British voters keep their heads and say 'If' is the best of all

MARIANNE MACDONALD

Arts Reporter

A poll to find the nation's favourite poem - an event which could have provided Britain's most embarrassing publicity since the survey which found that Rolf Harris was the public's best-known artist - ended respectably, if not with a bang, last night.

After six days of voting the people's choice, with more than double the votes of its nearest rival, turned out to be Rudyard Kipling's If - admittedly redolent of the former O-Level syllabus, but the work of a Nobel laureate none the less.

The rest of the Top 10, however, turned up some surprises. They were Tennyson's The Lady of Shallot; Walter de la Mare's The Listener; Stevie Smith's Not Waving But Drowning; Wordsworth's Daffodils ("He wandered lonely as a cloud"); Keats's To Autumn and his Ode To A Nightingale; WB Yeats' The Lake Isle of Innisfree and He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven and Wilfred Owen's war poem, Dulce Et Decorum Est.

The poll to find the nation's favourite poem began on Saturday and finished at noon yesterday, National Poetry Day. Nominations - of any poem in the world - were made by 7,500 calls to a premium-rate telephone number by members of the public. Votes were cast for more than 200 authors and almost 1,000 poems, with Cargoes, John Masefield's rhythmic tour de force, and Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky both losing an early lead.

The choice of If comes as something as a relief to staff of BBC's The Bookworm, who organised the poll and arranged for the acclaimed Shakespearean actor, Sir Ian McKellen, to read the top choices on BBC1 at 10.20pm tonight.

There had been pessimistic speculation that the public would go for a poem rather lighter in tone, such as Pam Ayres's Oh, I Wish I'd Looked After Me Teeth, a ditty on the corrosive effect of toffee.

But although it won a following, it was more than balanced by the votes for poems by Byron, Keats, Robert Frost, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wilfred Owen, John Donne and Thomas Gray.

The favourite modern poets to emerge from the survey were Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage, while the children's vote was overwhelmingly in favour of Quentin Blake and Allan Ahlberg.

The only great British poet who failed to win a respectable share was, oddly enough, William Shakespeare, even though the bookmakers Ladbrokes had laid odds of two to one that Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day") would win.

In fact, none of the poems chosen by the bookies as top favourites - William Blake's The Tyger; John Donne's Holy Sonnet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet From The Portuguese ("How do I love thee? Let me count the ways") and WH Auden's Funeral Blues, famously quoted in the film Four Weddings And A Funeral - came close.

Some poems nominated completely baffled Daisy Goodwin, The Bookworm's executive producer, and poetry experts. Last night, they were trying to identify Anne Marie Cusack's Paradise (15 votes) and Hazel Shrumpkin's My Memories .

Other problems stemmed from the difficulties experienced by the staff drafted in to decipher the names of the poets and poems from the answerphone messages left by callers. They recorded numerous votes for a weird character called Lord Bryon, while other suspicious nominations included Allergy In A Country Churchyard, Golchy et Gwackorum Est, The Rhubarb of O' Mark I Am, AA Milne's Vespas and Not Wading But Drowning.

Ms Goodwin said she was delighted with the results. "The range of votes is incredible. Apart from Hazel Shrumpkin and Anne Marie Cusack, pretty much every well-known poet got votes. It shows that the great British public is a lot more discerning about poetry than anyone would give them credit for," she said.

The Top Ten

1 'If', Rudyard Kipling

2 'The Lady of Shallot',

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

3 'The Listener',

Walter de la Mare

4 'Not Waving but Drowning', Stevie Smith

5 'Daffodils',

William Wordsworth

6 'To Autumn',

John Keats

7 'The Lake Isle of

Innisfree', WB Yeats

8 'Dulce et Decorum Est', Wilfred Owen

9 'Ode to a

Nightingale', John Keats

10 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven', WB Yeats

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on