Poetry, a public domain treasure

Pretty much anything published before 1923 should be in the public domain. This includes poetry. Aside from Shakespeare’s Sonnets, The Divine Comedy, or maybe Beowulf, I suspect most people don’t consider public domain poetry much.

As someone that reads a lot of genre fiction, it’s almost impossible to avoid poetry. Fantasy authors seem to have a particular enthusiasm for it, and love to write odes, bawdy drinking songs, and whatnot into their texts. This goes back to the beginning, at least as far back Tolkien, which contained poetry as a sort of world-building tool. However, I also enjoy poetry in its own right. I respect it and a writer’s ability to create it immensely. Try writing some verses yourself, and you’ll see why these people merit their accolades.

While poetry isn’t anywhere near as popular as it once was, it remains a valuable art form. I’ll avoid a formal analysis of this poem, but here is a decent example that fell into the public domain cracks.


  • When Heaven sends sorrow,
    • Warnings go first,
    • Lest it should burst
    • With stunning might
    • On souls too bright
      • To fear the morrow.
  • Can science bear us
    • To the hid springs
    • Of human things?
    • Why may not dream,
    • Or thought’s day-gleam,
      • Startle, yet cheer us?
  • Are such thoughts fetters,
    • While Faith disowns
    • Dread of earth’s tones,
    • Reeks but Heaven’s call,
    • And on the wall
      • Reads but Heaven’s letters?
  • Between Calatafimi and Palermo.February 12, 1833.

Taken from public domain eBook Verses on Various Occasions by John Henry Newman. Accessed 16-09-2022, original source: https://standardebooks.org/ebooks/john-henry-newman/verses-on-various-occasions

Whether you agree with the religious nature or not of the poem isn’t the issue. I like it because I feel like it sounds like a sort of faith-based prophecy criticizing people from the old ways to the new. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’d expect to see in a fantasy novel where forms of prophecy are very common.

There is so much out there, so many wonderful books and pictures that sometimes people forget poetry even exists. The poem cited above is one example, but there are many, many more.





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