40 Days and 40 Nights. A Poem per Day to Stay Awake during Lockdown

‘Quarantine’ comes from a French word referring to a 40-day period.

I have selected a range of 40 much-loved British poems. This is a small offering to those of you who spend much of the day at home.

Governments have issued a kind of quarantine, namely isolation of infected and uninfected citizens.

Do read one poem per day.

A poem has power. In the space of a few words, it speaks to us of a dimension far bigger than itself. Cut-to-the-bone words on the screen or paper reveal life through truths unbroken. Stripped of projections and wishful thinking, we see there is nothing to fear but only truths to realise.

A poem can offer a range of voices, of inspiration according to our receptivity, mood and quality of presence.

You read a poem one day and draw benefit from it. You read the same poem on another day and uncover fresh significances.

Here is a Poem Per Day for 40 Days and 40 Night. I have written below the name of the Poet, Title of the Poem and singled out one line from the poem or made a brief comment.

You take the next step. You google the poem and title to read the poem. Google also, if you wish, the meaning, interpretation and analysis of a poem. This can contribute to a further understanding. Simply Google the name of the poem and add meaning or a similar word to find out more. You can often find readings/songs on YouTube.

You may know many of the poems below. I hope you do.

I believe poetry has the most impact when we read the poem out loud. This contributes to a deep resonance in our being.

There is no particular order with the poems.

A Poem Per Day for 40 Days and 40 Nights

WEEK ONE

  1. William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Sonnet 116

‘Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds.’

  1. S. Eliot (1888-1965). Four Quartets. Quartet One. 1

‘Toward the door we never opened.’

  1. Philip Larkin (1922-1985). An Arundel Tomb

A meditation on a mediaeval couple’s death and love

  1. S. Eliot (1888-1965). The Hollow Men

‘This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.’

  1. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). Futility

Soldiers look at a dead comrade.

  1. The Beatles. Come Together

‘One thing I got to tell you is you got to be free.’

  1. H. Auden (1907-1993). The More Loving One

‘If equal affection cannot be, Let the more loving one be me.’

WEEK TWO

  1. John Keats. (1795-1821). Bright Star

‘Pillow’d’ love amidst the universe

  1. Philip Larkin. (1922-1985).This Be the Verse

‘They fuck you up your mum and dad.’

  1. Kathleen Raine. (1908-2003) Story’s End

‘Only that long ago she set out to find.’

  1. Carol Ann Duffy. ((1955-). Prayer

‘Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself.’

  1. William Shakespeare. (1564-1616).Sonnet 18

A deep poem of romantic love. Words of the master of emotional intelligence.

  1. William Blake.(1757-1827) Jerusalem

On a spiritual revolution for England. ‘Bring me my chariots of fire.’

  1. Rudyard Kipling. If

‘If you can keep your head, when all about you are losing theirs

WEEK THREE

  1. William Blake (1757-1827). To See a World

‘Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.’

  1. H. Auden. (1907-1993)If I Could Tell You.

A meditation on the future. ‘Time will say nothing but I told you so.’

  1. John Dryden. (1631-1700) Happy the Man

..’happy he alone, He who can call today his own.’

  1. Robert Browning (1812-1889). Home-Thoughts from Abroad

‘And whoever wakes in England, Sees, some morning, unaware.’

  1. William Shakespeare. (1564-1616) To be or not to Be.

Perhaps the most famous line in world literature. Resonates a truth.

  1. Carol Ann Duffy. (1955-). Snow

‘Offering the flower of your breath to the white garden.’

  1. John Keats (1795-1821) Ode to a Grecian Urn

Meditation on the importance of art for humanity

WEEK FOUR

  1. William Wordsworth. )1770-1850),. Ode to Immortality

‘The Youth, who daily farther from the east Must travel.’

  1. S. Eliot (1888-1965). The Waste Land

‘April is the cruellest month.’

  1. William Butler Yeats. 1865-1939). The Second Coming

‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.’

  1. Christina Rossetti. (1830-1894) Remember.

‘Gone far away into the silent land.’

  1. The Beatles. The Fool on the Hill

When a Buddhist monk, I sang this song in the cave to the creatures.

  1. Emily Dickinson(1830-1886) Because I could not stop for Death.

Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me.’

  1. John Keats (1795 – 1821). Ode to a Nightingale

The nightingale as Transcendence in the face of suffering

WEEK FIVE

  1. Dylan Thomas (1914-1953). Do not Go Gently into the Good Night

‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

  1. The Beatles. Blackbird

Suggested anthem for Black Lives Matter

  1. Philip Larkin (1892-1982). Ambulances

‘All streets in time are visited.’

  1. The Beatles. Hello, Goodbye

A reminder of non-duality

  1. John Milton. (1608-1674) On his Blindness

‘When I consider how my light is spent.’

  1. William Blake. (1757-1827). A Poison Tree

Meditation on danger of gladness of suffering of foe

  1. Lewis Carroll. (1832-1898). From Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland

‘There is another shore you know, upon the other side.’

WEEK SIX

  1. William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Sonnet 27

‘To work my mind, when body’s work expired.’

  1. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) Ozymandias

‘The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

  1. Edward Lear (1812-1888). The Owl and the Pussycat

‘They danced by the light of the moon.’

  1. Philip Larkin. (1892-1982) Days

Where can we live but days?’

  1. William Butler Yeats. (1865-1939). The Lake Isle of Innisfree

‘I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.’

Later in January, I will prepare another series of 40 days and 40 nights. These poems will consist of poets worldwide including Charles Baudelaire, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Goethe, Kabir, Mary Oliver, Czesaw Milosz, Pablo Neruda, Federico Garcia Lorca, Octovio Paz, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, Rabindranath Tagore and death poems of Zen monks.

Thank you to Ulla for her proposal

to explore a breadth of fine poetry.

 



  • Thank you so much! Some of the poems were introduced to me by my English teacher at secondary school – so nice to be re-acquainted with them through your selection. Warm greetings, Barbara

  • Thank you Christopher and Ulla for this wonderful idea! I love poetry but somehow don’t get round to reading it often enough. This is a wonderful organisational tool! Thank you so much. By the way, have you come across the poetry blog ‘First Known when lost?’ I think you would love it.

  • This is indeed a very lovely gesture, Christopher!

    Highly appreciated! Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu – keep up the good work.

    Cheers

    Klaus


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