In this article, we provide our list of the top English-language poetry about the moon. The moon has long been a favorite symbol among poets, signifying anything from unrequited love to the realization that one is getting older, from motherhood to, well, a farmer’s red face. Learn more about some of the finest poems about the moon.
Poems About the Moon
Poets have always been drawn to and enchanted by the Moon. They revered its gloomy beauty and its enigmatic appearance, which was buried in a cloud of mystery. Romantic and symbolist art frequently depicts the lunar landscape.
The Moon appears frequently in the works of romantic poets, especially when an elegiac tone is desired in order to transport the reader to a realm of dreams. The Moon is both the mistress of the night, the patroness of illusions, and a representation of sorrowful and unrequited love.
It is also associated with the maternal, feminine principle. The Moon represents the ideal realm of dreams, beauty, and creativity for many poets.
Here are some poems about the moon that you would like.
Sonnet 31 from Astrophil and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney
The 31st sonnet of Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella sonnet sequence (about 1582)—the earliest significant sonnet sequence written in English—begins with the moving line, “With very mournful steps, O Moon, thou climb’st in the heavens.”
It is an illustration of an apostrophe, which is used to address something or someone who is not present, the moon. Sidney ponders the hopeless love he has for Penelope Rich (who he might have married but stupidly declined), and he wonders whether the moon feels the same way.
With how sad steps, O moon, thou climb’st the skies;
How silently, and with how wan a face.
What, may it be that even in heavenly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel’st a lover’s case;
I read it in thy looks; thy languished grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O moon, tell me,
Is constant love deemed there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?
How serious is Sidney being when he suggests that the poet and the moon had a somewhat romanticized conversation? Is he putting himself forward? Sidney is aware of how absurd love may make us even when it is loved deeply and genuinely.
The concept of admiring an unreachable woman from a distance needed to be explored while keeping in mind that many readers, especially the educated readers who would have read Sidney’s sonnets when they were circulated in manuscript, were already familiar with these tropes.
Courtly love, of course, had been around for several centuries when Sidney was writing.
Hymn to the Moon by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Besides her literature, Montagu (1689–1762) is remembered for bringing smallpox immunization to Britain 50 years before Edward Jenner created a vaccine to prevent the illness. A great little poems about the moon is called “Hymn to the Moon.” Start here:
Thou silver deity of secret night,
Direct my footsteps through the woodland shade;
Thou conscious witness of unknown delight,
The Lover’s guardian, and the Muse’s aid!
By thy pale beams I solitary rove,
To thee my tender grief confide;
Serenely sweet you gild the silent grove,
My friend, my goddess, and my guide.
E’en thee, fair queen, from thy amazing height,
The charms of young Endymion drew;
Veil’d with the mantle of concealing night;
With all thy greatness and thy coldness too.
To the Moon by Percy Bysshe Shelley
In this brief Romantic poem, Shelley addressed the moon in a manner similar to Sir Philip Sidney over two centuries before. Shelley speculates that the moon’s pallor may result from its sadness at having to ascend the sky alone and look down on Earth. The most popular poems about the moon.
Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?
The parallels don’t stop there, though. Sidney and Shelley both notice the moon’s pallor, as one might expect, but they also both comment on how sad or worn the moon appears as it ascends over the night sky.
They both emphasize how the moon is alone and interrogate it about several topics, the main two of which being constancy and hopeless love. (Shelley’s moon cannot locate a friend who will be loyal to it.)
Is Shelley purposefully and consciously reinterpreting Sidney’s poem in this passage to give it a more romantic feel? Undoubtedly, it is workable.
The Moon Was but a Chin of Gold by Emily Dickinson
This poem’s magnificently evocative opening lines. Who else but Emily Dickinson would refer to the cosmos as “Her Shoe”? Emily Dickinson would never compose a conventional poem about the moon (or about anything), and the images she depicts the moon in this poem are stunning and unique.
The Moon was but a Chin of Gold
A Night or two ago—
And now she turns Her perfect Face
Upon the World below—
Her Forehead is of Amplest Blonde—
Her Cheek—a Beryl hewn—
Her Eye unto the Summer Dew
The likest I have known—
Her Lips of Amber never part—
But what must be the smile
Upon Her Friend she could confer
Were such Her Silver Will …
Moonrise by Gerard Manley Hopkins
In the midsummer night scene of “Moonrise,” which is captioned “June 19 1876,” Hopkins observes a crescent moon in the sky but prefers to refer to it as “not to name darkness, in the white and the stride of the morning.”
The poem’s use of lengthy lines and Hopkins’ peculiar “sprung rhythm” are both startling and memorable, as is the comparison between the moon and a fingernail.
I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, in the white and the walk of the morning:
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail held to the candle,
Or paring of paradisaical fruit, lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, of dark Maenefa the mountain;
A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, entangled him, not quit utterly.
This was the prized, the desirable sight, unsought, presented so easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, eyelid and eyelid of slumber.
Another metaphor for the crescent moon is the “paring of paradisaical fruit,” which conjures up the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, which is occasionally referred to as a banana but is typically thought of as an apple. As a result, the poem’s depiction of the moon’s look is vivid and unique.
Each of these poems about the moon have unique descriptions from the poet’s perspective of the moon. What is your perspective? How would you describe the moon? Let us know I the comment section below just as you share this with your poetry community.