Year Twelve Poetry: Blakian and Contemporary

This year’s English Literature students have written a series of poems, inspired by British poet William Blake whose famous poetry and carvings established him as one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement in the 18th and 19th century. He explored many themes such as nature, the detrimental effects of the Industrial Revolution and religion, and his work is often described as bleak and angry, all of which have been effectively depicted in the following poems:


Illustration by Maria V, Year 12

The Swan

In forest dark where trees droop low,

beneath a slice of half moon’s glow,

Where through the rocks, shadows creep,

To mask a form that seemed asleep.

Lightning flashes, Thunder peals,

A somber sight the light reveals,

a swan, quite dead, in feathered coat,

And scarf of death left on her throat.

His is the strike must make the death,

Whose stroke will taste her hallowed breath,

Who melts the rigour that rocks have bred,

‘Till flint will break upon a feather-bed.

Her soul, in death’s soft fetters bound,

And straight, though softly waked, she found,

With her own cheeks her red adorning,

Risen, to heaven, the brightest morning.

We owe her tears, true she is dead,

Though we shed not, but for ourselves we shed.

And though the pity we owe we lack,

The earth itself will mourn in black.

And none so cold with heart of iron,

Whose ribs of horror all environ,

Strung with wire instead of veins,

Than those who lie in the embrace of chains.

As none we mourn, so too we see

No hint of nature’s hard-held plea,

Nor cotton tree nor mourning yew,

No cedar near her coffin grew.

And all seemed unconcerned to be,

As if the nature there did strive,

To be as pitiless as she

Was to her God - when alive.

Ana P, Year 12


I The Fallen One

I, the Fallen, cast in flame

Made prince of sorrow, sin and pain,

The Old Fool's shame, foulest mistake

The Eldritch King, the damned, the snake

I, the Fallen, bane of man

Who coaxed the truth to woman's hands

Who bade her sup forbidden fruit

And struck mankind first at its roots

I, the Fallen, of cursed fate

Who dwelt behind the Old Fool's gates

And basked in honey, milk and wine

To speak the truth, my foulest crime

I, the Fallen , first to sin

Who dared to strike Him from within

Was driven out with flame and spear

By cherubin and seraphim 

I, the Fallen, once loved by all

Who heard the trumpets blast my fall

Was cast to ash and cindered air

To dwell among the sinners there

I, the Fallen, forged in hate

Who tempted the Lamb in Holy Land

Who bade the Roman wash his hands

And seal the 'Savior' to his fate

I, the Fallen, the ram, the goat

Must watch the Old Fool smirk and gloat

As all the sorrow he plagues on man,

Are said to come from mine own hands

I, the Fallen, Lucifer

The sly, the foul, the sinister

In seventh circle remain restrained

With fire and brimstone as my chains.

Pablo L, Year 12

However, to contrast these, are some poems inspired by more contemporary, modern poetry with slightly more broader and abstract themes placed into a completely different context to the Romantic era, such as love, poverty and the inexorable qualities of time.


Youth Staring Back

In a few years we’ll be asking ourselves what we’ve done;

what we’ve done with the greatest years

we’ve been given— everything, and yet what did we give back?

A blank stare—

A glassy gaze—

A roll of the eyes—

Another problem to be dealt with.

Another cause for concern: not unlike that time

you climbed in through the bathroom window at three am

and broke the sink falling. What had you (pl.) been doing?

A blazing glare—

A flutter of eyelashes—

A stray tear swept—

And it transcended to nothing.

And those told they were thriving: like when you

stayed long nights at home with only books and lamplight

to be condemned to mediocrity. Were you (s.) satisfied?

An eyelid drooping—

A sight caffeinated—

A look sleep deprived—

And in the end it led you nowhere.

We’re a youth that’s wasted;

wasted on the young— from the ones who stumbling,

erratic, find comfort in a chaos and a wilderness that’s as

bleak as it is sad— to the ones who live no lives and stay

alone wrapped up in pages, numbers and a schedule which

leaves no time for air— it’s a fallacy! Of toxic behaviour and

expectations and

offhand (online) comments and

whispered lies and

then it stops.

And starts again

Beatriz J, Year 12


Twenty Years Past

Gambia River, Gambia

In the sky

A golden eye

Which beats the barren, baked and broken earth.

There was water here. A trickling, gurgling stream

Of teeming plenty - its wealth is gone.

The goats will graze on bone-bare soil.

California, USA

Ashes on the bitter breeze

Belch billowing smoke from ruined trees

Who’ve lost their verdant elegance.

Their naked paleness scorched

A screaming effigy. The fire gorges itself,

And the forests burn.

London, UK

The pregnant waters of the Thames

Do swollen creep and press

Against the barrage, contracting furious

Against mankind. The river bursts

Unloading its sodden fury on the

Smoke-choked city.

Beijing, China

The pungent tang of smothering smog

Hangs heavy in the morning air.

The rain releases its acidic anger

On a swarming populace which like termites

Build their concrete nest.

Twenty years past, and here we stand,

And mutely see what we’ve done to our land.

Gadea V & Alvaro R, Year 12


A Timeline of Half-Truths

I miss the half-truths of childhood

Beautiful lies for a beautiful time

Lied to for love, loving the lies

Not just Santa Claus and Rudolph, the bigger ones

‘You’ll go far’ and ‘You’re special’

They say ignorance is bliss but believing is better

And we used to believe in anything

Magical misled children in their private Fairylands

I envy you

You’ll grow up soon and then you’ll get clever

‘Of course magic isn’t real’ ’The tooth fairy’s silly’

But the big ones stay with you

You still believe you’re special

Then you stop growing up and you’re a grownup

No one lies to you so you take up the job

Lying to yourself, burying reality in an avalanche of half-truths

‘It’s not my fault’ and ‘I deserve the promotion’ and ‘I still have time’

But you don’t believe like you used to

It’s near the end now, but you’ve still got one left in you

The biggest of all, the one we all know and love the most

A deathbed comfort, a warm whispering blanket

‘See you on the other side’

Javier R, Year 12


A Cynical Love Song

In your arms;

You walk with nobody in your arms.

They placed stars up in your head

And rose-tinted the iris of your eyes.

An expert on romantic comedies who absorbs

Dramatic formulaic finales as sickly sweet

As the outburst of love letters you nostalgically fold into your diary.

They serve as a crude reminder- enveloped in perfumed tissue paper-

That your worth equated to the number of petals adorning the flowers

Bought by lovers in a cloud of impulsive, meaningless lust.

You can't remember the last time the vase on the window sill was choked by roses.

Where does that leave you now?

Yet you still swoon at strangers who whisper eloquent words of Wilde,

Bat your eyelashes when they boast of Byron,

A hint of Hemingway,

The flutter of Fitzgerald...

A true Romantic, dancing through the worlds of artists

Who fabricated love out of thin air for those

Who knew not how to create it themselves.

So you go out, gulp down the starry night swirling in your wine

As if it is a love potion designed for people like you

Who can't seem to latch onto anyone.

The world taught you loneliness comes only to those

Who have no arms to fall into at night

No lips to linger on at dawn.

But then a glimmer of hope, a fleeting connection.

Shy eye contact, the hint of a smile

And you find yourself falling momentarily once more.

Drunk in so-called love you twist and twirl,

Synchronising with the syncopated pulse of ephemeral passion

God! You don't want it to stop, don't let it be over.

"But what will we do when we're sober?

Sofia C, Year 12

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