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Poems - Locating and Researching Poetry: Finding Poems Online

Last Updated: Jan 8, 2024 4:29 PM

Using a Concordance To Find Words Or Passages In a Poem

Suppose you are writing a paper on William Butler Yeats and you remember the following phrase:

When shall the stars be blown about the sky, 
Like sparks blown out of a smithy, and die?

The passage is relevant to your topic, but you can't remember which poem it's from. To find the passage, consult a CONCORDANCE. Concordances gather all the words of a certain work or author and arrange them in alphabetical order. Each word is followed by a citation to the appropriate line or passage where the word appears. Most concordances include the surrounding words or line in which the word appears. When using a concordance, try looking up an important word in the passage. For instance, if you look up "smithy" in the concordance of Yeats, you will find:


This tells you that the passage you are looking for is line 30 of the poem "The Secret Rose," which can be found on page 170 of the Variorum Edition of the Poems of W. B. Yeats. The introduction to the concordance will tell you which edition or volume the page number refers to. Some concordances refer to two or more editions for greater convenience, usually an "authoritative" edition or a variorum edition. (A variorum edition records differences in the various editions and/or manuscripts.) Remember, concordances don't contain the actual poems, they just tell you which poems contain the word you're looking for. You can then find the poem in the edition listed in the concordance or in any "complete" edition of the poet's works.

To find a concordance to the works of your poet, try a keyword search in the Catalog using the poet's name and the word concordance? The ? will retrieve records with "concordance" (usually used in the title) or "concordances" (usually used in the subject headings). For example:

yeats AND concordance? 
lorca AND concordance?

You can also search for words and passages in a poem by using electronic texts on the Web.

Using the World Wide Web To Find Poems Or Words and Passages In a Poem

The following websites provide access to full-text poems. You can also use these electronic texts to find words within a poem. Some sites have sophisticated searching capabilities. In websites that don't provide their own search engines, you can search the page by going to "Edit" in the upper toolbar. Pull down the menu and select "Find in page." Then type the word you are looking for in the box that appears in the middle of the screen. The word you're looking for will appear highlighted on the screen.





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Laura Taddeo
421 Lockwood Library, North Campus
(716) 645-7970
Subjects: English