Unrequited Love Poems

Poems about unrequited love delve into the ache of a one-sided affection. They capture the bittersweet emotions of longing, heartache, and unfulfilled hope.

These verses express the vulnerability of the heart and the complexities of unreciprocated feelings. Poems about unrequited love evoke empathy and introspection, reminding readers of the shared human experience of love’s unattainable yearning.

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's different social standings may create the boundaries that make their love an unrequited one, but their idealized perceptions of what might have been fuel the conflict in this poem.

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!”

Life in a Love

by Robert Browning

‘Life in a Love’ by Robert Browning is an obsessive love poem in which a speaker tells the person they’re in love with that no matter how many times they’re torn down; they’re always going to get back up. 

Unrequited love is the most important topic at work in this poem. The speaker is dealing with a life-long issue - the person they love does not love them in return.

Escape me?



While I am I, and you are you,

The Nightingale

by Philip Sidney

‘The Nightingale’ is a unique love-lyric that exploits the classical myth of Philomel to morph the personal rue of a lovelorn heart into a superb piece of poetry.

In the poem, the poet and also the speaker Philip Sidney talkes about unrequited love from the start. When the poem starts, he talks about the agony of his unrequited love and how much pain it gives and as the poem continues, he talks about the love that Procne had for his sister as well as the lust Tereus had for his wife's only sister Philomela. Sidney also compares his agony with Philomela's tragedy to justify his situation as the worst.

O Philomela fair, O take some gladness,

That here is juster cause of plaintful sadness:

Thine earth now springs, mine fadeth;

Thy thorn without, my thorn my heart invadeth.

La Belle Dame sans Merci

by John Keats

‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ is Keats’ life and emotions set into verse. It is a story of unrequited love, illness, and the impossibility of being with whom one cares for when they are from different social classes.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?

The sedge has withered from the lake,

And no birds sing.

I Loved You

by Alexander Pushkin

‘I Loved You’ by Alexander Pushkin is a simple but effective poem in which the speaker expresses his devotion and respect for a woman he loved.

Unrequited love is the most prominent theme in this poem, capturing the ache and longing that arise when affection is not reciprocated. The poem explores the pain and vulnerability associated with unrequited love, highlighting the speaker's willingness to accept the reality of the situation while still cherishing their feelings.

I loved you: yet the love, maybe,

Has not extinguished in my heart;

But hence may not it trouble thee;

I do not want to make you sad.


by Hilda Doolittle

‘Circe’ by Hilda Doolittle is a poem that gives voice to Circe, a goddess and master of magical enchantments. Despite her power, she laments that she cannot control love.

Circe's unrequited love is insatiable, as she has no companion or partner to console her. Since the goddess is accustomed to getting everything she wants, she is shocked, sad, and frustrated that she has no power over love or the man she pines for. Ultimately, Circe would give all of her power up for him, but there is no resolution for her.

It was easy enough

to bend them to my wish,

it was easy enough

to alter them with a touch,

Upon Julia’s Voice

by Robert Herrick

‘Upon Julia’s Face’ by Robert Herrick is beautiful poem that tries to capture the speaker’s adoration for the voice of a woman they love and admire.

The Julia whom Herrick writes about was most likely not a real woman but rather an embodiment of the poet's ideal companion. As a result, the poem functions as an expression also of unrequited love. All the poems about Julia are written from the perspective of someone admiring her from afar. This poem is no different as the speaker listens to her in secret.

So smooth, so sweet, so silv'ry is thy voice,

As, could they hear, the damn'd would make no noise,

But listen to thee, walking in thy chamber,

Melting melodious words to lutes of amber.

Portrait of a Lady

by T.S. Eliot

The speaker of the poem observes the older lady to be callous as he hangs out with her, only to find out he himself is indeed emotionally desolate and callous.

The thematic concerns of the poem are explored behind the background of unrequited love. Despite meeting each other over ten months, no relationship or connection gets formed between the speaker and the older woman. The poem ends with a lack of fulfillment and emotional connection for both characters, leaving the reader unsatisfied with no resolution but unrequited love.

Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon

You have the scene arrange itself — as it will seem to do—

With 'I have saved this afternoon for you';

And four wax candles in the darkened room,

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

by T.S. Eliot

Breaking away from Victorian diction, T.S. Eliot presents the distinct realities of his time in the stream of consciousness by experimenting with poetic form.

The poem explores the central thematic of urban decadence and modern decay behind the background of a love song and unrequited love. It emphasizes its anti-heroic stance concerning an urban man as Prufrock could not propose, and his love remained unrequited.

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

Sonnet 227

by Petrarch

‘Sonnet 227’ is about “Love,” particularly “Unrequited love.” Petrarch expresses his deep love for Laura, her indifference towards his love, and the various contrasting emotions he undergoes in the poem.

This sonnet is addressed to a woman the speaker loves but cannot have. His exploration of unrequited love is marked by a deep longing and melancholy, as seen in this poem. His poems express a profound sadness at the impossibility of his love.

Breeze, blowing that blonde curling hair,

stirring it, and being softly stirred in turn,

scattering that sweet gold about, then

gathering it, in a lovely knot of curls again,


Explore more poems about Unrequited Love

The Quilting

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

‘The Quilting’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a very short love poem that reveals the speaker’s growing affection for a woman named Dolly.

The speaker of this poem never reveals why he cannot profess his love for Dolly, but it seems that her mother might have something to do with it. However, with Dolly in the sewer's seat, she has the power to make whatever matches she sees fit and fix them together. As such, the speaker is left staring at her, wishing that she would pick him.

Dolly sits a–quilting by her mother, stitch by stitch,

Gracious, how my pulses throb, how my fingers itch,


by Hugo Williams

‘Toilet’ by Hugo Williams is a humorous poem that describes a man’s struggles to speak to a beautiful woman on a train.

While the speaker imagines an intimate encounter between himself and the woman on the train, the reality feels very different. His love for her, or his lust more accurately, is unrequited.

I wonder will I speak to the girl
sitting opposite me on this train.
I wonder will my mouth open and say,
'Are you going all the way
to Newcastle?' or 'Can I get you a coffee?'

Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,’ is a translation of a Greek lyric poem in which the speaker explains that love constantly (and annoyingly) inhabits their heart.

In 'Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,' Eros possesses the speaker's heart with unrequited love. The speaker, frustrated by the incessant coming and going of love, infatuation, and obsession, seems to wish that the love in her heart would just go away and leave her be for a while.

Thou indeed, little Swallow,

A sweet yearly comer.

Art building a hollow

New nest every summer.

My Last Duchess

by Robert Browning

‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning is a well-known dramatic monologue. It suggests that the speaker has killed his wife and will soon do the same to the next.

Though not clearly addressed, the notion of unrequited love can be sensed in the Duke's grievances. He feels as if his affections and his 'gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name' are not met with an appropriate level of gratitude or exclusivity.

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,

Looking as if she were alive. I call

That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands

Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

Summum Bonum

by Robert Browning

‘Summum Bonum’ by Robert Browning is a fairly straightforward and memorable poem about love and how it is far more important, and valuable than any beautiful summer day or shining gemstone. 

Although it is not entirely clear, the speaker seems to allude to an unrequited love that he's struggling with. There is someone he loves, a woman, and he values her kisses above all else.

All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee:

All the wonder and wealth of the mine in the heart of one gem:

In the core of one pearl all the shade and the shine of the sea:

A Complaint

by William Wordsworth

In the poem ‘A Complaint’ by William Wordsworth, the first and primary emotion is loss – loss of ideals, loss of friendship, loss of love.

There is a change—and I am poor;

Your love hath been, nor long ago,

A fountain at my fond heart's door,

Whose only business was to flow;

A False Step

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘A False Step’ written by Elizabeth Barret Browning explores how a woman regrets her heartless action taken during her youth.

Sweet, thou hast trod on a heart.

Pass! there's a world full of men;

And women as fair as thou art

Must do such things now and then.

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?

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?

Change Upon Change by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Change Upon Change’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a poem about lost love and change. The poet depicts her internal changes through images of the changing seasons.

Five months ago the stream did flow,

The lilies bloomed within the sedge,

And we were lingering to and fro,

Where none will track thee in this snow,


by Robert Browning

Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue ‘Confessions,’ as the title says, is written in the confessional mode and is about a speaker’s secretive meetings with a girl.

What is he buzzing in my ears?

"Now that I come to die,

Do I view the world as a vale of tears?"

Ah, reverend sir, not I!

Crows in a Strong Wind

by Cornelius Eady

‘Crows in a Strong Wind’ appears in the American poet Cornelius Eady’s poetry collection Victims of Latest Dance Craze. This piece captures the crows’ directionless movement in the stormy wind.

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:

Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!

by John Dryden

‘Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!’ by John Dryden swears off men and relationships. The speaker asserts that men are incapable of being truthful or loving as much as women.


by Walter de la Mare

Walter de la Mare’s poem ‘Good-bye’ illustrates the impact of the “last of last words” with the help of vivid, pessimistic imagery. It’s all about one’s emotional distress caused by a heart-wrenching “Goodbye.”


by Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Havisham’ is a response to Charles Dickens’s portrayal of the character Miss Havisham in his famous novel Great Expectations. This poem refers to the character as “Havisham” rather than “Miss Havisham.”

Beloved sweetheart bastard. Not a day since then

I haven’t wished him dead. Prayed for it

so hard I’ve dark green pebbles for eyes,

ropes on the back of my hands I could strangle with.

He Is More Than A Hero

by Sappho

‘He is more than a hero’ by Sappho describes a speaker’s turbulent emotions in regards to a woman she loves but she cannot have.

I Cannot Live With You

by Emily Dickinson

‘I cannot live with You’ by Emily Dickinson is a poem about marriage. The speaker spends the lines declaring why she can’t “live with you” and her various related concerns.

I cannot live with You –

It would be Life –

And Life is over there –

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