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39.1.A book in the forest

Fountain Poetry: Exploring Literary Expressions Inspired by Water Features

Let’s delve into the rich and diverse ways poets have used the imagery of water and fountains to convey a range of emotions, ideas, and themes. Water, in its various forms, serves as a powerful symbol in literature, often representing life, transformation, and the flow of time. Fountains, specifically, add an architectural and aesthetic dimension to this symbolism.
Fountains, with their ceaseless flow and serene beauty, have long served as muses for poets. The blend of architectural grandeur and the natural allure of water makes fountains more than just physical structures; they are wellsprings of inspiration, symbolizing life, transformation, emotion, and time’s passage. 

Historical Perspectives

Historically, water has been a central theme in poetry, symbolizing various aspects of human experience. From ancient Greek and Roman poets, who revered water nymphs and gods, to modern poets, the depiction of water features has evolved, yet the core symbolism often remains deep-rooted in the natural world’s rhythms and cycles.

39.2.A poet in a fountain

Influential Works and Poets

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge – “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

This poem is renowned for its vivid portrayal of water as both a life-giving and punitive force. Coleridge’s famous lines, “Water, water, every where, / Nor any drop to drink,” exemplify the paradox of being surrounded by water but stranded in its desolation​​.

  • John Masefield – “Sea-Fever”

Masefield’s fascination with the sea reflects in this poem, where the ocean is a symbol of adventure and mystery, drawing the speaker back with its irresistible call​​.

  • T. S. Eliot – “The Dry Salvages”

Eliot explores the philosophical and spiritual dimensions of water, using the imagery of a river and the sea to delve into themes of existence, time, and the human psyche​​.

  • Philip Larkin – “Water”

Larkin envisions a religion centered around water, emphasizing its vital role in human life and its symbolism for purity and unity​​.

  • Charles Baudelaire – “The Fountain”

In this poem, Baudelaire uses the fountain as a metaphor for love and desire, capturing the interplay of emotion and physical beauty​​.

  • Marin Sorescu – “Fountains in the Sea”

Sorescu’s poem personifies water as an unquenchable force, a metaphor for the insatiable thirst of human desire and the unending cycle of life​​.

Influential Works and Poets

The Architecture of Fountains in Poetry

The architectural elements of fountains – their design, the sound of water, the play of light on their surfaces – often find their way into poetry, adding a tangible dimension to the abstract themes poets explore. offers a plethora of examples of different fountain designs, each capable of inspiring unique poetic imagery and themes.

Water as a Symbol

In poetry, water is not just a physical element; it’s a versatile symbol. It can represent cleansing, change, the flow of time, or the subconscious. The way a poet describes water – tranquil, turbulent, vast, or confined – can speak volumes about the underlying themes of the poem.

Contemporary Perspectives

Modern poets continue to draw on the imagery of water and fountains, often merging traditional symbolism with contemporary themes. This reflects the timeless appeal of water in literature, transcending eras and styles.

Contemporary Perspectives


Fountain poetry is a rich and diverse field, where the beauty of the natural world meets the depth of human emotion and thought. From the tranquil to the turbulent, water features have stirred the imaginations of poets throughout history, offering a wellspring of inspiration that continues to flow into the modern age.

References and Further Reading

For more in-depth exploration, readers can visit the Poetry Foundation, which offers a wide range of poems and poets who have explored the theme of water in their works. Additionally, provides insights into the architectural beauty of fountains, which can further enhance one’s understanding of their role in poetry.

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