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Famous Surface Poems by Famous Poets

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

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by Brackenridge, Hugh Henry
...s bride, 
That hush'd to silence by the song divine 
Thy melancholy waters, and the gales 
O Hebrus! which o'er thy sad surface blow. 
No more the maids round Alpheus' waters stray 
Where he with Arethusas' stream doth mix, 
Or where swift Tiber disembogues his waves 
Into th' Italian sea so long unsung. 
Hither they've wing'd their way, the last, the best 
Of countries where the arts shall rise and grow 
Luxuriant, graceful; and ev'n now we boast 
A Franklin skill'd ...Read More

by Smart, Christopher
...Which nature frames of light escape, 
 Devouring man to shun: 
The shells are in the wealthy deep, 
The shoals upon the surface leap, 
 And love the glancing sun. 

Of beasts—the beaver plods his task, 
While the sleek tigers roll and bask, 
 Nor yet the shades arouse: 
Her cave the mining coney scoops;
Where o'er the mead the mountain stoops, 
 The kids exult and browse. 

Of gems—their virtue and their price, 
Which hid in earth from man's device, 
 The...Read More

by Milosz, Czeslaw
Or they are wronged and call for your help.

Do not gaze into the pools of the past.
Their corroded surface will mirror
A face different from the one you expected.

He who invokes history is always secure.
The dead will not rise to witness against him.

You can accuse them of any deeds you like.
Their reply will always be silence.

Their empty faces swim out of the deep dark.
You can fill them with any feature desired.

Proud ...Read More

by Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
...words are not idle; nor are they to me without meaning.
Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface
Is as the tossing buoy, that betrays where the anchor is hidden.
Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions.
Gabriel truly is near thee; for not far away to the southward,
On the banks of the Teche, are the towns of St. Maur and St. Martin.
There the long-wandering bride shall be given again to her bridegr...Read More

by Alighieri, Dante
 This song they gurgle in their throats, that so 
 The bubbles rising from the depths below 
 Break all the surface of the slime." 

 The high bank and the putrid swamp was seen 
 A narrow path, and this, a sweeping arc, 
 We traversed; outward o'er the surface dark 
 Still gazing, at the choking shades who took 
 That diet for their wrath. Till livelier look 
 Was forward drawn, for where at last we came 
 A great tower fronted, and a beacon's f...Read More

by Collins, Billy
...sper it into each of his long white ears.

It's the one about the one-ton temple bell
with the moth sleeping on its surface,

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it at the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.

And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are th...Read More

by Byron, George (Lord)
...ting Night 
Guides with her star their dim and torchless flight; 
Already they perceive its tranquil beam 
Sleep on the surface of the barrier stream; 
Already they descry — Is yon the bank? 
Away! 'tis lined with many a hostile rank. 
Return or fly! — What glitters in the rear? 
'Tis Otho's banner — the pursuer's spear! 
Are those the shepherds' fires upon the height? 
Alas! they blaze too widely for the flight: 
Cut off from hope, and compass'd in the toil, 
Less blood,...Read More

by Whitman, Walt
...n the unreach’d sky. 

Along all history, down the slopes, 
As a rivulet running, sinking now, and now again to the surface rising, 
A ceaseless thought, a varied train—Lo, soul! to thee, thy sight, they rise,
The plans, the voyages again, the expeditions: 
Again Vasco de Gama sails forth; 
Again the knowledge gain’d, the mariner’s compass, 
Lands found, and nations born—thou born, America, (a hemisphere unborn,) 
For purpose vast, man’s long probation fill’d,
Thou, rondu...Read More

by Whitman, Walt’d till their
 becomes scarlet.

Or, another time, mackerel-taking, 
Voracious, mad for the hook, near the surface, they seem to fill the water for miles: 
Or, another time, fishing for rock-fish, in Chesapeake Bay—I one of the brown-faced
Or, another time, trailing for blue-fish off Paumanok, I stand with braced body, 
My left foot is on the gunwale—my right arm throws the coils of slender rope,
In sight around me the quick veering and darting of fifty s...Read More

by Whitman, Walt
...farms, hamlets, ruins, grave-yards, jails, factories, palaces, hovels, huts
 barbarians, tents of nomads, upon the surface; 
I see the shaded part on one side, where the sleepers are sleeping—and the sun-lit part on
 other side, 
I see the curious silent change of the light and shade, 
I see distant lands, as real and near to the inhabitants of them, as my land is to me.

I see plenteous waters; 
I see mountain peaks—I see the sierras of Andes and Alleghanies, w...Read More

by Ashbery, John
...The soul establishes itself.
But how far can it swim out through the eyes
And still return safely to its nest? The surface
Of the mirror being convex, the distance increases
Significantly; that is, enough to make the point
That the soul is a captive, treated humanely, kept
In suspension, unable to advance much farther
Than your look as it intercepts the picture.
Pope Clement and his court were "stupefied"
By it, according to Vasari, and promised a commission
That nev...Read More

by Whitman, Walt
 winter-grain falls in the ground; 
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in the frozen
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep with his
Flatboatmen make fast, towards dusk, near the cottonwood or pekan-trees; 
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river, or through those
 drain’d by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansaw; 
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahoo...Read More

by Seeger, Alan
...this antique tower
The bougainvillea hangs a crimson crown,
Wistaria-vines and clematis in flower,
Wreathing the lower surface further down,
Hide the old plaster in a very shower
Of motley blossoms like a broidered gown.
Outside, ascending from the garden grove,
A crumbling stairway winds to the one room above.

And whoso mounts by this dismantled stair
Finds the old pleasure-hall, long disarrayed,
Brick-tiled and raftered, and the walls foursquare
Ringed all about w...Read More

by Bukowski, Charles
...s," she said, "no zap. They are riding on
their perfect little earlobes and well- shaped nostrils...all surface and no
insides..." She had a temper that came close to insanity, she had a temper that some
call insanity. Her father had died of alcohol and her mother had run off leaving the
girls alone. The girls went to a relative who placed them in a convent. The convent had
been an unhappy place, more for Cass than the sisters. The ...Read More

by Coleridge, Mary Elizabeth
...fierce revenge, 
And strength that could not change nor tire. 

Shade of a shadow in the glass, 
O set the crystal surface free! 
Pass - as the fairer visions pass - 
Nor ever more return, to be 
The ghost of a distracted hour, 
That heard me whisper: - 'I am she!'...Read More

by Walcott, Derek
I saw that the powdery sand was their bones
ground white from Senegal to San Salvador,
so, I panic third dive, and surface for a month
in the Seamen's Hostel. Fish broth and sermons.
When I thought of the woe I had brought my wife,
when I saw my worries with that other woman,
I wept under water, salt seeking salt,
for her beauty had fallen on me like a sword
cleaving me from my children, flesh of my flesh!

There was this barge from St. Vincent, but she was t...Read More

by Byron, George (Lord)
...eform shall happen either here or there. 


He first sank to the bottom - like his works, 
But soon rose to the surface — like himself; 
For all corrupted things are bouy'd like corks,(4) 
By their own rottenness, light as an elf, 
Or wisp that flits o'er a morass: he lurks, 
It may be, still, like dull books on a shelf, 
In his own den, to scrawl some 'Life' or 'Vision,' 
As Welborn says — 'the devil turn'd precisian.' 


As for the rest, to come to the conc...Read More

by Shelley, Percy Bysshe
...crept afar.
And, when the windless snow descended thicker
Than autumn-leaves, she watched it as it came
Melt on the surface of the level flame.

She had a boat which some say Vulcan wrought
For Venus, as the chariot of her star;
But it was found too feeble to be fraught
With all the ardours in that sphere which are,
And so she sold it, and Apollo bought
And gave it to this daughter: from a car,
Changed to the fairest and the lightest boat
Which ever upon mortal stream...Read More

by Atwood, Margaret
(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
you will be able to see me.)...Read More

by Brecht, Bertolt
...yond my reaching.
That's how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.


You who will come to the surface
From the flood that's overwhelmed us and drowned us all
Must think, when you speak of our weakness in times of darkness
That you've not had to face:

Days when we were used to changing countries
More often than shoes,
Through the war of the classes despairing
That there was only injustice and no outrage.

Even so we realised
Hatred of oppression ...Read More

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