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Famous Substance Poems by Famous Poets

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

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by Thomas, Dylan
...ere the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths;
zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-
shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking
tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you
wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and on...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad>
And we ourselves are language and are land,
together grew with Sheepfold Hill, rock, and hand,
and mind, all taking substance in a thought
wrought out of mystery: birdflight and air
predestined from the first to be a pair:
as, in the atom, the living rhyme
invented her divisions, which in time,
and in the terms of time, would make and break
the text, the texture, and then all remake.
This powerful mind that can by thinking take
the order of the world and all remake,
w...Read More

by Chaucer, Geoffrey
*Convicte that* ye both have bought so dear;       *ensnared that which*
As I said erst, thou ground of all substance!
Continue on us thy piteous eyen clear.


Moses, that saw the bush of flames red
Burning, of which then never a stick brenn'd,*                   *burned
Was sign of thine unwemmed* maidenhead.                     *unblemished
Thou art the bush, on which there gan descend
The Holy Ghost, the wh...Read More

by Pope, Alexander
Zoilus again would start up from the Dead.
Envy will Merit as its Shade pursue,
But like a Shadow, proves the Substance true;
For envy'd Wit, like Sol Eclips'd, makes known
Th' opposing Body's Grossness, not its own.
When first that Sun too powerful Beams displays,
It draws up Vapours which obscure its Rays;
But ev'n those Clouds at last adorn its Way,
Reflect new Glories, and augment the Day.

Be thou the first true Merit to befriend;
His Praise is lost, wh...Read More

by Homer,
...easons, queen Deo, be gracious, you and your daughter all beauteous Persephone, and for my song grant me heart-cheering substance. And now I will remember you and another song also. ...Read More

by Emerson, Ralph Waldo
And imagest the stable Good
For which we all our lifetime grope,
In shifting form the formless mind;
And though the substance us elude,
We in thee the shadow find.
Thou in our astronomy
An opaker star,
Seen, haply, from afar,
Above the horizon's hoop.
A moment by the railway troop,
As o'er some bolder height they speed,—
By circumspect ambition,
By errant Gain,
By feasters, and the frivolous,—
Recallest us,
And makest sane.
Mute orator! well-skilled to plead,
...Read More

by Milton, John
...Like doubtful hue. But he, his wonted pride 
Soon recollecting, with high words, that bore 
Semblance of worth, not substance, gently raised 
Their fainting courage, and dispelled their fears. 
Then straight commands that, at the warlike sound 
Of trumpets loud and clarions, be upreared 
His mighty standard. That proud honour claimed 
Azazel as his right, a Cherub tall: 
Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurled 
Th' imperial ensign; which, full high advanc...Read More

by Milton, John
...ite consume us, and reduce 
To nothing this essential--happier far 
Than miserable to have eternal being!-- 
Or, if our substance be indeed divine, 
And cannot cease to be, we are at worst 
On this side nothing; and by proof we feel 
Our power sufficient to disturb his Heaven, 
And with perpetual inroads to alarm, 
Though inaccessible, his fatal throne: 
Which, if not victory, is yet revenge." 
 He ended frowning, and his look denounced 
Desperate revenge, and battle dang...Read More

by Milton, John
...f other sort, 
So minded, have o'er-leaped these earthly bounds 
On purpose, hard thou knowest it to exclude 
Spiritual substance with corporeal bar. 
But if within the circuit of these walks, 
In whatsoever shape he lurk, of whom 
Thou tellest, by morrow dawning I shall know. 
So promised he; and Uriel to his charge 
Returned on that bright beam, whose point now raised 
Bore him slope downward to the sun now fallen 
Beneath the Azores; whether the prime orb, 
Incredi...Read More

by Milton, John
...o Man in part 
Spiritual, may of purest Spirits be found 
No ingrateful food: And food alike those pure 
Intelligential substances require, 
As doth your rational; and both contain 
Within them every lower faculty 
Of sense, whereby they hear, see, smell, touch, taste, 
Tasting concoct, digest, assimilate, 
And corporeal to incorporeal turn. 
For know, whatever was created, needs 
To be sustained and fed: Of elements 
The grosser feeds the purer, earth the sea, 
Earth and...Read More

by Milton, John
...may be sure, 
Which neither his foreknowing can prevent; 
And he the future evil shall no less 
In apprehension than in substance feel, 
Grievous to bear: but that care now is past, 
Man is not whom to warn: those few escaped 
Famine and anguish will at last consume, 
Wandering that watery desart: I had hope, 
When violence was ceased, and war on earth, 
All would have then gone well; peace would have crowned 
With length of happy days the race of Man; 
But I was far deceived...Read More

by Ashbery, John
...l sides, everywhere I look.
And I cannot explain the action of leveling,
Why it should all boil down to one
Uniform substance, a magma of interiors.
My guide in these matters is your self,
Firm, oblique, accepting everything with the same
Wraith of a smile, and as time speeds up so that it is soon
Much later, I can know only the straight way out,
The distance between us. Long ago
The strewn evidence meant something,
The small accidents and pleasures
Of the day as ...Read More

by Whitman, Walt
...and urge, and urge; 
Always the procreant urge of the world. 

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance—always substance and increase,
 always sex; 
Always a knit of identity—always distinction—always a breed of life. 

To elaborate is no avail—learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is

Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well entretied, braced in
 the beams, 
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical, 
I and this myster...Read More

by Wordsworth, William
...ersed in whate'er he bought and sold:  His troubles grew upon him day by day,  Till all his substance fell into decay.  His little range of water was denied; [3]  All but the bed where his old body lay.  All, all was seized, and weeping, side by side,  We sought a home where we uninjured might abide. [Footnote 3: Several of the Lakes in the north of England are let out to different ...Read More

by Tennyson, Alfred Lord
...lad that had a Psyche too; 
He cleft me through the stomacher; and now 
What think you of it, Florian? do I chase 
The substance or the shadow? will it hold? 
I have no sorcerer's malison on me, 
No ghostly hauntings like his Highness. I 
Flatter myself that always everywhere 
I know the substance when I see it. Well, 
Are castles shadows? Three of them? Is she 
The sweet proprietress a shadow? If not, 
Shall those three castles patch my tattered coat? 
For dear are ...Read More

by Pope, Alexander Engine clos'd,
A wretched Sylph too fondly interpos'd; 
Fate urg'd the Sheers, and cut the Sylph in twain,
(But Airy Substance soon unites again)
The meeting Points that sacred Hair dissever
From the fair Head, for ever and for ever!

Then flash'd the living Lightnings from her Eyes,
And Screams of Horror rend th' affrighted Skies.
Not louder Shrieks to pitying Heav'n are cast,
When Husbands or when Lap-dogs breath their last,
Or when rich China Vessels, fal'n from hig...Read More

by Khayyam, Omar
...impatient cried --
"Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?" 

Then said another -- "Surely not in vain
My Substance from the common Earth was ta'en,
That He who subtly wrought me into Shape
Should stamp me back to common Earth again." 

Another said -- "Why, ne'er a peevish Boy,
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy;
Shall He that made the vessel in pure Love
And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy?" 

None answer'd this; but aft...Read More

by Lowell, Amy
...ting breath. What made
That beautiful, dreadful thing, that shade
Of something so lovely, so exquisite,
Cast from a substance which the sight
Had not been tutored to perceive?
Paul brushed his eyes across his sleeve.
Clear-cut, the Shadow on the wall
Gleamed black, and never moved at all.

Paul's watches were like amulets,
Wrought into patterns and rosettes;
The cases were all set with stones,
And wreathing lines, and shining zones.
He knew the beauty in a cur...Read More

by Eliot, T S (Thomas Stearns)
...of Naples, so all the women are one woman,
and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact,
is the substance of the poem. The whole passage from Ovid is
of great anthropological interest:
 '. . . Cum Iunone iocos et maior vestra
profecto est
 Quam, quae contingit maribus,' dixisse,
 Illa negat; placuit quae sit sententia docti
 Quaerere Tiresiae: venus huic erat utraque nota.
 Nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
 Cor...Read More

by Shelley, Percy Bysshe unbind
The inmost lore of love--let the profane
Tremble to ask what secrets they contain.

And wondrous works of substances unknown,
To which the enchantment of her Father's power
Had changed those ragged blocks of savage stone,
Were heaped in the recesses of her bower;
Carved lamps and chalices, and phials which shone
In their own golden beams--each like a flower
Out of whose depth a firefly shakes his light
Under a cypress in a starless night.

At first she lived...Read More

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