Can you suggest two poems suitable for a compare and contrast paper?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

You might want to consider, for future similar projects, to compare and/or contrast a formal verse poem with a free verse poem. You can contrast the different elements incorporated into each poem. In addition, you can compare some of the same elements that were used in each style of poem - for example alliteration.

Furthermore, you may wish to compare similar themes in the two poems; how the poets dealt with the same issues but utilized different poem structures to convey their message. On top of that, you can contrast how the tones of the poems are different because of the particular form chosen.

For example, you may want to compare and contrast T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" (free verse) with aspects of the great work by John Milton "Paradise Lost" (formal verse).

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

You might try comparing one of Shakespeare's sonnets to one of Spenser's sonnets from the Amoretti sonnet cycle. You also might try comparing Chaucer's "The Monk's Tale" to part of Book I of Spenser's The Faerie Queene. These comparisons should provide some nice differences in writing style (called poetic aesthetic) to analyze, plus some similarity in themes.

In part, it all depends on what you have read and what you are familiar with. You might also compare Robert Burns' poem "A Red Red Rose" to John Keats' "La Belle Dame sand Merci." This comparison will provide some nice contrasts to analyze [source links below]. You might also compare two Langston Hughes poems, perhaps "Crowin' Hen Blues" and "Red Roses," both of which are written in dialect.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A great compare and contrast paper could be written over William Blake's "The Tyger" and "The Lamb" from his collection Songs of Innocence and Experience.  Both poems are great example of Romanticism, but raise different questions about the speaker's perceptions of the Creator and creation.  Both poems focus on unique aspects of two very different animals.  Both poems are lyrical: "The Tyger" has a very dark and forbidding tone, which captures the fierce power of the animal; at the same time, "The Lamb" also has a very lyrical sound, with graceful and soothing tone.  The eNotes site has some great resources on both poems in both the study guide sections, but also the Q & A.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles


It might be interesting to compare two poems by Walt Whitman. Most of his poems follow a particular style (I Sing the Body Electric, Song of Myself, etc.), but one of his most famous poems stands out as being quite different. "O Captain, My Captain" is a rather brief rhyming poem. The great majority of Whitman's poetry is un-rhymed. You could compare "O Captain" to almost any of  Whitman's other poems looking at formal differences, thematic similarities, and use of metaphor


Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are a lot of approaches you could take to this.  You can compare two poems from the same poet, or two poems on the same subject.  Let’s take the first approach.

Here are two poems from Robert Frost.  The first one is “Fire and Ice” and the second one is “Mending Wall.”

The two poems are very different, but focus on similar themes.  In “Fire and Ice” Frost describes the word ending in either fire, or ice.  Will the world end in a fiery apocalypse, or will hate kill us?  It reminds us that people are destructive.

I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

(You can read the poem here:

People will destroy each other by hating one another.  A fiery apocalypse may not take us out; we will take each other out.

In “Mending Wall” Frost again examines the human condition and how people interact.  In this poem, two neighbors discuss the reason for having a wall between their properties.  The speaker does not think the wall is necessary.

My apple trees will never get across 
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours." 

The poem addresses the same universal point, that people’s interactions with one another should be based on having things in common and treating one another right, rather than being opposed to one another.

I think you can make some other interesting comparisons between these two poems.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Posted on