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Famous Surprise Poems by Famous Poets

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

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by Walker, Alice
...Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny...Read more of this...

by Service, Robert William
...Today I opened wide my eyes,
And stared with wonder and surprise,
To see beneath November skies
An apple blossom peer;
Upon a branch as bleak as night
It gleamed exultant on my sight,
A fairy beacon burning bright
Of hope and cheer.

"Alas!" said I, "poor foolish thing,
Have you mistaken this for Spring?
Behold, the thrush has taken wing,
And Winter's near."
Serene it seemed to lift its head:
"The Winter'...Read more of this...

by Dickinson, Emily
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—


Volcanoes be in Sicily
And South America
I judge from my Geography—
Volcanos nearer here
A Lava step at any time
Am I inclined to climb—
A Crater I may contemplate
Vesuvius at home.


Rearrange a "Wife'...Read more of this...

by Keats, John
...his swift magic. Diving swans appear
Above the crystal circlings white and clear;
And catch the cheated eye in wild surprise,
How they can dive in sight and unseen rise--
So from the turf outsprang two steeds jet-black,
Each with large dark blue wings upon his back.
The youth of Caria plac'd the lovely dame
On one, and felt himself in spleen to tame
The other's fierceness. Through the air they flew,
High as the eagles. Like two drops of dew
Exhal'd to Phoebus'...Read more of this...

by Walker, Alice
...Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover t...Read more of this...

by Emerson, Ralph Waldo 30 
To-morrow for ever  
Free as an Arab 
Of thy beloved. 

Cling with life to the maid; 
But when the surprise 35 
First vague shadow of surmise  
Flits across her bosom young  
Of a joy apart from thee  
Free be she fancy-free; 
Nor thou detain her vesture's hem 40 
Nor the palest rose she flung 
From her summer diadem. 

Though thou loved her as thyself  
As a self of purer clay; 
Though her parting dims the day 45 
Stealing grace from all ...Read more of this...

by Keats, John of soft proclaim, and silver stir
Of strings in hollow shells; and there shall be
Beautiful things made new, for the surprise
Of the sky-children; I will give command:
Thea! Thea! Thea! where is Saturn?"
This passion lifted him upon his feet,
And made his hands to struggle in the air,
His Druid locks to shake and ooze with sweat,
His eyes to fever out, his voice to cease.
He stood, and heard not Thea's sobbing deep;
A little time, and then again he snatch'd
Utterance t...Read more of this...

by Byron, George (Lord)
And by the changes of his cheek and brow 
They were not such as Lara should avow, 
Nor he interpret, yet with less surprise 
Than those around their chieftain's state he eyes, 
But Lara's prostrate form he bent beside, 
And in that tongue which seem'd his own replied, 
And Lara heeds those tones that gently seem 
To soothe away the horrors of his dream; 
If dream it were, that thus could overthrow 
A breast that needed not ideal woe. 


Whate'er his frenzy d...Read more of this...

by Marvell, Andrew
...t a battle, from all gunshot free. 
Pleased with their numbers, yet in valour wise, 
They feign a parley, better to surprise; 
They that ere long shall the rude Dutch upbraid, 
Who in the time of treaty durst invade. 

Thick was the morning, and the House was thin, 
The Speaker early, when they all fell in. 
Propitious heavens, had not you them crossed, 
Excise had got the day, and all been lost. 
For the other side all in loose quarters lay, 
Without intellig...Read more of this...

by Collins, Billy
...t they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back t...Read more of this...

by Milton, John
...on the bodering Deep 
Encamp their legions, or with obscure wing 
Scout far and wide into the realm of Night, 
Scorning surprise. Or, could we break our way 
By force, and at our heels all Hell should rise 
With blackest insurrection to confound 
Heaven's purest light, yet our great Enemy, 
All incorruptible, would on his throne 
Sit unpolluted, and th' ethereal mould, 
Incapable of stain, would soon expel 
Her mischief, and purge off the baser fire, 
Victorious. Thus...Read more of this...

by Ashbery, John
...e Borghese "Young Prelate" and
The Naples "Antea" issue from Mannerist
Tensions, but here, as Freedberg points out,
The surprise, the tension are in the concept
Rather than its realization.
The consonance of the High Renaissance
Is present, though distorted by the mirror.
What is novel is the extreme care in rendering
The velleities of the rounded reflecting surface
(It is the first mirror portrait),
So that you could be fooled for a moment
Before you realize the refl...Read more of this...

by Angelou, Maya
...y kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing...Read more of this...

by Chesterton, G K
...d he thought how many a time had he
Sought to see Doom he could not see;
How ruin had come and victory,
And both were a surprise.

Even so he had watched and wondered
Under Ashdown from the plains;
With Ethelred praying in his tent,
Till the white hawthorn swung and bent,
As Alfred rushed his spears and rent
The shield-wall of the Danes.

Even so he had watched and wondered,
Knowing neither less nor more,
Till all his lords lay dying,
And axes on axes plying,
Flung hi...Read more of this...

by Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
...whisper, and then a silence: 
Yet I know by their merry eyes 
They are plotting and planning together 
To take me by surprise. 

A sudden rush from the stairway, 
A sudden raid from the hall! 
By three doors left unguarded 
They enter my castle wall! 

They climb up into my turret 
O'er the arms and back of my chair; 
If I try to escape, they surround me; 
They seem to be everywhere. 

They almost devour me with kisses, 
Their arms about me entwine, 
...Read more of this...

by Goldsmith, Oliver
...nature's simplest charms at first arrayed;
But verging to decline, its splendours rise,
Its vistas strike, its palaces surprise;
While, scourged by famine, from the smiling land
The mournful peasant leads his humble band;
And while he sinks, without one arm to save,
The country blooms—a garden, and a grave.

Where then, ah! where, shall poverty reside,
To 'scape the pressure of contiguous pride?
If to some common's fenceless limits strayed,
He drives his flock to pick th...Read more of this...

by Bridges, Robert Seymour
...orm my sails I feather, and where
By freezing cliffs the unransom'd wreckage lies:
Or, strutting on hot meridian banks, surprise
The silence: over plains in the moonlight bare
I chase my shadow, and perch where no bird dare
In treetops torn by fiercest winds of the skies. 
Poor simple birds, foolish birds! then I cry,
Ye pretty pictures of delight, unstir'd
By the only joy of knowing that ye fly;
Ye are not what ye are, but rather, sum'd in a word,
The alphabet of a god's...Read more of this...

by Carroll, Lewis
 Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
 Could atone for that dismal surprise!

It strongly advised that the Butcher should be
 Conveyed in a separate ship:
But the Bellman declared that would never agree
 With the plans he had made for the trip:

Navigation was always a difficult art,
 Though with only one ship and one bell:
And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
 Undertaking another as well.

The Beaver's b...Read more of this...

by Scott, Sir Walter pace;
     He showed the sign, he named the place,
     And, pressing forward like the wind,
     Left clamor and surprise behind.
     The fisherman forsook the strand,
     The swarthy smith took dirk and brand;
     With changed cheer, the mower blithe
     Left in the half-cut swath his scythe;
     The herds without a keeper strayed,
     The plough was in mid-furrow staved,
     The falconer tossed his hawk away,
     The hunter left the stag at hay;
    ...Read more of this...

by Robinson, Edwin Arlington
...e skies
For such a flaming way to advertise; 
He may have been a painter sick at heart 
With Nature’s toiling for a new surprise; 
He may have been a cynic, who now, for all 
Of anything divine that his effete
Negation may have tasted, 
Saw truth in his own image, rather small, 
Forbore to fever the ephemeral, 
Found any barren height a good retreat 
From any swarming street,
And in the sun saw power superbly wasted; 
And when the primitive old-fashioned stars 
Came out again...Read more of this...

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