10 Classic Poems for Fathers

Daughter standing on feet of father and dancing
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Fathers and fatherhood have been celebrated in poetry since ancient times. Discover 10 classic poems by, for, and about dads, and learn about the poets behind the words. Whether it's Father's Day, your dad's birthday, or another of life's milestones, you're sure to discover a new favorite poem in this list.

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Su Tung-p'o: "On the Birth of His Son" (ca. 1070)

Father and son
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Su Tung- p'o (1037–1101), also known as Su Dongpo, was a diplomat who served during the Song Dynasty in China. He traveled widely and frequently used his experiences as a diplomat as inspiration for his poems. Su was also known for his calligraphy, artwork, and writing.

"... Only hope the baby will prove
Ignorant and stupid.
Then he will crown a tranquil life
By becoming a Cabinet Minister."
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Robert Greene: "Sephesta’s Song to Her Child" (1589)

Robert Greene (1558–1592) was an English writer and poet who penned a number of famous plays and essays. This poem is from Greene's romantic novel "Menaphon," which chronicles the tale of the Princess Sephestia, who is shipwrecked upon an island. In this verse, she is singing a lullaby to her newborn child.


"Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee,
When thou art old there's grief enough for thee.
Mother's wag, pretty boy,
Father's sorrow, father's joy..."
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Anne Bradstreet: "To Her Father with Some Verses" (1678)

Anne Bradstreet (March 20, 1612–Sept. 16, 1672) holds the distinction of being the first published poet in North America. Bradstreet arrived at present-day Salem, Mass., in 1630, one of many Puritans seeking refuge in the New World. She found inspiration in her faith and family, including this poem, which honors her father.


"Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came? ..."
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Robert Burns: "My Father Was a Farmer" (1782)

Scotland's national poet Robert Burns (Jan. 25, 1759–July 21, 1796) was a leading writer of the Romantic era and widely published during his lifetime. He wrote frequently of life in rural Scotland, celebrating its natural beauty and the people who lived there.


"My father was a farmer upon the Carrick border, O,
And carefully he bred me in decency and order, O..."
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William Blake: "The Little Boy Lost" (1791)

William Blake (Nov. 28, 1757–Aug. 12, 1827) was a British artist and poet who did not earn widespread acclaim until well after his death. Blake's illustrations of mythic beings, spirits, and other fantastic scenes were unorthodox for their era. This poem is part of a larger poetic children's book called "Songs of Innocence." 


"Father, father, where are you going
O do not walk so fast.
Speak father, speak to your little boy
Or else I shall be lost..."
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William Wordsworth: "Anecdote for Fathers" (1798)

The English poet William Wordsworth (April 7, 1770–April 23, 1850) is another pioneer of the Romantic era of poetry. He traveled frequently as a young man and his experiences inspired much of his work, though he also sometimes wrote about his own life, as in this poem.


"I have a boy of five years old,
His face is fair and fresh to see;
His limbs are cast in beauty's mould,
And dearly he loves me..."
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Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "To My Father on His Birthday" (1826)

Another British poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (March 6, 1806–June 29, 1861) earned acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic for her poetry. A child prodigy who began writing poems at age 6, Browning often found inspiration for her work in family life.


"No thoughts of fondness e'er appear​
More fond, than those I write of here!
No name can e'er on tablet shine,
My father! more beloved than thine! ..."
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Emily Dickinson "High From the Earth I Heard a Bird"

Emily Dickinson (Dec. 10, 1830–May 15, 1886) was an intensely private person who lived much of her life in Massachusetts as a recluse. She had few friends, and her hundreds of poems were largely undiscovered until after her death. Dickinson often wrote about nature, as in this poem about a bird.


"Without apparent burden,
I learned, in leafy wood
He was the faithful father
Of a dependent brood..."
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Edgar A. Guest: "Father" (1909)

Edgar Guest (Aug. 20, 1881–Aug. 5, 1959) was known as the "people's poet" for his optimistic verse that celebrated everyday life. Guest published more than 20 books, and his poetry appeared regularly in newspapers across the U.S.


"My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;
He tells us children every day
Just what should now be done..."
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Rudyard Kipling: "If" (1895)

Rudyard Kipling (Dec. 30, 1865–Jan. 18, 1936) was a British writer and poet whose work was often inspired by his childhood in India and colonial politics of the Victorian era. This poem was written in honor of Leander Starr Jameson, a British explorer and colonial administrator, who was widely regarded as a role model for young boys of the day.


"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son! ..."