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Subject Index - Life

Alexander Catching the Winter Sun

Most poems categorically are either about love or death, or are metaphors for them. Poems about life sometime touch upon all four of these things, or, more rarely, none of them at all. One of the most quoted, or at least paraphrased. is To a Mouse by Burns.

Some, like those of Howard, Kipling and Wotton, are simple words to live by, while the title of Up-Hill perfectly summarizes Rossetti's elegantly stated dialogue. Some, like The Echoing Green or The Tree of My Life are metaphors for our changing viewpoint or identity as our lives go by.

Several, like the poems by Dunbar, Henry Van Dyke, and Wilcox, argue that the key to life is learning to take the bitter with the sweet. Carpe Diem, Inspiration, and Time are related categories to peruse, as is Stages of Life.


  1. I hear America singing by Walt Whitman
    Life as a song, based on what you do...


  2. The Echoing Green by William Blake
    A simple poem to read, but filled with more metaphors than you can shake a stick at.


  3. Up-Hill by Christina Rossetti
    Life is "Up-Hill" all the way, according to Rossetti - another simple poem, a conversation, packed with layers of meaning.


  4. Christina Rossetti
  5. My Friend, The Things That Do Attain by Henry Howard
    Advice on the balances that create a happy life -- nearly five centuries old and still hard to argue with.


  6. Chiarascuro: Rose by Conrad Aiken
    An existential dialogue on life with some lovely lines in it.


  7. To a Mouse by Robert Burns
    The original Scots poem from which we get the phrase "best laid plans..."


  8. In the Long Run by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
    Wilcox proposes her equation of life and love.


  9. A Little Song of Life by Lizette Woodworth Reese
    A short song of the things to be grateful for.


  10. If all the skies were sunshine by Henry Van Dyke
    The need for contrast in life.


  11. If by Rudyard Kipling
    Kipling's advice on how to be successful in life, "IF you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you..."


  12. Improvisations: Light and Snow by Conrad Aiken
    Small, almost movie-like vignettes of life.


  13. The Tree of My Life by Edward Rowland Sill
    A literal metaphor for putting down roots.


  14. Barter by Sara Teasdale
    Beautiful thoughts and words.


  15. History of a Life by Barry Cornwall
    An entire Somerset Maugham novel in 15 lines.


  16. The Character of a Happy Life by Sir Henry Wotton
    On a life free of entanglements and obligations.


  17. Charles Kingsley
  18. Rabbi Ben Ezra by Robert Browning
    Sort of a Carpe Diem poem for AARP, if that makes any sense.


  19. Life's Harmonies by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
    It is the bitterness that makes things sweet.


  20. Young and Old by Charles Kingsley
    Observations on life, and a very specific wish.


  21. Life by Paul Laurence Dunbar
    Another picture of life, again the bitter and the sweet.


  22. Figs by Edna St. Vincent Millay
    You've heard these many times, perhaps without knowing it.


  23. Love of Life by Tertius Van Dyke
    A poet's more subtle version of the 'bucket list'.



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