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Great Poems Made Small



Ode On Inti­ma­tions Of Immor­tal­ity (Wordsworth)

When I was a boy, I was happy,
a dad to my very own pappy,
but when I grew old
the world struck me cold
and some­times I felt down­right crappy.

But as I grew wiser I learned
inside me God’s torches still burned,
and so now and then
I felt joy­ful again
as all the good feel­ing returned.


The Charge of the Light Brigade (Alfred, Lord Ten­nyson)

Not given to rea­son­ing why,
not choos­ing to make a reply,
though some­one had blun­dered
on rode the six hun­dred
and did what they did, which was die.


Let Me Not To The Mar­riage of True Minds (William Shake­speare)

To the mar­riage of true minds admit
no imped­i­ment; no, not one bit!
Prove that I lie
and you’ve also proved I
never loved, and what’s more, never writ.


Ozzie Redux (Ozy­man­dias, by Percy Shel­ley)

On a pedestal huge and Ionic
stood an emperor’s statue, iconic.
His carved words said “I’m
gonna last for all time,”
but the statue was bro­ken. Ironic.


Ode On A Gre­cian Urn (John Keats)

They live on a vase, no words spo­ken,
each fig­ure an image, a token.
If beauty is truth
there’s no end to youth
until this damn Gre­cian Urn’s bro­ken.


La Belle Dame Sans Merci (John Keats)

La belle dame I kissed in the grot
seemed per­fect at first. She was not.
Our pas­sion was deep
but she lulled me to sleep
then left me alone on this spot.

The moral, I’m sure you’ll agree:
la belle dame was lack­ing merci,
and no one should daily
be loi­ter­ing palely.
Oh learn from what hap­pened to me!


The Iliad (Homer)

Achilles and Hec­tor would grum­ble,
“Why, gods, won’t the city walls tum­ble?“
Imag­ine their joy
when the morons of Troy
were deaf to the horse belly’s rum­ble.

Or was it they thought, “indi­ges­tion,“
dis­miss­ing Cassandra’s sug­ges­tion
that maybe they should
put their ears to the wood,
if only to set­tle the ques­tion?


The Odyssey (Homer)

A war­rier known as Ulysses
went off, dis­ap­point­ing his Mrs.,
for twenty long years,
and she, through her tears,
refused all the suit­ors her kisses.

Or did she? Some gos­sipers claim
Pene­lope, being a dame,
lack­ing men’s armor
let one or two charm her,
besmirch­ing her husband’s good name.

But no, she con­sumed the years sit­ting.
And wait­ing. And knit­ting and knit­ting.
Her suit­ors unwit­ting,
her nightly unknit­ting
post­poned all their suits, as was fit­ting.


How Do I Love Thee? (Eliz­a­beth Brown­ing)

How do I love thee? My list:
up down and side­ways. The gist
is “every which way.“
What more can I say?
I’ll love thee when I don’t exist.


One Art (Eliz­a­beth Bishop)

My dar­ling, the fine art of los­ing
isn’t dif­fi­cult, hard or con­fus­ing.
Easy to mas­ter,
it was no dis­as­ter
to lose you, but wasn’t amus­ing.


Love Calls Us To The Things Of This World (Richard Wilbur)

I wake to the sound of a pul­ley,
my mind some­what foggy and wooly,
but soon love is call­ing.
Okay, no more stalling.
I pop out of bed, wak­ened fully.


Snow Man (Wal­lace Stevens)

A mind made of win­ter can stare
at the blank­ness of snow every­where
and not merely view
the noth­ing that’s true
but the noth­ing that’s not even there.

(all but the the last two lim­er­icks were orig­i­nally pub­lished in Bum­ber­shoot)