everything I've learned about growing, maintaining, styling, and loving long hair

hair in poetry

     One of my passions is reading, especially classic literature.  I like to find references to or descriptions of women’s hair in poetry.  This is a collection of only a few lines of each poem where the woman’s hair is mentioned.  I encourage you to find and read the full poems to truly do them justice. 
     If you have a poem or know of one that talks about hair, please let me know by leaving a comment or e-mailing me. 
"Rhyme, which in the hands of the real artist becomes not merely a material element of metrical beauty,
but a spiritual element of thought and passion also, waking a new mood, it may be, or stirring a fresh train of ideas,
or opening by mere sweetness and suggestion of sound some golden door at which the Imagination itself had knocked in vain;
rhyme, which can turn man’s utterance to the speech of gods."     ~Oscar Wilde
Strange is thy pallor! Strange thy dress!
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And all this solemn silentness!
(from "The Sleeper" by Edgar Allen Poe)
All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to the dust.
(from "Requiescat" by Oscar Wilde)
O noble pilot tell me true
Is that the sheen of golden hair?
Or is it but the tangled dew
That binds the passion-flowers there?
(from "Serenade" by Oscar Wilde)
Her hair is bound with myrtle leaves,
(Green leaves upon her golden hair!)
Green grasses through the yellow sheaves
Of autumn corn are not more fair.
(from "La Bella Donna Della Mia Mente" by Oscar Wilde)
Her gold hair fell on the wall of gold
Like the delicate gossamer tangles spun
On the burnished disk of the marigold,
Or the sun-flower turning to meet the sun
When the gloom of the jealous night is done.
(from "In the Gold Room" by Oscar Wilde)
Her hair, nor loose nor tied in formal plat,
Proclaimed in her a careless hand of pride;
For some, untucked, descended her sheaved hat,
Hanging her pale and pined cheek beside;
Some in her threaden fillet still did bide,
And, true to bondage, would not break from thence,
Though slackly braided in loose negligence.
(from "A Lover’s Complaint" by Shakespeare)
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far more red, then her lips red,
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
(from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130)
This sounds comical, but here’s a note from shakespeare-online.com: Shakespeare’s reference to hair as ‘wires’ confuses modern readers because we assume it to mean our current definition of wire – a thread of metal – which is hardly a fitting word in the context of the poem. However, to a Renaissance reader, wire would refer to the finely-spun gold threads woven into fancy hair nets. Many poets of the time used this term as a benchmark of beauty like in Spenser’s Epithalamion. (below)
Her long loose yellow locks like golden wire,
Sprinkled with pearl, and pearling flowers a tween,
Do like a golden mantle her attire,
And being crowned with a garland green,
Flowers like some maiden queen.
(from "Epithalamion" by Edmund Spenser)
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
(from "She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron)
The pride of ev’ry grove I chose
The violet sweet and lily fair,
The dappled pink and blushing rose,
To deck my charming Chloe’s hair!
At morn the nymph vouchsaf’d to place
Upon her brow the various wreath,
The flow’rs less blooming than her face,
Their scent less fragrant than her hair!
("The Garland" by Francis Hopkinson)
Kissing her hair I sat against her feet,
Wove and unwove it, wound and found it sweet;
Made fast therewith her hands, drew down her eyes,
Deep as deep flowers and dreamy like dim skies;
With her own tresses bound and found her fair,
Kissing her hair.
Sleep were no sweeter than her face to me,
Sleep of cold sea-bloom under the cold sea;
What pain could get between my face and hers?
What new sweet thing would love not relish worse?
Unless, perhaps, white death had kissed me there,
Kissing her hair.
("Rondel" by Algernon Charles Swineburne)
Stand on the highest pavement of the stair
Lean on a garden urn
Weave, weave, weave the sunlight in your hair
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise
Fling them to the ground and turn
With fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.
(from "La Figlia Che Piange" by T.S. Elliot)
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter
Bess, the landlord’s daughter
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
He stood upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the sweet black waves of perfume came tumbling o’er his breast,
Then he kissed its waves in the moonlight
(O sweet black waves in the moonlight!),
And he tugged at his reins in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.
(from "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes)
She foots it ever fair and young,
Her locks are tied in haste,
And one is o’er her shoulder flung,
And hangs below her waist.
(from "The Unrealised Ideal" by Frederick Locker-Lampson)
Silken threads of charcoal black,
Shimmering iridescent plumage,
Let them swallow me up,
Entangle and entwine,
Ensnare my restless feet
And tether me like a hawk’s jesses,
Let me drown in her tresses.
(author unknown)
O Helen fair, beyond compare!
I’ll make a garland o’ thy hair,
Shall bind my heart for evermair,
Until the day I die!
(from "Helen of Kirconnell" an anonymous ballad)
My faith shall wax, when thou are in thy waning!
The world shall find this miracle in me,
That fire can burn when all the matter’s spent:
Then what my faith hath been, thyself shalt see,
And that thou wast unkind, thou may’st repent!
Thou may’st repent that thou hast scorned my tears,
When Winter snows upon they golden hairs.
(from "To Delia" by Samuel Daniel)
Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:
Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the adulteries of art;
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
(from "Simplex Munditiis" by Ben Johnson)
Ask me no more whither do stray
The golden atoms of the day;
For in pure love heaven did prepare
Those powders to enrich your hair.
(from "Song" by Tomas Carew)
Tresses, that wear
Jewels but to declare
How much themselves more precious are:
Whose native ray
Can tame the wanton day
Of gems that in their bright shades play.
Each ruby there,
Or pears that dare appear,
Be its own blush, be its own tear.
(from "Wishes to His Supposed Mistress" by Richard Crashaw)
Loop up her tresses
Escaped from the comb,
Her fair auburn tresses;
Whilst wonderment guesses
Where was her home?
(from "A Bridge of Sighs" by Thomas Hood)
I never gave a lock of hair away
To a man, Dearest, except this to thee,
Which now upon my fingers thoughtfully
I ring out to the full brown length and say
"Take it."  My day of youth went yesterday;
My hair no longer bounds to my foot’s glee,
Nor plant I it from rose or myrtle-tree,
As girls do, any more: it only may
Now shade on two pale cheeks the mark of tears,
Taught drooping from the head that hangs aside
Through sorrow’s trick.  I though the funeral-shears
Would take this first, but Love is justified, –
Take it thou, – finding pure, from all those years,
The kiss my mother left here when she died.
("Sonnets from the Portuguese" no. XVIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her.
(from "Porphyria’s Lover" by Robert Browning)
Oh! is it weed, or fish, or floating hair –
A tress of golden hair,
A drowned maiden’s hair
Above the nets at sea?
( from "The Sands of Dee" by Charles Kingsley)
To one, it is ten years of years,
… Yet now, and in this place,
Surely she leaned o’er me – her hair
Fell all about my face….
(from "The Blessed Damozel" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti)
O to think, O to think as I see her stand there
With the rose that I plucked, in her glorious hair,
In the robe that I love,
So demure and so neat,
I am lord of her lips and her eyes and her feet.
(from "A Love-Song" by Norman Gale)
Nay but you, who do not love her,
Is she not as pure gold, my mistress?
Holds earth aught – speak truth – above her?
Aught like this tress, see, and this tress,
And this last fairest tress of all,
So fair, see, ere I let it fall!
Because, you spend your lives in praising;
To praise, you search the wide world over;
So why not witness, calmly gazing,
If earth holds aught – speak truth – above her?
Above this tress, and this I touch
But cannot praise, I love so much!
("Song" by Robert Browning)
She laid them upon her bosom,
Under a cloud of her hair,
And her red lips sang them a love-song,
Till stars grew out of the air.
(from "The Cap and Bells" by William Butler Yeats)
Lean out of the window Goldenhair,
I heard you singing a merry air.
My book was closed, I read no more,
Watching the fire dance on the floor.
I have left my book, I have left my room,
For I heard you singing through the gloom.
Singing and singing a merry air,
Lean out of the window, Goldenhair.
("Golden Hair" by James Joyce)
You need but lift a pearl-pale hand,
And bind up your long hair and sigh;
And all men’s hearts must burn and beat;
And candle-like foam on the dim sand,
And stars climbing the dew-dropping sky,
Live but to light your passing feet. 

(from "He Gives His Beloved Certain Rhymes" by William Butler Yeats)

Her hair is like the curling mist,
That climbs the mountain sides at e’en,
When flow’r-reviving rains are past;
An’ she has twa sparkling roguish een. [eyes]
(from ""The Lass of Cessnock Banks" by Robert Burns)

Her flowing locks, the raven’s wing,
Adown her neck and bosom hing;
How sweet unto that breast to cling,
And round that neck entwine her!
(from "Her Flowing Locks" by Robert Burns)


One response

  1. Amanda

     I love to read, too! Here is a quote from a poem I was reading last night
    Golden wire sheds no such ray
    As did her locks against the day.
    (from "Lanval" by Marie de France)
    I\’m glad you added that definition for "wire\’ hehe

    September 1, 2007 at 12:52 am

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