‘I Love You’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of eight lines, or octaves. Wilcox has also chosen to separate the first stanza further. It contains four couplets that outline the physical and emotional reasons why she loves her partner.
In the second stanza, the writing opens up, allowing the speaker’s thoughts to expand beyond two-line phrases. These lines outline what the speaker does not want from a relationship. She mentions a number of ways of loving she is not interested in. In the final stanza, she describes what it is she wants from the relationship in the future. At this point, the text is no longer separated out. One line flows into the next, building up a picture of what she imagines as the perfect love.
A reader should also take note of the images of fire, heat, or warmth that appear in the text. They are always related to things the speaker does want—such as an embrace or kiss. In contrast, the second stanza presents images of “bloodlessness” and coldness that are related to what the speaker does not want from her partner.
Summary of I Love You
The poem begins with the speaker outlining four different reasons she loves her partner. These are mainly physical reasons; ones that are closely associated with the passion she is looking for in a relationship. She is drawn to this person’s lips when they are wet wth wine, their eyes which hold a special light, and the feeling of their skin.
In the second stanza, she speaks on a different kind of relationship, one she is not seeking. She has no desire for cold, calm kisses, or a virgin’s love. It is passion she is seeking and she tells her listener that they should pursue that for as long as they can.
Analysis of I Love You
I love your lips when they’re wet with wine
And red with a wild desire;
I love your eyes when the lovelight lies
Lit with a passionate fire.
I love your arms when the warm white flesh
Touches mine in a fond embrace;
I love your hair when the strands enmesh
Your kisses against my face.
In the first stanza of ‘I Love You’, the speaker begins by making the first of four statements that outline what she physically loves about the listener. From the first line, it is clear the intended listener is her lover, and is someone who she knows intimately. It is her lover’s lips that she mentions first. She states the simple fact that she loves this person’s lips when they are “wet with wine.” This calls to mind any number of situations that may or may not be relatable to the reader. For the speaker, it brings up moments of “desire.” She relates the redness of the wine to moments they shared together.
The speaker describes another reason why she loves her unnamed listener in the third line. She turns to this person’s eyes and speaks of the “lovelight” she sees in them. They seem to glow, as if alight with a “passionate fire.” So far, the two images Wilcox has presented are very intense. There is a warmth and depth of passion present in both.
The third reason the speaker describes stays within the same theme. She speaks of the “warm white flesh” of her lover’s arms. The feeling of their skin on her own is one of the main reasons she loves them. They are able to take her into an “embrace” which is different in some way from that which she has experienced before. Finally, the speaker gets to the third reason she cares so deeply for the listener. It has to do with their “hair” and how the “strands enmesh” or become tangled between their lips when they kiss.
Not for me the cold, calm kiss
Of a virgin’s bloodless love;
Not for me the saint’s white bliss,
Nor the heart of a spotless dove.
But give me the love that so freely gives
And laughs at the whole world’s blame,
With your body so young and warm in my arms,
It sets my poor heart aflame.
In the second stanza, the speaker makes it very clear that the passionate descriptions of the first stanza are to her liking. This section of lines sets out what she is not looking for in a relationship. The first line is a perfect contrast to the preceding eight. While the previous stanza spoke about passion and warmth and the desire the speaker and her partner feel for one another, these lines present the opposite. She has no need for a relationship that is marked by “cold, calm” kisses or “a virgin’s bloodless love.” More simply, she wants passion to exist in her relationship.
The third line describes a cold relationship to a “saint’s white bliss.” She is not looking for purity or perfection, rather a “love that so freely gives.” She is seeking out laughter and a “warm” body in her arms. The last line tells the reader that above all else she wants love to “set [her] poor heart aflame.”
So kiss me sweet with your warm wet mouth,
Still fragrant with ruby wine,
And say with a fervor born of the South
That your body and soul are mine.
Clasp me close in your warm young arms,
While the pale stars shine above,
And we’ll live our whole young lives away
In the joys of a living love.
In the final stanza, the speaker returns to directing her words to her lover. She is now describing what she wants from the future. In a line that mirrors the first line of the poem, the speaker asks that her lover “kiss [her] sweet with [their] warm wet mouth.” It is again “fragrant with ruby wine.” The images of warmth and redness show up again in ‘I Love You’. The word “warmth” has now appeared in each stanza.
In the next line, she asks that this person say, “with a fervour” that they belong “body and soul” to her. She wants possession of this person in every way possible. It is easy enough to assume that she would want them to feel the same way about her.
This supposition is proven true in the next line in which the speaker asks to be held “close” in the listener’s “warm young arms.” The word “young” appears again in the seventh line of the stanza. Clearly, the speaker is relating their happiness to youth. She likely sees it as existing at its peak when they are able to love with the freedom that young age presents.
The speaker leans into this way of loving in the final lines where she dreams of their ability to “live [their] whole young lives away” in their “living love.”