May Poems for Copywork, Memorization, or Recitation
The beauties of springtime have inspired poets for centuries. As I thought about what poems to include in this post, I realized how many May poems there are! Here are seven poems by some of my favorite poets — Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Stephen Vincent Benét, and others. They are all suitable for copywork, memorization, or recitation.
May and the Poets by James Henry Leigh Hunt
There is May in books forever;
May will part from Spenser never;
May’s in Milton, May’s in Prior,
May’s in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer;
May’s in all the Italian books:–
She has old and modern nooks,
Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves,
In happy places they call shelves,
And will rise and dress your rooms
With a drapery thick with blooms.
Come, ye rains, then if ye will,
May’s at home, and with me still;
But come rather, thou, good weather,
And find us in the fields together.
James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784–1859), best known as Leigh Hunt, was an English critic, essayist and poet who was instrumental in introducing the poetry of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Browning and Alfred Lord Tennyson to the public.
May-Flower by Emily Dickinson
Pink — small — and punctual —
Aromatic — low —
Covert — in April —
Candid — in May —
Dear to the Moss —
Known to the Knoll —
Next to the Robin
In every human Soul —
Bold little Beauty
Bedecked with thee
May Morning by Stephen Vincent Benét
I lie stretched out upon the window-seat
And doze, and read a page or two, and doze,
And feel the air like water on me close,
Great waves of sunny air that lip and beat
With a small noise, monotonous and sweet,
Against the window — and the scent of cool,
Frail flowers by some brown and dew-drenched pool
Possesses me from drowsy head to feet.
This is the time of all-sufficing laughter
At idiotic things some one has done,
And there is neither past nor vague hereafter.
And all your body stretches in the sun
And drinks the light in like a liquid thing;
Filled with the divine languor of late spring.
Stephen Vincent Benét (1898–1943) was an American poet, novelist, short story writer, best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning John Brown’s Body, a long narrative poem on the American Civil War.
May by Christina Rossetti
I cannot tell you how it was,
But this I know: it came to pass
Upon a bright and sunny day
When May was young; ah, pleasant May!
As yet the poppies were not born
Between the blades of tender corn;
The last egg had not hatched as yet,
Nor any bird foregone its mate.
I cannot tell you what it was,
But this I know: it did but pass.
It passed away with sunny May,
Like all sweet things it passed away,
And left me old, and cold, and gray.
More about Christina Rossetti. Rossetti, an English writer of romantic, devotional, and children’s poetry, was educated at home by her parents, and grew up reading classic literature, poetry, theology, fairy tales, and novels.
Song on May Morning by John Milton
Now the bright morning Star, Dayes harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The Flowry May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose.
Hail bounteous May that dost inspire
Mirth and youth, and warm desire,
Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing,
Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early Song,
And welcom thee, and wish thee long.
Read more poems by John Milton, (1608-1674).
May Day by Sara Teasdale
A delicate fabric of bird song
Floats in the air,
The smell of wet wild earth
Red small leaves of the maple
Are clenched like a hand,
Like girls at their first communion
The pear trees stand.
Oh I must pass nothing by
Without loving it much,
The raindrop try with my lips,
The grass with my touch;
For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May
Shining after the rain?
Sara Teasdale was an American lyric poet (1884–1933). Because of ill health, she was homeschooled for the first several years of school and learned to amuse herself with stories, some of which later inspired poems.
Ode, Composed on a May Morning by William Wordsworth
While from the purpling east departs
The star that led the dawn,
Blithe Flora from her couch upstarts,
For May is on the lawn.
A quickening hope, a freshening glee,
Foreran the expected Power,
Whose first-drawn breath, from bush and tree,
Shakes off that pearly shower.
All Nature welcomes Her whose sway
Tempers the year’s extremes;
Who scattereth lustres o’er noon-day,
Like morning’s dewy gleams;
While mellow warble, sprightly trill,
The tremulous heart excite;
And hums the balmy air to still
The balance of delight.
Time was, blest Power! when youth and maids
At peep of dawn would rise,
And wander forth, in forest glades
Thy birth to solemnize.
Though mute the song—to grace the rite
Untouched the hawthorn bough,
Thy Spirit triumphs o’er the slight;
Man changes, but not Thou!
Thy feathered Lieges bill and wings
In love’s disport employ;
Warmed by thy influence, creeping things
Awake to silent joy:
Queen art thou still for each gay plant
Where the slim wild deer roves;
And served in depths where fishes haunt
Their own mysterious groves.
Cloud-piercing peak, and trackless heath,
Instinctive homage pay;
Nor wants the dim-lit cave a wreath
To honor thee, sweet May!
Where cities fanned by thy brisk airs
Behold a smokeless sky,
Their puniest flower-pot-nursling dares
To open a bright eye.
And if, on this thy natal morn,
The pole, from which thy name
Hath not departed, stands forlorn
Of song and dance and game;
Still from the village-green a vow
Aspires to thee addrest,
Wherever peace is on the brow,
Or love within the breast.
Yes! where Love nestles thou canst teach
The soul to love the more;
Hearts also shall thy lessons reach
That never loved before.
Stript is the haughty one of pride,
The bashful freed from fear,
While rising, like the ocean-tide,
In flow the joyous year.
Hush, feeble lyre! weak words refuse
The service to prolong!
To yon exulting thrush the Muse
Entrusts the imperfect song;
His voice shall chant, in accents clear,
Throughout the live-long day,
Till the first silver star appear,
The sovereignty of May.
If you have a favorite May poem that isn’t included here, please feel free to share the title and author in the comment section below.
Image credit: Summer and Playing Children by Nikolai Astrup / Public domain