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Best Famous History Poems

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

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See also: Best Member Poems

by Maya Angelou | |

Still I Rise

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.
Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you? Don't you take it awful hard 'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I've got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs? Out of the huts of history's shame I rise Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise I rise I rise.


by Sylvia Plath | |

Winter Trees

The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees Seem a botanical drawing-- Memories growning, ring on ring, A series of weddings.
Knowing neither abortions nor bitchery, Truer than women, They seed so effortlessly! Tasting the winds, that are footless, Waisting-deep in history-- Full of wings, otherworldliness.
In this, they are Ledas.
O mother of leaves and sweetness Who are these peitas? The shadows of ringdoves chanting, but easing nothing.
note: 12 Ledas: Leda, the maiden who was raped by Zeus in the guise of a swan.


by Syl Cheney-Coker | |

The Breast of the Sea

After our bloody century, the sea will groan
under its weight, somewhere between breasts and anus.
Filled with toxins, her belly will not yield new islands even though the orphans of East Timor wish it so.
The sea is only capable of so much history: Noah's monologue, the Middle Passage's cargoes, Darwin's examination of the turtle's shit, the remains of the Titanic, and a diver's story about how the coelacanth was recaptured.
Anything else is only a fractured chela we cannot preserve, once the sea's belly has washed itself clean of our century's blight.
Throbbing, the sea's breasts will console some orphans, but Sierra Leone won't be worth a raped woman's cry, despite her broken back, this shredded garment, her hands swimming like horrors of red corals.
But do you, O Sea, long-suffering mistress, have the balm to heal the wound of her children, hand to foot the axe, alluvial river flowing into you?


More great poems below...

by Tupac Shakur | |

Untitled 1

Father forgive us for living
Why are all my homies stuck in prison?
Barely breathing, believing that this world is a prison
It's like a ghetto we can never leave
A broken rose giving bloom through the cracks of the concrete
So many things for us to see
Things to be
Our history so full of tragedy and misery
To all the homies who never made it home
The dead peers I shed tattooed tears for when I'm alone
Picture us inside a ghetto heaven
A place to rest finding peace through this land of stress
In my chest I feel pain come in sudden storms
A life full of rain in this game watch for land thorns
Our unborn never got to grow, never got to see what's next
In this world filled with countless threats
I beg God to find a way for our ghetto kids to breath
Show a sign make us all believe 


by T S (Thomas Stearns) Eliot | |

Sweeney Erect

 And the trees about me,
Let them be dry and leafless; let the rocks
Groan with continual surges; and behind me
Make all a desolation.
Look, look, wenches! PAINT me a cavernous waste shore Cast in the unstilled Cyclades, Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks Faced by the snarled and yelping seas.
Display me Aeolus above Reviewing the insurgent gales Which tangle Ariadne’s hair And swell with haste the perjured sails.
Morning stirs the feet and hands (Nausicaa and Polypheme).
Gesture of orang-outang Rises from the sheets in steam.
This withered root of knots of hair Slitted below and gashed with eyes, This oval O cropped out with teeth: The sickle motion from the thighs Jackknifes upward at the knees Then straightens out from heel to hip Pushing the framework of the bed And clawing at the pillow slip.
Sweeney addressed full length to shave Broadbottomed, pink from nape to base, Knows the female temperament And wipes the suds around his face.
(The lengthened shadow of a man Is history, said Emerson Who had not seen the silhouette Of Sweeney straddled in the sun.
) Tests the razor on his leg Waiting until the shriek subsides.
The epileptic on the bed Curves backward, clutching at her sides.
The ladies of the corridor Find themselves involved, disgraced, Call witness to their principles And deprecate the lack of taste Observing that hysteria Might easily be misunderstood; Mrs.
Turner intimates It does the house no sort of good.
But Doris, towelled from the bath, Enters padding on broad feet, Bringing sal volatile And a glass of brandy neat.


by Erin Belieu | |

For Catherine: Juana Infanta of Navarre

 Ferdinand was systematic when
he drove his daughter mad.
With a Casanova's careful art, he moved slowly, stole only one child at a time through tunnels specially dug behind the walls of her royal chamber, then paid the Duenna well to remember nothing but his appreciation.
Imagine how quietly the servants must have worked, loosening the dirt, the muffled ring of pick-ends against the castle stone.
The Duenna, one eye gauging the drugged girl's sleep, each night handing over another light parcel, another small body vanished through the mouth of a hole.
Once you were a daughter, too, then a wife and now the mother of a baby with a Spanish name.
Paloma, you call her, little dove; she sleeps in a room beyond you.
Your husband, too, works late, drinks too much at night, comes home lit, wanting sex and dinner.
You feign sleep, shrunk in the corner of the queen-sized bed.
You've confessed, you can't feel things when they touch you; take Prozac for depression, Ativan for the buzz.
Drunk, you call your father who doesn't want to claim a ha!fsand-niggergrandkid.
He says he never loved your mother.
No one remembers Juana; almost everything's forgotten in time, and if I tell her story, it's only when guessing what she loved, what she dreamed about, the lost details of a life that barely survives history.
God and Latin, I suppose, what she loved.
And dreams of mice pouring out from a hole.
The Duenna, in spite of her black, widow's veil, leaning to kiss her, saying Juana, don't listen.
.
.


by Erin Belieu | |

Georgic on Memory

 Make your daily monument the Ego,
use a masochist's epistemology
of shame and dog-eared certainty
that others less exacting might forgo.
If memory's an elephant, then feed the animal.
Resist revision: the stand of feral raspberry, contraband fruit the crows stole, ferrying seed for miles .
.
.
No.
It was a broken hedge, not beautiful, sunlight tacking its leafy gut in loose sutures.
Lacking imagination, you'll take the pledge to remember - not the sexy, new idea of history, each moment swamped in legend, liable to judgment and erosion; still, an appealing view, to draft our lives, a series of vignettes where endings could be substituted - your father, unconvoluted by desire, not grown bonsai in regret, the bedroom of blue flowers left intact.
The room was nearly dark, the streetlight a sentinel at the white curtain, its night face implicated.
Do not retract this.
Something did happen.
You recall, can feel a stumbling over wet ground, the cave the needled branches made around your body, the creature you couldn't console.


by Dimitris P Kraniotis | |

Ideals

 Snow-covered mountains,
ancient monuments,
a north wind that nods to us,
a thought that flows,
images imbued
with hymns of history,
words on signs
with ideals of geometry.


by Dimitris P Kraniotis | |

Illusions

 Noiseless wrinkles
on our forehead
the frontiers of history,
shed oblique glances
at Homer’s verses.
Illusions full of guilt redeem wounded whispers that became echoes in lighted caves of the fools and the innocent.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Melancholia

 the history of melancholia
includes all of us.
me, I writhe in dirty sheets while staring at blue walls and nothing.
I have gotten so used to melancholia that I greet it like an old friend.
I will now do 15 minutes of grieving for the lost redhead, I tell the gods.
I do it and feel quite bad quite sad, then I rise CLEANSED even though nothing is solved.
that's what I get for kicking religion in the ass.
I should have kicked the redhead in the ass where her brains and her bread and butter are at .
.
.
but, no, I've felt sad about everything: the lost redhead was just another smash in a lifelong loss .
.
.
I listen to drums on the radio now and grin.
there is something wrong with me besides melancholia.


by Dejan Stojanovic | |

Ancient Roman Villa

Here lies once splendid ancient Roman Villa in ruins.
Remnants of a gorgeous mosaic—Venus and a flying dove on the floor—of big gardens, fountains and pools talk about her rich and lively history.
The Roman wealthy patrician did not think of us looking at the mosaic of his Villa.
He built it for posterity, yet desired to live longer than his creation.
He thought he could deceive the uncompromising ruler—time.
Although there was no real stock market then, he had his own treasury; he thought the treasury will live longer even than his Villa to support his posterity—buy them power, fame.
We can almost hear and see the water that once sprinkled from fountains; hear giggles and secret stories shared in the gardens among his children and servants; we can imagine his demeanor at the extravagant parties he loved; bacchanalias in the secret rooms of the Villa.
Here lies the ancient Roman Villa in ruins and little is known of her once larger-than-life owner, and even less about his stock, treasury, and posterity.


by Dejan Stojanovic | |

Unusual Love

Our desires flew like birds in the mornings 
When we were waked by the bells of dreams 
Hypnotized and ready for another round of living 

We would walk down the street of a foreign city mesmerized 
By our own history seen on the streets and in the gardens 
Filled with exotic flowers and the grass; you loved the grass 

You said you would teach me everything 
I never found out really what but I accepted you as mentor 
To learn whatever might be 

I accepted the usual, but unusual, ways of life 
And lived a life I never thought I would.
It became a typhoon passing through paradise.
You accepted my gifts but perhaps not my ideas I thought I knew you Although I hardly knew if I knew myself; I learned to accept your unusual, but usual, ways Your strange thoughts about living and dreaming and mixing living with dreams I learned to like your usual ways of presenting unusual desires What about psychology? There is no way to analyze the working of the brain machine, Working billions of cells, transmitters, and neutrons Flying, fighting, competing How do ideas come to life? That was another hard question.
I was not able to find out anything about anything, Except that I was alive and felt alive and yet felt dead as well; I watched rain, fog, horses, birds, and trees, and I watched the blue; I really loved watching the blue every day; You loved the same, although maybe for different reasons; Maybe we loved each other for different reasons too.
Did we hate each other? I felt I hated you not a few times.
Did you hate me? Maybe you did as well sometimes And maybe you still hate me When you think of that July when the blue was everywhere With the white dot in the middle, shining like the first time When everything was green And you were glistening in the middle of the blue, the green, the summer, But I was not there.


by Robert Penn Warren | |

Evening Hawk

 From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through
Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds,
Out of the peak's black angularity of shadow, riding
The last tumultuous avalanche of
Light above pines and the guttural gorge,
The hawk comes.
His wing Scythes down another day, his motion Is that of the honed steel-edge, we hear The crashless fall of stalks of Time.
The head of each stalk is heavy with the gold of our error.
Look!Look!he is climbing the last light Who knows neither Time nor error, and under Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings Into shadow.
Long now, The last thrush is still, the last bat Now cruises in his sharp hieroglyphics.
His wisdom Is ancient, too, and immense.
The star Is steady, like Plato, over the mountain.
If there were no wind we might, we think, hear The earth grind on its axis, or history Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.


by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | |

JUNE.

 SHE behind yon mountain lives,
Who my love's sweet guerdon gives.
Tell me, mount, how this can be! Very glass thou seem'st to me, And I seem to be close by, For I see her drawing nigh; Now, because I'm absent, sad, Now, because she sees me, glad! Soon between us rise to sight Valleys cool, with bushes light, Streams and meadows; next appear Mills and wheels, the surest token That a level spot is near, Plains far-stretching and unbroken.
And so onwards, onwards roam, To my garden and my home! But how comes it then to pass? All this gives no joy, alas!-- I was ravish'd by her sight, By her eyes so fair and bright, By her footstep soft and light.
How her peerless charms I praised, When from head to foot I gazed! I am here, she's far away,-- I am gone, with her to stay.
If on rugged hills she wander, If she haste the vale along, Pinions seem to flutter yonder, And the air is fill'd with song; With the glow of youth still playing, Joyous vigour in each limb, One in silence is delaying, She alone 'tis blesses him.
Love, thou art too fair, I ween! Fairer I have never seen! From the heart full easily Blooming flowers are cull'd by thee.
If I think: "Oh, were it so," Bone and marrow seen to glow! If rewarded by her love, Can I greater rapture prove? And still fairer is the bride, When in me she will confide, When she speaks and lets me know All her tale of joy and woe.
All her lifetime's history Now is fully known to me.
Who in child or woman e'er Soul and body found so fair? 1815.


by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | |

THE DESTRUCTION OF MAGDEBURG.

 [For a fine account of the fearful sack of Magdeburg, 
by Tilly, in the year 1613, see SCHILLER's History of the Thirty 
Years' War.
] OH, Magdeberg the town! Fair maids thy beauty crown, Thy charms fair maids and matrons crown; Oh, Magdeburg the town! Where all so blooming stands, Advance fierce Tilly's bands; O'er gardens and o'er well--till'd lands Advance fierce Tilly's bands.
Now Tilly's at the gate.
Our homes who'll liberate? Go, loved one, hasten to the gate, And dare the combat straight! There is no need as yet, However fierce his threat; Thy rosy cheeks I'll kiss, sweet pet! There is no need as yet.
My longing makes me pale.
Oh, what can wealth avail? E'en now thy father may be pale.
Thou mak'st my courage fail.
Oh, mother, give me bread! Is then my father dead? Oh, mother, one small crust of bread! Oh, what misfortune dread! Thy father, dead lies he, The trembling townsmen flee, Adown the street the blood runs free; Oh, whither shall we flee? The churches ruined lie, The houses burn on high, The roofs they smoke, the flames out fly, Into the street then hie! No safety there they meet! The soldiers fill the Street, With fire and sword the wreck complete: No safety there they meet! Down falls the houses' line, Where now is thine or mine? That bundle yonder is not thine, Thou flying maiden mine! The women sorrow sore.
The maidens far, far more.
The living are no virgins more; Thus Tilly's troops make war!


by Walter de la Mare | |

All Thats Past

 Very old are the woods; 
And the buds that break 
Out of the brier's boughs, 
When March winds wake, 
So old with their beauty are-- 
Oh, no man knows 
Through what wild centuries 
Roves back the rose.
Very old are the brooks; And the rills that rise Where snow sleeps cold beneath The azure skies Sing such a history Of come and gone, Their every drop is as wise As Solomon.
Very old are we men; Our dreams are tales Told in dim Eden By Eve's nightingales; We wake and whisper awhile, But, the day gone by, Silence and sleep like fields Of amaranth lie.


by R S Thomas | |

Ninetieth Birthday

 You go up the long track
That will take a car, but is best walked
On slow foot, noting the lichen
That writes history on the page
Of the grey rock.
Trees are about you At first, but yield to the green bracken, The nightjars house: you can hear it spin On warm evenings; it is still now In the noonday heat, only the lesser Voices sound, blue-fly and gnat And the stream's whisper.
As the road climbs, You will pause for breath and the far sea's Signal will flash, till you turn again To the steep track, buttressed with cloud.
And there at the top that old woman, Born almost a century back In that stone farm, awaits your coming; Waits for the news of the lost village She thinks she knows, a place that exists In her memory only.
You bring her greeting And praise for having lasted so long With time's knife shaving the bone.
Yet no bridge joins her own World with yours, all you can do Is lean kindly across the abyss To hear words that were once wise.


by R S Thomas | |

The Village

 Scarcely a street, too few houses
To merit the title; just a way between
The one tavern and the one shop
That leads nowhere and fails at the top
Of the short hill, eaten away
By long erosion of the green tide
Of grass creeping perpetually nearer 
This last outpost of time past.
So little happens; the black dog Cracking his fleas in the hot sun Is history.
Yet the girl who crosses From door to door moves to a scale Beyond the bland day's two dimensions.
Stay, then, village, for round you spins On a slow axis a world as vast And meaningful as any posed By great Plato's solitary mind.


by R S Thomas | |

The Village

 Scarcely a street, too few houses
To merit the title; just a way between
The one tavern and the one shop
That leads nowhere and fails at the top
Of the short hill, eaten away
By long erosion of the green tide
Of grass creeping perpetually nearer 
This last outpost of time past.
So little happens; the black dog Cracking his fleas in the hot sun Is history.
Yet the girl who crosses From door to door moves to a scale Beyond the bland day's two dimensions.
Stay, then, village, for round you spins On a slow axis a world as vast And meaningful as any posed By great Plato's solitary mind.


by R S Thomas | |

A Welsh Testament

 All right, I was Welsh.
Does it matter? I spoke a tongue that was passed on To me in the place I happened to be, A place huddled between grey walls Of cloud for at least half the year.
My word for heaven was not yours.
The word for hell had a sharp edge Put on it by the hand of the wind Honing, honing with a shrill sound Day and night.
Nothing that Glyn Dwr Knew was armour against the rain's Missiles.
What was descent from him? Even God had a Welsh name: He spoke to him in the old language; He was to have a peculiar care For the Welsh people.
History showed us He was too big to be nailed to the wall Of a stone chapel, yet still we crammed him Between the boards of a black book.
Yet men sought us despite this.
My high cheek-bones, my length of skull Drew them as to a rare portrait By a dead master.
I saw them stare From their long cars, as I passed knee-deep In ewes and wethers.
I saw them stand By the thorn hedges, watching me string The far flocks on a shrill whistle.
And always there was their eyes; strong Pressure on me: You are Welsh, they said; Speak to us so; keep your fields free Of the smell of petrol, the loud roar Of hot tractors; we must have peace And quietness.
Is a museum Peace? I asked.
Am I the keeper Of the heart's relics, blowing the dust In my own eyes? I am a man; I never wanted the drab role Life assigned me, an actor playing To the past's audience upon a stage Of earth and stone; the absurd label Of birth, of race hanging askew About my shoulders.
I was in prison Until you came; your voice was a key Turning in the enormous lock Of hopelessness.
Did the door open To let me out or yourselves in?


by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope | |

Australia

 A Nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey 
In the field uniform of modern wars, 
Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws 
Of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away.
They call her a young country, but they lie: She is the last of lands, the emptiest, A woman beyond her change of life, a breast Still tender but within the womb is dry.
Without songs, architecture, history: The emotions and superstitions of younger lands, Her rivers of water drown among inland sands, The river of her immense stupidity Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.
In them at last the ultimate men arrive Whose boast is not: "we live" but "we survive", A type who will inhabit the dying earth.
And her five cities, like five teeming sores, Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state Where second hand Europeans pullulate Timidly on the edge of alien shores.
Yet there are some like me turn gladly home From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find The Arabian desert of the human mind, Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come, Such savage and scarlet as no green hills dare Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes Which is called civilization over there.


by Jorge Luis Borges | |

History Of The Night

 Throughout the course of the generations
men constructed the night.
At first she was blindness; thorns raking bare feet, fear of wolves.
We shall never know who forged the word for the interval of shadow dividing the two twilights; we shall never know in what age it came to mean the starry hours.
Others created the myth.
They made her the mother of the unruffled Fates that spin our destiny, they sacrificed black ewes to her, and the cock who crows his own death.
The Chaldeans assigned to her twelve houses; to Zeno, infinite words.
She took shape from Latin hexameters and the terror of Pascal.
Luis de Leon saw in her the homeland of his stricken soul.
Now we feel her to be inexhaustible like an ancient wine and no one can gaze on her without vertigo and time has charged her with eternity.
And to think that she wouldn't exist except for those fragile instruments, the eyes.


by Edgar Albert Guest | |

Father

 The long lines of diesels 
groan toward evening 
carrying off the breath 
of the living.
The face of your house is black, it is your face, black and fire bombed in the first street wars, a black tooth planted in the earth of Michigan and bearing nothing, and the earth is black, sick on used oils.
Did you look for me in that house behind the sofa where I had to be? in the basement where the shirts yellowed on hangers? in the bedroom where a woman lay her face on a locked chest? I waited at windows the rain streaked and no one told me.
I found you later face torn from The History of Siege, eyes turned to a public wall and gone before I turned back, mouth in mine and gone.
I found you whole toward the autumn of my 43rd year in this chair beside a masonjar of dried zinnias and I turned away.
I find you in these tears, few, useless and here at last.
Don't come back.


by Laura Riding Jackson | |

Yes And No

 Across a continent imaginary
Because it cannot be discovered now
Upon this fully apprehended planet—
No more applicants considered,
Alas, alas—

Ran an animal unzoological,
Without a fate, without a fact,
Its private history intact
Against the travesty
Of an anatomy.
Not visible not invisible, Removed by dayless night, Did it ever fly its ground Out of fancy into light, Into space to replace Its unwritable decease? Ah, the minutes twinkle in and out And in and out come and go One by one, none by none, What we know, what we don't know.


by Philip Larkin | |

An Arundel Tomb

 Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.
Such plainness of the pre-baroque Hardly involves the eye, until It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still Clasped empty in the other; and One sees, with a sharp tender shock, His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.
They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy Was just a detail friends would see: A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace Thrown off in helping to prolong The Latin names around the base.
They would no guess how early in Their supine stationary voyage The air would change to soundless damage, Turn the old tenantry away; How soon succeeding eyes begin To look, not read.
Rigidly they Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths Of time.
Snow fell, undated.
Light Each summer thronged the grass.
A bright Litter of birdcalls strewed the same Bone-littered ground.
And up the paths The endless altered people came, Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of An unarmorial age, a trough Of smoke in slow suspended skeins Above their scrap of history, Only an attitude remains: Time has transfigures them into Untruth.
The stone fidelity They hardly meant has come to be Their final blazon, and to prove Our almost-instinct almost true: What will survive of us is love.