William Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much With Us" and John Milton's "Paradise Lost" are both examples of poems that include oxymorons. Wordsworth's lyric poem refers to a "sordid boon" while Milton describes "darkness visible" and "that bad eminence," among other seemingly contradictory descriptions in his epic poem.
An oxymoron is the use of two terms that directly contradict each other, such as "constant change." However, an oxymoron should not be confused with a paradox. A paradox, while similar, may seem contradictory but contains an implied truth and is usually a group of one or more sentences.
Other poems that include oxymorons include "Lancelot and Elaine" by Tennyson, "The Send-off" by Wilfred Owen, and "Essays of Criticism" by Alexander Pope. Many of Shakespeare's plays and soliloquies include the use of oxymorons. Perhaps one of the most famous is a line from Romeo and Juliet: "Parting is such sweet sorrow."
The inclusion of an oxymoron in poetry can create specific and special effects. Using contradictory terms can indicate deep emotion by illustrating how confusing feelings can be ("sweet sorrow"), or an oxymoron can encourage a reader to explore a complex issue by giving an idea two opposite components ("grimly gay"), as in "The Send-off."