National Poetry Day

It’s National Poetry Day in the UK today and we’re celebrating across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with some of our favourite poems. Some of our fabulous Historical team and authors let us know their choices, which you can read below. Do you have a favourite poem? Let us know in the comments below or on social media. We’d love to hear them! 

From Kathryn Cheshire, Assistant Editor:

Pablo Neruda – Poem 20


Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, ‘The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her. 
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her. 




From Virginia Heath:

John Cooper Clark – I Wanna Be Yours


I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your raincoat
for those frequent rainy days
I wanna be your dreamboat
when you want to sail away
Let me be your teddy bear
take me with you anywhere
I don’t care
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your electric meter
I will not run out
I wanna be the electric heater
you’ll get cold without
I wanna be your setting lotion
hold your hair in deep devotion
Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean
that’s how deep is my devotion.




From Diane Gaston:

Emily Bronte – Silent is the House


Come, the wind may never again
Blow as now it blows for us;
And the stars may never again shine as now they shine;
Long before October returns,
Seas of blood will have parted us;
And you must crush the love in your heart, and I the love in mine!

Diane also reccommends Tom Hiddleston reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 or E.E. Cummings’ May I Feel



From Elisabeth Hobbes

Dorothy Parker – One Perfect Rose


A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet–
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
“My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.




From Marguerite Kaye

John Donne – The Good Morrow (author’s selection from the poem)


If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.


For love, all love of other sights controls,

And makes one little room an everywhere.


My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,

And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;


TS Eliot – The Wasteland (author’s selection from the poem)


Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, a crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many.


Yeats – Easter 1916 (author’s selection from the poem)


All changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born.


William Plomer – The Dorking Thigh


About to marry and invest

Their lives in safety and routine

Stanley and June required a nest

And came down on the 4.15.


The agent drove them to the Posh Estate

And showed them several habitations.

None did. The afternoon got late

With questions, doubts, and explanations.


Then day grew dim and Stan fatigued

And disappointment raised its head,

But June declared herself intrigued

To know where that last turning led.


It led to a Tudor snuggery styled

‘Ye Kumfi Nooklet’ on the gate.

‘A gem of a home,’ the salesman smiled,

‘My pet place on the whole estate;


‘It’s not quite finished, but you’ll see

Good taste itself.’ They went inside.

‘This little place is built to be

A husband’s joy, a housewife’s pride.’


They saw the white convenient sink,

The modernist chimneypiece,

June gasped for joy, Stan gave a wink

To say, ‘Well, here our quest can cease.’


The salesman purred (he’d managed well)

And June undid a cupboard door.

‘For linen,’ she beamed. And out there fell

A nameless Something on the floor.


‘Something the workmen left, I expect,’

The agent said, as it fell at his feet,

Nor knew that his chance of a sale was wrecked.

‘Good heavens, it must be a join of meat!’


Ah yes, it was meat, it was meat all right,

A joint those three will never forget—

For they stood alone in the Surrey night

With the severed thigh of a plump brunette…


Early and late, early and late,

Traffic was jammed round the Posh Estate,

And the papers were full of the Dorking Thigh

And who, and when, and where, and why.


A trouser button was found in the mud

(Who made it? Who wore it? Who lost it? Who knows?)

But no one found a trace of blood

Or her body or face, or the spoiler of those.


He’s acting a play in the common air

On which no curtain can ever come down.

Though ‘Ye Kumfi Nooklet’ was shifted elsewhere

June made Stan take a flat in town.




From Carol Townend

Matthew Arnold – Dover Beach


The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! You hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back and fling
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.


Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.


The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long withdrawing roar,
Retreating to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.


Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.




From Elizabeth Rolls

William Shakespeare – Sonnet 116


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


Khalil Gibran – The Prophet


You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. 

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. 

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.


John Donne – The Sun Rising


Busy old fool, unruly Sun,

Why dost thou thus,

Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?

Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?

Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide

Late school-boys and sour prentices,

Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,

Call country ants to harvest offices;

Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,

Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.


Thy beams so reverend, and strong

Why shouldst thou think?

I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,

But that I would not lose her sight so long.

If her eyes have not blinded thine,

Look, and to-morrow late tell me,

Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine

Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me.

Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,

And thou shalt hear, “All here in one bed lay.”


She’s all states, and all princes I;

Nothing else is;

Princes do but play us; compared to this,

All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.

Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,

In that the world’s contracted thus;

Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be

To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.

Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;

This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.