Poetry about forgiveness at its best calls forth our deep being. It dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind; it calls to us, like the wild geese, as Mary Oliver would say, from an open sky. It is a magical art, and always has been — a making of language spells designed to open our eyes, open our doors and welcome us into a bigger world, one of possibilities we may never have dared to dream of.
Mustering up genuine compassion for those who have wronged us, instead of allowing anger toward them to eat away at us, is the course of action recommended by most psychologists. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), pardoning (granted for an acknowledged offense by a representative of society, such as a judge), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Higher self-esteem
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Gandhi
” If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive “ – Mother Teresa
” As forgiveness can illumine A human life, Even so love can enlarge A human mind.” Sri Chinmoy
Famous Forgiveness Poems
- a total stranger one black day Cummings, Edward Estlin (E E)
- The Raven Poe, Edgar Allan
- Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
- The Everlasting Gospel Blake, William
- Endymion: Book IV Keats, John
- Samson Agonistes Milton, John
- The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Khayyam, Omar
- Do not be ashamed Berry, Wendell
- The Beasts Confession Swift, Jonathan
- The Sprig of Moss McGonagall, William Topaz
- The Magpie Evening: A Prayer Fincke, Gary
- Manhattan Streets I Saunter’d Pondering Whitman, Walt
- Psalm 103: 1-5 Bible, The
- The Crystal Lanier, Sidney
- Lazarus Robinson, Edwin Arlington
- Forgiveness Russell, George William
- The Children Look At The Parents Tessimond, A S J
- The Rest Atwood, Margaret
- The Princess (part 6) Tennyson, Alfred Lord
- Roosters Bishop, Elizabeth
- Shake The Superflux! Lehman, David
- The Poet Schwartz, Delmore
- Footnote To Howl Ginsberg, Allen
- The Poor Children Hugo, Victor
- MAN’S SINFULNESS AND NEED OF REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS Bible, The
- Insomnia I Nemerov, Howard
- Gerontion Eliot, T S (Thomas Stearns)
- At The Door Wagoner, David
- He strained my faith Dickinson, Emily
- Dark August Walcott, Derek
- Psalm 32 Watts, Isaac
- The Defence of Guenevere Morris, William
- Courtship Strand, Mark
- Easter Hymn Hope, Alec Derwent (A D)
- Holy Sonnet XIII: What If This Present Were The Worlds Last Night? Donne, John
- Rivers of Canada Carman, Bliss
- Stay Bachmann, Ingeborg
- For The Country Levine, Philip
- Forgiveness Russell, George William
- Reaping Lowell, Amy
- The Childrens Song Kipling, Rudyard
- Gods Mercy Bible, The
- The Trust Service, Robert William
- Parable Of Faith Gluck, Louise
- Love Sherrick, Fannie Isabelle
- Proverbs 28:13 Bible, The
- Unfortunate Brooke, Rupert
- Sensibility Service, Robert William
- The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam Of Naishapur Fitzgerald, Edward
- Lo Now My Guest Stevenson, Robert Louis
- For A Coming Extinction Merwin, W S
- The Lover Asks Forgiveness Because Of His Many Moods Yeats, William Butler
- A Poets Death is His Life IV Gibran, Kahlil
- The Songs of the Lathes Kipling, Rudyard
- Forbidden Fruit Lally, Michael
- The Book of Urizen: Chapter II Blake, William
- Johnnie Sayre Masters, Edgar Lee
- Of St. Francis and the Ass Tynan, Katharine
- If fate has saved us Verhaeren, Emile
- Elegy to the Memory of Richard Boyle Esq Robinson, Mary Darby
- Anne Rutledge Masters, Edgar Lee
- The House Of Dust: Part 04: 06: Cinema Aiken, Conrad
- I thought our joy benumbed for ever Verhaeren, Emile
- Oh! this happiness Verhaeren, Emile
- CANZONE XX Petrarch, Francesco
- THE CHILDREN OF THE POOR Hugo, Victor
- Phyllis Juana Inés de la Cruz, Sor
- My Lady Juana Inés de la Cruz, Sor
- SONNET CLXXII Petrarch, Francesco
- Though beauty’s tress be strayed Hafez
- When our bright garden was gay Verhaeren, Emile
Below, I share some examples of famous Forgiveness poems written by famous poets. You can also take a look our selection of heartbroken poems from famous poets.
a total stranger one black day by Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings
a total stranger one black day
knocked living the hell out of me–
who found forgiveness hard because
my(as it happened)self he was
-but now that fiend and i are such
Do not be ashamed by Wendell Berry
You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one.
And you will know
that they have been there all along,
their eyes on your letters and books,
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
“I am not ashamed.
” A sure horizon
will come around you.
The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.
The Sprig of Moss by William Topaz McGonagall
There lived in Munich a poor, weakly youth,
But for the exact date, I cannot vouch for the truth,
And of seven of a family he was the elder,
Who was named, by his parents, Alois Senefelder.
But, poor fellow, at home his father was lying dead,
And his little brothers and sisters were depending upon him for bread,
And one evening he was dismissed from his employment,
Which put an end to all his peace and enjoyment.
The poor lad was almost mad, and the next day
His parent’s remains to the cemetery were taken away;
And when his father was buried, distracted like he grew,
And he strolled through the streets crying, What shall I do!
And all night he wandered on sad and alone,
Until he began to think of returning home,
But, to his surprise, on raising his head to look around,
He was in a part of the country which to him was unknown ground.
And when night came on the poor lad stood aghast,
For all was hushed save the murmuring of a river which flowed past;
And the loneliness around seemed to fill his heart with awe,
And, with fatigue, he sat down on the first stone he saw.
And there resting his elbows and head on his knees,
He sat gazing at the running water, which did him please;
And by the light of the stars which shone on the water blue,
He cried, I will drown myself, and bid this harsh world adieu.
Besides, I’m good for nothing, to himself he said,
And will only become a burden to my mother, I’m afraid
And there, at the bottom of that water, said he,
From all my misfortunes death will set me free.
But, happily for Alois, more pious thoughts rushed into his mind,
And courage enough to drown himself he couldn’t find,
So he resolved to go home again whatever did betide,
And he asked forgiveness of his Creator by the river side.
And as he knelt, a few incoherent words escaped him,
And the thought of drowning himself he considered a great sin,
And the more he thought of it, he felt his flesh creep,
But in a few minutes he fell fast asleep.
And he slept soundly, for the stillness wasn’t broke,
And the day was beginning to dawn before he awoke;
Then suddenly he started up as if in a fright,
And he saw very near him a little stone smooth and white,
Upon which was traced the delicate design of a Sprig of Moss
But to understand such a design he was at a loss,
Then he recollected the Sprig of Moss lying on the stone,
And with his tears he’d moistened it, but it was gone.
But its imprint was delicately imprinted on the stone;
Then, taking the stone under his arm, he resolved to go home,
Saying, God has reserved me for some other thing,
And with joy he couldn’t tell how he began to sing.
And on drawing near the city he met his little brother,
Who told him his uncle had visited his mother,
And on beholding their misery had left them money to buy food,
Then Alois cried, Thank God, the news is good!
Then ’twas on the first day after Alois came home,
He began the printing of the Sprig of Moss on the stone;
And by taking the impressions of watch-cases he discovered, one day,
What is now called the art of Lithography.
So Alois plodded on making known his great discovery,
Until he obtained the notice of the Royal Academy,
Besides, he obtained a gold Medal, and what was more dear to his heart,
He lived to see the wide extension of his art.
And when life’s prospects may at times appear dreary to ye,
Remember Alois Senefelder, the discoverer of Lithography,
How God saved him from drowning himself in adversity,
And I hope ye all will learn what the Sprig of Moss teaches ye.
And God that made a way through the Red Sea,
If ye only put your trust in Him, He will protect ye,
And light up your path, and strew it with flowers,
And be your own Comforter in all your lonely hours.
The Magpie Evening: A Prayer by Gary Fincke
When magpies die, each of the living swoops down
and pecks, one by one, in an accepted order.
He coaxed my car to start, the boy who’s killed himself.
He twisted a cable, performed CPR on
The carburetor while my three children shivered
Through the unanswerable questions about stalled.
He chose shotgun, full in the face, so no one stepped
Into the cold, blowing on his hands, to fix him.
Let him rest now, the minister says.
Let this be,
Repeating himself to four brothers, five sisters,
All of them my neighbors until they grew and left.
Let us pray.
Let us manage what we need to say.
Let this house with its three hand-made additions be
Large enough for the one day of necessity.
Let evening empty each room to ceremony
Chosen by the remaining nine.
Let the awful,
Forecasted weather hold off in east Ohio
Until each of them, oldest to youngest, has passed.
Let their thirty-seven children scatter into
The squabbling of the everyday, and let them break
This creeping chain of cars into the fanning out
Toward anger and selfishness and the need to eat
At any of the thousand tables they will pass.
Let them wait.
Let them correctly choose the right turn
Or the left, this entrance ramp, that exit, the last
Confusing fork before the familiar driveway
Three hundred miles and more from these bleak thunderheads.
Let them regather into the chairs exactly
Matched to their numbers, blessing the bountiful or
The meager with voices that soar toward renewal.
Let them have mercy on themselves.
Let my children,
Grown now, be repairing my faults with forgiveness.
Psalm 103: 1-5 by The Bible
Bless the Lord, O my soul
And all that is within me
Forgetting not His benefits
Nor forgiveness of iniquity
Bless Him, who brings healing
And redemption to our lives
Crowning us with loving kindness
And with blessings, satisfies.
Forgiveness by George William Russell
My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!
The Children Look At The Parents by A S J Tessimond
We being so hidden from those who
Have quietly borne and fed us,
How can we answer civilly
Their innocent invitations?
How can we say “we see you
As but-for-God’s-grace-ourselves, as
Our caricatures (we yours), with
Time’s telescope between us”?
How can we say “you presumed on
The accident of kinship,
Assumed our friendship coatlike,
Not as a badge one fights for”?
How say “and you remembered
The sins of our outlived selves and
Your own forgiveness, buried
The hatchet to slow music;
Shared money but not your secrets;
Will leave as your final legacy
A box double-locked by the spider
Packed with your unsolved problems”?
How say all this without capitals,
Italics, anger or pathos,
To those who have seen from the womb come
Enemies? How not say it?
The Rest by Margaret Atwood
The rest of us watch from beyond the fence
as the woman moves with her jagged stride
into her pain as if into a slow race.
We see her body in motion
but hear no sounds, or we hear
sounds but no language; or we know
it is not a language we know
We can see her clearly
but for her it is running in black smoke.
The cluster of cells in her swelling
like porridge boiling, and bursting,
like grapes, we think.
Or we think of
explosions in mud; but we know nothing.
All around us the trees
and the grasses light up with forgiveness,
so green and at this time
of the year healthy.
We would like to call something
out to her.
Some form of cheering.
There is pain but no arrival at anything.
Shake The Superflux! by David Lehman
I like walking on streets as black and wet as this one
now, at two in the solemnly musical morning, when everyone else
in this town emptied of Lestrygonians and Lotus-eaters
is asleep or trying or worrying why
they aren’t asleep, while unknown to them Ulysses walks
into the shabby apartment I live in, humming and feeling
happy with the avant-garde weather we’re having,
the winds (a fugue for flute and oboe) pouring
into the windows which I left open although
I live on the ground floor and there have been
two burglaries on my block already this week,
do I quickly take a look to see
if the valuables are missing? No, that is I can’t,
it’s an epistemological quandary: what I consider
valuable, would they? Who are they, anyway? I’d answer that
with speculations based on newspaper accounts if I were
Westlake, whose novels I’m hooked on, but
this first cigarette after twenty-four hours
of abstinence tastes so good it makes me want
to include it in my catalogue of pleasures
designed to hide the ugliness or sweep it away
the way the violent overflow of rain over cliffs
cleans the sewers and drains of Ithaca
whose waterfalls head my list, followed by
crudites of carrots and beets, roots and all,
with rained-on radishes, too beautiful to eat,
and the pure pleasure of talking, talking and not knowing
where the talk will lead, but willing to take my chances.
Furthermore I shall enumerate some varieties of tulips
(Bacchus, Tantalus, Dardanelles) and other flowers
with names that have a life of their own (Love Lies Bleeding,
Dwarf Blue Bedding, Burning Bush, Torch Lily, Narcissus).
Mostly, as I’ve implied, it’s the names of things
that count; still, sometimes I wonder and, wondering, find
the path of least resistance, the earth’s orbit
around the sun’s delirious clarity.
Once you sniff
the aphrodisiac of disaster, you know: there’s no reason
for the anxiety–or for expecting to be free of it;
try telling Franz Kafka he has no reason to feel guilty;
or so I say to well-meaning mongers of common sense.
They way I figure, you start with the names
which are keys and then you throw them away
and learn to love the locked rooms, with or without
corpses inside, riddles to unravel, emptiness to possess,
a woman to wake up with a kiss (who is she?
no one knows) who begs your forgiveness (for what?
you cannot know) and then, in the authoritative tone
of one who has weathered the storm of his exile, orders you
to put up your hands and beg the rain to continue
as if it were in your power.
And it is,
I feel it with each drop.
I am standing
outside at the window, looking in on myself
writing these words, feeling what wretches feel, just
as the doctor ordered.
And that’s what I plan to do,
what the storm I was caught in reminded me to do,
to shake the superflux, distribute my appetite, fast
without so much as a glass of water, and love
each bite I haven’t taken.
I shall become the romantic poet
whose coat of many colors smeared
with blood, like a butcher’s apron, left
in the sacred pit or brought back to my father
to confirm my death, confirms my new life
instead, an alien prince of dungeons and dreams
who sheds the disguise people recognize him by
to reveal himself to his true brothers at last
in the silence that stuns before joy descends, like rain.
He strained my faith by Emily Dickinson
He strained my faith —
Did he find it supple?
Shook my strong trust —
Did it then — yield?
Hurled my belief —
But — did he shatter — it?
Racked — with suspense —
Not a nerve failed!
Wrung me — with Anguish —
But I never doubted him —
‘Tho’ for what wrong
He did never say —
Stabbed — while I sued
His sweet forgiveness —
Jesus — it’s your little “John”!
Don’t you know — me?
Dark August by Derek Walcott
So much rain, so much life like the swollen sky
of this black August.
My sister, the sun,
broods in her yellow room and won’t come out.
Everything goes to hell; the mountains fume
like a kettle, rivers overrun; still,
she will not rise and turn off the rain.
She is in her room, fondling old things,
my poems, turning her album.
Even if thunder falls
like a crash of plates from the sky,
she does not come out.
Don’t you know I love you but am hopeless
at fixing the rain ? But I am learning slowly
to love the dark days, the steaming hills,
the air with gossiping mosquitoes,
and to sip the medicine of bitterness,
so that when you emerge, my sister,
parting the beads of the rain,
with your forehead of flowers and eyes of forgiveness,
all with not be as it was, but it will be true
(you see they will not let me love
as I want), because, my sister, then
I would have learnt to love black days like bright ones,
The black rain, the white hills, when once
I loved only my happiness and you.
Forgiveness by George William Russell
AT dusk the window panes grew grey;
The wet world vanished in the gloom;
The dim and silver end of day
Scarce glimmered through the little room.
And all my sins were told; I said
Such things to her who knew not sin—
The sharp ache throbbing in my head,
The fever running high within.
I touched with pain her purity;
Sin’s darker sense I could not bring:
My soul was black as night to me;
To her I was a wounded thing.
I needed love no words could say;
She drew me softly nigh her chair,
My head upon her knees to lay,
With cool hands that caressed my hair.
She sat with hands as if to bless,
And looked with grave, ethereal eyes;
Ensouled by ancient Quietness,
A gentle priestess of the Wise.
The Childrens Song by Rudyard Kipling
Puck of Poock’s Hills
Land of our Birth, we pledge to thee
Our love and toil in the years to be;
When we are grown and take our place
As men and women with our race.
Father in Heaven who lovest all,
Oh, help Thy children when they call;
That they may build from age to age
An undefiled heritage.
Teach us to bear the yoke in youth,
With steadfastness and careful truth;
That, in our time, Thy Grace may give
The Truth whereby the Nations live.
Teach us to rule ourselves alway,
Controlled and cleanly night and day;
That we may bring, if need arise,
No maimed or worthless sacrifice.
Teach us to look in all our ends
On Thee for judge, and not our friends;
That we, with Thee, may walk uncowed
By fear or favour of the crowd.
Teach us the Strength that cannot seek,
By deed or thought, to hurt the weak;
That, under Thee, we may possess
Man’s strength to comfort man’s distress.
Teach us Delight in simple things,
And Mirth that has no bitter springs;
Forgiveness free of evil done,
And Love to all men ‘neath the sun!
Land of our Birth, our faith, our pride,
For whose dear sake our fathers died;
Oh, Motherland, we pledge to thee
Head, heart and hand through the years to be!
Parable Of Faith by Louise Gluck
Now, in twilight, on the palace steps
the king asks forgiveness of his lady.
He is not
duplicitous; he has tried to be
true to the moment; is there another way of being
true to the self?
hides her face, somewhat
assisted by the shadows.
for her past; when one has a secret life,
one’s tears are never explained.
Yet gladly would the king bear
the grief of his lady: his
is the generous heart,
in pain as in joy.
Do you know
what forgiveness mean? it mean
the world has sinned, the world
must be pardoned —
Sensibility by Robert William Service
Once, when a boy, I killed a cat.
I guess it’s just because of that
A cat evokes my tenderness,
And takes so kindly my caress.
For with a rich, resonant purr
It sleeks an arch or ardent fur
So vibrantly against my shin;
And as I tickle tilted chin
And rub the roots of velvet ears
Its tail in undulation rears.
Then tremoring with all its might,
In blissful sensuous delight,
It looks aloft with lambent eyes,
Mystic, Egyptianly wise,
And O so eloquently tries
In every fibre to express
Consummate trust and friendliness.
I think the longer that we live
The more do we grow sensitive
Of hurt and harm to man and beast,
And learn to suffer at the least
Surmise of other’s suffering;
Till pity, lie an eager spring
Wells up, and we are over-fain
To vibrate to the chords of pain.
For look you – after three-score yeas
I see with anguish nigh to tears
That starveling cat so sudden still
I set my terrier to to kill.
Great, golden memories pale away,
But that unto my dying day
Will haunt and haunt me horribly.
Why, even my poor dog felt shame
And shrank away as if to blame
of that poor mangled mother-cat
Would ever lie at his doormat.
What’s done is done.
No power can bring
To living joy a slaughtered thing.
Aye, if of life I gave my own
I could not for my guilt atone.
And though in stress of sea and land
Sweet breath has ended at my hand,
That boyhood killing in my eyes
A thousand must epitomize.
Yet to my twilight steals a thought:
Somehow forgiveness may be bought;
Somewhere I’ll live my life again
So finely sensitized to pain,
With heart so rhymed to truth and right
That Truth will be a blaze of light;
All all the evil I have wrought
Will haggardly to home be brought.
Then will I know my hell indeed,
And bleed where I made others bleed,
Till purged by penitence of sin
To Peace (or Heaven) I may win.
Well, anyway, you know the why
We are so pally, cats and I;
So if you have the gift of shame,
O Fellow-sinner, be the same.