In Depth

Mother’s Day poems: seven classics in honour of mums

Perfect poetry for inspiration on Mothering Sunday


With Mother’s Day this month, many people want to give something back to the woman who raised them, beyond the classic scented candle.

For some families, responsibility for the preparations will fall on the most conscientious sibling, with the others scribbling their name at the bottom of a card that their more thoughtful sister or brother has bought.

So to relieve the additional burden of finding the right words to say, here are some lines you can borrow from a collection of famous poets and their celebrated works on mothers.

To My Mother, by Edgar Allan Poe

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,

The angels, whispering to one another, 

Can find, among their burning terms of love,

None so devotional as that of “Mother,”

Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—You who are more than mother unto me,

And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you

In setting my Virginia's spirit free.

My mother—my own mother, who died early,

Was but the mother of myself; but you

Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,

And thus are dearer than the mother I knew

By that infinity with which my wife

Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.

Tintype on the Pond, by J. Lorraine Brown

Believe it or not, 

the old woman said,

and I tried to picture it: 

a girl, 

the polished white ribs of a roast 

tied to her boots with twine, 

the twine coated with candle wax 

so she could glide 

uninterrupted across the ice — 

my mother, 

skating on bones.

Sonnets Are Full of Love, by Christina Rossetti

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome     

Has many sonnets: so here now shall be   

One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me

To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,   

To my first Love, my Mother, on whose kneeI learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;   

Whose service is my special dignity,

And she my loadstar while I go and come.

And so because you love me, and because   

I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath     

Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honoured name:     

In you not fourscore years can dim the flame

Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws   

Of time and change and mortal life and death.

Mother, by Lola Ridge

Your love was like moonlight

turning harsh things to beauty,

so that little wry souls

reflecting each other obliquely

as in cracked mirrors...

beheld in your luminous spirit

their own reflection,

transfigured as in a shining stream,

and loved you for what they are not.

You are less an image in my mind

than a luster

I see you in gleams

pale as star-light on a gray wall...

evanescent as the reflection of a white swan

shimmering in broken water.

Poems Done on a Late Night Car, by Carl Sandburg


Here is a thing my heart wishes the world had more of:  

I heard it in the air of one night when I listened  

To a mother singing softly to a child restless and angry in the darkness.

Mother o’ Mine, by Rudyard Kipling

If I were hanged on the highest hill,

Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

I know whose love would follow me still,

Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,

Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

I know whose tears would come down to me,

Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,

I know whose prayers would make me whole,

Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

To a Child, by Sophie Jewett

The leaves talked in the twilight, dear;   

Hearken the tale they told: How in some far-off place and year,   

Before the world grew old, I was a dreaming forest tree,   

You were a wild, sweet bird

Who sheltered at the heart of me   

Because the north wind stirred; How, when the chiding gale was still,   

When peace fell soft on fear, You stayed one golden hour to fill   

My dream with singing, dear. To-night the self-same songs are sung   

The first green forest heard; My heart and the gray world grow young—   

To shelter you, my bird.

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