel Finds himself at once inside it, On the island, in the fruit, Blocks of slate about his head, Finds himself enclosed by dappled Green and red, enclosed by yellow Tawny nets, enclosed by black And white acres of dominoes, With the same brown paper parcel Still untied upon his knee.
And, if he then should dare to think Of the fewness, muchness, rareness, Greatness of this endless only Precious world in which he says he lives - he then unties the string.


by Robert Graves | |

To Lucasta on Going to the War - For the Fourth Time

 It doesn’t matter what’s the cause, 
What wrong they say we’re righting, 
A curse for treaties, bonds and laws, 
When we’re to do the fighting! 
And since we lads are proud and true,
What else remains to do? 
Lucasta, when to France your man 
Returns his fourth time, hating war, 
Yet laughs as calmly as he can 
And flings an oath, but says no more,
That is not courage, that’s not fear— 
Lucasta he’s a Fusilier, 
And his pride sends him here.
Let statesmen bluster, bark and bray, And so decide who started This bloody war, and who’s to pay, But he must be stout-hearted, Must sit and stake with quiet breath, Playing at cards with Death.
Don’t plume yourself he fights for you; It is no courage, love, or hate, But let us do the things we do; It’s pride that makes the heart be great; It is not anger, no, nor fear— Lucasta he’s a Fusilier, And his pride keeps him here.


by Robert Graves | |

Love Without Hope

 Love without hope, as when the young bird-catcher
Swept off his tall hat to the Squire's own daughter,
So let the imprisoned larks escape and fly
Singing about her head, as she rode by.