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Best Famous Holocaust Poems

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

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by John Greenleaf Whittier |

Burning Drift-Wood

Before my drift-wood fire I sit, 
And see, with every waif I burn, 
Old dreams and fancies coloring it, 
And folly's unlaid ghosts return. 

O ships of mine, whose swift keels cleft 
The enchanted sea on which they sailed, 
Are these poor fragments only left 
Of vain desires and hopes that failed? 

Did I not watch from them the light 
Of sunset on my towers in Spain, 
And see, far off, uploom in sight 
The Fortunate Isles I might not gain? 

Did sudden lift of fog reveal 
Arcadia's vales of song and spring, 
And did I pass, with grazing keel, 
The rocks whereon the sirens sing? 

Have I not drifted hard upon 
The unmapped regions lost to man, 
The cloud-pitched tents of Prester John, 
The palace domes of Kubla Khan? 

Did land winds blow from jasmine flowers, 
Where Youth the ageless Fountain fills? 
Did Love make sign from rose blown bowers, 
And gold from Eldorado's hills? 

Alas! the gallant ships, that sailed 
On blind Adventure's errand sent, 
Howe'er they laid their courses, failed 
To reach the haven of Content. 

And of my ventures, those alone 
Which Love had freighted, safely sped, 
Seeking a good beyond my own, 
By clear-eyed Duty piloted. 

O mariners, hoping still to meet 
The luck Arabian voyagers met, 
And find in Bagdad's moonlit street, 
Haroun al Raschid walking yet, 

Take with you, on your Sea of Dreams, 
The fair, fond fancies dear to youth. 
I turn from all that only seems, 
And seek the sober grounds of truth. 

What matter that it is not May, 
That birds have flown, and trees are bare, 
That darker grows the shortening day, 
And colder blows the wintry air! 

The wrecks of passion and desire, 
The castles I no more rebuild, 
May fitly feed my drift-wood fire, 
And warm the hands that age has chilled. 

Whatever perished with my ships, 
I only know the best remains; 
A song of praise is on my lips 
For losses which are now my gains. 

Heap high my hearth! No worth is lost; 
No wisdom with the folly dies. 
Burn on, poor shreds, your holocaust 
Shall be my evening sacrifice! 

Far more than all I dared to dream, 
Unsought before my door I see; 
On wings of fire and steeds of steam 
The world's great wonders come to me, 

And holier signs, unmarked before, 
Of Love to seek and Power to save,—
The righting of the wronged and poor, 
The man evolving from the slave; 

And life, no longer chance or fate, 
Safe in the gracious Fatherhood. 
I fold o'er-wearied hands and wait, 
In full assurance of the good. 

And well the waiting time must be, 
Though brief or long its granted days, 
If Faith and Hope and Charity 
Sit by my evening hearth-fire's blaze. 

And with them, friends whom Heaven has spared, 
Whose love my heart has comforted, 
And, sharing all my joys, has shared 
My tender memories of the dead,—

Dear souls who left us lonely here, 
Bound on their last, long voyage, to whom 
We, day by day, are drawing near, 
Where every bark has sailing room. 

I know the solemn monotone 
Of waters calling unto me; 
I know from whence the airs have blown 
That whisper of the Eternal Sea. 

As low my fires of drift-wood burn, 
I hear that sea's deep sounds increase, 
And, fair in sunset light, discern 
Its mirage-lifted Isles of Peace.


by Mark Twain |

A Sweltering Day In Australia

 The Bombola faints in the hot Bowral tree, 
Where fierce Mullengudgery's smothering fires 
Far from the breezes of Coolgardie 
Burn ghastly and blue as the day expires; 

And Murriwillumba complaineth in song 
For the garlanded bowers of Woolloomooloo, 
And the Ballarat Fly and the lone Wollongong 
They dream of the gardens of Jamberoo; 

The wallabi sighs for the Murrubidgee, 
For the velvety sod of the Munno Parah, 
Where the waters of healing from Muloowurtie 
Flow dim in the gloaming by Yaranyackah; 

The Koppio sorrows for lost Wolloway, 
And sigheth in secret for Murrurundi, 
The Whangeroo wombat lamenteth the day 
That made him an exile from Jerrilderie; 

The Teawamute Tumut from Wirrega's glade, 
The Nangkita swallow, the Wallaroo swan, 
They long for the peace of the Timaru shade 
And thy balmy soft airs, O sweet Mittagong! 

The Kooringa buffalo pants in the sun, 
The Kondoparinga lies gaping for breath, 
The Kongorong Camaum to the shadow has won, 
But the Goomeroo sinks in the slumber of death; 

In the weltering hell of the Moorooroo plain 
The Yatala Wangary withers and dies, 
And the Worrow Wanilla, demented with pain, 
To the Woolgoolga woodlands despairingly flies; 

Sweet Nangwarry's desolate, Coonamble wails, 
And Tungkillo Kuito in sables is drest, 
For the Whangerei winds fall asleep in the sails 
And the Booleroo life-breeze is dead in the west. 

Mypongo, Kapunda, O slumber no more 
Yankalilla, Parawirra, be warned 
There's death in the air! 
Killanoola, wherefore 
Shall the prayer of Penola be scorned? 

Cootamundra, and Takee, and Wakatipu, 
Toowoomba, Kaikoura are lost 
From Onkaparinga to far Oamaru 
All burn in this hell's holocaust! 

Paramatta and Binnum are gone to their rest 
In the vale of Tapanni Taroom, 
Kawakawa, Deniliquin - all that was best 
In the earth are but graves and a tomb! 

Narrandera mourns, Cameron answers not 
When the roll of the scathless we cry 
Tongariro, Goondiwindi, Woolundunga, the spot 
Is mute and forlorn where ye lie.


by Kathleen Raine |

Millenial Hymn to Lord Shiva

 Earth no longer
hymns the Creator,
the seven days of wonder,
the Garden is over —
all the stories are told,
the seven seals broken
all that begins
must have its ending,
our striving, desiring,
our living and dying,
for Time, the bringer
of abundant days
is Time the destroyer —
In the Iron Age
the Kali Yuga
To whom can we pray
at the end of an era
but the Lord Shiva,
the Liberator, the purifier?

Our forests are felled,
our mountains eroded,
the wild places
where the beautiful animals
found food and sanctuary
we have desolated,
a third of our seas,
a third of our rivers
we have polluted
and the sea-creatures dying.
Our civilization’s
blind progress
in wrong courses
through wrong choices
has brought us to nightmare
where what seems,
is, to the dreamer,
the collective mind
of the twentieth century —
this world of wonders
not divine creation
but a big bang
of blind chance,
purposeless accident,
mother earth’s children,
their living and loving,
their delight in being
not joy but chemistry,
stimulus, reflex,
valueless, meaningless,
while to our machines
we impute intelligence,
in computers and robots
we store information
and call it knowledge,
we seek guidance
by dialling numbers,
pressing buttons, 
throwing switches,
in place of family
our companions are shadows,
cast on a screen,
bodiless voices, fleshless faces,
where was the Garden
a Disney-land
of virtual reality,
in place of angels
the human imagination
is peopled with foot-ballers
film-stars, media-men,
experts, know-all
television personalities,
animated puppets
with cartoon faces —
To whom can we pray
for release from illusion,
from the world-cave,
but Time the destroyer,
the liberator, the purifier?

The curse of Midas
has changed at a touch,
a golden handshake
earthly paradise
to lifeless matter,
where once was seed-time,
summer and winter,
food-chain, factory farming,
monocrops for supermarkets,
pesticides, weed-killers
birdless springs, 
endangered species,
battery-hens, hormone injections,
artificial insemination,
implants, transplants, sterilization,
surrogate births, contraception,
cloning, genetic engineering, abortion,
and our days shall be short
in the land we have sown
with the Dragon’s teeth
where our armies arise
fully armed on our killing-fields
with land-mines and missiles,
tanks and artillery,
gas-masks and body-bags,
our air-craft rain down
fire and destruction,
our space-craft broadcast
lies and corruption,
our elected parliaments
parrot their rhetoric
of peace and democracy
while the truth we deny
returns in our dreams
of Armageddon,
the death-wish, the arms-trade,
hatred and slaughter
profitable employment
of our thriving cities,
the arms-race
to the end of the world
of our postmodern, 
post-Christian,
post-human nations,
progress to the nihil
of our spent civilization.
But cause and effect,
just and inexorable
law of the universe
no fix of science,
nor amenable god
can save from ourselves
the selves we have become —
At the end of history
to whom can we pray
but to the destroyer,
the liberator, the purifier?

In the beginning
the stars sang together
the cosmic harmony,
but Time, imperceptible
taker-away
of all that has been,
all that will be,
our heart-beat your drum,
our dance of life
your dance of death
in the crematorium,
our high-rise dreams,
Valhalla, Utopia,
Xanadu, Shangri-la, world revolution
Time has taken, and soon will be gone
Cambridge, Princeton and M.I.T.,
Nalanda, Athens and Alexandria
all for the holocaust
of civilization —
To whom shall we pray
when our vision has faded
but the world-destroyer,
the liberator, the purifier?

But great is the realm
of the world-creator,
the world-sustainer
from whom we come,
in whom we move
and have our being,
about us, within us
the wonders of wisdom,
the trees and the fountains,
the stars and the mountains,
all the children of joy,
the loved and the known,
the unknowable mystery
to whom we return
through the world-destroyer, —
Holy, holy
at the end of the world
the purging fire
of the purifier, the liberator!


by Kathleen Raine |

Paradise Seed

 Where is the seed 
Of the tree felled, 
Of the forest burned, 
Or living root 
Under ash and cinders? 
From woven bud 
What last leaf strives 
Into life, last 
Shrivelled flower?
Is fruit of our harvest,
Our long labour
Dust to the core?
To what far, fair land 
Borne on the wind 
What winged seed 
Or spark of fire 
From holocaust 
To kindle a star?


by Anne Killigrew |

Upon the saying that my VERSES were made by another.

 NExt Heaven my Vows to thee (O Sacred Muse! ) 
I offer'd up, nor didst thou them refuse. 
 O Queen of Verse, said I, if thou'lt inspire, 
And warm my Soul with thy Poetique Fire, 
No Love of Gold shall share with thee my Heart, 
Or yet Ambition in my Brest have Part, 
More Rich, more Noble I will ever hold
The Muses Laurel, than a Crown of Gold. 
An Undivided Sacrifice I'le lay
Upon thine Altar, Soul and Body pay; 
Thou shalt my Pleasure, my Employment be, 
My All I'le make a Holocaust to thee. 

 The Deity that ever does attend
Prayers so sincere, to mine did condescend. 
I writ, and the Judicious prais'd my Pen: 
Could any doubt Insuing Glory then ? 

What pleasing Raptures fill'd my Ravisht Sense ? 
How strong, how Sweet, Fame, was thy Influence ?
And thine, False Hope, that to my flatter'd sight
Didst Glories represent so Near, and Bright ? 
By thee deceiv'd, methought, each Verdant Tree, 
Apollos transform'd Daphne seem'd to be; 
And ev'ry fresher Branch, and ev'ry Bow
Appear'd as Garlands to empale my Brow. 
The Learn'd in Love say, Thus the Winged Boy
Does first approach, drest up in welcome Joy; 
At first he to the Cheated Lovers sight
Nought represents, but Rapture and Delight, 
Alluring Hopes, Soft Fears, which stronger bind
Their Hearts, than when they more assurance find. 

 Embolden'd thus, to Fame I did commit, 
(By some few hands) my most Unlucky Wit. 
But, ah, the sad effects that from it came ! 
What ought t'have brought me Honour, brought me shame ! 
Like Esops Painted Jay I seem'd to all, 
Adorn'd in Plumes, I not my own could call: 

Rifl'd like her, each one my Feathers tore, 
And, as they thought, unto the Owner bore. 
My Laurels thus an Others Brow adorn'd, 
My Numbers they Admir'd, but Me they scorn'd: 
An others Brow, that had so rich a store
Of Sacred Wreaths, that circled it before; 
Where mine quite lost, (like a small stream that ran 
Into a Vast and Boundless Ocean)
Was swallow'd up, with what it joyn'd and drown'd, 
And that Abiss yet no Accession found. 

 Orinda, (Albions and her Sexes Grace) 
Ow'd not her Glory to a Beauteous Face, 
It was her Radiant Soul that shon With-in, 
Which struk a Lustre through her Outward Skin; 
That did her Lips and Cheeks with Roses dy, 
Advanc't her Height, and Sparkled in her Eye. 
Nor did her Sex at all obstruct her Fame, 
But higher 'mong the Stars it fixt her Name; 
What she did write, not only all allow'd, 
But ev'ry Laurel, to her Laurel, bow'd ! 

 Th'Envious Age, only to Me alone, 
Will not allow, what I do write, my Own, 
But let 'em Rage, and 'gainst a Maide Conspire, 
So Deathless Numbers from my Tuneful Lyre 
Do ever flow; so Phebus I by thee
Divinely Inspired and possest may be; 
I willingly accept Cassandras Fate, 
To speak the Truth, although believ'd too late


by Carolyn Forche |

The Testimony Of Light

 Our life is a fire dampened, or a fire shut up in stone.
 --Jacob Boehme, De Incarnatione Verbi

Outside everything visible and invisible a blazing maple.
Daybreak: a seam at the curve of the world. The trousered legs of the women
 shimmered.
They held their arms in front of them like ghosts.

The coal bones of the house clinked in a kimono of smoke.
An attention hovered over the dream where the world had been.

For if Hiroshima in the morning, after the bomb has fallen,
 is like a dream, one must ask whose dream it is. {1}

Must understand how not to speak would carry it with us.
With bones put into rice bowls.
While the baby crawled over its dead mother seeking milk.

Muga-muchu {2}: without self, without center. Thrown up in the sky by a wind.

The way back is lost, the one obsession.
The worst is over.
The worst is yet to come.



1--...is the question asked by Peter Schwenger in Letter Bomb. 
 Nuclear Holocaust and the Exploding Word.
2--...is from Robert Jay Lifton's Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima.


by Charlotte Bronte |

Passion

 SOME have won a wild delight,
By daring wilder sorrow;
Could I gain thy love to-night,
I'd hazard death to-morrow. 

Could the battle-struggle earn
One kind glance from thine eye,
How this withering heart would burn,
The heady fight to try ! 

Welcome nights of broken sleep,
And days of carnage cold,
Could I deem that thou wouldst weep
To hear my perils told. 

Tell me, if with wandering bands
I roam full far away,
Wilt thou, to those distant lands,
In spirit ever stray ? 

Wild, long, a trumpet sounds afar;
Bid me­bid me go
Where Seik and Briton meet in war,
On Indian Sutlej's flow. 

Blood has dyed the Sutlej's waves
With scarlet stain, I know;
Indus' borders yawn with graves,
Yet, command me go ! 

Though rank and high the holocaust
Of nations, steams to heaven,
Glad I'd join the death-doomed host,
Were but the mandate given. 

Passion's strength should nerve my arm,
Its ardour stir my life,
Till human force to that dread charm
Should yield and sink in wild alarm,
Like trees to tempest-strife. 

If, hot from war, I seek thy love,
Darest thou turn aside ?
Darest thou, then, my fire reprove,
By scorn, and maddening pride ? 

No­my will shall yet control
Thy will, so high and free,
And love shall tame that haughty soul­
Yes­tenderest love for me. 

I'll read my triumph in thine eyes,
Behold, and prove the change;
Then leave, perchance, my noble prize,
Once more in arms to range. 

I'd die when all the foam is up,
The bright wine sparkling high;
Nor wait till in the exhausted cup
Life's dull dregs only lie. 

Then Love thus crowned with sweet reward,
Hope blest with fulness large,
I'd mount the saddle, draw the sword,
And perish in the charge!


by Laure-Anne Bosselaar |

The Worlds in this World

 Doors were left open in heaven again: 
drafts wheeze, clouds wrap their ripped pages 
around roofs and trees. Like wet flags, shutters 
flap and fold. Even light is blown out of town,
its last angles caught in sopped
newspaper wings and billowing plastic — 
all this in one American street. 
 Elsewhere, somewhere, a tide 
recedes, incense is lit, an infant 
sucks from a nipple, a grenade
shrieks, a man buys his first cane. 
 Think of it: the worlds in this world. 


 Yesterday, while a Chinese woman took 
hours to sew seven silk stitches into a tapestry 
started generations ago, guards took only
seconds to mop up a cannibal’s brain from the floor 
of a Wisconsin jail, while the man who bashed 
the killer’s head found no place to hide, 
and sat sobbing for his mother in a shower stall —
the worlds in this world. 

 Or say, one year — say 1916: 
while my grandfather, a prisoner of war 
in Holland, sewed perfect, eighteen-buttoned 
booties for his wife with the skin of a dead 
dog found in a trench; shrapnel slit 
Apollinaire's skull, Jesuits brandished 
crucifixes in Ouagadougou, and the Parthenon 
was already in ruins. 
 That year, thousands and thousands of Jews 
from the Holocaust were already — were 
still ¬— busy living their lives; 
while gnawed by self-doubt, Rilke couldn’t 

write a line for weeks inVienna’s Victorgasse, 
and fishermen drowned off Finnish coasts, 
and lovers kissed for the very first time,
while in Kashmir an old woman fell asleep, 
her cheek on her good husband's belly. 

 And all along that year the winds 
kept blowing as they do today, above oceans 
and steeples, and this one speck of dust 
was lifted from somewhere to land exactly 
here, on my desk, and will lift again — into 
the worlds in this world.

 Say now, at this instant: 
one thornless rose opens in a blue jar above 
that speck, but you — reading this — know 
nothing of how it came to flower here, and I 
nothing of who bred it, or where, nothing 
of my son and daughter’s fate, of what grows 
in your garden or behind the walls of your chest: 
is it longing? Fear? Will it matter?

Listen to that wind, listen to it ranting
 The doors of heaven never close,
  that’s the Curse, that’s the Miracle.


by Yehuda Amichai |

Tourists

 Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust after our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.


Once I sat on the steps by agate at David's Tower,
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists
was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. "You see
that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an arch
from the Roman period. Just right of his head." "But he's moving, he's moving!"
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
"You see that arch from the Roman period? It's not important: but next to it,
left and down a bit, there sits a man who's bought fruit and vegetables for his family."


by Sylvia Plath |

Marys Song

 The Sunday lamb cracks in its fat.
The fat
Sacrifices its opacity. . . .

A window, holy gold.
The fire makes it precious,
The same fire

Melting the tallow heretics,
Ousting the Jews.
Their thick palls float

Over the cicatrix of Poland, burnt-out
Germany.
They do not die.

Grey birds obsess my heart,
Mouth-ash, ash of eye.
They settle. On the high

Precipice
That emptied one man into space
The ovens glowed like heavens, incandescent.

It is a heart,
This holocaust I walk in,
O golden child the world will kill and eat.