auden poem cover

Frequently asked for poems

Here are the details of poems we are often asked about.

"John was a tyrant, / John was a tartar"

This poem beginning "John was a tyrant, / John was a tartar, / But John put his name to the Great Big Charter" is called 'King John', and is by Hugh Chesterman (b.1884). It is in Brian Moses' anthology Blood and Roses: British History in Poetry, which was published by Hodder Children's Books in 2004.

"Men who were boys when I was a boy"

This is a line from Hilaire Belloc's poem 'The South Country'. Well known for his Cautionary Verses for childen, Belloc also wrote poems about his beloved Sussex.

First Line: When I am living in the Midlands
That are sodden and unkind

Last Line: And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Shall sit and drink with me.

by Hilaire Belloc

found in The Oxford Anthology of English Poetry, volume 2 (OUP, 1986) and The Victorians, ed. by Valentine Cunningham (Blackwell, 2000)

"Stop all the clocks..."

This poem is number IX of W.H. Auden's 'Twelve Songs'.
It was famously recited in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral
The poem can be found in Auden's Collected Shorter Poems (Faber and Faber, 1966), and in the following anthologies: Modern British Poetry (Harcourt, Brace, 1962), 7th rev. ed. The Rattle Bag (Faber and Faber, 1982).

You can find out about W.H. Auden on our links page.

"The life that I have is all that I have..."

The poem you are looking for is 'Code Poem for the French Resistance' by Leo Marks. It can be found in A Poem a Day (Steer Forth Press, 1996), Poetry Please! (Everyman, 1996), or The Life that I Have by Leo Marks (Souvenir Press, 1999).

"What is this life if, full of care"

The poem you are looking for is by W.H. Davies, and it is called 'Leisure'. It can be found in the following anthologies:
Anglo-Welsh Poetry, published by Poetry Wales Press in 1984
Book of a Thousand Poems, published by Peter Bedrick Books in 1983
Common Ground, published by Carcanet in 1989
Oxford Book of Victorian Verse, published by OUP in 1971
A Poem a Day, published by Steer Forth in 1996

"When I am an old woman I shall wear purple"

This line comes from Jenny Joseph's poem 'Warning'.

First Line: When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

Last Line: When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

The poem can be found in Jenny Joseph's Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 1992), The Faber Book of Twentieth Century Women's Poetry (Faber, 1987) and Poetry With an Edge (Bloodaxe, 1988).

The Poetry Library also holds a  cassette of this and other poems on a similar theme entitled When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple (Audio Literature, 1995). If you have sight problems, you could order this cassette through our Visually Impaired service. For more details, click here.

A Song of England

Poem beginning:

"There is a song of England that none shall ever sing ...
          The throstle has a stave of it,
          The sea a breaking wave of it.
It mounts into the sun-rise like a falcon on the wing.
          It rides the windes of heaven.
          It steals thro' lanes in Devon."

This poem is by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958), and is found in his Collected Poems (William Blackwood, 1927).

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace
And saw within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?" The vision raised its head,
And, with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered,"The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men."
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed, --
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!

by Leigh Hunt

Found in The Faber Popular Reciter (Faber and Faber, 1978)



When I was born, I was black.
When I grew up, I was black.
When I get hot, I am black.
When I get cold, I am black.
When I am sick
, I am black.
When I die, I am black.

When you were born, You were pink.
When you grew up, You were white.
When you get hot, You go red.
When you get cold, You go blue.
When you are sick, You go purple.
When you die, You go green.


by an Anonymous pupil of King Edward VI School, Birmingham, UK.

Found in The children's book of poems, prayers and meditations ed. Liz Attenborough (Element Books, 1989)

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Written at least 50 years ago, this poem has been attributed at different times to J.T. Wiggins (an English emigre to America), two Americans: Mary E. Fry and Marianne Reinhardt, and more recently to Stephen Cummins, a British soldier killed in Northern Ireland who left a copy for his relatives. Others claim it is a Navajo burial prayer.

The following was taken from The London Magazine December / January 2005:
"Mary Elizabeth Frye nee Clark was born in Dayton, Ohio, on November 13th 1905. She dies on September 15th 2004. Mary Frye, who was living in Baltimore at the time, wrote the poem in 1932. She had never written any poetry, but the plight of a German Jewish girl, Margaret Schwarzkopf,who was staying with her and her husband, inspired the poem. She wrote it down on a brown paper shopping bag.
Margaret Schwarzkopf had been worrying about her mother, who was ill in Germany. The rise of Anti-Semitism had made it unwise for her to join her mother. When her mother died, she told Mary Frye she had not had the chance to stand by her mother's grave and weep.
Mary Frye circulated the poem privately. Because she never published or copyrighted it, there is no definitive version. She wrote other poems, but this, her first, endured. Her obituary in The Times made it clear that she was the undisputed author this famous poem, which has been recited at funerals and on other appropriate occasions around the world for seventy years. A 1996 Bookworm poll named it the Nation's Favourite Poem"[London Magazine Editor, Sebastian Barker]

First they came for the Jews

First Line: First they came for the Jews

Last Line: To speak out for me

by Pastor Niemoller

found in Holocaust Poetry ed. by Hilda Schiff (HarperCollins 1995)

Go the long way home, the long way home

First Line: Go the long way, the long way home.

Last line: Ere the wind jolts you, and you vanish like foam.

by Sylvia Townsend Warner

found in Poems of Twenty Years: an Anthology 1918-1938; ed. by Maurice Wollman (Macmillan 1938) and in New Collected Poems by Sylvia Townsend Warner and published by Fyfield Books in 2008. The ISBN is 978 1 85754 947 8.

Going on an Errand

A pound of tea at one and three
And a pot of raspberry jam
Two new laid eggs a dozen pegs
And a pound of rashers of ham. 

I'll say it over all the way
And then I'm sure not to forget
For if I chance to bring things wrong
My Mother gets in such a sweat. 

A pound of tea at one and three
And a pot of raspberry jam
Two new laid eggs a dozen pegs
And a pound of rashers of ham. 

There in the hay the children play
They're having such fine fun
I'll go there too that's what I?ll do
As soon as my errands are done 

A pound of tea at one and three
A pot of er new laid jam
Two raspberry eggs with a dozen pegs
And a pound of rashers of ham. 

There's Teddy White flying his kite
He thinks himself grand I declare
I'd like to make it fly  up sky high
Ever so much higher than the old church spire

And then - but there 

A pound of three at one and tea
A pot of new laid jam
Two dozen eggs, some raspberry pegs
And a pound of rashers of ham. 

Now here's the shop outside I'll stop
And run my orders through again
I haven't forgot - it's better not
It shows I'm pretty quick that's plain. 

A pound of tea at one and three
A dozen of raspberry ham
A pot of eggs with a dozen pegs
And a rasher of new laid jam.

by Anonymous

found in This England's Book of Parlour Poetry ed. Roy Faiers (This England Books, 1989)

I Remember, I Remember

This poem is by Thomas Hood (1799-1845), and can be found in a number of anthologies, including the following:

The Faber Popular Reciter (Faber and Faber, 1978)
Immortal Poems of the English Language (Simon and Schuster, 1952)
Favourite Poems Old and New (Doubleday, 1957)
The Pleasure of Poetry (Cassell, 1990)
The Top 500 Poems (Columbia University Press, 1992)
I Remember, I Remember (Red Fox, 1993)

The title given is sometimes 'I Remember, I Remember', other times 'Past and Present':

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn.
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day;
But now I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

I remember, I remember
The roses, red and white,
The violets, and the lily-cups, --
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday, --
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember
The fir-trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky.
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from heaven
Than when I was a boy.

                                  Thomas Hood



First Line: If you can keep your head when all about you
                  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you

Last line: Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
                 And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!
by Rudyard Kipling

found in The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century Verse ed. Philip Larkin (OUP 1973)

Life Unbroken

This poem is by Harry Scott-Holland. Scott-Holland was the Canon of St. Paul's and died in 1918. The poem is often read at funerals.

 Death is nothing at all
 I have only slipped into the next room.
 I am I, and you are you:
 Whatever we were to each other, we are still.
 Call me by my old familiar name;
 Speak to me in the easy way you always used
 Put no difference into your tone;
 Wear no air of solemnity or sorrow;
 Laugh as we always laughed
 At the little jokes we enjoyed together;
 Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
 Let my name be ever
 The household word that it always was.
 Let it be spoken without effect;
 Without the ghost of a shadow on it.
 Life means all that it ever meant.
 It is the same as it ever was.
 There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
 What is this death but negligible accident?
 Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
 I am but waiting for you,
 For an interval, somewhere, very near
 Just around the corner.
 All is well.

by Harry Scott-Holland

Lines on a Clock in Chester Cathedral

When as a child, I laughed and wept,
Time crept.
When as a youth, I dreamt and talked,
Time walked.
When I became a full-grown man,
Time ran.
When older still I daily grew,
Time flew.
Soon I shall find on travelling on-
Time gone.
O Christ, wilt Thou have saved me then?

Henry Twells (1823-1900)

Poem can be found in A Puffin Book of Verse (Puffin, 1953)

Naming of Parts

First line: To-day we have the naming of parts. Yesterday

Last line: For to-day we have the naming of parts

This poem is by Henry Reed (1914-86), and describes army training. The poem can be found in the following books:

Common Ground (Carcanet, 1989)
Faber Book of English History in Verse (Faber, 1988)
Unauthorized Versions: Poems and Their Parodies (Faber, 1990)
A Poem a Day (Steer Forth Press, 1996)

Pedlar's Caravan

This poem is by Walter Brighty Rands (1823-1880), and can be found in The Book of a Thousand Poems (published by Peter Bedrick Books in 1983), The Oxford Book of Children's Verse (OUP, 1973) and The Poolbeg Book of Children's Verse (Poolbeg, 1987).

The Pedlar's Caravan

I wish I lived in a caravan,
With a horse to drive, like a pedlar-man!
Where he comes from nobody knows,
Nor where he goes to, but on he goes.
His caravan has windows two,
With a chimney of tin that the smoke comes through,
He has a wife, and a baby brown,
And they go riding from town to town.
Chairs to mend and delf to sell --
He clashes the basins like a bell.
Tea-trays, baskets, ranged in order,
Plates, with the alphabet round the border.
The roads are brown, and the sea is green,
But his house is just like a bathing-machine.
The world is round, but he can ride,
Rumble, and splash to the other side.
With the pedlar-man I should like to roam,
And write a book when I come home.
All the people would read my book,
Just like the Travels of Captain Cook.

William Brighty Rands

Remember me when I am gone away...

Remember me when I am gone away,
 Gone far away into the silent land;
 When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
 You tell me of our future that you planned:
 Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
 And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
 For if the darkness and corruption leave
 A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
 Than that you should remember and be sad.

by Christina Rossetti

found in The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti; (Louisiana State University Press 1979-1990)

She Pops Home

Cal Clothier poem, read on BBC's Poetry Please on 3rd October 2004. The Poetry Library does not have a copy of this poem. The reference given by the BBC was: She Pops Home by Cal Clothier ©Mrs Molly Temple, Pro Vice Chancelor, University of Sunderland

The poem is available on a CD in the Library's collection - Poetry Please: The Anniversary Edition. Here the poem is read by the actor Gareth Armstrong.


First line: Slowly, silently now the moon

Last line: By silver reeds in a silver stream

by Walter De La Mare

found in:

Book of a Thousand Poems (Peter Bedrick, 1983)
Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House, 1983)
Collected Rhymes and Verse by Walter De La Mare (Faber, 1978)

Sir Smasham Uppe

First Line: Good afternoon, Sir Smasham Uppe!

Last Line: So glad you're fond of porcelain!

by E. V. Rieu

found in The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House 1983)

The Highwayman

"The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door."

by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)

The poem can be found in the following books:

Best Loved Story Poems (Garden City, 1941)
Everyman's Book of Narrative Verse (J.M. Dent, 1990)
The Family Book of Verse (Harper & Row, 1961)

The full text of 'The Highwayman' can also be found on the Academy of American Poets website

The Puk-Wudjies

They live 'neath the curtain
Of fir woods and heather,
And never take hurt in
The wildest of weather,
But best they love Autumn?she's brown as themselves?
And they are the brownest of all the brown elves;
When loud sings the West Wind,
The bravest and best wind,
And puddles are shining in all the cart ruts,
They turn up the dead leaves,
The russet and red leaves,
Where squirrels have taught them to look out for nuts!
The hedge-cutters hear them
Where berries are glowing,
The scythe circles near them
At time of the mowing,
But most they love woodlands when
Autumn's winds pipe,
And all through the cover the beechnuts are ripe,
And great spikey chestnuts,
The biggest and best nuts,
Blown down in the ditches, fair windfalls lie cast,
And no tree begrudges
The little Puk-Wudjies
A pocket of acorns, a handful of mast!
So should you be roaming
Where branches are sighing,
When up in the gloaming
The moon-wrack is flying,
And hear through the darkness, again and again,
What's neither the wind nor the spatter of rain?
A flutter, a flurry,
A scuffle, a scurry,
A bump like the rabbits' that bump on the ground,
A patter, a bustle
Of small things that rustle,
You'll know the Puk-Wudjies are somewhere around!

by Patrick Reginald Chalmers

found in The Book of a Thousand Poems(ED) MacBain, J. Murray (Peter Bedrick Books 1986)

The Train to Glasgow

First lines:

"Here is the train to Glasgow.
Here is the driver,
Mr MacIver,
Who drove the train to Glasgow.

Here is the guard from Donibristle..."

by Wilma Horsbrugh

found in Once Upon a Rhyme (Hodder Children's Books, 2001) and Up to the Stars (Hodder, 2001)

What is Dying?

I am standing on the sea shore.
A ship at my side spreads her
white sails in the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I
stand and watch her until at last
she fades on the horizon.

Then someone at my side says
There, she has gone -
Gone where?
Gone from my sight - that is all
She is just as large in the mast,
hull and spars as she was
when she left my side....

The diminished size
and total loss of sight
is in me and not in her,
and just at the moment when
someone by my side says
"She is gone"
others take up the glad shout
"There she comes"

Author: Bishop Brent

Source: Unknown

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