Poetry sets itself apart from other forms of writing because it concentrates on the little things. Sure, there are epic poems that span hundreds of pages, but most poems about life focus on tiny details many people overlook. Poetry makes space for writers and readers to fixate on small moments that mean everything.
That’s why poems about life really move us. Life is made up of millions of moments. The true art of poetry is deciding what moments merit literary contemplation.
Here are some poems that make you stop and think about life.
A poem doesn’t need to be long to leave an impact. A well-written short poem can carry more meaning than all the words in the world.
Life by Sir Walter Raleigh
What is our life? A play of passion,
Our mirth the music of division,
Our mother’s wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for this short comedy.
Heaven the judicious sharp spectator is,
That sits and marks still who doth act amiss.
Our graves that hide us from the setting sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest,
Only we die in earnest, that’s no jest.
Life by Emma Lowrey Williams
We can not tell what happiness
We might on earth possess
If in singleness of heart
We would strive to act a proper part.
‘Tis true we see the effects of sin
All without and all within.
We long may live a life in vain,
Much good possess, but still complain.
We may appear to other eyes,
To be extremely rich and wise;
But if our hearts are not right,
Life will not be beautiful and bright.
Oh! may our life, day by day,
In love and duty pass away;
And at last when our bodies die,
We may live in that world above the sky;
Where free from sin, death and pain,
The good will meet and love again.
Life by Paul Laurence Dunbar
A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in,
A minute to smile and an hour to weep in,
A pint of joy to a peck of trouble,
And never a laugh but the moans come double;
And that is life!
A crust and a corner that love makes precious,
With a smile to warm and the tears to refresh us;
And joy seems sweeter when cares come after,
And a moan is the finest of foils for laughter;
And that is life.
Famous Poems About Life
We’ve all heard of Robert Frost and Charlotte Brontë, and they’re popular for a reason. Here are their poems about life.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Life by Charlotte Brontë
Life, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Enjoy them as they fly!
What though Death at times steps in,
And calls our Best away?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway?
Yet Hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!
Poems About Life and Death
When you talk about life, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll talk about death. Here are some poems about life that discuss both the act of living and dying.
Life by George Herbert
I made a posy, while the day ran by:
“Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie
My life within this band.”
But Time did beckon to the flowers, and they
By noon most cunningly did steal away,
And withered in my hand.
My hand was next to them, and then my heart;
I took, without more thinking, in good part
Time’s gentle admonition;
Who did so sweetly death’s sad taste convey,
Making my mind to smell my fatal day,
Yet, sug’ring the suspicion.
Farewell dear flowers, sweetly your time ye spent,
Fit, while ye lived, for smell or ornament,
And after death for cures.
I follow straight without complaints or grief,
Since, if my scent be good, I care not if
It be as short as yours.
Life and Death by Carrie Williams Clifford
I saw the candle brightly burning in the room!
The fringed curtains gracefully draped back,
The windows, crystal clear!
Upon the generous hearth
Quick Wit and bubbling Laughter
Flashed and danced
Sparkled and pranced,
And music to the glowing scene lent cheer.
It was a gracious sight,
So full of life, of love, of light!
Then suddenly I saw a cloud of gloom
Take form within the room:
A blue-grey mist obscured the window-panes
And silent fell the rout!
Then from the shadows came the Dreaded Shape,—
The candle flickered out!
Poems About What Life’s About
Poetry has the unique ability to pick out the small things that make life worth living. Here are poems about life that discuss the meaning of our time here on earth.
Meaning by Carl Dennis
If a life needn’t be useful to be meaningful,
Then maybe a life of sunbathing on a beach
Can be thought of as meaningful for at least a few,
The few, say, who view the sun as a god
And consider basking a form of worship.
As for those devoted to partnership with a surfboard
Or a pair of ice skates or a bag of golf clubs,
Though I can’t argue their lives are useful,
I’d be reluctant to claim they have no meaning
Even if no one observes their display of mastery.
No one is listening to the librarian
I can call to mind as she practices, after work,
In her flat on Hoover Street, the viola da gamba
In the one hour of day that for her is golden.
So what if she’ll never be good enough
To give a concert people will pay to hear?
When I need to think of her with an audience,
I can imagine the ghosts of composers dead for centuries,
Pleased to hear her doing her best with their music.
And isn’t it pleasing, as we walk at dusk to our cars
Parked on Hoover Street, after a meeting
On saving a shuttered hotel from the wrecking ball,
To catch the sound of someone filling a room
We won’t be visiting with a haunting solo?
And then the gifts we receive by imagining
How down at the beach today surfers made sure
The big waves we weren’t there to appreciate
Didn’t go begging for attention.
And think of the sunlight we failed to welcome,
How others stepped forward to take it in.
Life by Carrie Law Morgan Figgs
A moment of pleasure,
An hour of pain,
A day of sunshine,
A week of rain,
A fortnight of peace,
A month of strife,
These taken together
Make up life.
One real friend
To a dozen foes,
Two open gates,
’Gainst twenty that’s closed,
Then adversity’s knife;
These my friends
Make up life.
At daybreak a blossom,
At noontime a rose,
At twilight ’tis withered,
At evening ’tis closed.
The din of confusion,
The strain of the fife,
These with other things
Make up life.
A smile, then a tear,
Like a mystic pearl,
A pause, then a rush
Into the mad whirl,
A kiss, then a stab
From a traitor’s knife;
I think that you’ll agree with me,
That this life.
Life is Poetic: Let Poems About Life Move You
Poetry reminds us to contemplate what makes us human. It’s a beautiful art form that connects us at our core. Poems about life help us to recenter ourselves and consider our purpose on this planet. Give journaling a try and see if you can discover what brings you joy in life.Published in
Author, Artist, Photographer.
Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.
She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.
She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.