The apes yawn and adore their fleas in the sun.
The parrots shriek as if they were on fire, or strut
Like cheap tarts to attract the stroller with the nut.
Fatigued with indolence, tiger and lion
Lie still as the sun. The boa-constrictor’s coil
Is a fossil. Cage after cage seems empty, or
Stinks of sleepers from the breathing straw.
It might be painted on a nursery wall.
But who runs like the rest past these arrives
At a cage where the crowd stands, stares, mesmerized,
As a child at a dream, at a jaguar hurrying enraged
Through prison darkness after the drills of his eyes
On a short fierce fuse. Not in boredom—
The eye satisfied to be blind in fire,
By the bang of blood in the brain deaf the ear—
He spins from the bars, but there’s no cage to him
More than to the visionary his cell:
His stride is wildernesses of freedom:
The world rolls under the long thrust of his heel.
Over the cage floor the horizons come.
Was a tough call to choose between the man and his wife (could not accommodate both in the top ten), but I chose the former for he may be a trifle more accessible to Secondary students. A good example of the various levels of interpretation this poems celebrates vitality and ferocity.
8. John Donne (1572 - 1631) "Death Be Not Proud"
Students should definitely have a peek into metaphysical poetry in school but I'd rather choose Donne's religious poetry for this purpose at the secondary level for starters.
9. Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967) "Mother To Son"
This African American Poet's work could be used to explain a common problem Literature students grapple with: The difference between poet and persona. Furthermore, the poem is a good case in point to teach symbolism in poetry.
10. Carol Ann Duffy (b. 1955) "Valentine"
This poem figures in the list to dispel myths in young minds about poets being dead and distant. The first woman poet laureate of Britain (2009), Duffy has written on serious issues but I choose this simple poem to show how she subverts stereotypes and plays with conventional notions of love.