On my Morning Time for Beginners page I linked to my poetry list.
I was a little embarrassed to link to these old lists because they reflect the changing nature of our home and school. One girl wrote that she couldn't imagine memorizing that many poems.
Truthfully, not all of my children have memorized all of the poems. Some were not even born when we began and some grew up before we got around to the poem.
You can clearly see from the list that I went through a moralistic poetry phase which I do not recommend even though it is fun now to have a family culture of laughing at some of those poems. Every once in a while moralizing works in poetry: "Did you tackle the trouble that came your way with a resolute heart and cheerful..." That works. "How doth the little busy bee...." That works too for parody. "When I go to church I'm as quiet as a mouse...." Yes, that is bad! It ends up with a rhyme involving 'God's house' and it does not work except for perhaps one Sunday with a 6 yo who is still trying to be a really 'good' boy. Hardly worth the time. So in so many ways I find my own poetry list inferior.
Thankfully we began by using 101 Famous Poems
almost exclusively. This saved the boys from another few years of "Birds in their little nests agree..." a poem no self-respecting boy can ever love.
After my moralizing phase I went back to Frost and R.L. Stevenson: can't fail poets.
Then I moved into my let's try something really, really long phase. This worked well with Paul Revere's Ride but not so well with Horatius at The Bridge and The Modern Major General unless you count cultural reference as important as word-for-word accuracy.
Finally, I landed safely back on the British Isles where Shakespeare and Yeats are all you ever need unless you want to read, not memorize, Gray. Yes, let's read Gray today and tomorrow.
How do I choose a poem? I pick one I like. I pick one that may be a part of our broader reading as with Shakespeare. It is always nice to memorize something from a play you are reading.
I pick one to make a point. This is an absolutely worthless way to pick a poem but I mention it because you will do it anyway.
If your children are very young go with Mother Goose. Then move on to Christina Rossetti and Robert Louis Stevenson. Do not be afraid to skip Blake. I hate eye-rhyme.
In the Ambleside recommendations they have you studying one poet per term like they do in the artist and composer sections. I do not recommend this. It is often too boring and it will make everyone hate the poet. Who can bear De La Mare?
You can have your older students study one longer poem per term such as The Idylls of the King (Year or more) or The Vision of Sir Launfal but don't feel guilty if you do not enjoy all the poems by one poet in the younger and middle years.
Here is a list of 15 Great Poems excluding Shakespeare ( We don't want him hogging up the list like he does everything else.)
1. Crossing the Bar by Tennyson
2. Sonnet on His Blindness by Milton
3. The Road Not Taken by Frostt
4. Opportunity by Edward Sill
5. Casey at the Bat By Ernest Thayer
6. Sail On by Miller
7. If by Rudyard Kipling (If you must moralize Kipling is the go-to Man.)
8. In Flander's Field by Johh Mcrae
9.The Destruction of Sennacharib by Byron
10. Breathes by Sir Walter Scott
11. Recessional by Kipling
12 Requiem by RLS
13. Sea Fever by Masefield
14. To a Mouse by Burns
15. Weathers by Thomas Hardy
Marguerite De Angeli's Book of Nursery & Mother Goose Rhymes
Mother Goose by Tasha Tudor
The Harp and Laurel Wreath: Poetry and Dictation for the Classical Curriculum
"St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it.11 Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.12 When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in 'ordinate affections' or 'just sentiments' will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science.13 Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful."
CS Lewis The Abolition of Man
CS Lewis The Abolition of Man