Poems frequently reflect works of literature, and they have at times considered literal reflections — mirrors, mirror images, and the likes. We've compiled a list of some of the best poetry on reflections and mirrors.
Let us look at various poems that fall under this category from this article.
There are many poems on mirrors and reflections. Let us look at a few of them here.
Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
- William Shakespeare
'Look in thy Glass,' one of Shakespeare's early sonnets (it's the third in the sequence), has Shakespeare attempting to persuade the ‘Fair Youth’ to marry and have children to multiply and preserve his beauty. He begins by directing the beautiful young man to look in his mirror at his lovely face, appealing to the youth's great self-regard.
HOLD it up sternly! See this it sends back! (Who is it? Is it you?)
Outside fair costume--within ashes and filth,
No more a flashing eye--no more a sonorous voice or springy step;
Now some slave's eye, voice, hands, step,
A drunkard's breath, unwholesome eater's face, venerealee's flesh,
Lungs rotting away piecemeal, stomach sour and cankerous,
Joints rheumatic, bowels clogged with abomination,
Blood circulating dark and poisonous streams,
Words babble, hearing and touch callous,
No brain, no heart left--no magnetism of sex;
Such, from one look in this looking-glass ere you go hence,
Such a result so soon--and from such a beginning!
- Walt Whitman
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? In this poem, America's 19th-century free verse pioneer considers how the mirror might reflect some unfavourable realities.
All things that pass
Are woman’s looking-glass;
They show her how her bloom must fade,
And she herself be laid
With withered roses in the shade;
With withered roses and the fallen peach,
Unlovely, out of reach
Of summer joy that was.
- Christina Rossetti
The great Victorian poet Christina Rossetti (1830-94), in this poem, describes how the fact that ‘all things must pass’ and the passing of time is particularly humiliating for women as it reminds them how their beauty must fade with time. The whole world, in a sense, is a mirror holding up a woman’s transient beauty to her.
I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, ‘Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!’
For then, I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.
- Thomas Hardy
Hardy (1840-1928) laments the fact that while he stays young at heart and with a young man's love and romanticism, his body hasn't aged as well in this poem.
Smooth it glides upon its travel,
Here a wimple, there a gleam--
O the clean gravel!
O the smooth stream!
Sailing blossoms, silver fishes,
Pave pools as clear as air--
How a child wishes
To live down there!
We can see our coloured faces
Floating on the shaken pool
Down in cool places,
Dim and very cool;
Till a wind or water wrinkle,
Dipping marten, plumping trout,
Spreads in a twinkle
And blots all out.
See the rings pursue each other;
All below grows black as night,
Just as if mother
Had blown out the light!
Patience, children, just a minute--
See the spreading circles die;
The stream and all in it
Will clear by-and-by.
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), in addition to writing Treasure Island and Jekyll and Hyde, also published A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), a collection of poems for younger readers that includes this exquisite poem about gazing into the mirrored waters of the river.
I sat before my glass one day,
And conjured up a vision bare,
Unlike the aspects glad and gay,
That erst were found reflected there -
The vision of a woman, wild
With more than womanly despair.
Her hair stood back on either side
A face bereft of loveliness.
It had no envy now to hide
What once no man on earth could guess.
It formed the thorny aureole
Of hard, unsanctified distress.
Her lips were open - not a sound
Came though the parted lines of red,
Whate'er it was, the hideous wound
In silence and secret bled.
No sigh relieved her speechless woe,
She had no voice to speak her dread.
And in her lurid eyes there shone
The dying flame of life's desire,
Made mad because its hope was gone,
And kindled at the leaping fire
Of jealousy and fierce revenge,
And strength that could not change nor tire.
Shade of a shadow in the glass,
O set the crystal surface free!
Pass - as the fairer visions pass -
Nor ever more return, to be
The ghost of a distracted hour,
That heard me whisper: - 'I am she!'
- Mary Coleridge
In this poem, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's great-grandniece depicts a speaker's encounter with an odd figure in the mirror — an image, which is represented below that is some gloomy version of herself, possessed of 'womanly despair'.
The gloomy version of Mary Coleridge
Are you alive?
I touch you.
You quiver like a sea-fish.
I cover you with my net.
What are you—banded one?
- By H. D.
This poem doesn't mention mirrors, and it's possible that it's not even about reflections. However, one reading of the poem that has been advanced is that the brief masterpiece, 'The Pool', depicts the poet coming face to face with her mirror image on the water's surface. In both senses, a cryptic imagist poem becomes poetry about "self-reflection."
I live only here, between your eyes and you,
But I live in your world. What do I do?
--Collect no interest--otherwise what I can;
Above all I am not that staring man.
- Elizabeth Bishop
This (far shorter) poem is spoken by the mirror itself, stating that it stands between the spectator's eyes and 'collects no attention.' This is the shortest poem on the list, and it's a wonderful complement to Plath's.
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
- Sylvia Plath
A poem that borders on a dramatic monologue in which a mirror speaks to us in a matter-of-fact tone, reflecting the flatness of its surface and its inability to do anything other than reflecting us what it sees. In summary, the mirror claims to have 'no prejudices' and is 'precise,' implying that it just reflects what it sees.
This isn't a fairground hall of mirrors that purposefully distorts faces and body shapes: everything we see when we gaze in the mirror is exactly and faithfully 'swallowed' by the mirror. It sends forth any data it receives. But, for Plath, the mirror does more than just reflect: it also sees individuals.
1. What happens when you stand in front of a mirror?
A reflection is the appearance of an image in a mirror. When light strikes a surface, it reflects. When light is unable to penetrate through a surface, it bounces off or reflects. The majority of surfaces absorb and reflect some light. Mirrors, on the other hand, reflect nearly all of the light that strikes them, which is interpreted or read by your brain as an image of oneself in the mirror. The reflection is caused by the metallic coating on the rear.
2. How do poems on mirrors help the literature of children?
Students can connect with themselves by reading books, poems, and other literary works that are mirrors. Seeing their memories, emotions, and experiences reflected in literature might help children appreciate their significance and feel more at ease in the world of poetry and reading.