Everybody has at least one favourite quote.
Whether it’s inspirational, motivational or simply interesting, the quotations we collect and live our lives by say a lot about our attitude.
Many of the world’s best-known quotes come from the works of well-known writers from various eras, and due to its nature, poetry has become a treasure trove for poetry book readers looking for a guiding lyric to carry with them.
Poets seek to observe and explain the human experience and the world around us in great detail and with utmost precision. The poignancy of the words in the carefully-crafted stanzas which make up poems is what makes them striking and memorable to poets and non-poets alike.
In addition to the many popular quotations which are produced by poets in their poetic works, there are also many insightful quotes about the art of poetry itself which have come from various notable figures.
So, if you’re a self-confessed poetry addict looking to get others interested in poetry, or you’re simply looking for a poetical quote to describe your current situation, we’ve rounded up several of the best quotations from poetry, as well as quotes about poetry to inspire your poetry reading and writing.
Well-Known Quotes from Famous Poems
The literary scene and the practice of poetry writing have been around for millennia, so there has been plenty of time for it to produce and circulate poems of all genres and forms.
The result of thousands of years of poetic tradition can be seen in the way poetry has become a wide and diverse art form in its own right. Another consequence of the prevalence of poetry throughout history has been the common knowledge of various recognisable lines of poetry from a wide range of authors and time periods.
Here are some of our favourite poetry quotes, which ones do you recognise?
“And thus the heart will break, yet brokenly live on” - Lord Byron
This poignant quote from Lord Byron’s narrative poem, Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage, expresses the melancholic view of the world that many of his companions held in the early 1800’s. The poem documents the travels of a young, privileged man who has become fed up with his lifestyle, and travels the world to find a deeper meaning.
“A sadder and a wiser man, he rose the morrow morn” - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
This line brings an end to the lyrical ballad, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As a wedding guest who ends up missing the party as he is prevented from entering it by the Mariner, who has a painful need to tell his story. After having listened to the Mariner’s tale, and being advised by the Mariner to love others, the wedding guest decides that he does not want to attend the party after all and returns home to sleep. As the famous lines go, he awoke the next morning sadder yet wiser. Perhaps this highlights that sometimes, one must endure emotional hardship in order to grow as a person.
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” - William Shakespeare
One of the most famous lines from Hamlet by William Shakespeare, many people hold this as a lesson by which to live their lives. Said by the character Polonius, this phrase points out that as long as one is true to oneself, there is no need to attempt to be true to any other person.
“Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favour” - Robert Frost
This striking affirmation from The Black Cottage, penned in 1915 by American poet, Robert Frost, tells of the permanence and subjectivity of the world in which we live. As a whole, the poem features two characters: the poet and a minister. While the minister speaks of the changes he nearly made to his church service to accommodate the younger members of his congregation, it becomes apparent that he has trouble dealing with the change happening around him. It is at this point that the poet offers an alternative view of change: that perceived change may sometimes be due to changing opinions, rather than concrete change itself.
“Society is now one polish'd horde, form'd of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored” - Lord Byron
In this pessimistic line from the 13th canto of the satiric poem, Don Juan, Lord Byron states his view on the way the world was heading in the early 19th century. He views people as belonging to one of two groups: the bored (those who bore others) and the bored (those who are bored by the bored).
Not only does this highlight Lord Byron’s view of the public as uninteresting, but it also portrays society as dependent and inward-looking.
Byron’s poem was based on the famous Spanish legend of Don Juan, however, as his is a satirical work, Byron has inverted the story and portrayed the hero as a desperate man.
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“To Autumn: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” - John Keats
The famous ode to Autumn written by John Keats in 1819 starts with this as its first line. Throughout the poem, Keats personifies the season and details the characteristics which give it its distinctive feel – perhaps his putting an atmosphere into words is what makes this poem so popular?
Quotes About Poetry
There are no greater poetry experts than the poets themselves. During the past few centuries, many remarks have been made on the place poetry holds in culture, the process of crafting a poem, and what sets poetry aside from other forms of literature.
Here are some of the most famous things that have been said about poetry by poets themselves:
“Prose = words in their best order; Poetry = the best words in the best order” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Ironically, this is one of Coleridge’s best-known quotes, however, it is not something he wrote; it’s something he said, which was jotted down by his nephew. It’s not difficult to decipher the meaning: while writing in full sentences which follow grammatical rules suits the way a language explains concepts, sticking to a specific structure or rhyme scheme and carefully choosing the words to fit is what makes poetry different from prose.
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.” – William Wordsworth
This famous definition comes from the preface to Wordsworth’s collection of lyrical ballads and expresses his opinion on how poetry should be inspired. Wordsworth’s belief that poetry is borne of the experiencing and acknowledging of emotion is typical of poets writing in the romantic era that he helped begin.
“Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.” – Robert Frost
Frost’s controversial opinion of free verse is that it is easier to write than other poetic structures as it is less restrictive. He shared this opinion in the early 20th century, at a time when the use of free verse in contemporary poetry had steadily been rising.
Free verse poetry is characterised by its lack of a specific metre, and free verse poems are usually organised instead by ideas or imagery. Some poets whose work has been categorised as ‘free verse’ include Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams.
“Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.” – Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg’s view of poetry as the thoughts and feelings of creative minds who feel out-of-place in the world in which they live. In addition, this quotation also draws attention to the ability of poetry to offer a means of making something of the impossible and turning dreams into something creative.
“Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.” – Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas’ detailed explanation of what aspects of a poem define poetry outlines the large variety of effects poems can have on readers as well as explaining the value that reading and writing poetry can add to the human experience. This quote tells of how poetry goes beyond words to make people feel something, whether it be strength, unity or another, indescribable feeling.