10 Most Famous Lines of Poetry

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Text of 10 Most Famous Lines of Poetry

10 Most Famous Lines of Poetryby Ariion Kathleen BrindleyThe History of PoetryPoetry, from the Greek poesis meaning 'making' or 'creating', has a long history. Poetry as an art may out date literacy itself. In prehistoric and ancient societies, poetry was used as a way to record cultural events or tell stories. Poetry is amongst the earliest records of most cultures with poetic fragments found on monoliths, rune stones, and stelae.

The oldest surviving poem is the Epic of Gilgamesh. The poem, based on the history of King Gilgamesh, was written around 3000 BC in Sumer, Mesopotamia in cuneiform script on clay tablets.

Ancient societies such as the Chinese Shi Jing developed canons of poetic works to ritual, as well as aesthetic, importance. Recently, intellectuals have struggled to find a definition that covers the entire poetic compass from the differences of haiku to Shakespearean to slam poetry. Tatakiewicz, a Polish historian of aesthetics, wrote in The Concept of Poetry "poetry expresses a certain state of mind."

Aristotle's Poetics describes three genres of poetry: epic, comic and tragic. Aristotle's work was highly influential throughout the Middle East during the Islamic Golden Age, then through Europe during the Renaissance. Later, aestheticians described poetry to have three major genres: epic, lyric and dramatic, with dramatic holding the subcategories tragic and comedy. During early modern Western tradition, poets and aestheticians sought to distinguish poetry from prose by using the understanding that prose was written in a linear narrative form and used logical explication, while poetry was more abstract and beautiful.

Modern theorists rely less on opposing prose and poetry as to focusing on the poet as an artist. Intellectual disputes over the definition of poetry had erupted throughout the 20th century resulting in rejection of traditional forms and structures of poetry, coinciding with questioning of traditional definitions of poetry and its distinction between prose. More recently, post-modernists began to embrace the role of the reader and highlight the concept of poetry; incorporating its form from other cultures and the past.

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1How do I love thee? Let me count the waysHow Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Elizabeth Barrett BrowningBorn March 6, 1806, Durham, EnglandDied June 29, 1861, at age 55, Florence, Italy

Her first poem on record is from the age of six or eight. The manuscript is currently in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, but the exact date is doubtful because the "2" in the date 1812 is written over something else that is scratched out

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Elizabeth Barrett was born at Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England. Elizabeth was educated at home, learning Greek, Latin, and several modern languages at an early age. In 1819, her father arranged for the printing of one of her poems (she was 13 at the time.)

In 1821, Elizabeth injured her spine as a result of a fall. When her brother died in 1838, she seemingly became a permanent invalid. She spent the majority of her time in her room writing poetry. In 1844, Robert Browning wrote to Elizabeth admiring her Poems. He continued to write to her and they were engaged in 1845.

Elizabeth's father disapproved of the courtship and engagement. In 1846, Elizabeth and Robert were secretly wed. Soon the couple ran off to Italy where Elizabeth's health improved. She continued to live in the villa of Casa Guidi for the remainder of her life.

In 1850, Elizabeth's best known book of poems was published Sonnets from the Portugese. They are not translations, but a sequence of 44 sonnets recording the growth of her love for Robert. He often called her "my little Portuguese" because of her dark complextion.

Elizabeth's poems have a diction and rhythm evoking an attractive, spontaneouse quallity though some may seem sentimental. Many of her poems protest what she considered unjust social conditions. She also wrote poems appealing for political freedom for Italy and other countries controlled by foreign nations.

In 1861, Elizabeth Barrett Browning died at the age of 55. Her son, born 1849, and husband returned to England after her death.

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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.I love thee to the depth and breadth and heightMy soul can reach, when feeling out of sightFor the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday'sMost quiet need, by sun and candlelight.I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to useIn my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.I love thee with a love I seemed to loseWith my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose,I shall but love thee better after death.

2Water, water, every where,And all the boards did shrinkRime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Photo credit: State University College of New York at Fredoniawww.fredonia.eduSamuel Taylor ColeridgeBorn on October 21, 1772 in Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, England Died on July 25, 1834 in Highgate, near London In 1791 he left Cambridge University because of financial problems. He traveled to London to enlist in the 15th Dragoons, using the pseudonym Silas Tomkyn Comberbache. His friends, recognizing how ill-suited he was for military life, were able to buy him out of this improbable misconception of his destiny and persuaded him to return to Cambridge.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Two stanzas)

Water, water, every where,And all the boards did shrink;Water, water, every where,Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!That ever this should be!Yea, slimy things did crawl with legsUpon the slimy sea.

3Shall I compare thee to a summers dayby William Shakespeare

Photo credit: The Archbishop of Canterburywww.archbishopofcanterbury.org

William ShakespeareBaptised April 26, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England Died April 23, 1616 in New Place, his house in Stratford upon Avon, and was buried in Holy Trinity church in Stratford

At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, who bore him three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

He infamously left his second-best bed to his wife Anne Hathaway and little else, giving most of his estate to his eldest daughter Susanna who has married a prominent and distinguished physician named John Hall in June 1607. This was not as callous as it seems; the Bard's best bed was for guests; his second-best bed was his marriage bed. The Bard's direct line of descendants ended some 54 years later until Susannas daughter Elizabeth died in 1670.

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Shall I compare thee to a summers day (Sonnet 18)

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?Thou art more lovely and more temperate.Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,And often is his gold complexion dimmed;And every fair from fair sometime declines,By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed.

But thy eternal summer shall not fadeNor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

4Into the valley of DeathRode the six hundredCharge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Alfred Lord TennysonBorn August 6th, 1809, at Somersby, Lincolnshire, EnglandDied October 6, 1892, at the age of 83. He died at Aldwort and was buried in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey

Late in the 1830s Tennyson grew concerned about his mental health and visited a sanitarium run by Dr. Matthew Allen, with whom he later invested his inheritance (his grandfather had died in 1835) and some of his family's money. When Dr. Allen's scheme for mass-producing wood carvings using steam power went bankrupt, Tennyson, who did not have enough money to marry, ended his engagement to Emily Sellwood, whom he had met at his brother Charles's wedding to her sister Louisa.

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Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,Half a league onward,All in the valley of DeathRode the six hundred.`Forward, the Light Brigade!Charge for the guns!' he said:Into the valley of DeathRode the six hundred.

`Forward, the Light Brigade!'Was there a man dismay'd?Not tho' the soldier knewome one had blunder'd:Their's not to make reply,Their's not to reason why,Their's but to do and die:Into the valley of DeathRode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,Cannon to left of them,Cannon in front of themVolley'd and thunder'd;Storm'd at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well,Into the jaws of Death,Into the mouth of HellRode the six hundred.

Flash'd all the