Poetry as titles, part two

Okay, I looked through a whole lot of poetry written by people who died more than a hundred years ago, with an eye to shortish phrases that might work as book titles. I was trying to find three phrases per poem, preferably from poems with topics that are somewhat consonant with the actual stories. Quite a challenge!

See what you think of the following, and if I’m persuaded that none of these sets of phrases would work, I will give up on poetry and come up with a completely different idea.

From “A Nocturnal Upon Saint Lucy’s Day” by John Donne

  1. The Year’s Midnight
  2. Of Absence, Darkness
  3. As Shadow, a Light

From “The Vanity of Human Wishes” by Samuel Johnson

  1. Time Hovers O’er
  2. Such Age There Is
  3. As the Day Returns

From “The Eternal Gates” by William Blake

  1. The Eternal Gates
  2. A Land of Sorrows
  3. Thro’ Valleys Dark

From “The Seasons” by Swinburne

  1. For Winter’s Rains
  2. The Light that Loses
  3. And Time Remembered

I’ve always liked Swinburne, I must say.

So, reactions?

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10 thoughts on “Poetry as titles, part two”

  1. I don’t like punctuation or old-fashioned abbreviations in titles, so I’m prejudiced against the Donne and Johnson (the Johnson bits also don’t stand alone terribly well, I think). Blake could work if #3 is “Through Valleys Dark” (nicely ominous for a book 3!). I like Swinburne best overall, but the vibe is definitely more melancholy. I would think of the Swinburne titles as books about memory and loss and forgetting, whereas the Blake titles are books about death and possibly journeying to the underworld. (Or maybe I’m just thinking about Tarashana again!)

  2. I’d go for the Johnson, myself. I find it amusing that each of the three commenters so far has had a different preference. ;)

  3. I like the Donne titles because of the continuity between them: Midnight, Darkness, Shadow & Light. Also the second two fit nicely together and the first is slightly different, which works well for the first book standing slightly apart from the others. I like the third title in the Johnson selections, but the other two don’t grab my interest. The Blake options are intriguing but as a reader I might pass them by as they make the entire trilogy sound terribly gloomy. The Swinburne titles would be my second choice, but the Donnes are definitely my first.

  4. Despite being a Blake fan, I think the Donne titles work best. They’re mysterious enough to evoke wonder without being relentlessly grim.

  5. Kathryn McConaughy

    Any except the Johnson… I don’t think I would pick those titles off the shelf if I didn’t recognize the author.

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