Loving Someone You Can't Have Poems

Poetry about unrequited love is deeply poignant, echoing with a profound sense of longing, heartache, and melancholic yearning. These verses delve into the agonizing beauty of loving someone out of reach, exploring themes of longing, despair, and silent devotion.

The poet uses evocative imagery and emotive language to encapsulate the bittersweet pain of unfulfilled love. Such poetry resonates with anyone who has ever experienced the anguish and longing of unrequited love.

Gacela of Unforseen Love

by Federico Garcia Lorca

‘Gacela of Unforseen Love’ explores the relationship between love and despair through a remembered romance which has run its course.

The regretful voice of the poem is one of its most impactful elements - the narrator appears to physically and emotionally ache for the one they love, but cannot have.

No one understood the perfume

of the dark magnolia of your womb

Nobody knew that you tormented

a hummingbird of love between your teeth.

Her Initials

by Thomas Hardy

‘Her Initials’ by Thomas Hardy is a deeply poignant poem that wrestles lucidly with grief’s diminishing effect on memories of loved ones.

Ultimately, the poem illustrates a situation in which the speaker loves someone they cannot be with. Thomas Hardy might withhold the details, but the reader can still appreciate the excruciating pain of such a fate. The poet's imagery reflects the way such absence can make the world appear less radiant are far more bleak.

Upon a poet’s page I wrote

Of old two letters of her name;

Part seemed she of the effulgent thought

Whence that high singer’s rapture came.

“Take me anywhere” (from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

In “Take me anywhere, anywhere;” by Hilda Doolittle, the poet-speaker addresses a lover, expressing the way in which she takes refuge in their affection.

Hilda Doolittle is an expert in writing about her failures in the romance department, and "Take me anywhere, anywhere;" is no exception. In this poem, she captures the feelings of lonely pining and desperation. Her poem reads as if she has lost all reason, and it seems that she would even go back into the past just to be with her lover again.

Take me anywhere, anywhere;

I walk into you,


Yellow Stars and Ice

by Susan Stewart

‘Yellow Stars and Ice’ captures the unattainable nature of memory, even when it feels tantalizingly close at hand.

The poem is a deep expression of longing, though for who it is not clear. It could be a former lover, friend or family member. It could even be a younger version of themselves. The only thing that is clear is that they cannot reach them, most likely because they are only a memory.

I am as far as the deepest sky between clouds

and you are as far as the deepest root and wound,

and I am as far as a train at evening,

as far as a whistle you can't hear or remember.  

Maud Muller

by John Greenleaf Whittier

‘Maud Muller’ by John Greenleaf Whittier is a classic narrative ballad that recounts how the poor peasant, Maud, and an urban judge fantasize about getting married and living together. However, neither of them ever takes action, which fills their lives with regret.

Maud Muller and the judge, both of whom are attracted to one another, never admit that they want to be together. Their unequal social standing gets in the way. However, the story indicates that if they were to get together, neither of them would be satisfied with the other's way of life.

God pity them both! and pity us all,

Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward

by Anne Sexton

‘Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward’ showcases the heartbreaking moment a mother is separated from her child as she is too unwell.

There is no greater anguish than being separated from one's child against one's will, but this is the fate the narrator must endure. On account of their poor mental state, it is decided that she cannot care for the child and thus can only love it from a distance.

Child, the current of your breath is six days long.

You lie, a small knuckle on my white bed;

lie, fisted like a snail, so small and strong

The Triumph of Achilles

by Louise Glück

‘The Triumph of Achilles’ depicts the titular hero as he mourns the loss of his beloved companion Patroclus.

Whatever the nature of Achilles and Patroclus' relationship, it is beyond doubt that they loved one another very much, and the death of the latter breaks Achilles' heart. Being the warrior that he was, Achilles channels this loss into battle and violence.

In the story of Patroclus

no one survives, not even Achilles

who was nearly a god.

The Lost Mistress

by Robert Browning

‘The Lost Mistress’ is a poem written by Robert Browning, it is a dramatic monologue that expresses the pain and agony of a lover.

The poem portrays the internal conflict and emotional turmoil that comes with loving someone who is unattainable or who no longer reciprocates the same level of affection. The speaker used to have a romantic, intimate relationship with this person but all that is lost now.

All’s over, then: does truth sound bitter

As one at first believes?

Hark, ’tis the sparrows’ good-night twitter

About your cottage eaves!

The Distances

by Charles Olson

‘The Distances’ by Charles Olsen present a complex, haunting meditation on the darker sides of love.

The poem would appear to suggest that what one often mistakes for love is actually a concealed will to master or control and a release of greed. Short, then, of the type of miracle that allows stone as much as oneself to awake, and since greed is by its nature unquenchable, “love” is often unrequited love of someone one can’t have.

I wake you,

stone. Love this man.

Strings in the earth and air

by James Joyce

‘Strings in the earth and air’ by James Joyce is a romantic poem that imagines love as a youth playing sweetly enchanting music.

James Joyce's poem infers a distance between the speaker and the person they so desperately desire. The essential clue of this interpretation comes in the form of their characterization of love as a man with "pale flowers" and "dark leaves" in their hair, the presence of the dead plants symbolizing love's melancholy. As if reflecting their own mood onto their imagining of love.

Strings in the earth and air

Make music sweet;

Strings by the river where

The willows meet.

Explore more poems about Loving Someone You Can't Have

The Highwayman

by Alfred Noyes

‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes is a gothic narrative of tells of the story of the highwayman, the red coats who wanted to capture him and his lover. 

The love that's demonstrated in this poem, constrained by societal norms and the imminent danger posed by the red-coats, exemplifies the anguish of yearning for someone seemingly unattainable.

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,

And the highwayman came riding—


The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


A Jet Ring Sent

by John Donne

‘A Jet Ring Sent’ by John Donne describes how a speaker’s beloved returned his promise ring. The speaker meditates on the nature of their relationship and how it is symbolized by the black ring. 

Thou art not so black as my heart,

    Nor half so brittle as her heart, thou art ;

What would'st thou say ? shall both our properties by thee be spoke,

    —Nothing more endless, nothing sooner broke?

A Valentine

by Edgar Allan Poe

‘A Valentine’ throws a challenge to the readers in the guise of a meticulously formed poem. This poem hints at the name of Edgar Allan Poe’s platonic lover.

For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,

Brightly expressive as the twins of Loeda,

Shall find her own sweet name, that, nestling lies

Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.

Break of Day

by John Donne

‘Break of Day’ by John Donne is an aubade told from a female perspective. It conveys a woman’s understanding of her relationship with a busy lover. 

‘Tis true, ‘tis day, what though it be?

O wilt thou therefore rise from me?

Why should we rise because ‘tis light?

Did we lie down because ‘twas night?

Elegy VII: Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love

by John Donne

‘Elegy VII’ by John Donne, also known as ‘Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love,’ is a typical piece about unrequited love.

Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love,

And in that sophistry, oh, thou dost prove

Too subtle: Fool, thou didst not understand

The mystic language of the eye nor hand:

Sonnet 136

by William Shakespeare

‘Sonnet 136,’ also known as ‘If thy soul check thee that I come so near,’ is one of the “Will” sonnets. It describes the speaker’s lust for the Dark Lady.

If thy soul check thee that I come so near,

Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,

And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;

Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.

The Spring

by Thomas Carew

‘The Spring’ by Thomas Carew is a poem about unrequited love in spring. The poet mourns the fact that no matter the season, his beloved does not love him. 

The Triple Fool

by John Donne

In ‘The Triple Fool’, Donne deals with unrequited love. Heartbroken, he writes poetry to alleviate the pain.

I am two fools, I know,

      For loving, and for saying so

          In whining poetry;

But where's that wiseman, that would not be I,

There came a Day—at Summer’s full

by Emily Dickinson

‘There came a Day—at Summer’s full’ by Emily Dickinson depicts two lovers in a tricky situation that keeps them apart. But, they know they’ll be reunited in the next life. 

There came a Day—at Summer's full,

Entirely for me— I thought that such—

were for the Saints—

Where Resurrections—be—