History & Culture

Sunday quiz: On poets and poetry

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield: Lord Tennyson. Photo: Wiki Commons  

1. This poet first drew breath on August 19, 1902, New York;

a bond salesman — not a born salesman — in two years sold only one bond*,

his true passion and skill did in poetry lie, where he made his mark,

making up words with which to end rhymes, of this he was devilish fond,

his clever puns, word play and humour made quite a splash,

quite a funny poet, the man known as ‘worsifier’, behold _______ ______.

2. This poet and his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge released a joint publication called Lyrical Ballads in 1798, which ushered in the Romantic Age in English literature. After graduation he spent a year walking around France, Switzerland and Italy just taking in landscapes and enjoying the natural beauty. He defined his work as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” His sculptor friend Raisley Calvert’s generous donation of £900 allowed him to take up poetry full time. Who was this poet whose name pretty much describes what he did?

3. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī was a 13th century Persian poet born in modern day Tajikistan. His works have been translated from Persian into many languages and are still best sellers in the U.S. His poems are read at weddings, performed by artists and musicians and endlessly quoted on social media. About 3000 ghazals and over 2000 rubaiyat (four-line poems) were all written when he was in his 30s or older. The name he is popularly known by refers to the fact that he was from the Roman Empire but it came into use only after his death. How do we better know Jalāl ad-Dīn?

4. This Irish poet was one of the pioneers of Aestheticism. This is an intellectual and art movement where the emphasis of any work is more on beauty than a deeper meaning — Art for Art’s sake. He wrote only one novel, which is still taught in schools and will never grow old. His poems and plays have been studied and performed all over the world. He wrote a poem of 109 stanzas when he was imprisoned, from which his fitting epitaph is taken — And alien tears will fill for him, Pity’s long-broken urn, For his mourners will be outcast men, And outcasts always mourn. Who was this tragic poet who died of meningitis in 1900 at the age of 46?

5. The first English-language writer to win a Nobel Prize in Literature (also the youngest winner to date) was born in India. In 1886, he published his first collection, Departmental Ditties when working as a journalist for the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore. In 1910, he published a poem full of paternal advice and the lines If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/ and treat those two impostors just the same adorn an entrance at Wimbledon and the club where the U.S. Open is held. Who is this popular poet?

6. This American poet is best known for a poem that is often read at high school and college graduations as a reminder to forge new paths — but he never intended it to be taken so seriously! He enjoyed long walks with a friend who was constantly indecisive about which direction to take and when he finally did choose, often regretted not choosing the other path. His poem ‘Fire and Ice’ was the inspiration for G.R.R. Martin’s epic, and his words But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep were Jawaharlal Nehru’s favourite. Who was this poet?

7. The first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature won it in 1913 for a collection of 103 poems. The original collection had 157 poems but the poet, who translated his own work, did not translate them all. Published under the name Song Offerings, it is part of the Collection of Unesco’s Representative Works. Who is the poet and what was the original title of this work?

8. This Irish Nobel Laureate poet was a member of The Golden Dawn, an organisation devoted to the occult, metaphysics, and paranormal activities. This is reflected in his poems which were influenced by legends, myths and mysteries. He chose words and assembled them so that, in addition to a particular meaning, they suggest abstract thoughts that may seem more significant and resonant. Who was this poet who also wrote the introduction to the work mentioned in the previous question?

9. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was a Victorian poet known for his poems based on classical mythological themes. One of his most famous poems is ‘Ulysses’, a monologue from the mythical hero and his longing to explore again which has the oft-quoted line To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. In 2012, these words were put up to motivate participants of which two events held in London?

10. He called himself a doctor only because his father desired that.

He wrote about Green Eggs and Ham, he wrote about a Cat in a Hat,

he won two Emmys and two Oscars and invented the term ‘nerd’.

Who was this amazing poet who could make you laugh with just a word?


1. Ogden Nash (*This bond, the sale of which was never to be followed by another was, most nepotistically, sold to Nash’s godmother.)

2. William Wordsworth

3. Rumi

4. Oscar Wilde

5. Rudyard Kipling

6. Robert Frost

7. Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali

8. William Butler Yeats

9. Olympics and Paralympics

10. Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

A molecular biologist from Madurai, our quizmaster enjoys trivia and music, and is working on a rock ballad called ‘Coffee is a Drink, Kaapi is an Emotion’. @bertyashley

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