This probably won’t come as a surprise but a poem by Shakespeare has been voted the greatest of all time. His poem Sonnet 18 came in first place in a UK-wide poll of the nation’s favourite poetry. Despite the fact that it was penned 400 years ago, the 14-line musing on beauty, mortality, and the endurance of art has remained in the popular consciousness; evidenced by the fact that there are many more contemporary pieces in the list.
The 18th of William Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets was chosen by 18% of those polled as their favorite literary work. It beat other works by other perennial artists such as William Wordsworth and John Keats.
The sonnets in the “Fair Youth” sequence are said to be intended for a handsome young man who may have been of romantic interest. The poem appears to be a conventional poem celebrating beauty, like the other sonnets. However, it ends with a couplet asserting that only his verse can immortalize the youth.
The sonnet won out over Wordsworth’s rhapsodic nature poetry I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, also known as Daffodils. This is another fantastic poem which conjures up the grandeur of the Lake District and was chosen by 10% of those polled.
In a study conducted by research firm Perspectus Global, 9% of respondents chose Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic classic The Raven. The same figure also chose Rudyard Kipling’s somber poem, If.
Other traditional English poets are represented in the top 20 list. Included are poems by William Blake, Lord Byron and Wilfred Owen.
However, more current poetry is included on the list. It features Benjamin Zephaniah’s Dis Poetry and I Still Rise by Maya Angelou. Also included is Carol Ann Duffy’s The Way My Mother Speaks. Other contemporary compositions like George the Poet’s song Cat D feature on the list. Shakespeare’s 17th-century sonnet still takes the prime position in the poll though. Despite the fact that a love poem came in first and several romantic pieces are among the top 20, the survey found that just one in ten adults in the UK could recite romantic verse online.
The list of best poems ever written
- Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day – William Shakespeare 18%
- Daffodils – William Wordsworth 10%
- The Raven – Edgar Allen Poe 9%
- If – Rudyard Kipling 9%
- Jabberwocky – Lewis Carroll 8%
- Still, I Rise – Maya Angelou 7%
- How Do I Love Thee – Elizabeth Barrett Browning 7%
- She Walks in Beauty – Lord Byron 6%
- Ode to a Nightingale – John Keats 6%
- Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas 6%
- The Highwayman – Alfred Noyes 6%
- Ozymandias – Percy Bysshe Shelley 6%
- Dulce et Decorum est – Wilfred Owen 6%
- The Tyger – William Blake 6%
- Paradise Lost – John Milton 6%
- Remember – Christina Rossetti 5%
- Dis Poetry – Benjamin Zephaniah 5%
- The Lady of Shalott – Lord Tennyson 5%
- For Women Who Are Difficult to Love – Warsan Shire 5%
- Yes, I’ll Marry You – Pam Ayres 5%
- The Way My Mother Speaks – Carol Ann Duffy 5%
- The Point – Kae Tempest 5%
- (I Married a) Monster from Outer Space – John Cooper Clarke 5%
- Cat D – George the Poet 4%
- Cocoon – Holly Poetry 4%