The Kiss is an 1889 marble sculpture by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin.
1. She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron (1788-1824)
Byron’s words are hauntingly beautiful. The simple imagery of the woman’s charm and elegance make this poem both accessible and timeless. It’s no wonder why Byron makes it into countless proposals and wedding speeches.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
2. i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) by EE Cummings (1894 - 1962)
Perhaps the only Harvard poet to make his way into the lyrics of indie-rock band Bloc Party, the moving lyricism of E.E. Cummings’ poem makes it a classic. As a university poet, Cummings’ poetry was always popular with young people, perhaps due to the combination of traditional romance and experimental syntax. The repetitive nature of the poem gives it an almost incantatory quality.
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)
3. I loved you first: but afterwards your love . . . by Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894)
"Love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine’": Here Christina Rossetti champions mutual, adoring love between two people. Not just for the starstruck lover, this poem explores the symbiotic relationship of love with charming modesty. The canon of love poetry wouldn’t be complete without the creative influence of Rossetti, whose body of work is known for its devotional ballads.
I loved you first: but afterwards your love
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? my love was long,
And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I loved and guessed at you, you construed me
And loved me for what might or might not be –
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’
With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.
4. Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy (1955- )
Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is no stranger to love poetry. She has said that most of her work consists of love poems, claiming that “a guiding impulse for poets down the centuries has been to describe, interrogate and celebrate love, one of the most intense and important of human experiences.” Valentine does all of the above.
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.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief...
5. A Glimpse by Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)
Whitman’s words do not shout of earth-shattering romance but of comforting, humble love. This poem is perhaps a more realistic portrait of a couple battling against the noise and crowds of everyday life.
A glimpse through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around the stove late of a winter night, and I unremark’d seated in a corner,
Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently approaching and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand,
A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of drinking and oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word.
6. I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke (1949 - )
Punk performance poet John Cooper Clarke’s humorous, energetic poem will resonate with anyone who is madly in love and desperately trying to articulate their feelings. Alex Turner, frontman of the Arctic Monkeys, has often cited Cooper Clarke as a source of inspiration. This poem has also featured on the GCSE syllabus.
let me be your electric meter
I will not run out
let me be the electric heater
you get cold without
7. Another Valentine by Wendy Cope (1945 - )
Wendy Cope’s poem, commissioned by The Telegraph in 2009, explores the frequent criticisms levelled at the most romantic day of the year. But while the poet considers the sense of obligation behind Valentine’s Day, romantic feelings come through.
Today we are obliged to be romantic
And think of yet another valentine.
We know the rules and we are both pedantic:
Today’s the day we have to be romantic.
Our love is old and sure, not new and frantic.
You know I’m yours and I know you are mine.
And saying that has made me feel romantic,
My dearest love, my darling valentine.
8. Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)
Undoubtedly one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnet. Love, according to this sonnet, does not change or fade; it has no flaws and even outlasts death. The sonnet appeared in Emma Thompson’s screenplay for the film of Sense and Sensibility, and is memorably quoted by Kate Winslet, who played romantic Marianne.
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 wandering 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.
9. The Good-Morrow by John Donne (1572 - 1631)
One of Donne’s earliest works, published in his 1633 collection Songs and Sonnets. Donne weaves sensual and spiritual love together from the point of view of an awakening lover, while also making use of Biblical references. It contains the beautiful lines: “For love, all love of other sights controls, And makes one little room an everywhere”
I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.
And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.
10. Love after Love by Derek Walcott (1930 - )
Walcott explores the idea of learning to re-love one’s self after trauma and loss. The Caribbean poet and playwright received the 1992 Nobel Prize for literature and won the TS Eliot Prize for his book of poetry,White Egrets in 2011.
The poem ends:
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.