1. The Tyger by William Blake
This is probably the best known of Blake’s poems and has featured in many anthologies since its publication in 1794 as part of his Songs of Experience collection. It would be too simplistic to sum up the poem with the old cliché that appearances can be deceptive as it is more nuanced about how contrary life is so beauty can be evil.
2. The Owl & The Pussy Cat by Edward Lear
Lear’s classic and undoubtably his best known poem is always referred to as Nonsense Verse, a genre he perfected and whilst there are unlikely to be many unions between these species, it remains a delightful account of love and marriage.
3. Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
Probably the most famous Nonsense Verse ever written in the English language with many inventive made up words that easily convey their meaning both in context in this ballad of heroism and alone with a little imagination.
4. Snake by DH Lawrence
Lawrence provides an interesting take on his fear and loathing for the snake yet his respect for this venomous creature. We get his own inner thoughts and feelings as well the relationship between mankind and the snake in this wonderful slithering free verse.
5. The Mouse by Robert Burns
The full title of this poem is To a Mouse, On Turning Her up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785’ which suggests that it was written following a real event when someone, probably Burns himself was ploughing a field and accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest. It prompts compassion for all creatures big and small and helps us recognise how unpredictable life really is.
6. A Popular Personage at Home by Thomas Hardy
Not many poems are written in first dog narrative but this one is told by Wessex, Hardy’s beloved dog of 13 years who died in 1926. Not just for the dog lovers among us as it explores ideas of immortality and of course another Hardy’s love – the Wessex landscape.
7. Leda and the Swan by WB Yeats
Yeats’ sonnet tells the Greek myth of Zeus taking the form of a swan to rape Leda who appears helpless to the force of the swan. Yeats’ masterful use of language conveys power which makes this a truly evocative poem.
8. The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson
A short poem for Tennyson but one that packs a punch as he personifies this lone eagle high up on his mountain perch ‘close to the sun’ with strong figurative language. It remains a mystery why the eagle moves down.
9. Spider by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson recognises the spider as an artist, and a neglected genius whose creation we fail to recognise. She definitely does recognise it and would like to take the spider ‘by the hand’ and show her gratitude to his unpaid labours of love.
10. The Kitten & The Falling Leaves by William Wordsworth
Wordsworth was a Romantic and in this poem he touches on struggles that we all face in life as the kitten hunts its prey of falling leaves with tiger like speed oblivious to those watching.