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Anna Seward
Anna Seward

Sonnet 92 [Behold that Tree, in Autumn’s dim decay]

About this Poem 

“Sonnet 92” was published in Original Sonnets on Various Subjects; and Odes Paraphrased from Horace (G. Sael, 1799).

Sonnet 92 [Behold that Tree, in Autumn’s dim decay]

Behold that Tree, in Autumn’s dim decay, 
   Stript by the frequent, chill, and eddying Wind; 
   Where yet some yellow, lonely leaves we find 
   Lingering and trembling on the naked spray, 
Twenty, perchance, for millions whirl'd away! 
   Emblem, alas! too just, of Humankind! 
   Vain Man expects longevity, design'd 
   For few indeed; and their protracted day 
What is it worth that Wisdom does not scorn? 
   The blasts of Sickness, Care, and Grief appal, 
   That laid the Friends in dust, whose natal morn 
Rose near their own;—and solemn is the call;— 
   Yet, like those weak, deserted leaves forlorn, 
   Shivering they cling to life, and fear to fall!

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

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Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Maggie Smith

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Courtesy of National Park Service


Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
                                  Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
                                  And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.

William Carlos Williams
AASL Best Website for Teaching & Learning

Gwendolyn Brooks: A Centennial Celebration

A Pulitzer Prize winner, an Academy Fellowship winner, and the first black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, Gwendolyn Brooks was—and continues to be—an outstanding voice in the world of contemporary American poetry. Brooks, who was awarded countless literary honors in her lifetime, was known for writing poems that captured a cross-section of everyday life in her hometown of Chicago. In sonnets, ballads, epic poems, and more, Brooks captured the lives, speech, and perspectives of people as varied as those she encountered in her city, and was particularly known for her interrogation of race relations and class.

This year marks Brooks’s centennial, and to celebrate, we’ve created this new collection of essays, audio, and poems by and about Brooks.


A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

In Memoriam

Burning the Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.
Naomi Shihab Nye