The Table of Contents of




A Note from Ben Kilpela:

I call this book the "Winters Canon", those poems that Yvor Winters considered to be the greatest ever written, a result of 50 years of study and evaluation on his part. There is some disagreement on the issue of whether this book constitutes a canon (see the Winters Issues Page), but I stand by my decision to use the term and to understand this book as a "canon". It is my opinion that these poems were considered by Yvor Winters to be the greatest ever written in the English language and among the greatest in any language. This does NOT mean that he considered all the thousands of poems outside his canon to be worthless. Please see my discussion of this matter under Issue 1. on the Winters Issue Page. I have added first lines in brackets where I thought it would be helpful in finding the poem if the reader wishes to track it down. Some of the poems are available on-line at, a first-rate literary site, and I have provided links to many of the poems at Of course, I encourage readers to follow the various links around and find new poems by the writers Winters considered great or very good.

In the near future, I will be writing the commentary of an annotated edition of this Table of Contents, as well as putting on line all the poems out of copyright on the Winters web site. I state here, as I have stated elsewhere, that I agree with Winters that these are, in large part, the very best poems we have. This does not mean, as I have also stated ad nauseum elsewhere and state here a second time, that Winters thought that these poems are all we have that is worth reading. Far, far from it! There are hundreds of other poems that Winters considered very, very good. He, nonetheless, did not consider them great. This Canon is, thus, a listing of those works that come closest to perfection. They are the standard by which all other works of literary art, in Winters's view, are judged -- though many other poems unquestionably have a great deal to offer. Lastly, it might be important to note that some of the poets who were yet living at the time of the book's publication have died. I have not changed their life dates, however.

[Epigraphs to Quest for Reality:]


Throughout the world, if it were sought
Fair words enough a man shall find;
They be good cheap, they cost right nought,
Their substance is but only wind.
But well to say, and so to mean,
That sweet accord is seldom seen.

-- Sir Thomas Wyatt (c. 1503-1542)


To the Reader


I thee advise
If thou be wise
To keep thy wit
Though it be small;
'Tis rare to get
And far to fet,
'Twas ever yit
Dear'st ware of all.

-- George Turberville (c. 1540-c. 1610)




[Note: Page numbers refer to the 1968 first edition of "Quest for Reality".]


INTRODUCTION, Kenneth Fields, 1


SIR THOMAS WYATT (c. 1503-1542)

Remembrance, 11

Tagus, Farewel1, 11

To His Lute, 12

The Lute Obeys, 13

Varium et Mutabile, 14

It Was My Choice, 15


THOMAS, LORD VAUX (1510-1556)

Content, 16


GEORGE GASCOIGNE (c. 1525-1577)

The Lullaby of a Lover, 17

Gascoigne's Woodmanship, 19

The Constancy of a Lover, 22


SIR WALTER RALEIGH (c. 1552-1618)

The Lie, 23 - 4

On the Life of Man, 25



Who Hath His Fancy Pleased, 26



Sonnet XXII, 27 [I with whose colors Myra dressed her head]

Sonnet LVI, 28 [All my senses, like Beacon's flame]

Sonnet LXXXIV, 30 [Farewell, sweet boy, complain not of my truth]

Sonnet LXXXVI, 30 [The Earth with thunder torn, with fire blasted] - 8

Sonnet LXXXVIII, 31 [Man, dream no more of curious mysteries]

Sonnet XCVIII, 31 [Wrapped up, O Lord, in man's degeneration]

Sonnet XCIX, 32 [Down in the depth of mine iniquity]

Sonnet C, 32 [In Night when colors all to black are cast]

Sonnet CIX, 33 [Sion lies waste, and thy Jerusalem]



Fra bank to bank, 34


JOHN DOWLAND (c. 1563-c. 1626)

Fine knacks for Ladies, 35

Flow not so fast, 35



Sonnet LXXIII, 36 [That time of year thou mayst in me behold]

Sonnet LXXVII, 36 [Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear]

Sonnet LXXXVII, 37 [Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing]

Sonnet CXXIX, 37 [The expense of spirit in a waste of shame]

How should I your truelove know, 38

Fear no more the heat o' the sun, 38


THOMAS NASHE (C 1567-1601)

Adieu, farewell, 39

Autumn hath all, 40 - 4


THOMAS CAMPION (c. 1567-1619)

Now winter nights enlarge, 41


SIR ROBERT AYTON (1570-1638)

To an Inconstant One, 42 - 1


BEN JOHNSON (c. 1572-1637)

On My First Son, 43

To the World, 44

To Heaven, 46

His excuse for loving, 47

How he saw her, 48

My Picture Left in Scotland, 49

An Elegy, 50

Hymn to Diana, 51

An Ode to Himself, 52


JOHN DONNE (c. 1572-1631)

Holy Sonnet VII, 53 [At the round earth's imagined corners, blow]

A Valediction: Of My Name In The Window, 54


JOHN WEBSTER (c. 15B0-c. 1630)

Hark! Now everything is still, 56



Elegy Over a Tomb, 57


HENRY KING (1592-1669)

The Exequy, 58


GEORGE HERBERT (1593-1633) - 1

Church Monuments, 61


ROBERT HERRICK (1591-1674)

To the Virgins, to make much of Time, 62

His Poetry his Pillar, 62

To Music, to becalm his Fever, 63

To Meadows, 64

To the Yew and Cypress to grace his Funeral, 64

To Daffodils, 65

Upon his departure hence, 65

His Litany, to the Holy Spirit, 66

Epitaph on the Tomb of Sir Edward Giles and His Wife in the South Aisle of Dean Prior Church, Devon, 68


ANDREW MARVELL (1621-1678)

The Garden, 69


PHILIP PAIN (?-c. 1666)

Meditation 8, 71 [Scarce do I pass a day]


HENRY VAUGHAN (1622-1695) - 4

To His Books, 71

The Lamp, 72



On News, 73


JOHN DRYDEN (1631-1700)

MacFlecknoe, 75

I feed a flame within, 80

No, no, poor suffering heart, 80



The Dedication to the Sermons, 81


JONES VERY (1813-1880) or - 1

The Hand and Foot, 86

Thy Brother's Blood, 86

The Lost, 87

The Created, 87



Elegy in Six Sonnets, 88

The Cricket, 91

Sonnet XIV, 94 [And me my winter's task is drawing over]



Farther in summer than the birds, 95

As imperceptibly as grief, 95

There's a certain slant of light, 96

The last night that she lived, 96

I read my sentence steadily, 97

Our journey had advanced, 97

The difference between despair, 97

The Moon upon her fluent route, 98

'Twas warm at first like us, 98


THOMAS HARDY (1840-1928) or

I Say I'll Seek Her, 99

"My Spirit Will Not Haunt the Mound", 99

The Haunter, 100

Exeunt Omnes, 101

The Faded Face, 101

During Wind and Rain, 102 - 2

"Who's in the Next Room?", 103

The Shadow on the Stone, 104

In Time of "The Breaking of Nations", 105

Afterwards, 106


ROBERT BRIDGES (1844-1930)

Dejection, 107

The Affliction of Richard, 108

Eros, 109

Low Barometer, 109 - 4

Greek Title, translated as "A useless burden upon the earth", 110


AGNES LEE (1868-1939)

The Sweeper, 110



Eros Turannos, 111

Veteran Sirens, 113

Luke Havergal, 114

The Wandering Jew, 115


T. STURGE MOORE (1870-1944)

Silence, 118

From Titian's ''Bacchanal" in the Prado at Madrid, 119



Snow, 121

Night Winds, 121

Roma Aeterna, 121

Amaze, 122 - 6

For Lucas Cranach's Eve, 122

To Man Who Goes Seeking Immortality, Bidding Him Look Nearer Home, 122



The Snow Man, 123

On the Manner of Addressing Clouds, 124

Of Heaven Considered as a Tomb, 124

Sunday Morning, 125

The Death of a Soldier, 129

The Course of a Particular, 130



Complaint, 131 - 16

To Waken an Old Lady, 132 - 4

The Great Figure, 132 - 51

Spring and All, 133

The Pot of Flowers, 134

To a Dead Journalist, 134


MINA LOY (c. 1883-1966)

Apology of Genius, 135

Der Blinde Junge, 136



O strong to bless, 137

November, 138

Frustration, 138

Eyes that queenly sit, 139

Fresh Spring, 139

Farewell for a while, 140

Autumn, dark wanderer, 141

Still-Life, 141


LOUISE BOGAN (1897- ) or

Simple Autumnal, 142

Henceforth, From the Mind, 142

Exhortation, 143


JANET LEWIS (1899- )

Girl Help, 144

Love Poem, 145

For Elizabeth Madox Roberts, 145

In the Egyptian Museum, 146

Lines with a Gift of Herbs, 147

Helen Grown Old, 148


YVOR WINTERS (1900-1968)

Quod Tegit Omnia, 149

The Slow Pacific Swell, 150

The Marriage, 151

On a View of Pasadena from the Hills, 152

Before Disaster, 154

Heracles, 155

John Sutter, 157

Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight, 158

Time and the Garden, 159

A Summer Commentary, 160

To the Holy Spirit, 161

At the San Francisco Airport, 163


J. V. CUNNINGHAM (1911- )

The Judge is Fury, 164

Lector Aere Perennoir, 164

The Phoenix, 165

Ars Amoris, 166

Agnosco Veteris Vestigia Flammae, 166

Meditation on Statistical Method, 167

Meditation on a Memoir, 167

To the Reader, 168

from Epigrams: A Journal

8., 169 [If wisdom, as it seems it is]

23., 170 [Dark thoughts are my companions. I have wined]

27., On the Calculus, 170 [From almost naught to almost all I flee]

35., 170 [Hang up your weaponed wit]

42. With a copy of Swift's Works, 171 [Underneath this pretty cover]

43., 171 [In whose will is our peace]

from Doctor Drink

8., 172 [On a cold night I came through the cold rain]

from Trivial, Vulgar, and Exalted

19., 172 [I had gone broke, and got set to come back]


EDGAR BOWER5 (1924- )

The Stoic, 173

Dark earth and Summer, 174

The Virgin Mary, 175

From William Tyndale to John Frith, 176

Adam's Song to Heaven, 177

The Astronomers of Mont Blanc, 178

The Mirror, 178



Insights (1-7), 179



Prologue: Moments in a Glade, 181



Indecision, 183

Error Pursued, 184



Autumn Burial: A Meditation, 185


THOM GUNN (1929- )

In Santa Maria Del Popolo, 187



Before an Old Painting of the Crucifixion, 188

Angle of Geese, 189