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Famous Challenge Poems by Famous Poets

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

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by Thomas, Dylan
...'s first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or,
if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar
cat. But soon the voice grew louder.
"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring
out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was anno...Read More



by Whitman, Walt
...isel’d yet, nor painter painted, 
Which vocalist never sung, nor orator nor actor ever utter’d,
Invoking here and now I challenge for my song. 

Indifferently, ’mid public, private haunts, in solitude, 
Behind the mountain and the wood, 
Companion of the city’s busiest streets, through the assemblage, 
It and its radiations constantly glide.

In looks of fair unconscious babes, 
Or strangely in the coffin’d dead, 
Or show of breaking dawn or stars by night, 
As some d...Read More

by Collins, Billy
...ce, You Poop-on-the-Floor
(a kind of Navaho ring to that one)
they yell from knee level, their little mugs
flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out
in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying
to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.

They are just tormenting their fellow squirts
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call th...Read More

by Bowers, Edgar
...,
Once chased Aunt Jennie as far as the daphne bed
The two big king snakes were familiars of.
My father’s dog would challenge him sometimes
To laughter and applause. Once, in Stone Mountain,
Travelers, stopped for gas, drove off with Smokey;
Angrily, grievingly, leaving his work, my father
Traced the car and found them way far south,
Had them arrested and, bringing Smokey home,
Was proud as Sherlock Holmes, and happier.
Above the spring, my sister’s cats, black Am...Read More

by Eliot, T S (Thomas Stearns)
...fore the urban dawn wind unresisting.
 And as I fixed upon the down-turned face
That pointed scrutiny with which we challenge
 The first-met stranger in the waning dusk
 I caught the sudden look of some dead master
Whom I had known, forgotten, half recalled
 Both one and many; in the brown baked features
 The eyes of a familiar compound ghost
Both intimate and unidentifiable.
 So I assumed a double part, and cried
 And heard another's voice cry: 'What! are you here?'
...Read More



by Tennyson, Alfred Lord
...past.' 
Answered Sir Gareth graciously to one 
Not many a moon his younger, 'My fair child, 
What madness made thee challenge the chief knight 
Of Arthur's hall?' 'Fair Sir, they bad me do it. 
They hate the King, and Lancelot, the King's friend, 
They hoped to slay him somewhere on the stream, 
They never dreamed the passes could be past.' 

Then sprang the happier day from underground; 
And Lady Lyonors and her house, with dance 
And revel and song, made merry o...Read More

by Pinsky, Robert
...ob said, sorry, he forgot the rest.
Of course he thought that his joke was a dummy,

Impossible to tell--a dead-end challenge.
But here it is, as Elliot told it to me:
The dead man's widow came to the rabbis weeping,

Begging them, if they could, to resurrect him.
Shocked, the tall rabbi said absolutely not.
But the short rabbi told her to bring the body

Into the study house, and ordered the shutters
Closed so the room was night-dark. Then he prayed
Over ...Read More

by Seeger, Alan
...Gaby or Lucile she dances, emulating them 
In each disturbing stratagem and each lascivious appeal. 


Each turn a challenge, every pose an invitation to compete, 
Along the maze of whirling feet the grave-eyed little wanton goes, 


And, flaunting all the hue that lies in childish cheeks and nubile waist, 
She passes, charmingly unchaste, illumining ignoble eyes. . . . 


But now the blood from every heart leaps madder through abounding veins 
As first t...Read More

by Whitman, Walt
...gnita, blanks to be fill’d, 
The foot of man unstay’d, the hands never at rest, 
Thyself, O soul, that will not brook a challenge. 

9
The medieval navigators rise before me, 
The world of 1492, with its awaken’d enterprise;
Something swelling in humanity now like the sap of the earth in spring, 
The sunset splendor of chivalry declining. 

And who art thou, sad shade? 
Gigantic, visionary, thyself a visionary, 
With majestic limbs, and pious, beaming eyes,
Spreading ...Read More

by Ginsberg, Allen
...rate! Manu-
 factured Spectre of human reason! O solidified
 imago of practicioner in Black Arts
I dare your reality, I challenge your very being! I 
 publish your cause and effect!
I turn the wheel of Mind on your three hundred tons!
 Your name enters mankind's ear! I embody your
 ultimate powers!
My oratory advances on your vaunted Mystery! This 
 breath dispels your braggart fears! I sing your 
 form at last
behind your concrete & iron walls inside your fortress
 of rubber...Read More

by Milton, John
...concerns his glory now
To frustrate and dissolve these Magic spells,
Which I to be the power of Israel's God 
Avow, and challenge Dagon to the test,
Offering to combat thee his Champion bold,
With th' utmost of his Godhead seconded:
Then thou shalt see, or rather to thy sorrow
Soon feel, whose God is strongest, thine or mine.

Har: Presume not on thy God, what e're he be,
Thee he regards not, owns not, hath cut off
Quite from his people, and delivered up
Into thy Enemies ...Read More

by Whittier, John Greenleaf
...ring from his early perch 
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch, 
The cock his crested helmet bent 
And down his querulous challenge sent. 

Unwarmed by any sunset light 
The gray day darkened into night, 
A night made hoary with the swarm 
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm, 
As zigzag, wavering to and fro, 
Crossed and recrossed the wingëd snow: 
And ere the early bedtime came 
The white drift piled the window-frame, 
And through the glass the clothes-line posts 
Looked...Read More

by Whitman, Walt
...of bright juice suffuse heaven. 

The earth by the sky staid with—the daily close of their junction; 
The heav’d challenge from the east that moment over my head;
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master! 

25
Dazzling and tremendous, how quick the sun-rise would kill me, 
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me. 

We also ascend, dazzling and tremendous as the sun; 
We found our own, O my Soul, in the calm and cool of the daybr...Read More

by Hacker, Marilyn
...e else lights a cigarette?

(Because he flinched, because he didn't whirl
around, face them, because he didn't hurl
the challenge back—"Fascists?"—not "Faggots"—Swine!
he briefly wonders—if he were a girl . . .)
He writes a line. He crosses out a line. 

I'll never be a man, but there's a boy
crossing out words: the rain, the linen-mender,
are all the homework he will do today.
The absence and the priviledge of gender

confound in him, soprano, clumsy,...Read More

by Service, Robert William
...stness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it;
 Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
 The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
 And learned to know the desert's little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills, have you galloped o'er the ranges,
 Have you roamed the...Read More

by Masefield, John
...r> 
Lord, give us eyes to bear the light. 

We all went quiet down the Scallenge 
Lest Police Inspector Drew should challenge. 
But 'Spector Drew was sleeping sweet, 
His head upon a charges sheet, 
Under the gas jet flaring full, 
Snorting and snoring like a bull, 
His bull cheeks puffed, his bull lips plowing, 
His ugly yellow front teeth showing. 
Just as we peeped we saw him fumble 
And scratch his head, and shift, and mumble. 
Down in the lane so thick an...Read More

by Bradstreet, Anne
...se no death, nor wounds, nor scars.
2.44 My little wrath did cease soon as my wars.
2.45 My duel was no challenge, nor did seek.
2.46 My foe should weltering, with his bowels reek.
2.47 I had no Suits at law, neighbours to vex,
2.48 Nor evidence for land did me perplex.
2.49 I fear'd no storms, nor all the winds that blows.
2.50 I had no ships at Sea, no fraughts to loose.
2.51 I fear'd no drought, nor wet; I had no ...Read More

by Scott, Sir Walter
...und his drum
          Booming from the sedgy shallow.
     Ruder sounds shall none be near,
     Guards nor warders challenge here,
     Here's no war-steed's neigh and champing,
     Shouting clans or squadrons stamping.'
     XXXII.

     She paused,—then, blushing, led the lay,
     To grace the stranger of the day.
     Her mellow notes awhile  prolong
     The cadence of the flowing song,
     Till to her lips in measured frame
     The minstrel verse spont...Read More

by Angelou, Maya
...
Small fists of sleeping
Children.
Memory of old tombs,
Rotting flesh and worms do
Not convince me against
The challenge. The years
And cold defeat live deep in
Lines along my face.
They dull my eyes, yet
I keep on dying,
Because I love to live....Read More

by Tebb, Barry
...d off to Thurstonland, past the weathered

Walls of the abandoned quarry, beyond Ings Farm where Rover ran

His furious challenge to our call.



We had little, so little it might have been nothing at all

The few hundred books we’d brought and furniture bought

At auction in the town, left-overs knocked down to the few pounds

We had between us, dumped outside the red front door by the

Carrier’s cart; stared at by neighbours constantly grimacing

Though the grimy nets o...Read More

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