Ah, love… it’s a many splendored thing, indeed. To quote Dr. Brand from the film Interstellar, it’s “the one thing we’re capable of perceiving… that transcends dimensions of time and space.” It’s something we want to shout from the mountains at the top of our lungs.
You can express your love through an affectionate touch, through thoughtful gifts, and even with heartfelt gestures. Or, better yet, you can borrow the words of the experts and send a sweet love poem to your honey.
Poems are a great way to express ideas. With the right imagery and word choice, you can sweep your special someone off their feet. But poems of love aren’t only about joy and ecstasy: many also tell of heartbreak, infidelity, and sadness.
Here are 21 love poems from a variety of authors and generations.
Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare brings us the universal definition of love in Sonnet 116. In this poem, Shakespeare tells us that even if we are clueless about love, we know where it is, and that’s all we need to know. He doesn’t speak of his personal experience on love but rather shares his understanding.
|Let me not to the marriage of true minds|
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Love One Another by Khalil Gibran
Referring to marriage, Khalil Gibran shares in his poem Love One Another how couples must be honest and open with each other. However, it is unavoidable to keep some small secrets to yourself.
|You were born together, and together you shall be forever more.|
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup, but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow
Romantics by Lisel Mueller
An evocative poem about the truths that transcend facts and figures, Romantics by Lisel Mueller tells us about the relationship between Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann.
Here’s an excerpt:
|Each time I hear|
the Intermezzi, sad
and lavish in their tenderness,
I imagine the two of them
sitting in a garden
among late-blooming roses…
You can enjoy the full text here.
Meeting at Night by Robert Browning
Regarded as one of the most important English poets of the Victorian period, Robert Browning brings you a poem about pursuing love and overcoming challenges for love.
| The grey sea and the long black land;|
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!
Unending Love by Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore is a Bengali poet with the pen name Bhanu Singha Thakur. It isn’t hard to be swept off your feet as you read these sweet soulful words.
Here’s an excerpt:
|I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…|
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
Read the full text here.
Since There’s No Help by Michael Drayton
Since There’s No Help by Michael Drayton is a poem about heartbreak. Coming out of a break-up, Drayton gives us a poem about how much it can hurt but how one can still be hopeful in love.
|Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part;|
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart
That thus so cleanly I myself can free;
Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou mightst him yet recover.
My River by Emily Dickinson
This very short poem from Emily Dickinson gives us a glimpse of what we sometimes fear, love itself. Like the speaker of the poem, we hesitate in love but mostly succumb anyway.
|My River runs to thee.|
Blue sea, wilt thou welcome me?
My river awaits reply.
Oh! Sea, look graciously.
I’ll fetch thee brooks
From spotted nooks.
How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
This sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning speaks of glorious love, of an intense crush, a great attraction. You can imagine how a girl gushes over the love of her life in every word of this poem.
|How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.|
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Alfred Tennyson gives us a story of two star-crossed lovers caught in a hopeless affair. The narrator falls in love with the daughter of a man who caused his father’s death.
|Come into the garden, Maud,|
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
In a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.
All night have the roses heard
The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirr’d
To the dancers dancing in tune;
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
And a hush with the setting moon.
I said to the lily, “There is but one
With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
She is weary of dance and play.”
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
The last wheel echoes away.
I said to the rose, “The brief night goes
In babble and revel and wine.
O young lord-lover, what sighs are those,
For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine,” so I sware to the rose,
“For ever and ever, mine.”
And the soul of the rose went into my blood,
As the music clash’d in the hall;
And long by the garden lake I stood,
For I heard your rivulet fall
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
Our wood, that is dearer than all;
From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewel-print of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
And the valleys of Paradise.
The slender acacia would not shake
One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake
As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
But the rose was awake all night for your sake,
Knowing your promise to me;
The lilies and roses were all awake,
They sigh’d for the dawn and thee.
Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
To the flowers, and be their sun.
There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, “She is near, she is near;”
And the white rose weeps, “She is late;”
The larkspur listens, “I hear, I hear;”
And the lily whispers, “I wait.”
She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead,
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.
Love’s Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem shows us how to woo someone we love. Hopefully, things turned out well for this guy. After all, fate favors the bold.
| The fountains mingle with the river|
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?—
See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?
When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats
W. B. Yeats wrote When You Are Old in 1893. It talks about a poet’s eternal love for his beloved as well as the pain of rejection, and the onslaught of time.
|When you are old and grey and full of sleep,|
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
Love by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s “Love” might be quite lengthy, but it speaks of a daring courtship.
| All thoughts, all passions, all delights,|
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.
Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o’er again that happy hour,
When midway on the mount I lay,
Beside the ruined tower.
The moonshine, stealing o’er the scene
Had blended with the lights of eve;
And she was there, my hope, my joy,
My own dear Genevieve!
She leant against the arméd man,
The statue of the arméd knight;
She stood and listened to my lay,
Amid the lingering light.
Few sorrows hath she of her own,
My hope! my joy! my Genevieve!
She loves me best, whene’er I sing
The songs that make her grieve.
I played a soft and doleful air,
I sang an old and moving story—
An old rude song, that suited well
That ruin wild and hoary.
She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace;
For well she knew, I could not choose
But gaze upon her face.
I told her of the Knight that wore
Upon his shield a burning brand;
And that for ten long years he wooed
The Lady of the Land.
I told her how he pined: and ah!
The deep, the low, the pleading tone
With which I sang another’s love,
Interpreted my own.
She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes, and modest grace;
And she forgave me, that I gazed
Too fondly on her face!
But when I told the cruel scorn
That crazed that bold and lovely Knight,
And that he crossed the mountain-woods,
Nor rested day nor night;
That sometimes from the savage den,
And sometimes from the darksome shade,
And sometimes starting up at once
In green and sunny glade,—
There came and looked him in the face
An angel beautiful and bright;
And that he knew it was a Fiend,
This miserable Knight!
And that unknowing what he did,
He leaped amid a murderous band,
And saved from outrage worse than death
The Lady of the Land!
And how she wept, and clasped his knees;
And how she tended him in vain—
And ever strove to expiate
The scorn that crazed his brain;—
And that she nursed him in a cave;
And how his madness went away,
When on the yellow forest-leaves
A dying man he lay;—
His dying words—but when I reached
That tenderest strain of all the ditty,
My faultering voice and pausing harp
Disturbed her soul with pity!
All impulses of soul and sense
Had thrilled my guileless Genevieve;
The music and the doleful tale,
The rich and balmy eve;
And hopes, and fears that kindle hope,
An undistinguishable throng,
And gentle wishes long subdued,
Subdued and cherished long!
She wept with pity and delight,
She blushed with love, and virgin-shame;
And like the murmur of a dream,
I heard her breathe my name.
Her bosom heaved—she stepped aside,
As conscious of my look she stepped—
Then suddenly, with timorous eye
She fled to me and wept.
She half enclosed me with her arms,
She pressed me with a meek embrace;
And bending back her head, looked up,
And gazed upon my face.
‘Twas partly love, and partly fear,
And partly ’twas a bashful art
That I might rather feel, than see,
The swelling of her heart.
I calmed her fears, and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin pride;
And so I won my Genevieve,
My bright and beauteous Bride.
I Carry Your Heart with Me by E. E. Cummings
“I Carry Your Heart with Me” is a sentimental poem by E. E. Cummings that speaks of the intense love that governs a person’s whole being and portrays love in its purest form.
Here’s an excerpt:
|I carry your heart with me(i carry it in|
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
I go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
Enjoy the full text here.
A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns
Robert Burns gives us another gushing love poem. The intense attraction is expressed as effectively as the poet can with the use of vivid metaphors.
|O my Luve is like a red, red rose|
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.
So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
Though it were ten thousand mile.
Love Sonnet XI by Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda was a Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet-diplomat. The Love Sonnet XI is about expressing your desire toward your lover. Starting with “I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair,” this poem is laden with an impressive use of imagery to impress upon us the sensuality of its message.
Here’s an excerpt:
|I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.|
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
Read the full poem here.
When I Too Long Have Looked Upon Your Face by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay exquisitely manifests the stalwart emotions and passions of true love. This English sonnet begins with the narrator gazing upon the face of her lover.
|When I too long have looked upon your face,|
Wherein for me a brightness unobscured
Save by the mists of brightness has its place,
And terrible beauty not to be endured,
I turn away reluctant from your light,
And stand irresolute, a mind undone,
A silly, dazzled thing deprived of sight
From having looked too long upon the sun.
Then is my daily life a narrow room
In which a little while, uncertainly,
Surrounded by impenetrable gloom,
Among familiar things grown strange to me
Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark,
Till I become accustomed to the dark.
Whoso List to Hunt by Sir Thomas Wyatt
Sir Thomas Wyatt survived two imprisonments in the Tower as well as a love affair with Anne Boleyn. Whoso List to Hunt compares his beloved to an escaping deer before a drained hunter. Sir Thomas reflects, that anyway, she is the king’s property and forbidden.
|Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,|
But as for me, alas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
“Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.”
Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy
The first female Scottish Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy writes with a great mix of tenderness and toughness, as well as humor and lyricism. This poem is evidence of how she makes use of unconventional forms and attitudes, where instead of a rose, the lover is offered an onion.
Here is an excerpt:
|Not a red rose or a satin heart.|
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
Read the full text here.
Bright Star by John Keats
This sonnet by John Keats is one sensual work of art. Bright Star speaks of a passionate love comparable to celestial objects, or beings.
|Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—|
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe
A famous American writer, editor, and literary critic, Edgar Allan Poe demonstrates astonishing talent in Annabel Lee. This poem, which tells the story of the tragic death of a beautiful girl, was Poe’s favorite.
| It was many and many a year ago,|
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Laughed loud at her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went laughing at her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the laughter in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
Good Bones by Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith is a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. This poem was originally called “the official poem of 2016” and was widely circulated on social media and read by around one million people.
Not all love poems are about romantic love, or saying “I love you.” In this poem, Smith shares protective and optimistic love that seeks to inspire potential in those that we love, especially our children. You can read the full poem here.
How to Read Poetry
To get the most from these swoon-worthy poems, it helps to have a basic understanding of a poem’s structure. Check out our tips on how to analyze a poem so you can gain an even deeper understanding of these words.
Want to try your hand at a romantic poem of your very own? Study our guide on how to write a poem so you can give your sweetie a unique gift this Valentine’s Day!
Which of these poems makes you want to fall in love all over again? Share your thoughts in the comments below!