Poem on Education: Poems are amazing ways to express one’s feelings. Also, they play an amazing role in educating one’s mind. No wonder Poets have often turned their attention to college and school.
In this post, we have selected ten of the very best poem on education of various kinds. And they cut across from poets remembering their schooldays and university years to poets pondering the idea of ‘education’ in a more general, abstract sense.
Poem on Education for High School and College
1. Thomas Gray’s Poem on Education
Thomas Gray, “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”.
To each his sufferings: all are men, Condemn’d alike to groan, the tender for another’s pain; Th’ unfeeling for his own…
Yet ah! Why should they know their fate? Since sorrow never comes too late. And happiness too swiftly flies. Thought would destroy their paradise. No more; where ignorance is bliss, ’Tis folly to be wise.
NOTE: This was written in 1742 when Gray was in his mid-twenties. And it was around ten years after his own time as a student at Eton. This was the prestigious public school in Berkshire, England.
This poem sees Gray reflecting on his own schooldays and the value of education more generally.
2. Oliver Goldsmith’s Poem on Education
Oliver Goldsmith, ‘The Village Schoolmaster’.
The village all declared how much he knew; ’Twas certain he could write, and cypher too: Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage, and even the story ran that he could gauge.
In arguing too, the parson owned his skill, For e’en though vanquished he could argue still; While words of learned length and thundering sound Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around; And still they gazed and still the wonder grew, That one small head could carry all he knew…
NOTE: Goldsmith, like Gray, was an eighteenth-century poet. And his depiction of a genial village schoolteacher, who is viewed by the locals as a kind of demigod, is not one that has lasted, alas, into the modern age.
But when Goldsmith was writing, learning and literacy and education for its own sake were looked up to, and the man who possessed their gifts was revered
3. William Blake’s Poem on Education
William Blake, ‘The School Boy’.
But to go to school in a summer morn, – O it drives all joy away! Under a cruel eye outworn,
the little ones spend the day sighing and dismayed.
Ah then at times I drooping sit, and spend many an anxious hour; Nor in my book can I take delight, Nor sit in learning’s bower, Worn through with dreary shower…
NOTE: The speaker of ‘The School Boy’ is, appropriately enough, a schoolboy. He tells us how much he loves to get up early on a summer morning, listening to the huntsmen blasting their horns and the birdsong.
What he doesn’t like is he has to go to school. The ‘cruel eye’ of the stern schoolmaster makes school anything but a pleasant experience.
The boys all sit unhappily in ‘sighing and dismay, and the schoolboy speaker sits drooping in his chair, anxious and unhappy, unable to learn.
So we get a searing indictment of the ‘bad education’ so prevalent in English schools in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
4. William Wordsworth’s Poem on Education
William Wordsworth, ‘Residence at Cambridge’.
My spirit was up, my thoughts were full of hope; Some friends I had, acquaintances who there
Seemed friends, poor simple school-boys, now hung round With honour and importance: in a world Of welcome faces up and down I roved; Questions, directions, warnings and advice, Flowed in upon me, from all sides; fresh day Of pride and pleasure!
To myself, I seemed a man of business and expense, and went From shop to shop about my own affairs, To Tutor or to Tailor, as befell, From street to street with loose and careless mind…
NOTE: This is part of Wordsworth’s long autobiographical poem The Prelude. It recalls the young poet’s time studying at King’s College, Cambridge in the late 1780s.
For the young Wordsworth, the university was abuzz with ‘Questions, directions, warnings and advice, the world was full of promise, and the poet’s mind was carefree.
5. Emily Dickinson’s Poem on Education
Emily Dickinson ‘Through the Dark Sod — as Education’.
Through the Dark Sod — as education — the Lily passes sure — feels her white foot — no trepidation — her faith — no fear — afterwards — in the meadow — swinging her Beryl Bell — the mould-life — all forgotten — now — in ecstasy — and dell…
NOTE: This short poem is quintessential of Emily Dickinson. And it sees her using the word ‘Education’ as a metaphor for the way the lily flourishes out of the earth, like a child growing to maturity.
7. K. Chesterton Poem on Education
Chesterton, “The Song of Education”.
They have brightened our room which is spacious and cool, with diagrams used in the Idiot School, and Books for the Blind that will teach us to see.
But the mother is happy, for mother is free. For mother is dancing up forty-eight floors. For the love of the Leeds International Stores and the flame of that faith might perhaps have grown cold, with the care of a baby of seven weeks old…
NOTE: So Chesterton writes in this poem, part of a longer sequence from 1922 called “Songs of Education” in which the poet and creator of Father Brown rail against the various flaws of the modern age, all of which are grouped around ‘education’ in some way.
7. Langston Hughes’ Poem on Education
Langston Hughes, ‘Theme for English B’.
Hughes (1901-67) was one of the leading poets of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.
This poem is about the experience of being a black boy. He was the only one in his class – at a New York School in the early twentieth century.
Hughes writes that his experience of the world will be different from his white peers. And yet they – and their white teacher – are united by being American.
This acknowledgement of what brings them together, but also what marks them out as different, underpins this poem.
8. Seamus Heaney’s Poem on Education
Seamus Heaney, “Death of a Naturalist”.
This is a poem about ‘education’ that goes beyond school lessons. ‘Death of a Naturalist’ is the title poem from Heaney’s first collection of poems.
It was published in 1966. It is a poem about a rite of passage and realizing that the reality of the world does not match our expectations of it.
Here, specifically, it is sexuality which is the theme. The speaker is appalled and repulsed by the reproductive cycle of frogs, which doesn’t quite tally with the view of nature offered by his teacher, Miss Walls.
9. Carol Ann Duffy’s Poem on Education
Carol Ann Duffy, ‘In Mrs Tilscher’s Class’.
There aren’t many modern or contemporary poems which recall schooldays with affection. But ‘In Mrs Tilscher’s Class’ does just that.
Duffy paints a fond picture of her time at primary school and on the brink of adolescence. This was powerfully suggested by the poem’s final image of the sky breaking into a thunderstorm.
Thus, reminding us that ‘education’ at school is about more than just the academic lessons. And it reminds us that we grow personally, physically, and emotionally during our time at school.
10. Karl Shapiro’s Poem on Education
Karl Shapiro, ‘University’.
This 1940 poem by the American poet Karl Shapiro (1913-2000) is especially relevant in light of the recent move to decolonize university curriculums, particularly in the US and UK.
Shapiro describes the old-fashioned, manorial structure and feel of the modern university, which is propped up by tradition and endowments from wealthy donors and fails to connect with the lives of many ordinary Americans beyond the campus boundaries.
The university in question is the University of Virginia.
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