Poetry: Mythology & Folklore

The poems in this Collection illustrate the rich traditions of exploring or creating mythology, folklore, and fables through poetry. The Mythology & Folklore Collection includes selections ranging from "The Epic of Gilgamesh" to modern retellings of classic fairy tales and Greek myths by poets such as Anne Sexton and Louise Glück.

Publication year 1816Genre Poem, FictionThemes Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Lyric Poem, Philosophy, Mythology

Publication year 1919Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Relationships: Family, Relationships: Fathers, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Emotions/Behavior: NostalgiaTags Lyric Poem, Parenting, Mythology

“A Prayer for my Daughter” by William Butler (W.B.) Yeats was originally published in his collection Michael Robartes and the Dancer in 1921. This book also includes one of Yeats’s most famous poems—“the Second Coming”—and was Yeats’s eighth collection of lyrical poems. “A Prayer for my daughter” was written in 1919, a year that marked the beginning of the Irish War of Independence. The war lasted until 1921 and heavily influenced Yeats. The poem’s location... Read A Prayer for My Daughter Summary

Publication year 1968Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: EqualityTags Lyric Poem, African American Literature, Black Arts Movement, Black Lives Matter, Gender / Feminism, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Race / Racism, Mythology

“Ego Tripping,” also known as “Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why),” is one of American poet Nikki Giovanni’s most well-known poems. Giovanni first published this poem in 1972, which is the year that also marks Giovanni’s first trip to Africa, three years after the birth of her son. As the title of the poem suggests, this poem is a fulsome celebration of the many facets of Giovanni’s identity as a Black woman. Written... Read Ego Tripping Summary

Publication year 2014Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: SexualityTags Mythology, Lyric Poem, Grief / Death, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 2020Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Identity: Masculinity, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, Gender / Feminism, African American Literature, Mythology

Publication year 1975Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Identity: Mental Health, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Relationships: FamilyTags Lyric Poem, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Mental Illness, Gender / Feminism, Arts / Culture, Mythology

Louise Glück is among the most lauded poets in the American canon. Glück’s writing is often surgically precise in terms of formal craft, and reveals a deep emotional complexity. She addresses sadness, mourning, trauma, and individual suffering metaphorically through the natural world, mythology, autobiographical events, or universal truths. She is known for alluding to cultural myths and personas in her work, some of which appear in “Gretel in Darkness” through the perspective of young Gretel... Read Gretel in Darkness Summary

Publication year 1986Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, Immigration / Refugee, Mythology

Publication year 1871Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Natural World: AnimalsTags Mythology

Publication year 1924Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fate, Society: WarTags Lyric Poem, Mythology, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 1938Genre Poem, FictionThemes Natural World: AnimalsTags Lyric Poem, Animals, Modernism, Mythology

Publication year 1916Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Society: War, Values/Ideas: BeautyTags Mythology

Publication year 1816Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, Mythology, Romanticism / Romantic Period

Publication year 8Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Classic Fiction, Mythology, Narrative / Epic Poem, Love / Sexuality, Classical Period

“Pyramus and Thisbe” is an episode from Book 4 of the Metamorphoses, an epic poem published by the Roman poet Ovid in 8 AD. In contrast to the epics of Ovid’s contemporaries (like Virgil’s Aeneid), the Metamorphoses does not focus on a single, cohesive narrative. Rather, Ovid takes as his theme “bodies changed to other forms” (Book 1, Line 1) and fittingly, his Metamorphoses is a work in constant state of change. Its 15 books... Read Pyramus and Thisbe Summary

Publication year 1974Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Mythology, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 1981Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: BeautyTags Narrative / Epic Poem, Gender / Feminism, Mythology

Publication year 1789Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Narrative / Epic Poem, Love / Sexuality, Mythology

The Book of Thel was written and etched by William Blake in 1789. It is one of his prophetic illuminated books, crafted after Songs of Innocence but before The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Blake’s recognition as an influential figure in the British Romantic literary movement only came after his death. The Book of Thel is a narrative, allegorical, and symbolic poem written in 14-syllable lines. Its themes include the expansiveness of God’s love, interconnectedness... Read The Book of Thel Summary

Publication year -1Genre Poem, FictionThemes Relationships: Friendship, Identity: Masculinity, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Mythology

"The Epic of Gilgamesh" is the oldest existing myth in the world. It tells of the historical king Gilgamesh who reigned over Mesopotamia (in what is now Iraq) around 2750 BCE. The author of the poem is unknown, for "The Epic of Gilgamesh" is sourced from multiple fragments that have been excavated since the 19th century. The earliest versions of the epic are written in Sumerian and date to about 2100 BCE. The current translation... Read The Epic of Gilgamesh Summary

Publication year 1842Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Identity: Sexuality, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Lyric Poem, Gender / Feminism, Victorian Period, Mythology

“The Lady of Shalott,” one of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s best-known poems, is a four-part lyrical ballad loosely inspired by the 13th-century Italian novella Donna di Scalotta. It makes use of vivid romantic language and heavy symbolism. Based on Arthurian legend and medieval sources, the poem tells the story of Elaine of Astolat, a fictional woman confined to a tower overlooking the fields surrounding Camelot. The Lady of Shalott falls in unrequited love with Sir Lancelot... Read The Lady Of Shalott Summary

Publication year -1Genre Poem, FictionTags Mythology, Narrative / Epic Poem, Philosophy, Science / Nature

The Theogony is an epic poem by the archaic Greek poet Hesiod. It is both a theogony—or account of the origins of the gods—and a cosmogony, an explanation of the origins of the universe. At just over a thousand lines in length, the Theogony is among the earliest surviving works of Greek literature, dating to the late eighth or early seventh century BCE. It is an epic poem, a genre defined by its meter (dactylic... Read Theogony Summary

Publication year 1985Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: GriefTags Lyric Poem, Mythology, Confessional, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 1794Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Lyric Poem, Science / Nature, Romanticism / Romantic Period, Mythology, Animals

Publication year 1948Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Lyric Poem, Mythology, Religion / Spirituality

Publication year 1957Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: FemininityTags Narrative / Epic Poem, Mythology

Publication year 1842Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: AgingTags Poetry: Dramatic Poem, Mythology

Publication year 2018Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Nation, Society: Politics & Government, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, Race / Racism, African American Literature, Mythology

Publication year -1Genre Poem, FictionThemes Relationships: SiblingsTags Religion / Spirituality, Classic Fiction, Ancient Greece, Mythology

“Works and Days” is a didactic poem by Hesiod dating to approximately the eighth century BCE. Hesiod begins the poem with the traditional invocation to the muses, but he deviates slightly from this tradition by including personal information; the poem is an explanation of a dispute between Hesiod and his brother Perses over a family inheritance. The poem’s thematic concerns, which Hesiod explores by arguing how harmful his brother’s actions are not only to himself... Read Works and Days Summary