Pocket Poets: Kipling - Burns - Keats - Wordsworth

Kipling: 'If_'
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies

Burns: A Red, Red Rose
O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve's like a melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass.

Keats: 'Ode to a Nightingale'
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thy happiness

Wordsworth: 'Daffodils'
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Rudyard Kipling was born in India in 1865, and returned there after schooling in England to take up a career as a journalist. From that simple beginning flowed the poems, short stories and children's books, as well as novels and non-fiction, that would bring him to a peak of popularity, both in Britain and America, that can scarcely be credited today.
To dismiss Kipling as simply an imperialist verse-smith who wrote some engaging children's tales is not only to misjudge both the man and the writer, but also to fail to understand the nature and intention of so much of his poetry. For beyond the occasional bombast, or the expression of ideas belonging now to a past so distant that they have lost all context, lay great warmth of feeling for all humanity, regardless of race or creed.

In a tragically short life, Robert Burns (1759-96) forged for himself a reputation as a poet and a songwriter that has never been eclipsed. Today he is widely accepted as the greatest of all Scottish poets, and his verse remains among the most popular in the whole world. He has the distinction, even above Shakespeare, of being the world's most translated poet.
Born the son of a smallholder, Burns was entirely self-educated - no mean task for a farm labourer. A wide knowledge of, and an assured ear for, old Scots verse and songs led to publication of his early poems in 1786. The collection's huge popularity made the twenty-seven-year-old a social as well as a literary sensation, and assured the publication of later volumes of poetry, as well as collections of old Scottish songs, with their music. His skill in employing conversational rhythmns in poetry has always made his verse enormously accessible, despite his widespread use of the Scots vernacular, and he is best known for his dialect lyrical verse on nature, love, patriorism, and rural life, as well as for such well-loved songs as 'Auld Lang Syne' and 'Scots, Wha Hae'. This little collection celebrates the work of the poor-farmer-turned-exciseman who became, literally, the voice of an entire nation, a poet who was as skilful with bawdy ballads as he was with great lyrics on philosophical subjects.

John Keats died from consumption in Rome in February 1821. He was twenty-five years old. Arguably the greatest of all the English Romantic poets, he left behind him an astonishingly large body of work almost as remarkable for its maturity as for its beauty.
Whether in his longer narrative works like 'The Eve of St Agnes', or in sonnets such as 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer', or in his magnificent odes like 'To Autumn', Keats's verse resonates with lyricism and with sensuous imagery, however melancholy his tone or his subject. His finest poems are among the greatest in the language; almost all of them strike a chord in the heart of even the most prosaic reader.

William Wordsworth is today chiefly remembered as one of the 'Lake Poets'. Yet it can be easy to forget that, with his friend Coleridge, he was one of the founders of English Romanticism, a writer whose early revolutionary fervour imbued, and often inspired, both his verse and his ideals.
Born in the Lake District in 1770, much of Wordsworth's work was inspired by nature, but to a style rich in lyrical imagery he brought a deep interest in humanitarianism, and a profound concern for the lives, habits and speech of ordinary people, especially country people. Such things do not change greatly over the centuries, one of the reasons why the best of his poetry will strike answering echoes in the soul of even the most jaded reader.

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