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Famous Backward Poems by Famous Poets

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

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by Sexton, Anne
...of prison.

There was a theft.
That much I am told.
I was abandoned.
That much I know.
I was forced backward.
I was forced forward.
I was passed hand to hand
like a bowl of fruit.
Each night I am nailed into place
and forget who I am.
That's another kind of prison.
It's not the prince at all,
but my father
drunkeningly bends over my bed,
circling the abyss like a shark,
my father thick upon me
like some sleeping jellyfish.
Wh...Read More

by Browning, Robert
...own affair.


My perfect wife, my Leonor,
Oh heart, my own, oh eyes, mine too,
Whom else could I dare look backward for,
With whom beside should I dare pursue
The path grey heads abhor?


For it leads to a crag's sheer edge with them;
Youth, flowery all the way, there stops---
Not they; age threatens and they contemn,
Till they reach the gulf wherein youth drops,
One inch from life's safe hem!


With me, youth led ... I will speak...Read More

by Wilde, Oscar
...when the shuddering trees
Shook, and the leaves divided, and the air
Grew conscious of a god, and the grey seas
Crawled backward, and a long and dismal blare
Blew from some tasselled horn, a sleuth-hound bayed,
And like a flame a barbed reed flew whizzing down the glade.

And where the little flowers of her breast
Just brake into their milky blossoming,
This murderous paramour, this unbidden guest,
Pierced and struck deep in horrid chambering,
And ploughed a bloody furrow...Read More

by Milton, John
...enchanter scape?
O ye mistook; ye should have snatched his wand,
And bound him fast. Without his rod reversed,
And backward mutters of dissevering power,
We cannot free the Lady that sits here
In stony fetters fixed and motionless.
Yet stay: be not disturbed; now I bethink me,
Some other means I have which may be used,
Which once of Meliboeus old I learnt,
The soothest shepherd that e'er piped on plains.
 There is a gentle Nymph not far from hence,
That with mois...Read More

by Hugo, Victor
...ine can better see, 
 For sight is woman-like and shuns the old; 
 Ah! he can see enough, when years are told, 
 Who backwards looks. But, boy, turn towards the glade 
 And tell me what you see." 
 The boy obeyed, 
 And leaned across the threshold, while the bright, 
 Full moon shed o'er the glade its white, pure light. 
 "I see a horse and woman on it now," 
 Said Gasclin, "and companions also show." 
 "Who are they?" asked the seeker of sublime 
 Adventures. "...Read More

by Keats, John
...give them heart;
I know the covert, for thence came I hither."
Thus brief; then with beseeching eyes she went
With backward footing through the shade a space:
He follow'd, and she turn'd to lead the way
Through aged boughs, that yielded like the mist
Which eagles cleave upmounting from their nest.

 Meanwhile in other realms big tears were shed,
More sorrow like to this, and such like woe,
Too huge for mortal tongue or pen of scribe:
The Titans fierce, self-hid, or p...Read More

by Alighieri, Dante path astray, 
 Beset with sleep, I know not. This I know. 
 When gained my feet the upward, lighted way, 
 I backward gazed, as one the drowning sea, 
 The deep strong tides, has baffled, and panting lies, 
 On the shelved shore, and turns his eyes to see 
 The league-wide wastes that held him. So mine eyes 
 Surveyed that fear, the while my wearied frame 
 Rested, and ever my heart's tossed lake became 
 More quiet. 
 Then from that pass released, which ye...Read More

by Emerson, Ralph Waldo
Cannot forget the sun, the moon.
Orb and atom forth they prance,
When they hear from far the rune,
None so backward in the troop,
When the music and the dance
Reach his place and circumstance,
But knows the sun-creating sound,
And, though a pyramid, will bound.

Monadnoc is a mountain strong,
Tall and good my kind among,
But well I know, no mountain can
Measure with a perfect man;
For it is on Zodiack's writ,
Adamant is soft to wit;
And when the greater comes...Read More

by Milton, John
...ngeance poured. 
 Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool 
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames 
Driven backward slope their pointing spires, and,rolled 
In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid vale. 
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight 
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air, 
That felt unusual weight; till on dry land 
He lights--if it were land that ever burned 
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire, 
And such appeared in hue as when the force 
...Read More

by Frost, Robert
...some hours of sleep,
Meserve belittled in the great skin coat he wore.

Meserve was first to speak. He pointed backward
Over his shoulder with his pipe-stem, saying,
“You can just see it glancing off the roof
Making a great scroll upward toward the sky,
Long enough for recording all our names on.—
I think I’ll just call up my wife and tell her
I’m here—so far—and starting on again.
I’ll call her softly so that if she’s wise
And gone to sleep, she needn’t wake...Read More

by Whitman, Walt
...side-curved head, curious what will come next;
Both in and out of the game, and watching and wondering at it. 

Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and
I have no mockings or arguments—I witness and wait. 

I believe in you, my Soul—the other I am must not abase itself to you; 
And you must not be abased to the other.

Loafe with me on the grass—loose the stop from your throat; 
Not words, not music ...Read More

by Rich, Adrienne
...ur own, then someone's, anyway.

So I come back to saying this good-by,
A sort of ceremony of my own,
This stepping backward for another glance.
Perhaps you'll say we need no ceremony,
Because we know each other, crack and flaw,
Like two irregular stones that fit together.
Yet still good-by, because we live by inches
And only sometimes see the full dimension.
Your stature's one I want to memorize--
Your whole level of being, to impose
On any other comers, man ...Read More

by Stevens, Wallace
238 And sinking down to the indulgences 
239 That in the moonlight have their habitude. 
240 But let these backward lapses, if they would, 
241 Grind their seductions on him, Crispin knew 
242 It was a flourishing tropic he required 
243 For his refreshment, an abundant zone, 
244 Prickly and obdurate, dense, harmonious 
245 Yet with a harmony not rarefied 
246 Nor fined for the inhibited instruments 
247 Of over-civil stops. And thus he tossed 
248 B...Read More

by Seeger, Alan
...e-hall, long disarrayed,
Brick-tiled and raftered, and the walls foursquare
Ringed all about with a twofold arcade.
Backward dense branches intercept the glare
Of afternoon with eucalyptus shade;
Eastward the level valley-plains expand,
Sweet as a queen's survey of her own Fairyland.

For through that frame the ivied arches make,
Wide tracts of sunny midland charm the eye,
Frequent with hamlet grove, and lucent lake
Where the blue hills' inverted contours lie;
Far to ...Read More

by Wordsworth, William
...ile, facing thus the crimson west,  The boat her silent path pursues!  And see how dark the backward stream!  A little moment past, so smiling!  And still, perhaps, with faithless gleam,  Some other loiterer beguiling.   Such views the youthful bard allure,  But, heedless of the following gloom,  He deems their colours shall endure  'Till peace ...Read More

by Scott, Sir Walter
...he might not stop to cheer:
     Then, trusting not a second look,
     In haste he sped hind up the brook,
     Nor backward glanced till on the heath
     Where Lubnaig's lake supplies the Teith,—
     What in the racer's bosom stirred?
     The sickening pang of hope deferred,
     And memory with a torturing train
     Of all his morning visions vain.
     Mingled with love's impatience, came
     The manly thirst for martial fame;
     The stormy joy of mounta...Read More

by Tennyson, Alfred Lord
To whom Sir Tristram smiling, `I am here. 
Let be thy Mark, seeing he is not thine.' 

And drawing somewhat backward she replied, 
`Can he be wronged who is not even his own, 
But save for dread of thee had beaten me, 
Scratched, bitten, blinded, marred me somehow--Mark? 
What rights are his that dare not strike for them? 
Not lift a hand--not, though he found me thus! 
But harken! have ye met him? hence he went 
Today for three days' hunting--as he said-- 
And so...Read More

by Chaucer, Geoffrey
...ith thee:
And if thou dar'st not save him from blame,
So kiss him ones in his father's name."

Therewith she looked backward to the land,
And saide, "Farewell, husband rutheless!"
And up she rose, and walked down the strand
Toward the ship, her following all the press:* *multitude
And ever she pray'd her child to hold his peace,
And took her leave, and with an holy intent
She blessed her, and to the ship she went.

Victualed was the ship, it is no drede,* *doubt
Abund...Read More

by Chaucer, Geoffrey
...light* *plucked
Out of his book, right as he read, and eke
I with my fist so took him on the cheek,
That in our fire he backward fell adown.
And he up start, as doth a wood* lion, *furious
And with his fist he smote me on the head,
That on the floor I lay as I were dead.
And when he saw how still that there I lay,
He was aghast, and would have fled away,
Till at the last out of my swoon I braid,* *woke
"Oh, hast thou slain me, thou false thief?" I said
"And for my lan...Read More

by Burns, Robert
          For promised joy!

Still thou art blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e
          On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho I canna see,
          I guess an' fear!
...Read More

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