Famous Poems that are Sad

Famous poems that are sad resonate unlike any other genre of poetry. Sadness is universal, and the poets that craft these haunting verses, and sorrowful poems stick with us long after reading.

Famous poems that are sad resonate unlike any other genre of poetry. Sadness is universal, and the poets that craft these haunting verses, and sorrowful poems stick with us long after reading. Poetry is a mode of expression that connects us, ties our souls to others. The sadness of Edgar Allan Poe is different than Sylvia Plath’s, but the subject they are writing about is universal. I have read a lot of sad poetry, and have been inspired to write some of my own, too. Below are some examples of a few of the most famous poems that are sad. A few of these are personal favorites. Their aching metaphors and poignant similes create beautiful, tragic images that I go back to often.

Daddy by Sylvia Plath

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

Read the full poem here.

Confessional poetry is famously sad, and Sylvia Plath’s Daddy is no exception. This poem delves into complex emotions, addressing themes of loss, anger, and longing in a way that resonates profoundly.

Suicide’s Note by Langston Hughes

The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

Suicide’s Note is an amazing achievement in sad poetry. It conveys such a powerful message, a heart wrenching sentiment, in three short lines. It reads as easily as a haiku, but packs a punch far stronger than should be possible in such a short poem.

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

Read the entire hauntingly beautiful poem here.

The Saddest Noise by Emily Dickinson

It makes us think of all the dead
That sauntered with us here,
By separation’s sorcery
Made cruelly more dear.

It makes us think of what we had,
And what we now deplore.
We almost wish those siren throats
Would go and sing no more.

An ear can break a human heart
As quickly as a spear,
We wish the ear had not a heart
So dangerously near.

Read the full poem here.

Famous poems that are sad is synonymous with Dickinson. Emily Dickinson writes so expertly about death. Her poems are consistently filled with musings on life and death, and our relationship to the passing of time. This poem is no exception. Equating the typically beautiful birdsong with the changing of the seasons and lost loves and death that comes with each new spring.

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Read the full poem here.

In perhaps Angelou’s most famous poem, she writes on the tragedy of bondage. Yearning for freedom, the wind beneath its wings, the bird in her poem cries out desperately to be let free. It is a moving free verse poem that resonates throughout time.

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Sam and Corey started Poetry is Pretentious to demystify poetry. More importantly, their 5th grade teacher told them they couldn’t go through life as a team. 18 years later they’re here to prove her wrong.


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