Using a blank verse in poetry means using iambic pentameter in the poetic output that shows the use of regular metrical patterns but with no fixed rhyme scheme. Despite having been inspired by the Latin usage of blank verse, Henry Howard popularized it in his translation of Aeneid in English, making it equal to the Latin verse form, versi sciolti. Following him, great names composed poetry in blank verses. The best ten blank verse poetic examples in our order of ranking are as follows. This ranking is based on the status of the poetry, its language, quality of blank verse, and status of the poet.
Paradise Lost, Book-I by John Milton
What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That glory never shall his wrath or might 110
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power,
Who from the terror of this arm so late
Doubted his empire, that were low indeed,
That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall; since by fate the strength of gods
And this empyreal substance cannot fail.
This is one of the best passages in black verse poetry. It occurs in the first book of Paradise Lost written by John Milton. The personality of Satan emerges through such speeches as having a wild and warrior spirit. Satan thinks that he has not lost as he is still in the field and would put up a tough fight against God. This indomitable will continues to reverberate throughout this speech, in which he encourages his comrades to stand up and put up a fight afresh. These lines come at the top in the list of the best blank verse poetic pieces due to their importance, the standing of Milton, and his grandiose language.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
Although these lines occur in the soliloquy of Hamlet, which is a play, they have been written in blank verse poetic form. Therefore, they are ranked second in our order of ranking due to the theme that they demonstrate, the main idea, the poetic language, and the status of William Shakespeare. These lines show the absurdity of life, the metaphysical nature of life, and the dilemma of a person whether he is able to commit suicide and end it or leave it as it is to face the problems of the world.
The Prelude by William Wordsworth
Wisdom and Spirit of the universe!
Thou Soul that art the eternity of thought!
That giv’st to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion! not in vain,
By day or star-light thus from my first dawn
Of Childhood didst Thou intertwine for me
The passions that build up our human Soul,
Not with the mean and vulgar works of Man,
But with high objects, with enduring things,
With life and nature, purifying thus.
These lines occur in the poetic book of Wordsworth, The Prelude. He dilates upon his poetic evolution during his childhood and his tendency to love nature. He thinks that the human soul is akin to the natural soul that pervades everything and peeps through everything. He thinks that this has lived with him from the very first day of his life until now and has helped him achieve high objectives after his purification. This grandiosity in the language of these lines, iambic pentameter, the status of the poet, and the theme of these lines have made us rank these lines third in our order of ranking.
Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlow
You stars that reign’d at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist
Into the entrails of yon labouring clouds,
That when they vomit forth into the air,
My limbs may issue from their smoky mouths,
So that my soul may but ascend to Heaven.
These lines occur in Dr. Faustus, the tour de force of Christopher Marlow. This powerful speech of Dr. Faustus, in which he invokes his fate and asks his stars how they should assist him to “ascend to Heaven” shows his use of the blank verse a la Shakespeare in plays. Faustus wants to go to heaven through his stars, the reason that this speech has become a great inspiration for characters seeking knowledge at every cost. The use of blank verse and grandiose language becomes
This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison by S. T. Coleridge
Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
had dimmed mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile…
These are the first five lines of the poem of S. T. Coleridge, “This Line-Tree Bower My Prison.” The poem invokes his memories about the lime tree that is outside his prison room or supposed prison room, and it seems to remind him of his youth as well as his youthful period. The grandiosity of language has lost its luster despite this trite subject of poetry as he shows that he is nearing blindness, but the sweet memories of youth immediately come to his mind when he sees this tree. This grandiosity, theme, and poet’s status have made this piece to be ranked fifth in our order of ranking. The technicality of these verses shows him as a more accomplished poet.
Hyperion Book-1 by John Keats
Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve’s one star,
Sat gray-hair’d Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair;
Forest on forest hung about his head
Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,
Not so much life as on a summer’s day
Robs not one light seed from the feather’d grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
Despite not being ranked first-rate poet due to his young age, Keats’ poetic output is tremendous and his technical expertise in writing good poetry is matchless. He has penned down the best poems of his age. These lines show his blank verse poetry at best. They occur in the first book of his popular poem, Hyperion. He presents the figure of Saturn and his surroundings in such a way that it looks like he is physically sitting before the readers. That is why the lines have been ranked sixth in our order of the best blank verse poetry.
Tear, Idle Tears by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.
Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.
These are the first two stanzas of the poem “Tear, Idle Tears” by Alfred Tennyson, the British poet laureate. Both stanzas show the poet eulogizing the tears about whose objective he is entirely unaware. However, one thing is certain he is invoking past memories and the days that have passed and thinking about how those days “are no more.” The way he outlines his theme in these lines and the simple language beautifully wrapped in iambic pentameter have made this poem ranked seventh in our order of ranking of the best blank poetic lines.
Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barret Browning
My heart beat in my brain. Life’s violent flood
Abolished bounds,–and, which my neighbour’s field,
Which mine, what mattered? It is so in youth.
We play at leap-frog over the god Term;
The love within us and the love without
Are mixed, confounded; if we are loved or love,
We scarce distinguish. So, with other power.
These lines occur in the first book of her epic poem, Aurora Leigh, by Elizabeth Barret Browning. The beautiful ideas of heart, mind, love, and neighbor have been put into these lines in such a way that the confusion continues prevailing until the line where she announces the existence of other power vis-à-vis love shows up. However, the beauty of language has not been lost in the dilemma of love and heart. Therefore, these poetic lines climb the ladder of our ranking and come at eighth.
Fra Lippo Lippie by Robert Browning
i am poor brother Lippo, by your leave!
You need not clap your torches to my face.
Zooks, what’s to blame? you think you see a monk!
What, ’tis past midnight, and you go the rounds,
And here you catch me at an alley’s end
Where sportive ladies leave their doors ajar?
The Carmine’s my cloister: hunt it up,
Do,—harry out, if you must show your zeal,
Whatever rat, there, haps on his wrong hole,
And nip each softling of a wee white mouse,
Weke, weke, that’s crept to keep him company!
These beautiful lines occur in the popular poem of Robert Browning, “Fra Lipp Lippie.” The poor painter introduces himself in humble terms and language, saying his getup as a monk at this time of the night does not mean that he is just a monk. He states that he has come to see something to show his skill in his art, even if the spot is wrong, and that he is caught red-handed. The way he expresses the person who is inquiring about him shows the grandiosity and beauty of language, which has helped us place it at the ninth number in our order of ranking of the best blank verse poetic lines.
As the Team’s Head-Brass by Edward Thomas
As the team’s head-brass flashed out on the turn
The lovers disappeared into the wood.
I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm
That strewed the angle of the fallow, and
Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square
Of charlock. Every time the horses turned
Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned
Upon the handles to say or ask a word,
About the weather, next about the war…
These lines occur in the poem of Edward Thomas, “As The Team’s Head-Brass.” Like most blank verse poetry, it is also first-person centric as the poet states that he sees the plow narrowing the square in some field where the farmer is talking to him while his horses are plowing. However, the interesting theme is that both are conversing about the weather as well as war. This beauty of theme, the beauty of language, and the status of the poet have made us place it at the tenth number in our order of the ranking of the best blank verse poetic lines.