Poetry has existed for millennia. And since those embryonic epic tales, writers of different cultures, peoples, and of all walks of life have together created an art form which spans the complete range of human emotions. By telling transfixing tales, spreading exciting ideas and expressing beauty and awe in the face of the natural world, poetry has never lost its magnetic appeal.
Though they may span many genres with diverse subjects and themes, the best poems are united by a mastery of language, rhythm and meter. The results may illuminate, titillate, entertain, amuse, and inspire.
We may find our own feelings reflected in the words of others, helping us to better understand ourselves. We may find joy in precise and witty wordplay, in tales of ordinary lives and pleasant, unremarkable happenings at last given the appreciation that they deserve.
But there is still firm ground for grand scope and scale, for poems that shake the earth. There are ancient legends, tales of Homeric heroes, but also the sounds of once quiet voices ringing out into the darkness, raging against the dying of the light.
It’s difficult then, given the immense scope and history of this art form, to pin down the best ten. Impossible even. But in our selection below, we’ve endeavoured to cover a broad range of subjects and ideas. Our choices may be famous poems, but that doesn’t change the fact that each of their writers has an unmistakable mastery of their craft. Here’s our list of the top 10 poems of all time.