40 Greatest Poems about Souls

All Soul’s Day will be commemorated tomorrow. To honor this traditional holiday for some countries acknowledging it, these are forty (40) greatest poems about souls.

Keep reading!

The Soul

An heritage of hopes and fears
And dreams and memory,
And vices of ten thousand years
God gives to thee.
A house of clay, the home of Fate,
Haunted of Love and Sin,
Where Death stands knocking at the gate
To let him in.

Madison Julius Cawein

The Soul.

When once the soul has lost her way,
O then how restless does she stray!
And having not her God for light,
How does she err in endless night!

Robert Herrick

The Soul.

All my mind has sat in state,
Pond’ring on the deathless Soul:
What must be the Perfect Whole,
When the atom is so great!

God! I fall in spirit down,
Low as Persian to the sun;
All my senses, one by one,
In the stream of Thought must drown.

On the tide of mystery,
Like a waif, I’m seaward borne,
Ever looking for the morn
That will yet interpret Thee,

Opening my blinded eyes,
That have strove to look within,
‘Whelmed in clouds of doubt and sin,
Sinking where I dared to rise:

Could I trace one Spirit’s flight,
Track it to its final goal,
Know that ‘Spirit’ meant ‘the Soul,’
I must perish in the light.

All in vain I search, and cry:
“What, O Soul, and whence art thou?”
Lower than the earth I bow,
Stricken with the grave reply:

“Wouldst thou ope what God has sealed –
Sealed in mercy here below?
What is best for man to know,
Shall most surely be revealed!”

Deep on deep of mystery!
Ask the sage, he knows no more
Of the soul’s unspoken lore
Than the child upon his knee!

Cannot tell me whence the thought
That is passing through my mind!
Where the mystic soul is shrined,
Wherewith all my life is fraught?

Knows not how the brain conceives
Images almost divine;
Cannot work my mental mine,
Cannot bind my golden sheaves.

Is he wiser, then, than I,
Seeing he can read the stars?
I have rode in fancy’s oars
Leagues beyond his farthest sky!

Some old Rabbi, dreaming o’er
The sweet legends of his race,
Ask him for some certain trace
Of the far, eternal shore.

No. The Talmud page is dark,
Though it burn with quenchless fire,
And the insight must pierce higher,
That would find the vital spark.

O, my Soul! be firm and wait,
Hoping with the zealous few,
Till the Shekinah of the True
Lead thee through the Golden Gate.

Charles Sangster

The Soul Is The Salt.

The body’s salt the soul is; which when gone,
The flesh soon sucks in putrefaction.

Robert Herrick

The Soul Of A Poet

I have written, long years I have written
For the sake of my people and right,
I was true when the iron had bitten
Deep into my soul in the night;
And I wrote not for praise nor for money,
I craved but the soul and the pen,
And I felt not the sting in the honey
Of praising the kindness of men.

You read and you saw without seeing,
My work seemed a trifle apart,
While the truth of things thrilled through my being,
And the wrong of things murdered my heart!
Cast out and despised and neglected,
And weak, and in fear, and in debt,
My songs, mutilated, rejected,
Shall ring through the Commonwealth yet!

And you, too, the pure and the guileless,
In the peace of your comfort and pride,
You have mocked at my bodily vileness,
You have tempted and cast me aside.
But wronged, and cast out, drink-sodden,
But shunned, and insane and unclean,
I have dared where few others have trodden,
I have seen what few others have seen.

I have seen your souls bare for a season,
I have heard as a deaf man can hear,
I have seen you deprived of your reason
And stricken with deadliest fear.
And when beautiful night hid the shocking
Black shame of the day that was past,
I felt the great universe rocking
With the truth that was coming at last!

Henry Lawson

The Soul of the City Receives the Gift of the Holy Spirit

A Broadside distributed in Springfield, Illinois

Censers are swinging
Over the town;
Censers are swinging,
Look overhead!
Censers are swinging,
Heaven comes down.
City, dead city,
Awake from the dead!

Censers, tremendous,
Gleam overhead.
Wind-harps are ringing,
Wind-harps unseen –
Calling and calling: –
“Wake from the dead.
Rise, little city,
Shine like a queen.”

Soldiers of Christ
For battle grow keen.
Heaven-sent winds
Haunt alley and lane.
Singing of life
In town-meadows green
After the toil
And battle and pain.

Incense is pouring
Like the spring rain
Down on the mob
That moil through the street.
Blessed are they
Who behold it and gain
Power made more mighty
Thro’ every defeat.

Builders, toil on.
Make all complete.
Make Springfield wonderful.
Make her renown
Worthy this day,
Till, at God’s feet,
Tranced, saved forever,
Waits the white town.

Censers are swinging
Over the town,
Censers gigantic!
Look overhead!
Hear the winds singing: –
“Heaven comes down.
City, dead city,
Awake from the dead.”

Vachel Lindsay

The Soul Of The Sea

A wind comes in from the sea,
And rolls through the hollow dark
Like loud, tempestuous waters.
As the swift recurrent tide,
It pours adown the sky,
And rears at the cliffs of night
Uppiled against the vast.

Like the soul of the sea –
Hungry, unsatisfied
With ravin of shores and of ships –
Come forth on the land to seek
New prey of tideless coasts,
It raves, made hoarse with desire,
And the sounds of the night are dumb
With the sound of its passing.

Clark Ashton Smith

The Soul Of Wine

One night, from bottles, sang the soul of wine:
‘0 misfit man, I send you for your good
Out of the glass and wax where I’m confined,
A melody of light and brotherhood!

I know you must, out on the blazing hill,
Suffer and sweat beneath the piercing rays
To grow my life in me, my soul and will;
I’m grateful to you, and I will not play

You false, since I feel joy when I can fall
Into the throat of some old working man,
And his warm belly suits me overall
As resting place more than cold cellars can.

And do you hear the songs that hope believes,
The Sunday music, throbbing from my breast?
Elbows on table, rolling up your sleeves
You praise me, and I’ll put your cares to rest;

I’ll fire the eyes of your enraptured wife;
I’ll grant a force and colour to your son,
And will for this frail athlete of life
Be oil that makes the straining muscles run.

My nectar falls in your fertility,
A precious seed whose Sower is divine,
So from our love is born rare poetry,
Thrusting towards God the blossom on its vine!’

Charles Baudelaire

The Soul Should Always Stand Ajar,

The soul should always stand ajar,
That if the heaven inquire,
He will not be obliged to wait,
Or shy of troubling her.

Depart, before the host has slid
The bolt upon the door,
To seek for the accomplished guest, —
Her visitor no more.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson

The Soul Unto Itself

The soul unto itself
Is an imperial friend, —
Or the most agonizing spy
An enemy could send.

Secure against its own,
No treason it can fear;
Itself its sovereign, of itself
The soul should stand in awe.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson

Souls and Rain-Drops.

Light rain-drops fall and wrinkle the sea,
Then vanish, and die utterly.
One would not know that rain-drops fell
If the round sea-wrinkles did not tell.

So souls come down and wrinkle life
And vanish in the flesh-sea strife.
One might not know that souls had place
Were’t not for the wrinkles in life’s face.

Sidney Lanier

Soul’s Birth

When you were born, beloved, was your soul
New made by God to match your body’s flower,
And were they both at one same precious hour
Sent forth from heaven as a perfect whole?
Or had your soul since dim creation burned,
A star in some still region of the sky,
That leaping earthward, left its place on high
And to your little new-born body yearned?
No words can tell in what celestial hour
God made your soul and gave it mortal birth,
Nor in the disarray of all the stars
Is any place so sweet that such a flower
Might linger there until thro’ heaven’s bars,
It heard God’s voice that bade it down to earth.

Sara Teasdale

The Soul’s Storm.

It struck me every day
The lightning was as new
As if the cloud that instant slit
And let the fire through.

It burned me in the night,
It blistered in my dream;
It sickened fresh upon my sight
With every morning’s beam.

I thought that storm was brief, —
The maddest, quickest by;
But Nature lost the date of this,
And left it in the sky.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson

The Souls’ Rising.

See how the storm of life ascends
Up through the shadow of the world!
Beyond our gaze the line extends,
Like wreaths of vapour tempest-hurled!
Grasp tighter, brother, lest the storm
Should sweep us down from where we stand,
And we may catch some human form
We know, amongst the straining band.

See! see in yonder misty cloud
One whirlwind sweep, and we shall hear
The voice that waxes yet more loud
And louder still approaching near!

Tremble not, brother, fear not thou,
For yonder wild and mystic strain
Will bring before us strangely now
The visions of our youth again!

Listen! oh listen!
See how its eyeballs roll and glisten
With a wild and fearful stare
Upwards through the shining air,
Or backwards with averted look,
As a child were gazing at a book
Full of tales of fear and dread,
When the thick night-wind came hollow and dead.

Round about it, wavering and light.
As the moths flock round a candle at night,
A crowd of phantoms sheeted and dumb
Strain to its words as they shrilly come:
Brother, my brother, dost thou hear?
They pierce through the tumult sharp and clear!

“The rush of speed is on my soul,
My eyes are blind with things I see;
I cannot grasp the awful whole,
I cannot gird the mystery!
The mountains sweep like mist away;
The great sea shakes like flakes of fire;
The rush of things I cannot see
Is mounting upward higher and higher!
Oh! life was still and full of calm
In yonder spot of earthly ground,
But now it rolls a thunder-psalm,
Its voices drown my ear in sound!
Would God I were a child again
To nurse the seeds of faith and power;
I might have clasped in wisdom then
A wing to beat this awful hour!
The dullest things would take my marks–
They took my marks like drifted snow–
God! how the footsteps rise in sparks,
Rise like myself and onward go!
Have pity, O ye driving things
That once like me had human form!
For I am driven for lack of wings
A shreddy cloud before the storm!”

How its words went through me then,
Like a long forgotten pang,
Till the storm’s embrace again
Swept it far with sudden clang!–
Ah, methinks I see it still!
Let us follow it, my brother,
Keeping close to one another,
Blessing God for might of will!
Closer, closer, side by side!
Ours are wings that deftly glide
Upwards, downwards, and crosswise
Flashing past our ears and eyes,
Splitting up the comet-tracks
With a whirlwind at our backs!

How the sky is blackening!
Yet the race is never slackening;
Swift, continual, and strong,
Streams the torrent slope along,
Like a tidal surge of faces
Molten into one despair;
Each the other now displaces,
A continual whirl of spaces;
Ah, my fainting eyesight reels
As I strive in vain to stare
On a thousand turning wheels
Dimly in the gloom descending,
Faces with each other blending!–
Let us beat the vapours back,
We are yet upon his track.

Didst thou see a spirit halt
Upright on a cloudy peak,
As the lightning’s horrid fault
Smote a gash into the cheek
Of the grinning thunder-cloud
Which doth still besiege and crowd
Upward from the nether pits
Where the monster Chaos sits,
Building o’er the fleeing rack
Roofs of thunder long and black?
Yes, I see it! I will shout
Till I stop the horrid rout.
Ho, ho! spirit-phantom, tell
Is thy path to heaven or hell?
We would hear thee yet again,
What thy standing amongst men,
What thy former history,
And thy hope of things to be!
Wisdom still we gain from hearing:
We would know, we would know
Whither thou art steering–
Unto weal or woe!

Ah, I cannot hear it speaking!
Yet it seems as it were seeking
Through our eyes our souls to reach
With a quaint mysterious speech,
As with stretched and crossing palms
One were tracing diagrams
On the ebbing of the beach,
Till with wild unmeasured dance
All the tiptoe waves advance,
Seize him by the shoulder, cover,
Turn him up and toss him over:
He is vanished from our sight,
Nothing mars the quiet night
Save a speck of gloom afar
Like the ruin of a star!

Brother, streams it ever so,
Such a torrent tide of woe?
Ah, I know not; let us haste
Upwards from this dreary waste,
Up to where like music flowing
Gentler feet are ever going,
Streams of life encircling run
Round about the spirit-sun!
Up beyond the storm and rush
With our lesson let us rise!
Lo, the morning’s golden flush
Meets us midway in the skies!
Perished all the dream and strife!
Death is swallowed up of Life!

George MacDonald

The Souls Of The Slain


The thick lids of Night closed upon me
Alone at the Bill
Of the Isle by the Race {1} –
Many-caverned, bald, wrinkled of face –
And with darkness and silence the spirit was on me
To brood and be still.


No wind fanned the flats of the ocean,
Or promontory sides,
Or the ooze by the strand,
Or the bent-bearded slope of the land,
Whose base took its rest amid everlong motion
Of criss-crossing tides.


Soon from out of the Southward seemed nearing
A whirr, as of wings
Waved by mighty-vanned flies,
Or by night-moths of measureless size,
And in softness and smoothness well-nigh beyond hearing
Of corporal things.
And they bore to the bluff, and alighted –
A dim-discerned train
Of sprites without mould,
Frameless souls none might touch or might hold –
On the ledge by the turreted lantern, farsighted
By men of the main.


And I heard them say “Home!” and I knew them
For souls of the felled
On the earth’s nether bord
Under Capricorn, whither they’d warred,
And I neared in my awe, and gave heedfulness to them
With breathings inheld.


Then, it seemed, there approached from the northward
A senior soul-flame
Of the like filmy hue:
And he met them and spake: “Is it you,
O my men?” Said they, “Aye! We bear homeward and hearthward
To list to our fame!”


“I’ve flown there before you,” he said then:
“Your households are well;
But – your kin linger less
On your glory arid war-mightiness
Than on dearer things.” – “Dearer?” cried these from the dead then,
“Of what do they tell?”


“Some mothers muse sadly, and murmur
Your doings as boys –
Recall the quaint ways
Of your babyhood’s innocent days.
Some pray that, ere dying, your faith had grown firmer,
And higher your joys.


“A father broods: ‘Would I had set him
To some humble trade,
And so slacked his high fire,
And his passionate martial desire;
Had told him no stories to woo him and whet him
To this due crusade!”


“And, General, how hold out our sweethearts,
Sworn loyal as doves?”
– “Many mourn; many think
It is not unattractive to prink
Them in sables for heroes. Some fickle and fleet hearts
Have found them new loves.”


“And our wives?” quoth another resignedly,
“Dwell they on our deeds?”
– “Deeds of home; that live yet
Fresh as new – deeds of fondness or fret;
Ancient words that were kindly expressed or unkindly,
These, these have their heeds.”


– “Alas! then it seems that our glory
Weighs less in their thought
Than our old homely acts,
And the long-ago commonplace facts
Of our lives – held by us as scarce part of our story,
And rated as nought!”


Then bitterly some: “Was it wise now
To raise the tomb-door
For such knowledge? Away!”
But the rest: “Fame we prized till to-day;
Yet that hearts keep us green for old kindness we prize now
A thousand times more!”


Thus speaking, the trooped apparitions
Began to disband
And resolve them in two:
Those whose record was lovely and true
Bore to northward for home: those of bitter traditions
Again left the land,


And, towering to seaward in legions,
They paused at a spot
Overbending the Race –
That engulphing, ghast, sinister place –
Whither headlong they plunged, to the fathomless regions
Of myriads forgot.


And the spirits of those who were homing
Passed on, rushingly,
Like the Pentecost Wind;
And the whirr of their wayfaring thinned
And surceased on the sky, and but left in the gloaming
Sea-mutterings and me.

December 1899.

Thomas Hardy

The Soul’s Expression

With stammering lips and insufficient sound
I strive and struggle to deliver right
That music of my nature, day and night
With dream and thought and feeling interwound
And inly answering all the senses round
With octaves of a mystic depth and height
Which step out grandly to the infinite
From the dark edges of the sensual ground.
This song of soul I struggle to outbear
Through portals of the sense, sublime and whole,
And utter all myself into the air:
But if I did it, as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud, my flesh would perish there,
Before that dread apocalypse of soul.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Soul’s Desire

Her soul is like a wolf that stands
Where sunlight falls between the trees
Of a sparse forest’s leafless edge,
When Spring’s first magic moveth these.

Her soul is like a little brook,
Thin edged with ice against the leaves,
Where the wolf drinks and is alone,
And where the woodbine interweaves.

A bank late covered by the snow,
But lighted by the frozen North;
Her soul is like a little plot
That one white blossom bringeth forth.

Her soul is slim, like silver slips,
And straight, like flags beside a stream.
Her soul is like a shape that moves
And changes in a wonder dream.

Who would pursue her clasps a cloud,
And taketh sorrow for his zeal.
Memory shall sing him many songs
While bound upon the torture wheel.

Her soul is like a wolf that glides
By moonlight o’er a phantom ridge;
Her face is like a light that runs
Beneath the shadow of a bridge.

Her voice is like a woodland cry
Heard in a summer’s desolate hour.
Her eyes are dim; her lips are faint,
And tinctured like the cuckoo flower.

Her little breasts are like the buds
Of tulips in a place forlorn.
Her soul is like a mandrake bloom
Standing against the crimson moon.

Her dream is like the fenny snake’s,
That warms him in the noonday’s fire.
She hath no thought, nor any hope,
Save of herself and her desire.

She is not life; she is not death;
She is not fear, or joy or grief.
Her soul is like a quiet sea
Beneath a ruin-haunted reef.

She is the shape the sailor sees,
That slips the rock without a sound.
She is the soul that comes and goes
And leaves no mark, yet makes a wound.

She is the soul that hunts and flies;
She is a world-wide mist of care.
She is the restlessness of life,
Its rapture and despair.

Edgar Lee Masters

I Know My Soul

I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I’m comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.

Claude McKay

Your Soul and Mine


Your soul and mine have gone the way of life:—
The dusty road where toiled the elfin strife—
Your hand entwined this hand of mine in love,
Your heart induced to scorn the clouds above—
And all the world was like a rose crowned song.


Your soul and mine have gone the way of life:—
We twain have bleeding wounds from Love’s deep knife,
But you have kissed the tears that moist my cheeks
And lifted me beyond the cragged peaks—
And now the world is like a rose crowned song.

Fenton Johnson

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth (Sonnet 146)

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
My sinful earth these rebel powers array,
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shall thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.

William Shakespeare

The Soul selects her own Society (303)

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson

If thy soul check thee that I come so near (Sonnet 136)

If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy ‘Will,’
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
‘Will’ will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of a great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number let me pass untold,
Though in thy stores’ account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me, for my name is ‘Will.’

William Shakespeare

[Be still, my soul, be still; the arms you bear are brittle]

Be still, my soul, be still; the arms you bear are brittle,
Earth and high heaven are fixt of old and founded strong.
Think rather,—call to thought, if now you grieve a little,
The days when we had rest, O soul, for they were long.

Men loved unkindness then, but lightless in the quarry
I slept and saw not; tears fell down, I did not mourn;
Sweat ran and blood sprang out and I was never sorry:
Then it was well with me, in days ere I was born.

Now, and I muse for why and never find the reason,
I pace the earth, and drink the air, and feel the sun.
Be still, be still, my soul; it is but for a season:
Let us endure an hour and see injustice done.

Ay, look: high heaven and earth ail from the prime foundation;
All thoughts to rive the heart are here, and all are vain:
Horror and scorn and hate and fear and indignation—
Oh why did I awake? when shall I sleep again?

A. E. Housman

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul (Sonnet 107)

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Uncertainties now crown themselves assured
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes:
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

William Shakespeare


My body is opaque to the soul.
Driven of the spirit, long have I sought to temper it unto the
spirit’s longing,
But my mind, too, is opaque to the soul.
A closed lid is my soul’s flesh-eye.
O Spirits of whom my soul is but a little finger,
Direct it to the lid of its flesh-eye.
I am weak with much giving.
I am weak with the desire to give more.
(How strong a thing is the little finger!)
So weak that I have confused the body with the soul,
And the body with the little finger.
(How frail is the little finger.)
My voice could not carry to you did you dwell in stars,
O Spirits of whom my soul is but a little finger . . .

Jean Toomer

Voices of the Dusk


Do you hear the witches wailing?
Witches wailing, wailing, wailing,
Do you see the ghost robes trailing?
Ghost robes trailing, trailing, trailing
It is but a nighttime whisper,
But a whisper of the zephyr?
Or my soul in secret meeting
The dim soul whose fate is loving?
Tell me, tell me, tell me,
Voices of the dusk.


Do you see those spirits lonely?
Spirits lonely, lonely, lonely.
Can they be for lost souls only?
Lost souls only, only, only.
Are they but the fearful phantoms,
Fearful phantoms from my fancy?
Or the sprites of conscience stricken
From a region long forgotten?
Tell me, tell me, tell me,
Voices of the Dusk.

Fenton Johnson

On Self-Knowledge

And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered, saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales ot weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

Kahlil Gibran


Oh, silver tree!
Oh, shining rivers of the soul!

In a Harlem cabaret
Six long-headed jazzers play.
A dancing girl whose eyes are bold
Lifts high a dress of silken gold.

Oh, singing tree!
Oh, shining rivers of the soul!

Were Eve’s eyes
In the first garden
Just a bit too bold?
Was Cleopatra gorgeous
In a gown of gold?

Oh, shining tree!
Oh, silver rivers of the soul!

In a whirling cabaret
Six long-headed jazzers play.

Langston Hughes

Louise Smith

Herbert broke our engagement of eight years
When Annabelle returned to the village
From the Seminary, ah me!
If I had let my love for him alone
It might have grown into a beautiful sorrow –
Who knows? – filling my life with healing fragrance.
But I tortured it, I poisoned it,
I blinded its eyes, and it became hatred –
Deadly ivy instead of clematis.
And my soul fell from its support,
Its tendrils tangled in decay.
Do not let the will play gardener to your soul
Unless you are sure
It is wiser than your soul’s nature.

Edgar Lee Masters

Cotton Song

Come, brother, come. Lets lift it;
Come now, hew it! roll away!
Shackles fall upon the Judgment Day
But lets not wait for it.

God’s body’s got a soul,
Bodies like to roll the soul,
Cant blame God if we dont roll,
Come, brother, roll, roll!

Cotton bales are the fleecy way
Weary sinner’s bare feet trod,
Softly, softly to the throne of God,
“We aint agwine t wait until th Judgment Day!

Nassur; nassur,
Eoho, eoho, roll away!
We aint agwine t wait until th Judgment Day!”

God’s body’s got a soul,
Bodies like to roll the soul,
Cant blame God is we dont roll,
Come, brother, roll, roll!

Jean Toomer

My Song

I sang me a song, a tiny song,
A song that was sweet to my soul,
And set it a-float on the sea of chance
In search of a happy goal.

I said to my song: “Go on, go on
And lodge in a tender spot
Of some human soul where the fires of hate
And selfishness are not.”

My song went on but a little space
And hied it back to me;
And fell at my feet in a sorry plight—
The victim of cruelty.

I gazed a moment and quickly saw
Just how it had come about,
A cruel critic had caught my song
And probed the soul of it out.

O, poor indeed is the human mind
(And why was it ever wrought?)
That can thrive on husk in the form of words,
And not on a sturdy thought.

Joseph Seamon Cotter Sr.

You! Inez!

Orange gleams athwart a crimson soul
Lambent flames; purple passion lurks
In your dusk eyes.
Red mouth; flower soft,
Your soul leaps up—and flashes
Star-like, white, flame-hot.
Curving arms, encircling a world of love,
You! Stirring the depths of passionate desire!

Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Yesterday and To-morrow

Yesterday I held your hand,
Reverently I pressed it,
And its gentle yieldingness
From my soul I blessed it.

But to-day I sit alone,
Sad and sore repining;
Must our gold forever know
Flames for the refining?

Yesterday I walked with you,
Could a day be sweeter?
Life was all a lyric song
Set to tricksy meter.

Ah, to-day is like a dirge,—
Place my arms around you,
Let me feel the same dear joy
As when first I found you.

Let me once retrace my steps,
From these roads unpleasant,
Let my heart and mind and soul
All ignore the present.

Yesterday the iron seared
And to-day means sorrow.
Pause, my soul, arise, arise,
Look where gleams the morrow.

Paul Laurence Dunbar


My goal out-distances the utmost star,
Yet is encompassed in my inmost Soul;
I am my goal—my quest, to know myself.
To chart and compass this unfathomed sea,
Myself must plumb the boundless universe.
My Soul contains all thought, all mystery,
All wisdom of the Great Infinite Mind:
This is to discover, I must voyage far,
At last to find it in my pulsing heart.

Carrie Williams Clifford

The Giver of Stars

Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
Let the quiet of your spirit bathe me
With its clear and rippled coolness,
That, loose-limbed and weary, I find rest,
Outstretched upon your peace, as on a bed of ivory.

Let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me,
That into my limbs may come the keenness of fire,
The life and joy of tongues of flame,
And, going out from you, tightly strung and in tune,
I may rouse the blear-eyed world,
And pour into it the beauty which you have begotten.

Amy Lowell

Shut Not Your Doors to Me Proud Libraries

Shut not your doors to me, proud libraries,
For that which was lacking among you all, yet needed most, I bring;
A book I have made for your dear sake, O soldiers,
And for you, O soul of man, and you, love of comrades;
The words of my book nothing, the life of it everything;
A book separate, not link’d with the rest, nor felt by the intellect;
But you will feel every word, O Libertad! arm’d Libertad!
It shall pass by the intellect to swim the sea, the air,
With joy with you, O soul of man.

Walt Whitman

Of Love: A Sonnet

How love came in I do not know,
Whether by the eye, or ear, or no;
Or whether with the soul it came
(At first) infused with the same;
Whether in part ’tis here or there,
Or, like the soul, whole everywhere,
This troubles me: but I as well
As any other this can tell:
That when from hence she does depart
The outlet then is from the heart.

Robert Herrick

How Near to Fairyland

The spring warmth steals into me, drying up all the tears of my soul,
And gives me a flight into the vastness,—into a floorless, unroofed reverie-hall.

Lo, such greenness, such velvety greenness, such a heaven without heaven above!
Lo, again, such grayness, such velvety grayness, such an earth without earth below!
My soul sails through the waveless mirror-seas.

Oh, how near to Fairyland!
Blow, blow, gust of wind!
Sweep away my soul-boat against that very shore!

Yone Noguchi

Ere Sleep Comes Down to Soothe the Weary Eyes

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes,
Which all the day with ceaseless care have sought
The magic gold which from the seeker flies;
Ere dreams put on the gown and cap of thought,
And make the waking world a world of lies,—
Of lies most palpable, uncouth, forlorn,
That say life’s full of aches and tears and sighs,—
Oh, how with more than dreams the soul is torn,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes.

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes,
How all the griefs and heart–aches we have known
Come up like pois’nous vapors that arise
From some base witch’s caldron, when the crone,
To work some potent spell, her magic plies.
The past which held its share of bitter pain,
Whose ghost we prayed that Time might exorcise,
Comes up, is lived and suffered o’er again,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes.

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes,
What phantoms fill the dimly lighted room;
What ghostly shades in awe–creating guise
Are bodied forth within the teeming gloom.
What echoes faint of sad and soul–sick cries,
And pangs of vague inexplicable pain
That pay the spirit’s ceaseless enterprise,
Come thronging through the chambers of the brain,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes.

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes,
Where ranges forth the spirit far and free?
Through what strange realms and unfamiliar skies
Tends her far course to lands of mystery?
To lands unspeakable—beyond surmise,
Where shapes unknowable to being spring,
Till, faint of wing, the Fancy fails and dies
Much wearied with the spirit’s journeying,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes.

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes,
How questioneth the soul that other soul,—
The inner sense which neither cheats nor lies,
But self exposes unto self, a scroll
Full writ with all life’s acts unwise or wise,
In characters indelible and known;
So, trembling with the shock of sad surprise,
The soul doth view its awful self alone,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes.

When sleep comes down to seal the weary eyes,
The last dear sleep whose soft embrace is balm,
And whom sad sorrow teaches us to prize
For kissing all our passions into calm,
Ah, then, no more we heed the sad world’s cries,
Or seek to probe th’ eternal mystery,
Or fret our souls at long–withheld replies,
At glooms through which our visions cannot see,
When sleep comes down to seal the weary eyes.

Paul Laurence Dunbar


The call came in the stormy night,
Beneath a stranger’s sky.
The soldier of a life-long fight,
Still fighting, went to die.

His country’s honour was his goal;
Patient, unswerving, brave,
His mind, his heart, his work, his soul—
His very all, he gave.

He toiled to rouse us from our sleep,
And now he takes his rest,
And we—it is not ours to weep,
But follow his behest.

’Tis ours to make this matter plain—
That though our “Bobs” has gone,
Though dust returns to dust again—
His soul goes marching on.

Jessie Pope

So, here is the greatest compilation of poems about death.

Let me know which one is your favorite! 😉


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