Top 10 Poets Who Died Young

6:00 am 22 Jul, 2013


They say that great poets die young. While there is a certain romantic appeal to this notion, it might be more than just a myth. New research has shown that poets do indeed die younger than other writers such as novelists and playwrights. It could be because unlike novelists, poets become famous young and therefore when they die young their deaths are noted more frequently than novelists. Whatever be the reason, it is still a fact that the world has lost many a great poet at an early age. Here is a list of top 10 poets who died young.

10. Arthur Rimbaud:

Arthur Rimbaud was a French poet who started writing at a very young age. He was a symbolist poet and had a scandalous love affair with fellow poet Paul Verlaine. Rimbaud wrote prolifically but stopped writing at the age of 21. He died later at the age of 37 in Africa where he developed a carcinoma in his right knee.

Arthur Rimbaud

9. Michael Dransfield:

Michael Dransfield died at the age of 25 but in his short life wrote more than 1000 poems. He was an Australian who started writing poetry early at the age of fourteen. His poetry was based on his own drug experiences and he published an anthology called Drug Poems in 1972. He suffered from ill health for many years and in 1973 he finally succumbed to the illness and died in a hospital.

Michael Dransfield

8. Rupert Brooke:

Rupert Brooke was an Idealistic war poet in England during the First World War. His poem “The Soldier” gained a lot of recognition. He was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a Sub-Lieutenant when he was 27. He sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force a year later in 1915 but developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite and died on a French hospital ship.

Rupert Brooke

7. Wilfred Owen:


Wilfred Owen was a war poet who wrote during the First World War. He was also an English Soldier and unlike his processor Rupert Brooke, his poetry was not idealistic and did not glorify war. His experiences of trench warfare and gas warfare shaped his poetry into descriptions of these horrors. His poetry helped change the common perception of war that was prevalent before the war. He was killed in action in November 1918 at the young age of 25.

Wilfred Owen

6. Keith Douglas:

Keith Douglas was also an English war poet that wrote poetry during World War Two. He was only 24 years old when he was killed in action during the invasion of Normandy. He is known for his ‘extrospective’ writing style in which he described the atrocities of the war in an emotionless style leaving all the emotional burden on the reader.

Keith Douglas

5. Sylvia Plath:

Sylvia Plath was an American poet and novelist. She also wrote short stories. She wrote in a confessional style and won a Pulitzer Prize for one of her anthologies posthumously. She suffered from depression almost all her life and in 1963 at the age of 30 she committed suicide by placing her head in the oven and turning on the gas which caused carbon monoxide poisoning.

Sylvia Plath

4. Thomas Chatterton:

Thomas Chatterton was an English poet born on 20 November 1752. He had trouble learning the alphabet as a child and lived in seclusion in the attic. Later on he developed the ability to read far in advance of his age. He read old material from his father’s collection. He wrote in a Gothic revival style and wrote pseudo medieval poetry. He was only 17 years old when he died of arsenic poisoning which could have been a suicide.

Thomas Chatterton

3. Percy Bysshe Shelley:

Shelley is one of the most famous English romantic poets. His poetry upheld his own radical political and social views and for this reason many of his works were refused by publishers during his time. It was only after his death that his poetry gained recognition. He died at an early age of 30 when his boat sank in bad weather. Just as his life, his death was also controversial and there were many theories about his death including political murder, pirates, bad navigational qualities and a boat with a flawed design that wasn’t seaworthy.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

2. Lord Byron:

The third of the famous trio or English romantic poets was Lord Byron. He was the Baron of Lochdale and was notorious for his many scandals involving women. In 1824 he had fallen sick and was using therapeutic bleeding to cure himself which had left him weak. He caught a cold in his weak state but the doctors insisted on continuing with the bleeding which worsened his condition and he died on 19th April at the age of 36. With the death of Shelly, Keats and Byron within 4 years, the age of poetic romanticism is said to have died too.

Lord Byron

1. John Keats:


John Keats was a contemporary of Shelley and along with Lord Byron these three were considered the best of English romantic poetry. He died at the age of 26 from tuberculosis. He knew he had TB and was about to die and so refused to marry Fanny Brawne, whom he loved and instead moved to Rome where he died a year later.

John Keats

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