It was once famously quoted by the celebrated poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge that “I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry, that is, prose is words in the best order and poetry is the best words in the best order”. Such was the impact of poets on culture from around the 16th century to late 19th century. Poets all over the world were inspired to write subtle pieces that captured the concentrated emotions of mankind and released them right at the moment when the reader reads by the carefully crafted verses. Poets didn’t limit themselves to the common day-to-day activities but even covered themes like war, corruption and many more. Today, these poems are considered a valuable artwork and their manuscripts well preserved to preserve their integrity in depicting human virtues and responses through the power of language. Many a poets have been widely remembered for their contribution to the English language that sealed them a permanent spot in the course of history for generations to come. Below are the top poets that have made a mark with their words and touched our hearts.
10. William Wordsworth
Wordsworth was born to John Wordsworth and Anne Coockson on 7 April, 1770 in northwest England as the second of five children. He was one of the pioneers of the introduction of the much talked about Romantic age in English Literature that left a a lasting impact on literary work and developments. One of the prime works under this movement was the “Lyrical Ballads” composed in 1798 that bears testimony to Wordsworth’s command over English literature. A poet’s ‘magnum opus’ is the best work produced by him, termed as a masterpiece. In case of Wordsworth, it was the “Prelude”. His poems “The Solitary Reaper” and “Anecdote for fathers” are some of his best works that to this day are taught to students all over the world. It was Wordsworth who said “Poetry is spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings having originated from emotions recollected in tranquility”. He served as the Poet Laureate of Britain from 1843 to 1850, the year he died.
9. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Coleridge was born to Rev. John Coleridge, a respected vicar, on 21 October, 1772 in the English countryside. He was a close friend of William Wordsworth and was proactive in establishing the Romantic Age. Coleridge is said to have been driven towards literature by classics like Robin son Crusoe and the Arabian Nights as is mentioned in his biography. His teacher also played an important role as he basked in his colourful guidance to produce some of the best works ever known, namely ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ that features one of the classy similes of English literature tools as “painted ship upon a painted ocean”. At the same time, he was a critic and philosopher and looked upon by his contemporary counterparts as a craftsmen of language. He died in the year 1834.
8. William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare is often heralded as the greatest literary giant that ever walked the planet. With over 154 sonnets under his coat, Shakespeare conquered the world of literature and gave it a new dimension. He was born at Stafford-Upon-Avon, his year of birth not precisely known. He enjoys great respect and reputation from critics all over the world. The most famous of his sonnets is sonnet 18, where the following lines are considered one of the best that has ever come by man’s hands,
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day
Thou art more lovely and more temperate…”
The Seven Ages was also an important poem of his career. He was basically a dramatist who has all the major plays under his cap. He died on 23 April, 1616.
7. Alfred Lord Tennyson
Hailed as one of the most popular poets of Britain, he was the Poet Laureate of Britain during the Victorian Age. Tennyson was born on 6 August, 1809 in Somersby. He had an extensive education background and was lauded by poets like Coleridge. What puts Tennyson apart from other poets is his portrayal of vivid imagery and music in his writings. He gave them an artistic touch using simple but powerful descriptions of even the most trivial happenings. This is seen in his famous poem “The Brook”, in the line “The river chatters and chatters as it flows” which instills in the reader a sense of realism achieved through verbal prowess. He died on 6 October at an age of 83.
6. Percy Shelley
Considered as one of the finest English Poets of the Romantic age , Percy Shelley ‘s writings gained popularity after his death. Born on August 4, 1792 the poet mainly explored the political and social conditions prevalent in the society at that time. Due to this fact, many publishers in fact refused to get his writings printed for they feared harsh consequences. Percy’s life had in depth effects on his personal and social life as well and his poems do express a great deal of melancholy in expression. Sadly, he was killed in a sea storm on 8 July 1822 at a tender age and gaining world recognition, sadly posthumously.
5. John Keats
John Keats was born on October 31, 1795 in Moorgate, London to Thomas and Frances Keats. Perhaps, another of the established Romantic poets, Keats received praise for his series of odes unto nature’s various facets. His writings were smooth in emotional flow and description. Unfortunately, only about 6 years into his passion, his health deteriorated on account of tuberculosis and he bid farewell to the world on 23 February, 1821 at a young age of 25. “Ode to the Nightingale” and “To Autumn” were some of his best works.
4. Lord Byron
Lord Byron was born on 22 January 1788. He was a prolific writer and is best known for his work “Don Juan”. He was active in politics and resented his competitors by his literary works. He is one of the most lauded poets of Britain although his personal life was black marked by scandals and credit issues. He became a part of the popular culture in his time . He succumbed to a violent fever on April 19, 1824.
3. Rabindranath Tagore
Born on 7 May 1861, he was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work Gitanjali in 1913 that was reviewed upon as being original and reviving spiritual and sympathetic feelings. Many of his Bengali poems lost their beauty in translation. A symbol of Bengal Renaissance, he modernised Bengali art and covered topics ranging from political issues to the personal ones. He let go his knighthood to protest against the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. One of the greatest poets the subcontinent has ever produced, he founded the Viswa Bharati Institute. One of his most famous works was “Where The Mind is Without Fear.”
2. Robert Frost
One of the most famous poets in America’s Literature front, Robert Frost is the recipient of 4 Pulitzer Prizes. His writings generally portrayed the typical rural life of the English countryside. His mastery over the rhythm with which he composed his lines stand testimonial to his being called upon the iconic literary figure of America. One of his most revered poems is the “Road Not Taken” which has the lines “I took the one less travelled by; And that has made all the difference” that is often quoted by many writers. Born on March 26, 1874, he died at the age of 88 at Boston, USA.
1. Maya Angelou
Born on April 4, 1928, Maya Angelou is an American poet who rose to critical acclaim with her work “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”. She has published numerous autobiographies, essays and poems mainly focusing on race and identity. In her literary life spanning for over 50 years she has received many a awards and a litany of honorary degrees from across the world for an outstanding contribution to political ideas and standpoints through her works. She is the most famous among the modern day contemporary writers. Though her poems did attract negative reviews, she has been well received and appreciated by social activists and readers across the globe.