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Famous Mistake Poems by Famous Poets

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

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by Thomas, Dylan
...a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and
a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a
little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that
an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the
trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing...Read More

by Dryden, John serve the same design.
The best, and of the princes some were such,
Who thought the pow'r of monarchy too much:
Mistaken men, and patriots in their hearts;
Not wicked, but seduc'd by impious arts.
By these the springs of property were bent,
And wound so high, they crack'd the government.
The next for interest sought t'embroil the state,
To sell their duty at a dearer rate;
And make their Jewish markets of the throne;
Pretending public good, to serve their own....Read More

by Pope, Alexander
...they learn'd
So modern Pothecaries, taught the Art
By Doctor's Bills to play the Doctor's Part,
Bold in the Practice of mistaken Rules,
Prescribe, apply, and call their Masters Fools.
Some on the Leaves of ancient Authors prey,
Nor Time nor Moths e'er spoil'd so much as they:
Some dryly plain, without Invention's Aid,
Write dull Receits how Poems may be made:
These leave the Sense, their Learning to display,
And theme explain the Meaning quite away

You then whose Judgmen...Read More

by Whitman, Walt
...tself will it advance to meet them, 
If its poets appear, it will in due time advance to meet them—there is no fear of

(The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferr’d, till his country absorbs him as
 affectionately as he has absorb’d it.) 

He masters whose spirit masters—he tastes sweetest who results sweetest in the long
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is unconstraint; 
In the need of poems, philosophy, politics, manners, engineering, an appropri...Read More

by Sidney, Sir Philip, who by a beaten way
Their iudgements hackney on, the fault of sicknesse lay;
But feeling proofe makes me say they mistake it furre:
It is but loue which makes this paper perfit white,
To write therein more fresh the storie of delight,
Whiles Beauties reddest inke Venus for him doth sturre. 

O happie Thames, that didst my Stella beare!
I saw thee with full many a smiling line
Vpon thy cheerefull face, Ioyes liuery weare,
While those faire planets on t...Read More

by Browning, Robert
...for a road; 
While, if he views it from the waste itself, 
Up goes the line there, plain from base to brow, 
Not vague, mistakeable! what's a break or two 
Seen from the unbroken desert either side? 
And then (to bring in fresh philosophy) 
What if the breaks themselves should prove at last 
The most consummate of contrivances 
To train a man's eye, teach him what is faith? 
And so we stumble at truth's very test! 
All we have gained then by our unbelief 
Is a life of doubt d...Read More

by Robinson, Edwin Arlington, with us, 
Nor over much at odds with destiny. 
At any rate, save always for a look
That I had seen too often to mistake 
Or to forget, he gave no other sign. 

That train began to move; and as it moved, 
I felt a comfortable sudden change 
All over and inside. Partly it seemed
As if the strings of me had all at once 
Gone down a tone or two; and even though 
It made me scowl to think so trivial 
A touch had owned the strength to tighten them, 
It made me laugh...Read More

by Pope, Alexander
...once been wrong, will be so still.
He, who to seem more deep than you or I,
Extols old bards, or Merlin's Prophecy,
Mistake him not; he envies, not admires,
And to debase the sons, exalts the sires.
Had ancient times conspir'd to disallow
What then was new, what had been ancient now?
Or what remain'd, so worthy to be read
By learned critics, of the mighty dead?

In days of ease, when now the weary sword
Was sheath'd, and luxury with Charles restor'd;
In ev'ry taste o...Read More

by Pinsky, Robert endlessly for smoking.

When she got back from dinner with their children
The doctors had to tell them about the mistake.
Oh swirling petals, falling leaves! The movement

Of linking renga coursing from moment to moment
Is meaning, Bob says in his Haiku book.
Oh swirling petals, all living things are contingent,

Falling leaves, and transient, and they suffer.
But the Universal is the goal of jokes,
Especially certain ethnic jokes, which taper

Down through...Read More

by Collins, Billy
...say to my fellow pedestrians,
to the woman in the white sweater,
the man in the tan raincoat and the heavy glasses,
who mistake themselves for the center of the universe --
all I can say is watch your step,

because the five of us, instruments and all,
are about to angle over
to the south side of the street
and then, in our own tightly knit way,
turn the corner at Sixth Avenue.

And if any of you are curious
about where this aggregation,
this whole battery-powered crew,
i...Read More

by Frost, Robert
...r dimple there, and said,
'Maple.' I said it too: 'Yes, for her name.'
She nodded. So we're sure there's no mistake.
I don't know what she wanted it to mean,
But it seems like some word she left to bid you
Be a good girl—be like a maple tree.
How like a maple tree's for us to guess.
Or for a little girl to guess sometime.
Not now—at least I shouldn't try too hard now.
By and by I will tell you all I know
About the different trees, and something...Read More

by Milton, John conjunction with this sex: for either 
He never shall find out fit mate, but such 
As some misfortune brings him, or mistake; 
Or whom he wishes most shall seldom gain 
Through her perverseness, but shall see her gained 
By a far worse; or, if she love, withheld 
By parents; or his happiest choice too late 
Shall meet, already linked and wedlock-bound 
To a fell adversary, his hate or shame: 
Which infinite calamity shall cause 
To human life, and houshold peace confound.<...Read More

by Schiller, Friedrich von
...s slender trunk it viewed;
And pleasingly the ocean's crystal flood
Reflected back the dancing form again.
Could ye mistake the look, with beauty fraught,
That Nature gave to help ye on your way?
The image floating on the billows taught
The art the fleeting shadow to portray.

From her own being torn apart,
Her phantom, beauteous as a dream,
She plunged into the silvery stream,
Surrendering to her spoiler's art.
Creative power soon in your breast unfolded;
Too nob...Read More

by Swift, Jonathan
...To the Priest, on Observing how most Men mistake their own Talents
When beasts could speak (the learned say, 
They still can do so ev'ry day),
It seems, they had religion then,
As much as now we find in men.
It happen'd, when a plague broke out
(Which therefore made them more devout),
The king of brutes (to make it plain,
Of quadrupeds I only mean)
By proclamation gave command,
That ev'ry subje...Read More

by Lowell, Amy So far her thoughts had ranged
Away from her stern vow, she chanced to take
Her way, one morning, quite by a mistake,
Along the street where Heinrich had his shop.
What harm to pass it since she should not stop!
It matters nothing how one day she met
Him on a bridge, and blushed, and hurried by.
Nor how the following week he stood to let
Her pass, the pavement narrowing suddenly.
How once he took her basket, and once he
Pulled back a rearing horse who m...Read More

by Thompson, Francis thee, I did'st but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in my arms.
All which thy childs mistake fancies as lost,
I have stored for thee at Home.
Rise, clasp my hand, and come.
Halts by me that Footfall.
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
Ah, Fondest, Blindest, Weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest.
Thou dravest Love from thee who dravest Me....Read More

by Robinson, Edwin Arlington
A manifest end of ashes and eternal night? 
Is this the music of the toys we shake 
So loud,—as if there might be no mistake 
Somewhere in our indomitable will?
Are we no greater than the noise we make 
Along one blind atomic pilgrimage 
Whereon by crass chance billeted we go 
Because our brains and bones and cartilage 
Will have it so?
If this we say, then let us all be still 
About our share in it, and live and die 
More quietly thereby. 

Where was he going, this ma...Read More

by Byron, George (Lord) Satan: 'Why — 
My good old friend, for such I deem you, though 
Our different parties make us fight so shy, 
I ne'er mistake you for a personal foe; 
Our difference is political, and I 
Trust that, whatever may occur below, 
You know my great respect for you; and this 
Makes me regret whate'er you do amiss — 


'Why, my dear Lucifer, would you abuse 
My call for witnesses? I did not mean 
That you should half of earth and hell produce; 
'Tis even superfluous, since ...Read More

by Trumbull, John
...the morning sun so bright,
Who robes his face in heav'nly light.
To view that form of angel make,
Again Ixion would mistake,[2]
And justly deem so fair a prize,
The sovereign Mistress of the skies,"

He said, and drew a mazy line,
With crimson touch his pencils shine,
The mingling colours sweetly fade,
And justly temper light and shade.

He look'd; the swelling Cloud on high
With wider circuit spread the sky,
Stretch'd to the sun an ampler train,
And pour'd new glor...Read More

by Swift, Jonathan
...e lament when I was dead,
Than all the sniv'llers round my bed.

My good companions, never fear,
For though you may mistake a year,
Though your prognostics run too fast,
They must be verified at last.

Behold the fatal day arrive!
"How is the Dean?" -"He's just alive."
Now the departing prayer is read:
"He hardly breathes." -"The Dean is dead."

Before the Passing-bell begun,
The news thro' half the town has run.
"O, may we all for death prepare!
What ...Read More

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