On this list you will find ten of the best-loved, and most famous, love poems ever written. From Anne Bradstreet to Alfred Lord Tennyson, these poems last for no more than eighteen lines and touch on the most important themes of human relationships.
Famous Short Love Poems
- 1 Sonnet 11 by Pablo Neruda
- 2 Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe
- 3 To My Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet
- 4 When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats
- 5 How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- 6 Why do I love you, Sir? by Emily Dickinson
- 7 She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron
- 8 I Am Not Yours by Sara Teasdale
- 9 A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns
- 10 Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Also known as ‘I crave your mouth,’ this affectionate and intimate fourteen-line sonnet is one of Neruda’s best. In the first two quatrains of this piece Neruda expresses his wants in regards to his lover. These lines go through her features (voice, hair, “lovely body,” and more). Neruda uses metaphors and similes to depict these parts of his lover and why it is that he wants each one. They bring out different emotions in him but “want” is the overwhelmingly dominant one. He wants to “eat the sunbeam flaring in [her] body” he is “hungry” for her.
‘Annabel Lee’ creates a very different mood than all the rest of the poems on this list. In its short lines the speaker, who is commonly considered to be Poe himself, outlines the loss he has suffered. It was a loss only made necessary by the strength of the love he shared with his beloved. The angels took her to sate their jealously over the relationship the two of them shared.
This short twelve-line poem is dedicated to the poet’s husband. She expresses her genuine love for her husband by describing how they have bonded. They were two and through marriage and their growing emotional attachment, became one. Throughout the poem she assures her husband that she loves him and will continue to do so. He is worth more to her than any amount of money or “all the riches that the East doth hold”.
This twelve-line poem is another on this list that uses natural imagery as a way to speak about beauty. In the case of ‘When You Are Old’ Yeats is very likely addressing a woman that he loved and lost, Maud Gonne. He walks his ex-lover through the reasons that people loved her, primarily for her beauty. There was someone, a single man, who loved her purely and for all the right reasons. He alludes to his own passion for her and asks that she remember him and perhaps regret that things did not work out between them.
This poem is one of the most famous short love poems in the English language. At the beginning of the poem the speaker declares that she is going to “count the ways” that she loves “thee”. The person she addresses throughout is her lover, someone who she loves freely and deeply. At the end of the poem she asks God that he might allow her to continue loving him after she has died.
Scholars and poetry lovers are divided over whether the person Dickinson was addressing this poem to was a man or was instead God. The latter is the most common interpretation considering Dickinson’s cloistered life. She outlines in the poem, whether to God or a real companion, why she loves him. She is the grass to his wind and he is the lightning that flashes behind her eyes. The poem ends simply, with the speaker saying she loves this person or God because they exist.
‘She Walks in Beauty’ is a three-stanza poem that is one of Lord Byron’s most beautiful. The first two lines read: “She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies”. The history around this poem says that Byron wrote it after seeing his cousin. He was so moved by her beauty that he penned these immortal lines. Her beauty is like the starry skies under which she walks. It is a part of her but it is also a part of the world.
A three-stanza, twelve-line poem, ‘I Am Not Yours’ is one of Teasdale’s most popular poems. Throughout this poem Teasdale addresses someone who she’d like to be swept up in love with but simply isn’t. She longs to be “lost” but she is not “lost in you”. She is not “yours” she states clearly from the start. As a lyric poet, Teasdale is showing her strengths with lines such as “I find you still / A spirit beautiful and bright.” It’s clear she does find beauty in this person and that it reminds her how she has yet to find a love that plunges her “deaf and blind” into the wind.
This short poem is made up of four four-line stanzas. Burns uses metaphors and similes to depict his speaker’s affection for a specific woman. This unnamed woman is only addressed as his “Luve” in ‘A Red, Red Rose’. He compares her to a red rose, a traditional symbol for love and passion as well as to music and spring. The speaker is sure that he is going to be in love with her forever.
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal by Alfred Lord Tennyson
A sonnet-length poem that was first published in 1847, ‘Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal’ is part of a longer epic poem called The Princess. The poem is read by a character, Princess Ida to the prince who is in love with her. There are examples of personification, nature-based imagery, and metaphors throughout.