The Rattle Bag An Anthology of Poetry

Edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes

Faber & Faber



Trade Paperback

496 Pages


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The Rattle Bag is an anthology of poetry (mostly in English but occasionally in translation) for general readers and students of all ages and backgrounds. These poems have been selected by the simple yet telling criteria that they are the personal favorites of the editors, themselves two of contemporary literature's leading poets.

Moreover, Heaney and Hughes have elected to list their favorites not by theme or by author but simply by title (or by first line, when no title is given). As they explain in their Introduction: "We hope that our decision to impose an arbitrary alphabetical order allows the contents [of this book] to discover themselves as we ourselves gradually discovered them—each poem full of its singular appeal, transmitting its own signals, taking its chances in a big, voluble world."

With undisputed masterpieces and rare discoveries, with both classics and surprises galore, The Rattle Bag includes the work of such key poets as William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and Sylvia Plath among its hundreds of poems. A helpful Glossary as well as an Index of Poets and Works are offered at the conclusion of this hefty, diverse, and inspiring collection of poetry.

"The method employed in arranging and presenting [the contents of this book] must surely be the one for all the best anthologies . . . The Rattle Bag sets a standard which other anthologies will find it difficult to equal."—Alan Brownjohn, The Times Literary Supplement (London)

"A splendid, huge, resonant book."—The Observer (London)

"A must for anyone at all who likes poetry."—Melvyn Bragg, The Times (London)

Table of Contents
"'Adieu, farewell earth's bliss,'" Thomas Nashe
"After his Death," Norman MacCaig
n0 "After Looking into a Book Belonging to My Great-Grandfather . . .," Hyam Plutzik
"Afterwards," Thomas Hardy
"Ah! Sunflower," William Blake
"Alfred Corning Clark," Robert Lowell
"The Allansford Pursuit," Robert Graves
"'All the world's a stage,'" William Shakespeare
"Among the Narcissi," Sylvia Plath
"The Ancients of the World," R. S. Thomas
"'And death shall have no dominion,'" Dylan Thomas
"And in the 51st Year of that Century . . . ," Hyam Plutzik
"'And the days are not full enough,'" Ezra Pound
"Angelica the Doorkeeper," Anon
"'The Angel that presided o'er my birth,'" William Blake
"'Anger lay by me all night long,'" Elizabeth Daryush
"An Animal Alphabet," Edward Lear
"Another Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries," Hugh MacDiarmid
"'anyone lived in a pretty how town,'" e. e. cummings
"Apple Blossom," Louis MacNeice
"The Artist," William Carlos Williams
"'As I came in by Fiddich-side,'" Anon
"'As I walked out one evening,'" W. H. Auden
"'As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame,'" Gerard Manley Hopkins
"As Much as You Can," C. P. Cavafy
"'As the team's head-brass flashed out,'" Edward Thomas
"'As you came from the holy land,'" Sir Walter Ralegh
"At Grass," Philip Larkin
"At the Bomb Testing Site," William Stafford
"'At the grey round of the hill,'" W. B. Yeats
"Auguries of Innocence," William Blake
"Aunt Julia," Norman MacCaig
"Autobahnmotorwayautoroute," Adrian Mitchell
"Autobiography," Louis MacNeice
"Autowreck," Karl Shapiro
"'Aye, but to die, and go we know not where,'" William Shakespeare
"Baby Song," Thom Gunn
"The Badger," John Clare
"Bagpipe Music," Louis MacNeice
"Bags of Meat," Thomas Hardy
"The Ballad of Rudolph Reed," Gwendolyn Brooks
"Ballad of the Bread Man," Charles Causley
"Be Merry," Anon
"Beeny Cliff," Thomas Hardy
"'Before I knocked and flesh let enter,'" Dylan Thomas
"Behaviour of Fish in an Egyptian Tea Garden," Keith Douglas
"La Belle Dame Sans Merci," John Keats
"Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter," John Crowe Ransom
"'Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises,'" William Shakespeare
"Bermudas," Andrew Marvell
"Bethsabe's Song," George Peele
"Bifocal," William Stafford
"The Bight," Elizabeth Bishop
"Binsey Poplars," Cerard Manley Hopkins
"Birches," Robert Frost
"Birth of the Foal," Ferenc Juhász
"The Black Cloud," W. H. Davies
"Black Rock of Kiltearn," Andrew Young
"The Blacksmiths," Anon
"Blue Girls," John Crowe Ransom
"Boat Stealing," William Wordsworth
"Bog-Face," Stevie Smith
"'Break, break, break,'" Alfred Lord Tennyson
"Breathing Space July," Tomas Transtromer
"Brian O'Linn," Anon
"'Buffalo Bill's,'" e. e. cummings
"The Buffalo Skinners," Anon
"Bullfight," Miroslav Holub
"The Burglar of Babylon," Elizabeth Bishop
"The Burning Babe," Robert Southwell
"The Cable Ship," Harry Edmund Martinson
"'Call for the Robin Redbreast and the Wren,'" John Webster
"The Cap and Bells," W. B. Yeats
"Carentan O Carentan," Louis Simpson
"'Carry her over the water,'" W. H. Auden
"Channel Firing," Thomas Hardy
"A Charm," Anon
"The Child Dying," Edwin Muir
"A Child's Pet," W. H. Davies
"Child's Song," Robert Lowell
"The Chimney Sweeper," William Blake
"The Clod and the Pebble," William Blake
"Cocaine Lil and Morphine Sue," Anon
"Cock-Crow," Edward Thomas
"The Cold Heaven," W. B. Yeats
"The Collarbone of a Hare," W. B. Yeats
"The Combe," Edward Thomas
"The Compassionate Fool," Norman Cameron
"Cotton," Harry Edmund Martinson
"'Could mortal lip divine,'" Emily Dickinson
"The Cow," Ogden Nash
"Cowper's Tame Hare," Norman Nicholson
"A Crocodile," Thomas Lovell Beddoes
"Crossing the Alps," William Wordsworth
"Crossing the Water," Sylvia Plath
"Crystals Like Blood," Hugh MacDiarmid
"The Cuckoo," Anon
"Cut Grass," Philip Larkin
"Dahn the Plug'ole," Anon
"The Darkling Thrush," Thomas Hardy
"Days," Philip Larkin
"The Dead Crab," Andrew Young
"Death," Anon
"Death in Leamington," Sir John Betjeman
"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," Randall Jarrell
"Delayed Action," Christian Morgenstem
"Desert Places," Robert Frost
"The Destruction of Sennacherib," Lord Byron
"A Devil," Zbigniew Herbert ar"The Devil in Texas," Anon
"Dinogad's Petticoat," Anon
"Dirge," Kenneth Fearing
"Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock," Wallace Stevens
"A Divine Image," William Blake
"'Do not go gentle into that good night'" Dylan Thomas
"Donal Og," Anon
"The Donkey," G. K. Chesterton
"Don't Let that Horse," Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"The Dream About Our Master, William Shakespeare," Hyam Plutzik
"A Drover," Padraic Colum
"The Duck," Ogden Nash
"Dusk in the Country," Harry Edmund Martinson
"The Dying Airman," Anon
from "Eagle in New Mexico," D. H. Lawrence
"The Earthworm," Harry Edmund Martinson
"Earthy Anecdote," Wallace Stevens
"Elegy for Himself," Chidiock Tichborne
"Epigrams," J. V. Cunningham
"An Epitaph," Walter de la Mare
"Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries," A. E. Housman
"Epitaph on a Tyrant," W. H. Auden
"Epitaph on the Earl of Leicester," Sir Walter Ralegh
"Eternity," William Blake
"Even Such is Time," Sir Walter Ralegh
"The Explosion," Philip Larkin
"Exposure," Wilfred Owen
"Fable," Janos Pilinszky
"The Face of the Horse," Nikolai Alekseevich Zabolotsky
"The Fair Maid of Amsterdam," Anon
"Fairy Tale," Miroslav Holub
"The Faking Boy," Anon
"The Fallow Deer at the Lonely House," Thomas Hardy
"'Fear no more the heat o' the sun,'" William Shakespeare
"Field-Glasses," Andrew Young
"The Fish," Elizabeth Bishop
"The Fight," Theodore Roethke
"The Flood," John Clare
"A Flower Given to My Daughter," James Joyce
"The Flower-Fed Buffaloes," Vachel Lindsay
"Flowers by the Sea," William Carlos Willams
"The Fly," Miroslav Holub
"Flying Crooked," Robert Graves
"For a Lamb," Richard Eberhart
"'The force that through the green fuse drives the flower,'" Dylan Thomas
"Forgotten Girlhood," Laura Riding
"Fox Dancing," Suzanne Knowles
"Francis Jammes: A Prayer to Go to Paradise with the Donkeys," Richard Wilbur
"Frankie and Johnny," Anon
"The Frog," Anon
"The Fury of Aerial Bombardment," Richard Eberhart
"Futility," Wilfred Owen
from "Games," Vasco Popa
par"The Garden of Love," William Blake
"The Garden Seat," Thomas Hardy
"Gathering Leaves," Robert Frost
"The Gazelle Calf," D. H. Lawrence
"The Germ," Ogden Nash
"Girl," Anon
"Giving Potatoes," Adrian Mitchell
"A Glass of Beer," James Stephens
"The Goose and the Gander," Anon
"Great and Strong," Miroslav Holub
"The Habit of Perfection," Gerard Manley Hopkins
"Ha'nacker Mill," Hilaire Belloc
"'The hand that signed the paper felled a city,"' Dylan Thomas
"The Happy Heart," Thomas Dekker
"Hares at Play," John Clare
"'The Hart loves the high wood,'" Anon
"The Hawk," George Mackay Brown
"He Hears the Cry of the Sedge," W. B. Yeats
"'Hear the voice of the Bard!'" William Blake
"The Hearse Song," Anon
"Heaven-Haven," Gerard Manley Hopkins
"The Hen," Christian Morgenstem
"Here," R. S. Thomas
"Here Lies a Lady," John Crowe Ransom
"Heredity," Thomas Hardy
"A History Lesson," Miroslav Holub
"The Horses," Edwin Muir
"Hospital Barge at Cérisy," Wilfred Owen
"The House of Hospitalities," Thomas Hardy
"'How doth the little crocodile,'" Lewis Carroll
"'How happy is the little Stone,'" Emily Dickinson
"How to Kill," Keith Douglas
"Humming-Bird," D. H. Lawrence
"Hunter Poems of the Yoruba," Anon
"Baboon Blue"
"Colobus Monkey"
"Kob Antelope"
"Red Monkey"
"Hurt Hawks," Robinson Jeffers
"'I cannot grow,'" W. H. Auden
"'I saw a Peacock with a fiery tail,'" Anon
"'I think that the Root of the Wind is Water,'" Emily Dickinson
"'I will give my love an apple without e'er a core,'" Anon
"'If I might be an ox,'" Anon
"'In beauty may I walk,'" Anon
"'In Golden Gate Park that day,'" Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"In the Deep Channel," William Stafford
"'In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell,'" Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"In Time of 'The Breaking of Nations,'" Thomas Hardy
"Infant Sorrow," William Blake
"Innocence," Patrick Kavanagh
"The Inquest," W. H. Davies
"Interruption to a Journey," Norman MacCaig
"Inversnaid," Gerard Manley Hopkins
"Invictus," W. E. Henley
"'It is not growing like a tree,'" Ben Jonson
"'It's such a little thing to weep,'" Emily Dickinson
"It Was All Very Tidy," Robert Graves
"'It was a lover and his lass,'" William Shakespeare
"Jabberwocky," Lewis Carroll
"Janet Waking," John Crowe Ransom
"Jerusalem," William Blake
"Jim Desterland," Hyam Plutzik
"John Barleycorn," Robert Burns
"John Kinsella's Lament for Mrs Mary Moore," W. B. Yeats
"John Mouldy," Walter de la Mare
"The Jungle Husband," Stevie Smith
"Kerr's Ass," Patrick Kavanagh
"The Knee," Christian Morgenstem
"The Knight's Tomb," Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"Lament for Tadhg Cronin's Children," Michael Hartnett
"Landscapes," T. S. Eliot
"New Hampshire"
"Rannoch, by Glencoe"
"Cape Ann"
"The Last Words of My English Grandmother," William Carlos Williams
"The Leaden-Eyed," Vachel Lindsay
"Legend," Judith Wright
"The Legs," Robert Graves
"Lepanto," G. K. Chesterton
"The Lie," Sir Walter Ralegh
"'Like Rain it sounded till it curved,'" Emily Dickinson
"Lines for an Old Man," T. S. Eliot
"The Lion for Real," Allen Ginsberg
"Little Fish," D. H. Lawrence
"The Little Mute Boy," Federico García Lorca
"Little Trotty Wagtail," John Clare
"Lizard," D. H. Lawrence
"The Locust," Anon
"Lollocks," Robert Graves
"London," William Blake
"'Lonely the sea-bird lies at her rest,'" W. B. Yeats
"Long John Brown and Little Mary Bell," William Blake
"Lore," R. S. Thomas
"'Loveliest of trees, the cherry now,'" A. E. Housman
"'The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall,'" Edward Dyer
"Macavity: the Mystery Cat," T. S. Eliot
"Mad Gardener's Song," Lewis Carroll
"Mad Tom's Song," Anon
"'maggie and milly and molly and may,'" e. e. cummings
"The Maldive Shark," Herman Melville
"Man and Bat," D. H. Lawrence
"The Man He Killed," Thomas Hardy
"Manners," Elizabeth Bishop
"The Marvel," Keith Douglas
"Mary Stuart," Edwin Muir
from "The Mask of Anarchy," Percy Bysshe Shelley
"Masses," César Vallejo
"The Meadow Mouse," Theodore Roethke
"Meditation on the A30," Sir John Betjeman
"Memorabilia," Robert Browning
"Memories of Verdun," Alan Dugan
"Memory of My Father," Patrick Kavanagh
"Merlin," Edwin Muir
"'Methought that I had broken from the Tower,'" William Shakespeare
"The Midnightmouse," Christian Morgenstem
"The Mill-Pond," Edward Thomas
"The Minimal," Theodore Roethke
"'Mips and ma the mooly moo,'" Theodore Roethke
"Monkeyland," Sándor Weöres
"The Moon and a Cloud," W. H. Davies
"Moonrise," Gerard Manley Hopkins
"'More Light! More Light!,'" Anthony Hecht
"Mosquito," D. H. Lawrence
"The Mosquito Knows," D. H. Lawrence
"Mountain Lion," D. H. Lawrence
"Mouse's Nest," John Clare
"Mushrooms," Sylvia Plath
"My Cat, Jeoffrey," Christopher Smart
"'My father played the melodeon,'" Patrick Kavanagh


Praise for The Rattle Bag

"The method employed in arranging and presenting [the contents of this book] must surely be the one for all the best anthologies . . . The Rattle Bag sets a standard which other anthologies will find it difficult to equal."—Alan Brownjohn, Times Literary Supplement (London)
"A splendid, huge, resonant book."—Observer (London)
"A must for anyone at all who likes poetry."—Melvyn Bragg, The Times (London)

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. His poems, plays, translations, and essays include Opened Ground, Electric Light, Beowulf, The Spirit Level, District and Circle, and Finders Keepers. Robert Lowell praised Heaney as the "most important Irish poet since Yeats."
Ted Hughes, the author of numerous books of poetry, prose, and translation, was Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II until his death in 1998. His last book of poems, Birthday Letters, won the Whitbread Book of the Year award—and was a much-discussed national bestseller. He lived in Devon,
Read the full excerpt


  • Edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes

  • Seamus Heaney received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. His many books of poetry include Opened Ground, Electric Light, The Spirit Level, Seeing Things, Station Island, The Haw Lantern, and Field Work, as well as translations of Beowulf and Diary of One Who Vanished. A resident of Dublin, he has taught poetry at Oxford University and Harvard University. In 2004, Heaney was presented with the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement.

    The British poet, translator, author, and critic Ted Hughes, born in 1930, wrote more than forty books, including, in the last decade of his life, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being; Tales from Ovid; verse adaptations of Aeschylus's Oresteia, Racine's Phèdre, and Euripedes' Alcestis; and the bestselling Birthday Letters. Hughes served as Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II from 1984 until his death in 1998.
  • Seamus Heaney Keith Barnes