Two Poems

Almost all children love to hear stories. I probably never outgrew that stage, because to this day my favourite poems are those which tell a story!

I was very young when I first read “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.

His description of the night when the the Highwayman came riding is so graphic, that we immediately picture the scene in our imagination-

The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding–
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.

The story has all the drama of a thriller! When King George’s Redcoats tie up the landlord’s daughter, and sit down to wait for her lover- the highwayman- the poet tells us-

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

And also elements of a ghost story at the end, because, even after the lovers die-

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,

-the Highwayman still comes riding, and Bess, the landlord’s daughter can still be seen plaiting a love-knot in her hair at the window!

Another poem that I love is “Kubla Khan” by S.T.Coleridge.

There is an interesting story about how Coleridge came to write this wonderful poem. Coleridge claimed that he was inspired to write this poem because of an opium induced dream. While writing it down, he was interrupted. and lost ‘the vision’ of most of the dream. What was left is this poem.

History tells us that Kubla Khan claimed he had the mandate of heaven to rule, and obtained control over an entire kingdom. His summer home was in Shangdu/ Xanadu and he had a residence ‘suitable for a son of God’ built there.

Coleridge begins his story of the building of this palatial residence thus-

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

To create the palace and the grounds-

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree

The whole poem has a dreamlike quality which is heightened by the images which flow through the poem one after the other.
In later lines the images become fantastical-

It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

Further on, the ordered atmosphere of Kubla Khan’s palace gives way to dark and menacing surroundings and situations which the emperor cannot control-

A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !

and finally-

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :

And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !

At the end the poet identifies with Kubla Khan and the last stanza can be applied to both-

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,

And the last two lines are a reference to Kubla Khan’s power and wealth. He had bred 10,000 horses at this palace- and only he himself, and those who enjoyed his special favour were allowed to drink their milk-

For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

What about you? Any story- poems that you specially like?




  1. Manju,"IF" by Rudyard Kipling. Read the whole thing Here ….I often think todays young people need to learn and understand this . Kind of grounds you wonderfully in a world with so many momentary attractions and illusions.the last stanza :If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;If all men count with you, but none too much,If you can fill the unforgiving minuteWith sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!We used to recite this whole thing in our school days….and loved it.


  2. Manju: Thanks for rekindling memories in such a lovely manner…yes those poems were something…. nd as you say, the ones with stories can get your attention any day..loved the Rudyard one too by Ugich… profound and inspiring..


  3. The highwayman was part of the English syllabus. And i used to be saddened by his death. Perhaps expecting a tamil movie hero type of bashing up twenty people with one pistol and a Tata Sumo ! I was always saddened, when i read the poem. Because of which, the flow in the rest of the English exam suffered….!Sigh !


  4. Thanks for sharing these Manju. Some people can weave magic with their words. Lesser mortals, try.There is another immortal 'If' poem, author I forget:If you think you are beaten, you are,If you think you dare not, you don't.If you like to win, but think you can't,It is almost certain you won'tIf you think you'll lose, you're lostFor out of the world we findSuccess begins with a fellow's willIt's all in the state of mindIf you think you are outclassed, you are,You've got to think high to rise,you've got to be sure of yourself beforeYou can ever win a prizeLife's battles don't always goTo the stronger or faster man,But soon or late the man who winsIs the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!


  5. Ugich Konitari– I remember this poem- wonderful advice for youngsters- for everyone really!Happy Kitten – Yes, sometimes it's nice to read again the poems we first read years ago, isn't it?Kavi– Lol! Even this poem seems to be more realistic than Indian movies!


  6. Vinodji– Very inspiring- 'mind over matter'!Smitha– I agree, Rudyard Kipling's 'If' is a wonderful poem.Renu– Yes, 'The Highwayman' is very tragic- we feel so sorry for the lovers!


  7. I like the poem A Psalm of Life by Longfellow – and especially the lines – Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.and Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time;


  8. Mavin– Glad you like them!Kanagu– I cannot believe that, because you write very well! Poetry is not really very different from prose. 🙂


  9. *sigh* I can see that apparently I messed up while submitting the comment…last night I left a long comment…describing my fav ones:)the one mentioned by Ugich is my fav too:) If by Rudyard , then 'WHere the mind is without fear'by Rabindranath Tagore never fails to stir… and this one by Dushyat Kumar is a classic1 the sheer energy is awesome..the urge to do something…हो गई है पीर पर्वत-सी पिघलनी चाहिएइस हिमालय से कोई गंगा निकलनी चाहिएआज यह दीवार, परदों की तरह हिलने लगी,शर्त लेकिन थी कि ये बुनियाद हिलनी चाहिएहर सड़क पर, हर गली में, हर नगर, हर गाँव मेंहाथ लहराते हुए हर लाश चलनी चाहिएसिर्फ हंगामा खड़ा करना मेरा मकसद नहीं,सारी कोशिश है कि ये सूरत बदलनी चाहिएमेरे सीने में नहीं तो तेरे सीने में सहीहो कहीं भी आग, लेकिन आग जलनी चाहिए।आग जलनी चाहिए- दुष्यन्त कुमार (Dushyant Kumar)also love HArivanshrai's MAdhushala:)Merry Christmas and warm wishes for you and yours for the year ahead MAnju:))((((((((((hugs)))))))love:)


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