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Famous Arbitrary Poems by Famous Poets

These are examples of famous Arbitrary poems written by some of the greatest and most-well-known modern and classical poets. PoetrySoup is a great educational poetry resource of famous arbitrary poems. These examples illustrate what a famous arbitrary poem looks like and its form, scheme, or style (where appropriate).

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by Brackenridge, Hugh Henry
...s her sons, 
Rise from the mist of popery obscure. 
Her worthier sons, whom not Rome's pontiff high, 
Nor king with arbitrary sway could move. 
Those mightier who with constancy untam'd, 
Did quench the violence of fire, at death 
Did smile, and maugre ev'ry pain, of bond, 
Cold dark imprisonment, and scourge severe, 
By hell-born popery devis'd, held fast 
The Christian hope firm anchor of the soul. 
Or those who shunning that fell rage of war, 
And persecution d...Read More



by Dryden, John
...s finds, but more he makes.
By buzzing emissaries, fills the ears
Of list'ning crowds, with jealousies and fears
Of arbitrary counsels brought to light,
And proves the king himself a Jebusite.
Weak arguments! which yet he knew full well,
Were strong with people easy to rebel.
For, govern'd by the moon, the giddy Jews
Tread the same track when she the prime renews:
And once in twenty years, their scribes record,
By natural instinct they change their lord.
Achit...Read More

by Sexton, Anne
...with no place to go,
opening thee wrinkled maps of Milwaukee and Buffalo,

the whole U.S.,
its cemeteries, its arbitrary time zones,
through routes like small veins, capitals like small stones.

He died on the road,
his heart pushed from neck to back,
his white hanky signaling from the window of the Cadillac.

My husband,
as blue-eyed as a picture book, sells wool:
boxes of card waste, laps and rovings he can pull

to the thread
and say Leicester, Rambouillet...Read More

by Browning, Robert
...The other portion, as he shaped it thus 
For argumentatory purposes, 
He felt his foe was foolish to dispute. 
Some arbitrary accidental thoughts 
That crossed his mind, amusing because new, 
He chose to represent as fixtures there, 
Invariable convictions (such they seemed 
Beside his interlocutor's loose cards 
Flung daily down, and not the same way twice) 

While certain hell deep instincts, man's weak tongue 
Is never bold to utter in their truth 
Because styled hell-...Read More

by Keats, John
...d of suckling time,
And cradled me in roses. Thus condemn'd,
The current of my former life was stemm'd,
And to this arbitrary queen of sense
I bow'd a tranced vassal: nor would thence
Have mov'd, even though Amphion's harp had woo'd
Me back to Scylla o'er the billows rude.
For as Apollo each eve doth devise
A new appareling for western skies;
So every eve, nay every spendthrift hour
Shed balmy consciousness within that bower.
And I was free of haunts umbrageous;
C...Read More



by Raine, Kathleen
...e has no end;
For these, your arms that hold me, are the world's.
In us, the continents, clouds and oceans meet
Our arbitrary selves, extensive with the night,
Lost, in the heart's worship, and the body's sleep....Read More

by Plath, Sylvia
...and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you...Read More

by Finch, Anne Kingsmill
...His eager Second in th' opposing Fight, 
That even the Winds may keep the Balance right, 
Nor yield increase of Sway to arbitrary Might. 


Meeting now, they all contend, 
Those assail, while These defend; 
Fierce and turbulent the War, 
And in the loud tumultuous Jar 
Winds their own Fifes, and Clarions are. 
Each Cavity, which Art or Nature leaves, 
Their Inspiration hastily receives; 
Whence, from their various Forms and Size, 
As various Symphonies arise, 
Their T...Read More

by Milton, John
...eace yet none 
Vouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be given 
To us enslaved, but custody severe, 
And stripes and arbitrary punishment 
Inflicted? and what peace can we return, 
But, to our power, hostility and hate, 
Untamed reluctance, and revenge, though slow, 
Yet ever plotting how the Conqueror least 
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice 
In doing what we most in suffering feel? 
Nor will occasion want, nor shall we need 
With dangerous expedition to invade...Read More

by Nemerov, Howard
...her
What every child also endures alone:
Learning the alphabet, the integers,
Three dozen bits and pieces of a stuff
So arbitrary, so peremptory,
That worlds invisible and visible

Bow down before it, as in Joseph's dream
The sheaves bowed down and then the stars bowed down
Before the dreaming of a little boy.
That dream got him such hatred of his brothers
As cost the greater part of life to mend,
And yet great kindness came of it in the end.

II

A school is where th...Read More

by Ashbery, John
...in them. "But what about
So-and-so?" is still asked on occasion. But they lie
Frozen and out of touch until an arbitrary chorus
Speaks of a totally different incident with a similar name
In whose tale are hidden syllables
Of what happened so long before that
In some small town, one different summer....Read More

by Schwartz, Delmore
...will glad.

Spinning in its spotlight darkness,
It is too big for their hands.

A pitiless, purposeless Thing,
Arbitrary, and unspent,

Made for no play, for no children,
But chasing only itself.

The innocent are overtaken,
They are not innocent.

They are their father's fathers,
The past is inevitable.

 6

Now, in another October
Of this tragic star,

I see my second year,
I eat my baked potato.

It is my buttered world,
But, poked by my unlearned ...Read More

by Dryden, John
...found too late, 
Exposed its author to the public hate, 
When his just sovereign by no impious way 
Could be seduced to arbitrary sway, 
Forsaken of that hope, he shifts his sail, 
Drives down the current with the popular gale, 
And shows the fiend confessed without a veil. 
He preaches to the crowd that power is lent, 
But not conveyed to kingly government, 
That claims successive bear no binding force, 
That coronation oaths are things of course; 
Maintains the multitud...Read More

by Auden, Wystan Hugh (W H)
...he altar should have been,She saw by his flickering forge-lightQuite another scene. Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spotWhere bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)And sentries sweated for the day was hot:A crowd of ordinary decent folkWatched from without and neither moved nor spokeAs three pale figures were led forth and boundTo three posts driven upright in the ground. The mass and majesty of this world, allThat carries w...Read More

by Hecht, Anthony
... Of course I know
That within a month the sleeving snows will come
With cold, selective emphases, with massings
And arbitrary contrasts, rendering things
Deceptively simple, thickening the twigs
To frosty veins, bestowing epaulets
And decorations on every birch and aspen.
And the eye, self-satisfied, will be misled,
Thinking the puzzle solved, supposing at last
It can look forth and comprehend the world.
That's when you have to really watch yourself.
So I hope...Read More

by Clough, Arthur Hugh
...and good are fools,
Facts evil--wishes vain appear,
We cannot go, why are we here?

O may we for assurance's sake,
Some arbitrary judgement take,
And wilfully pronounce it clear,
For this or that 'tis we are here?

Or is it right, and will it do,
To pace the sad confusion through,
And say:--It doth not yet appear,
What we shall be, what we are here?

Ah yet, when all is thought and said,
The heart still overrules the head;
Still what we hope we must believe,
And what is given...Read More

by Byron, George (Lord)
...Time! on whose arbitrary wing
The varying hours must flag or fly,
Whose tardy winter, fleeting spring,
But drag or drive us on to die---
Hail thou! who on my birth bestowed
Those boons to all that know thee known;
Yet better I sustain thy load,
For now I bear the weight alone.
I would not one fond heart should share
The bitter moments thou hast given;
And pardon thee--...Read More

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