As well as new recordings by contemporary poets the Poetry Archive also contains selections of classic poems recorded by contemporary voices.

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Poet

Charlotte Mew

B. 1869 D. 1928

1 poem available

Charlotte Mew was surrounded by mental ill health and death from a young age. Three brothers died while she was still a child and two other siblings were committed to mental institutions. She vowed never to marry, fearful of the…

Poet

Aphra Behn

B. 1640 D. 1689

1 poem available

Aphra Behn was the first female writer to make her living through her art; she was a significant seventeenth-century dramatist,The Rover being one of her best-known plays. Little is known of her early life, but we do know that she…

Poet

Anne Finch

B. 1661 D. 1720

1 poem available

Anne Finch was an aristocrat acquainted with the most famous poet of the age, Alexander Pope. However, during her lifetime, her poetry was little known and would have remained obscure had not William Wordsworth praised it, particularly her depictions of nature, in an essay…

Poet

Jonathan Swift

B. 1667 D. 1745

1 poem available

Born in Ireland in 1667, Swift spent much of his adult life in England. He was actively involved in politics, and in his self-penned epitaph describes himself as a ‘champion of liberty’. He was a prolific writer of prose satire…

Poet

Mary Leapor

B. 1722 D. 1746

1 poem available

In spite of needing to earn a living as a kitchen maid and her death from measles at the age of twenty-four, Mary Leapor left behind a substantial body of work. Her poetry has increasingly come to be seen as…

Poet

Thomas Gray

B. 1716 D. 1771

1 poem available

Written over several years in the 1740s, Gray’s elegy was eventually published in 1751 and enjoyed phenomenal popularity for the next two hundred years. Gray was a versatile poet. He wrote elegant lyric and dramatic poems, Latin translations, odes and…

Poet

Christopher Smart

B. 1722 D. 1771

1 poem available

Christopher Smart was born in 1722 and is best remembered for his religious poems A Song to David and Jubilate Agno, both of which were written during his time at St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics, London. He believed that God…

Poet

Samuel Johnson

B. 1709 D. 1784

1 poem available

Samuel Johnson is a towering figure in the history of English literature, to the extent that the second half of the eighteenth century has sometimes been described as ‘the age of Johnson’. He was a poet, journalist, lexicographer, critic, essayist,…

Poet

William Cowper

B. 1731 D. 1800

1 poem available

William Cowper was a popular poet and writer of hymns. His descriptions of everyday life in the English countryside changed nature writing in the eighteenth century, in many ways preparing the ground for poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. Cowper…

Poet

Hannah More

B. 1745 D. 1833

1 poem available

Hannah More’s poem was written in support of William Wilberforce’s campaign to abolish slavery. A passionate, poetic explanation of the anti-abolitionists’ argument, this extract is part of a 294 line poem. ‘Oroonoko’, in the fourth line of this extract, is…

Poet

Joanna Baillie

B. 1762 D. 1851

1 poem available

Baillie was a Scottish playwright, critic and poet who lived most of her life in Hampstead, where she was the centre of a rich literary culture. Born into a family of physicians and the daughter of a university professor, Baillie…

Poet

Robert Burns

B. 1759 D. 1796

3 poems available

Burns started life as a ploughman in Scotland but is now one of the world’s most celebrated poets. Every January, his life is remembered with whisky, haggis, singing and dancing on Burns Night. Perhaps as a distraction from the hard…

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