In the Chinese language, there is a poem named Quiet Night Thoughts(Jing Ye Si) by Li Bai, which is known by everyone that is native to China (from little kids to very old people, even if they are illiterate). I'm wondering, in terms of poems, are there any counterparts in the English speaking world?

I asked a similar question on Quora, but it didn't gather enough attention. I need to collect enough information to write an article on this topic.

closed as too broad by FumbleFingers, anongoodnurse, Drew, James McLeod, Andrew Leach Nov 23 '14 at 18:23

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about culture/poetry, not the use of English – FumbleFingers Nov 22 '14 at 23:06
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    Mary had a little lamb, it's fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go. It followed her to school one day, which was against the rules. It made the children laugh and play, and so there was no school. – Hot Licks Nov 22 '14 at 23:20
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    There are a multitude of poems about the lovely town of Nantucket, Massachusetts and a variety of its fine residents, but I probably could not guarantee that more than half of the US population knows them and I definitely would not guarantee that any of them are famous. – Papa Poule Nov 22 '14 at 23:35
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    There is certainly nothing comparable to 静夜思. Even foreigners in China quickly learn to recite 床前明月光,疑是地上霜,举头望明月 ,低头思故乡 (I learnt it in my second year), and it really is ubiquitous, as well as being a classic that's well over a thousand years old. Nothing comparable exists in the English language, to my knowledge. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 22 '14 at 23:45
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    Then it has to be nursery rhymes: Jack and Jill; London Bridge; Hokey Cokey; Georgie Porgie; Oranges & Lemons etc.. Then if it's anything grander it has to Shakespeare sonnet Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate:... – Mari-Lou A Nov 23 '14 at 0:15

The following is a list of poems that most speakers of American English know very well, primarily because of their historic, cultural, and linguistic (i.e. many well-known expressions in common use today originated therefrom) importance:

No Man is an Island,” which is the penultimate paragraph of “Meditation #17”/Meditation XVII from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623-24) by John Donne (1572-1631), who was an English poet and a cleric in the Church of England;

Paul Revere's Ride (1860) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), who was an American poet;

Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888 (1888) by Ernest Lawrence Thayer under the pen name “Phin” (1863 – 1940), who was an American writer and poet;

I’m nobody! Who are you? (1891) by Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830 – 1886), who was an American poet;

In Flanders Fields (1915) by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (November 30, 1872 – January 28, 1918), a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist, and soldier during World War I, who died of pneumonia near the end of that war;


Harlem aka A Dream Deferred from Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951) by James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) who was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist.

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    A couple of those I'm not at all familiar with, and for none of them could I quote much more than the title. And I regard myself as a reasonably literate native-born US citizen. – Hot Licks Nov 23 '14 at 20:53
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    Paul Revere's Ride, Casey at the Bat, and probably anything by Langston Hughes, are going to be completely unknown outside of the U.S. But maybe the OP shouldn't be asking for poems that are well-known across the entire English-speaking world. – Peter Shor Nov 23 '14 at 23:02
  • Sorry, perhaps I misread the question. I read the "or" in the "question heading" to mean that the OP is wondering if such poems exist on either side of the Atlantic and that answers could/would be different, depending on which side of it they came from. @PeterShor – Papa Poule Nov 23 '14 at 23:30

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