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A Poem in the Hand

Index of first lines

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This is the complete list of poems for use in the school/college round of the contest. This list will also apply in the county contests and beyond, but students will also need to learn a 3rd poem from the special showcase collection of World War I poems on this website.

  1. Beowulf poet Beowulf lines 736-789
  2. Gawain Poet Gawain and the Green Knight lines 713-739
  3. Geoffrey Chaucer The Wife of Bath’s portrait in The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
  4. Anonymous I sing of a maiden
  5. Thomas Wyatt They flee from me that sometime did me seek
  6. Philip Sidney Song from Arcadia
  7. Christopher Marlowe In summer’s heat and mid-time of the day
  8. Chidiock Tichborne Tichborne’s elegy
  9. Walter Ralegh Walsingham
  10. Mary Sidney Herbert O
  11. Edmund Spenser Amoretti LV: so oft as I her beauty do behold
  12. William Shakespeare When that I was and a little tiny boy
  13. Robert Southwell The burning babe
  14. Ben Jonson Song to Celia
  15. George Herbert Love (III)
  16. John Donne The good morrow
  17. Richard Lovelace To Althea from prison
  18. Robert Herrick To the virgins, to make much of time
  19. Henry King An exequy to his matchless never to be forgotten friend lines 81-120
  20. Anne Bradstreet Verses upon the burning of our house
  21. John Milton Paradise lost book 1 lines 242-315
  22. Katherine Philips Epitaph
  23. Andrew Marvell Bermudas
  24. John Dryden A song for St Cecilia’s Day lines 1-47
  25. Aphra Behn A thousand martyrs
  26. John Wilmot The mistress
  27. Anne, Countess of Winchilsea Finch The hog, the sheep and the goat, carrying to a fair
  28. Alexander Pope Epistle to Miss Blount, on her leaving the town after the coronation
  29. Jonathan Swift A satirical elegy on the death of a late famous general
  30. Mary Leapor The visit
  31. Mary Wortley Montagu A receipt to cure the vapors
  32. Thomas Gray Elegy written in a country church yard lines 1-80
  33. Christopher Smart My cat, Jeoffry (from Jubilate Agno)
  34. Samuel Johnson On the death of Dr Robert Levet
  35. Charlotte Smith On being cautioned against walking on a headland
  36. William Cowper Epitaph on a hare
  37. Hannah More Slavery: a poem
  38. William Blake The chimney sweeper (when my mother died…)
  39. Joanna Baillie A mother to her waking infant
  40. Robert Burns Song: ae fond kiss, and then we sever
  41. Anna Laetitia Barbauld The rights of woman
  42. Robert Southey After Blenheim
  43. Mary Robinson Female fashions for 1799
  44. Anonymous The wife of Usher’s well
  45. Anonymous Lord Randall
  46. William Wordsworth The solitary reaper
  47. George Gordon, Lord Byron The destruction of Sennacherib
  48. Samuel Taylor Coleridge Kubla Khan
  49. Charles Wolfe The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna
  50. Walter Scott Proud Maisie
  51. Percy Bysshe Shelley Ozymandias
  52. John Keats Ode to a nightingale
  53. Felicia Hemans Casabianca
  54. Thomas Love Peacock The war song of Dinas Vawr
  55. John Clare I found a ball of grass among the hay
  56. Robert Browning Porphyria’s lover
  57. Alfred, Lord Tennyson Ulysses
  58. Emily Bronte Remembrance
  59. Arthur Hugh Clough There is no God
  60. Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets from the Portuguese XXIV
  61. William Barnes My orcha’d in Linden Lea
  62. Frederick Tuckerman An upper chamber in a darkened house
  63. Adelaide Anne Proctor Envy
  64. Lewis Carroll You are old, father William
  65. Matthew Arnold Dover beach
  66. Walt Whitman Dirge for two veterans
  67. W.E. Henley Invictus
  68. Algernon Swinburne A forsaken garden lines 1-40
  69. Gerard Manley Hopkins Inversnaid
  70. George Meredith Lucifer in starlight
  71. Christina Rossetti A frog’s fate
  72. Emily Dickinson Snake
  73. Amy Levy Philosophy
  74. Robert Bridges London snow
  75. Thomas Hardy Thoughts of Phena
  76. Robert Louis Stevenson Sing me a song of a lad that is gone
  77. Mary Elizabeth Coleridge The witch
  78. Paul Dunbar Invitation to love
  79. Oscar Wilde The ballad of Reading gaol lines 1-36
  80. E. Nesbit The things that matter
  81. W.E.B. du Bois The song of the smoke
  82. Rudyard Kipling The way through the woods
  83. C.P. Cavafy The God abandons Antony
  84. Walter de la Mare Miss Loo
  85. G.K. Chesterton The rolling English road
  86. Amy Lowell A blockhead
  87. Ezra Pound The river merchant’s wife
  88. W.H. Davies The inquest
  89. Anna Wickham Divorce
  90. Robert Frost Out, out –
  91. Hilda Doolittle Sea rose
  92. Charlotte Mew Fame
  93. May Wedderburn Cannan Rouen
  94. Edward Thomas Lights out
  95. Ivor Gurney Strange hells
  96. Wilfred Owen The show
  97. WB Yeats The second coming
  98. A.E. Housman Tell me not here, it needs not saying
  99. Claude McKay Harlem shadows
  100. Edna St Vincent Millay I, being born a woman and distressed
  101. Hilaire Belloc Ha’nacker mill
  102. TS Eliot The journey of the Magi
  103. DH Lawrence Bavarian gentians
  104. Robert Graves Welsh incident
  105. Dylan Thomas The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
  106. Marianne Moore Poetry
  107. John Masefield Partridges
  108. Elizabeth Daryush Still life
  109. John Betjeman The arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel
  110. Louis MacNeice Bagpipe music
  111. William Empson Aubade
  112. W.H. Auden Musée des beaux arts
  113. Henry Reed Naming of parts
  114. Theodore Roethke My papa’s waltz
  115. Alun Lewis Goodbye
  116. Keith Douglas How to kill
  117. Edith Sitwell Heart and mind
  118. Elizabeth Bishop The fish
  119. Philip Larkin Mr Bleaney
  120. E.J. Scovell After midsummer
  121. Allen Ginsberg A supermarket in California
  122. Ted Hughes Wind
  123. Denise Levertov To the snake
  124. Robert Lowell Skunk hour
  125. Patrick Kavanagh Epic
  126. Sylvia Plath Morning song
  127. Thom Gunn Considering the snail
  128. Christopher Logue War music (excerpt from Patrocleia)
  129. R.S. Thomas On the farm
  130. Rosemary Tonks Badly chosen lover
  131. Frank O’Hara The day lady died
  132. John Berryman Dream Songs No 67: I don’t operate often
  133. Elma Mitchell Thoughts after Ruskin
  134. Basil Bunting What the chairman told Tom
  135. Charles Causley Ballad of the bread man
  136. Edwin Morgan Strawberries
  137. W.S. Graham The beast in the space
  138. Geoffrey Hill Mercian Hymns XXI
  139. Derek Walcott Sea canes
  140. Stevie Smith The galloping cat
  141. Michael Longley Wounds
  142. David Jones A, A, A, Domine Deus
  143. Derek Mahon A disused shed in County Wexford
  144. Yehuda Amichai My father in a white space suit
  145. Anne Stevenson A summer place
  146. Fleur Adcock The ex-queen among the astronomers
  147. Elizabeth Bartlett W.E.A. course
  148. Craig Raine A Martian sends a postcard home
  149. Linton Kwesi Johnson Sonny’s lettah
  150. Rita Dove Ö
  151. Carolyn Forché The colonel
  152. Tony Harrison Timer
  153. Peter Porter Your attention please
  154. Patricia Beer The lost woman
  155. Kit Wright The boys bump-starting the hearse
  156. James Fenton God, a poem
  157. David Dabydeen Catching crabs
  158. U.A. Fanthorpe The cleaner
  159. Wendy Cope Proverbial ballade
  160. Sujata Bhatt What is worth knowing?
  161. Gwendolyn Brooks Boy breaking glass
  162. Kathleen Jamie The way we live
  163. Paul Muldoon Meeting the British
  164. Gillian Clarke Border
  165. Carol Ann Duffy Originally
  166. Eavan Boland The black lace fan my mother gave me
  167. Maura Dooley Explaining magnetism
  168. Mimi Khalvati Rubaiyat
  169. Glyn Maxwell The eater
  170. Jo Shapcott Phrase book
  171. Lavinia Greenlaw Love from a foreign city
  172. Moniza Alvi The country at my shoulder
  173. Michael Hofmann Marvin Gaye
  174. Carol Rumens The emigrée
  175. Jackie Kay Dusting the phone
  176. Vicki Feaver Judith
  177. Roy Fisher Birmingham river
  178. James Berry On the afternoon train from Purley to Victoria, 1955
  179. Grace Nichols Blackout
  180. Seamus Heaney St Kevin and the blackbird
  181. Alice Oswald Wedding
  182. Imtiaz Dharker Minority
  183. Paul Farley A minute’s silence
  184. Jane Draycott Prince Rupert’s drop
  185. Denise Riley A misremembered lyric
  186. Michael Donaghy Machines
  187. Benjamin Zephaniah It’s work
  188. Sean O’Brien Cousin coat
  189. Ian Duhig The Lammas hireling
  190. Don Paterson Waking with Russell
  191. Michael Symmons Roberts Pelt
  192. Choman Hardi Two pages
  193. Colette Bryce The full Indian head trick
  194. Owen Sheers Mametz Wood
  195. Kamau Brathwaite Bread
  196. John Agard Toussaint L’Ouverture acknowledges Wordsworth’s sonnet “To Toussaint L’Ouverture”
  197. Jean Sprackland The stopped train
  198. E.A. Markham A verandah ceremony
  199. Daljit Nagra Look we have coming to Dover
  200. Mick Imlah Maren
  201. Patience Agbabi Josephine Baker finds herself
  202. Anthony Joseph Conductors of his mystery
  203. Jacob Sam-La Rose A life in dreams
  204. Simon Armitage The death of King Arthur lines 4209-4253
  205. Jacob Polley Langley Lane
  206. Andrew Motion The fish in Australia

A cold coming we had of it
A FORM, as any taper, fine
A GOOD WIF was ther of biside Bathe
A misremembered lyric: a soft catch of its song
A narrow fellow in the grass
A nasty surprise in a sandwich
A thousand martyrs I have made
A voice from the dark is calling me
About suffering they were never wrong
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
After the fair, I’d still a light heart
An age, in her embraces passed
An upper chamber in a darkened house
And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird
As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow
As some fond virgin, whom her mother’s care
As you came from the holy land
At news of her death
Before me lies a mass of shapeless days
Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode
Behold her, single in the field
Being moved into action, Sir Merrak met Mordred
Beyond the view of crossroads ringed with breath
Blackout is endemic to the land
Brixtan Prison
But that was nothing to what things came out
Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
Cold in the earth–and the deep snow piled above thee!
Come when the nights are bright with stars
Condemn’d to hope’s delusive mine
Contemptuous of his home beyond
Criminal, you took a great piece of my life
Cut to the Fleet
Dearest, note how these two are alike
Dearest, the cockroaches are having babies
Drink to me only with thine eyes
Eagerly watched
Early morning over Rouen, hopeful, high, courageous morning
Ere all the world had grown so drear
Even now there are places where a thought might grow
Fine words won’t turn the icing pink
For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey
For no fictitious ills these numbers flow
For years afterwards the farmers found them
From harmony, from heavenly harmony
From time to time our love is like a sail
Gas-holders, russet among fields. Milldams, marlpools
Gather ye rose buds while ye may
Gold survives the fire that’s hot enough
Green Snake, when I hung you round my neck
Half my friends are dead
He added the final ‘e’
He did not wear his scarlet coat
He sipped at a weak hock and seltzer
He was the first always: Fortune
Hello, she said, and startled me. Nice day. Nice day I agreed.
Here are two pictures from my father’s head
Here they lie mottled to the ground unseen
Here lies, whom hound did ne’er pursue
His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Hours before dawn we were woken by the quake
I am spending my time imagining the worst that could happen
I am the Smoke King
I caught a tremendous fish
I could have been a builder
I don’t operate often. When I do
I found a ball of grass among the hay
I found the world’s pelt
I have come to the borders of sleep
I have lived in important places, times
I have never walked on Westminster Bridge
I have walked a great while over the snow
I hear the halting footsteps of a lass
I met a traveller from an antique land
I said, Ah! what shall I write?
I syng of a mayden
I took my oath  I would inquire
I was asleep in the middle of a pad
I was born a foreigner
I wonder by my troth, what thou, and I
I, being born a woman and distressed
I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle
I’m standing here inside my skin
I’ve seen it all, you know. Men.
In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland
In silent night when rest I took
In summer’s heat and mid-time of the day
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
Is there a solitary wretch who hies
Is this the region, this the soil, the clime
Isolated here in the South, fiddling with British Rail
It crumbles
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
It little profits that an idle king
It was a summer evening
It was the first gift he ever gave her
It’s no go the merry go round, it’s no go the rickshaw
’Ithin the woodlands, flow’ry gleaded
Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
Love, we curve downwards, we are set tonight
Mary stood in the kitchen
mony klyf he ouerclambe in contrayez straunge
My father, in a white spacesuit
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My mother went with no more warning
My prime of youth is but a frost of cares
My soul looked down from a vague height, with Death
My true-love hath my heart and I have his
Nautilus Island’s hermit
Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note
Not everyman has gentians in his house
Now in thy dazzling half-ope’d eye
Now that I’ve nearly done my days
‘O where ha’ye been, Lord Randall, my son?
Oh I am a cat that likes to
Oh, what a lantern, what a lamp of light
On a starred night Prince Lucifer up rose
Out of the night that covers me
Pass the tambourine, let me bash out praises
Poetry? It’s a hobby.
Proud Maisie is in the wood
Rose, harsh rose
Ruby and me stalking savannah
SAID the Lion to the Lioness–‘When you are amber dust
Sally is gone that was so kindly
Shape the lips to an o, say a
She picked me up
She stands and knows herself for the first time
Shut up. Shut up. There’s nobody here
Sing me a song of a lad that is gone
Sleep on my love in thy cold bed
Slowly the white dream wrestle(s) to life
So oft as I her beauty do behold
So we must say Goodbye, my darling
Sometimes in the over-heated house, but not for long
Stand up straight, my son. Don’t slouch
Stowed in the sea to invade
Tell me not here, it needs not saying
That van Gogh’s ear, set free
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold
The boy stood on the burning deck
The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day
The day my father came back from the sea
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
The hearse has stalled in the lane overlooking the river
The last sun beam
The mountain sheep are sweeter
The Polar DEW has just warned that
The rain set early in tonight
The rapid cooling of this extraordinary glass drop leaves it in a state of
The sea is calm tonight
The singing stops. Each player finds his spot
The snail pushes through a green
The whiskey on your breath
There are strange Hells within the minds War made
There have been teeth
‘There is no God,’ the wicked saith
There lived a wife at Usher’s Well
There once was a country…I left it as a child
There was Dai Puw. He was no good.
There was no secret
There were never strawberries
There’s a country at my shoulder
They flee from me that sometime did me seek
They serve revolving saucer eyes
They shut the road through the woods
This darksome burn, horse back brown
This evening we are doing Pasternak
This house has been far out at sea all night
This is where the kitten died
‘This was Mr Bleaney’s room. He stayed
Through the open French window the warm sun
To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday
Top of the morning, Dogfood Family!
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
Under the parabola of a ball
We came from our own country in a red room
We met the British in the dead of winter
What on Earth deserves our trust?
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the
Whatever the difference is, it all began
When Love with unconfined wings
When men were all asleep the snow came flying
When my mother died I was very young
When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
When that I was and a little tiny boy
When thin-strewn memory I look through
Where the mountains crumbled
Where the remote Bermudas ride
Where’s Birmingham river? Sunk
While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
Who does not wish, ever to judge a right
Whose broken window is a cry of art
Why will Delia thus retire
With walking sick, with curtseys lame
Women reminded him of lilies and roses
Wondering how a good woman can murder
WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD IS TRUE. I was in his house. His wife carried
Yes, injured Woman! rise, assert thy right!
You are my secret coat. You’re never dry
‘You are old, Father William,’ the young man said
You know that house she called home
You saw so much romance in competition

Sir Andrew Motion talks to us about his thoughts on Poetry By Heart, his experiences of judging and the criteria with examples of recitals from 2013!

Andrew Motion’s Judging Guidelines from Poetry By Heart on Vimeo.



Co-ordinator’s handbook (2015-16)
(Screen friendly)


Co-ordinator’s handbook (2015-16)
(Black & White printer friendly)


School/College Certificate


Accuracy Score Sheet


Contest Score Sheet


Judging Criteria


Poetry Promise


Score totaliser


Sample Schedule