Famous Poems About Obedience: A Study in Conformity and Rebellion

Poetry has long been a medium through which artists express their deepest emotions, challenge societal norms, and question authority. Within the vast realm of poetic literature, there are numerous examples of poems that explore the theme of obedience. Some poets celebrate obedience as a virtue, while others view it as a constraint that hinders personal growth and individuality. In this article, we will delve into a few famous poems that highlight the complexities surrounding the concept of obedience.

  1. Obedience as Virtue
    1. 1. "If" by Rudyard Kipling
    2. 2. "The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke
  2. Obedience as Constraint
    1. 1. "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost
    2. 2. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot

Obedience as Virtue

1. "If" by Rudyard Kipling

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

Rudyard Kipling's "If" is a celebrated poem that extols the virtues of obedience, resilience, and self-discipline. The poem emphasizes the importance of maintaining composure and staying true to oneself, even in challenging circumstances. By highlighting qualities such as patience, honesty, and humility, Kipling suggests that obedience to these principles can lead to success and moral integrity.

2. "The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke

"If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blessed by the suns of home."

"The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke is a prime example of a poem that glorifies obedience to one's country. As a patriotic war poem, it explores the idea of sacrificing oneself for the greater good. Brooke's poem presents obedience as a noble and honorable act, suggesting that service to one's nation is an essential duty that provides a sense of belonging and purpose.

Obedience as Constraint

1. "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back."

"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost is a renowned poem that questions the notion of obedience and conformity. Frost presents us with a speaker faced with a choice between two paths, symbolizing the choices and uncertainties we encounter in life. By opting for the less-traveled path, the speaker rebels against the conventional path dictated by societal expectations. This poem encourages readers to question the blind obedience to societal norms and to embrace their individuality.

2. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
And how should I begin?
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?..."

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot provides a compelling exploration of the consequences of blind obedience and conformity. The poem's speaker, Prufrock, is depicted as a socially anxious man who is paralyzed by his fear of standing out and deviating from societal norms. Through vivid imagery and introspective musings, Eliot portrays the suffocating impact of obedience and the desperation that arises from a life lived in constant conformity.

Poetry offers a unique lens through which we can examine the multifaceted nature of obedience. Whether celebrating obedience as a virtuous quality or questioning it as a constraint on individuality, these famous poems provide us with profound insights into the complexities of human behavior. By exploring these poems and contemplating their messages, we can further our understanding of obedience and its role in shaping our lives.

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