– Poems About the Future –
An unknown Danish individual (likely not Niels Bohr) is quoted as saying, “Predictions are always tricky, especially regarding the future.” Read further for poems about the future.
Poems About the Future
Poets have frequently reflected on the past, whether with nostalgia or with greater objectivity; they have addressed the present events they have experienced; but they have also occasionally turned their attention to the (yet unimagined) world of the future.
Here are some of the best poetry to think about.
1. William Shakespeare, Sonnet 17
Shakespeare asks who would accept his claims about the young man’s attractiveness in the future, even if he, Shakespeare, is only giving credit where credit is due in this sonnet, which comes before his more famous sonnet 18?
Few readers would believe it, yet the Fair Youth to whom he is speaking is indeed as fair as Shakespeare depicts him.
Shakespeare’s laudatory poems for the Youth will thus be like a tomb, which conceals the body from view and keeps many of his greatest traits buried, because poetry cannot adequately depict the Youth’s beauty.
Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were filled with your most high deserts?
Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say ‘This poet lies;
Such heavenly touches ne’er touched earthly faces.’
So should my papers, yellowed with their age,
Be scorned, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be termed a poet’s rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it, and in my rhyme.
2. Matthew Arnold, ‘The Future’
Matthew Arnold is a poet, critic, and educationalist. He wrote a lesser-known poem (1822-88). The future will eventually supplant the present and pass away.
In this poem, Arnold reflects on the characteristics of time, such as how we can never tread in the same river twice and how everything in life is in flux.
A wanderer is man from his birth.
He was born in a ship
On the breast of the river of Time;
Brimming with wonder and joy
He spreads out his arms to the light,
Rivets his gaze on the banks of the stream.
As what he sees is, so have his thoughts been.
Whether he wakes,
Where the snowy mountainous pass,
Echoing the screams of the eagles,
Hems in its gorges the bed
Of the new-born clear-flowing stream;
Whether he first sees light
Where the river in gleaming rings
Sluggishly winds through the plain;
Whether in sound of the swallowing sea—
As is the world on the banks,
So is the mind of the man.
Vainly does each, as he glides,
Fable and dream
Of the lands which the river of Time
Had left ere he woke on its breast,
Or shall reach when his eyes have been closed.
Only the tract where he sails
He wots of; only the thoughts,
Raised by the objects he passes, are his.
Who can see the green earth any more
As she was by the sources of Time?
Who imagines her fields as they lay
In the sunshine, unworn by the plough?
Who thinks as they thought,
The tribes who then roam’d on her breast,
Her vigorous, primitive sons?
Now reads in her bosom as clear
As Rebekah read, when she sate
At eve by the palm-shaded well?
Who guards in her breast
As deep, as pellucid a spring
Of feeling, as tranquil, as sure?
At the height of his vision, can deem
Of God, of the world, of the soul,
With a plainness as near,
As flashing as Moses felt
When he lay in the night by his flock
On the starlit Arabian waste?
Can rise and obey
The beck of the Spirit like him?
This tract which the river of Time
Now flows through with us, is the plain.
Gone is the calm of its earlier shore.
Border’d by cities and hoarse
With a thousand cries is its stream.
And we on its breast, our minds
Are confused as the cries which we hear,
Changing and shot as the sights which we see.
And we say that repose has fled
For ever the course of the river of Time.
That cities will crowd to its edge
In a blacker, incessanter line;
That the din will be more on its banks,
Denser the trade on its stream,
Flatter the plain where it flows,
Fiercer the sun overhead.
That never will those on its breast
See an ennobling sight,
Drink of the feeling of quiet again.
But what was before us we know not,
And we know not what shall succeed.
Haply, the river of Time—
As it grows, as the towns on its marge
Fling their wavering lights
On a wider, statelier stream—
May acquire, if not the calm
Of its early mountainous shore,
Yet a solemn peace of its own.
And the width of the waters, the hush
Of the grey expanse where he floats,
Freshening its current and spotted with foam
As it draws to the Ocean, may strike
Peace to the soul of the man on its breast—
As the pale waste widens around him,
As the banks fade dimmer away,
As the stars come out, and the night-wind
Brings up the stream
Murmurs and scents of the infinite sea.
3. Emily Dickinson, ‘The Future Never Spoke’
In this poem, they personify the future as a kind of sentient being that withholds its impending events from us.
The Future, which refers to those lacking the ability to speak, rejects the use of sign language to convey future events. It instead maintains silence.
In fact, it previews what will occur “in the Act”. We have no time to prepare for what is in store, either to escape our fate or to “substitute” or change our course because the Future only displays its hand once the “Future” has already become the current “Act.”
The Future—never spoke—
Nor will He—like the Dumb—
Reveal by sign—a syllable
Of His Profound To Come—
But when the News be ripe—
Presents it—in the Act—
Indifference to Him—
The Dower—as the Doom—
His Office—but to execute
4. Robert Frost, ‘Fire and Ice’
One of the most notable American poets of the twentieth century is Robert Frost (1874–1963).
He was not a member of any one movement, though; he preferred more traditional forms and used a more straightforward and less esoteric poetic language than his colleagues Wallace Stevens or William Carlos Williams.
He described free poetry, a style favored by many modernist poets, as being “like playing tennis with the net down” in a famous observation.
Some say the world will end in fire,Some say in ice.From what I’ve tasted of desireI hold with those who favor fire.But if it had to perish twice,I think I know enough of hateTo say that for destruction iceIs also greatAnd would suffice.
Many of his poems are on the natural world, and some of his most well-known and extensively anthologized works (such as “The Road Not Taken,” “Stopping by Woodlands on a Snowy Evening,” “Birches,” and “Tree by My Window“) prominently include woods and trees.
He occasionally liked to use extremely succinct and brief poetic remarks elsewhere in his poetry.
Such a poetry is this one. Will the planet burn up or freeze over?
This classic short poem about the end of the world has an ambiguous, symbolic nature because of the symbols used to represent different things—fire denotes anger, conflict, and passion; ice symbolizes frigid indifference and apathy.
5. Wallace Stevens, ‘A Postcard from the Volcano’
The interplay between the present and the future, as well as what will endure, what we will leave behind, and how future generations will understand it, are the themes of this 1936 poetry.
Stevens claims at the outset of “A Postcard from the Volcano” that future generations will never know that the bones of those of us alive now previously belonged to a person who ran as rapidly across a hill as a pack of foxes.
Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill;
And that in autumn, when the grapes
Made sharp air sharper by their smell
These had a being, breathing frost;
And least will guess that with our bones
We left much more, left what still is
The look of things, left what we felt
At what we saw. The spring clouds blow
Above the shuttered mansion-house,
Beyond our gate and the windy sky
Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion’s look
And what we said of it became
A part of what it is … Children,
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,
Will say of the mansion that it seems
As if he that lived there left behind
A spirit storming in blank walls,
A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.
Stevens next turns his attention to animal life, depicting a post-apocalyptic world in which grapes blooming on vines during the winter are a distant memory.
But at least our bones will be visible to future generations. They won’t be familiar with the art and culture we created in reaction to the society we lived in.
6. T. S. Eliot, ‘The Hollow Men’
The Waste Land author’s 1925 poem “The Hollow Men” continues the idea of the end of civilization from that previous poem, but this time the stakes are higher since “The Hollow Men” is about the destruction of the entire globe.
A penny for the Old Guy
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other kingdom
– if at all
– not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
The poem’s “Hollow Men” find themselves imprisoned in some type of afterlife, a purgatory or limbo between being and nothingness, light and darkness.
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.
Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom
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This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.
In five sections, Eliot allows the Hollow Men to speak for themselves from their between-world, a place that is both a desert (referred to as “cactus land”) and suggests entropic decay, as if the end of the world or even the universe has arrived.
That fading star and the general lifelessness of the world the Hollow Men live in suggest that this land of twilight is a world in its final stages of decay.
In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of this tumid river
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.
The poem famously closes with the line, “The world ends with a whimper, not a boom,” and is rife with purgatorial allusions to purgatory and twilight.
The references to a “fading star” point to a likely setting in 1920s physics and discussions of entropy and the universe’s gradual heat-death.
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
For Thine is the
We hope this gives you a better (sometimes fictional), description of the future in each author’s opinion. Do well to share this for discussion and leave us a comment in the section below.