‘Gacela of Unforseen Love’ explores the relationship between love and despair through a remembered romance which has run its course.
Love, and its absence, define the poem. The strength of the imagined or remembered union only serves to torture the narrator in the present, when they cannot reach out and touch the one they love.
No one understood the perfume
of the dark magnolia of your womb
Nobody knew that you tormented
a hummingbird of love between your teeth.
The ‘Hymn to Aphrodite’ by Sappho is an ancient lyric in which Sappho begs for Aphrodite’s help in managing her turbulent love life.
Sappho's delicate, yet relatable, handling of the theme of love in 'Hymn to Aphrodite' is extraordinary. As a poem that is over 2,500 years old, it still rings true in the hearts of anyone who has ever experienced love. This hymn is a true time-tested masterpiece, and it is a quintessential love poem.
Beautiful-throned, immortal Aphrodite,
Daughter of Zeus, beguiler, I implore thee,
Weigh me not down with weariness and anguish
O thou most holy!
‘Lochinvar’ is a ballad about a young and courageous knight who saves his beloved, the fair lady Ellen, from marrying another man.
While the focus of the poem is on the knight Lochinvar, love is what motivates him most throughout the narrative. Though forbidden to marry Ellen, Lochinvar’s boldness, winning courage, and intelligence help him win her back. Walter Scott uses the star-crossed lovers trope in this poem, but only to show the listener that there is no battle that cannot be won if you are courageous and dedicated to love. With dedication on his side, Ellen and Lochinvar ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone
Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.
This piece is all about motherly love and how a mother longs to be with her children, who have grown up and moved on.
Some sunny, empty afternoon
I’ll pool our decade’s worth
and more of cowrie shells
gathered from that gravel patch
‘[love is more thicker than forget]’ by E.E. Cummings conveys the idea that love can be a source of hope, comfort, and joy in times of darkness.
Love is the overwhelmingly central theme of this memorable poem. It depicts love in a way that, perhaps, no poet has ever been capable. Using his characteristic style, Cummings alludes to the nature of love and how it impacts everyone.
love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
Explore ‘Death of a Young Woman,’ where Clarke depicts how a loved one’s death lets a person free from their inward, endless suffering.
In 'Death of a Young Woman,' Clarke captures the reactions of a woman's loved ones after her untimely death.
He wept for her and for the hard tasks
He had lovingly done, for the short,
Fierce life she had lived in the white bed,
For the burden he had put down for good.
‘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.
The poem is directly or indirectly about love, be it Poet's unrequited love or Tereus's so-called wicked love towards Philomela, or Procne's protective love towards her sister Philomela. Love is the cause of destruction, ignorance revenge and hate. Love is the force of the actions that the characters did in the poem. It leds a mother to bring death upon his child, an innocent woman to hide from her extended family.
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.
‘Love Poem’ by Gregory Orr is a short poem about a speaker’s imaginative telling of asking for someone’s phone number.
Given the poem's title love is a big theme in the poem. It's ambiguous whether the speaker is simply naively idealistic or just overcome with the joy of getting their beloved's phone number. But either way the imagery in the poem is created to be illustrative of the way love strikes us.
A black biplane crashes through the window
of the luncheonette. The pilot climbs down,
removing his leather hood.
He hands me my grandmother's jade ring.
‘More Strong Than Time’ by Victor Hugo is a powerfully romantic poem that declares love as withstanding the withering effects of time.
This is a beautiful love poem by Hugo, one that captures all the fiery iridescence of love and its ability to light a fire in the belly of those struck by it. Much of the poem deals with the speaker's zealous attempts to describe the drastic changes such love has caused in their life. To them, it's a bond that cannot be undone by time because time cannot alter the feelings of the heart.
Since I have set my lips to your full cup, my sweet,
Since I my pallid face between your hands have laid,
Since I have known your soul, and all the bloom of it,
And all the perfume rare, now buried in the shade;
‘The heart asks pleasure first’ by Emily Dickinson depicts the needs of the heart. They are highly changeable and include pleasure and excuse from pain.
Love and pleasure are what the heart wants most, Dickinson says in this poem.
The Heart asks Pleasure—first—
And then—Excuse from Pain—
And then—those little Anodynes
That deaden suffering—
‘Permanently’ by Kenneth Koch is a poem that compares the speaker’s love to the part of speech they view as the most essential.
Koch's speaker goes a seemingly roundabout way of confessing their deep love. But the use of the personified pieces of syntax add a sly humor to the poem's playful tone. Which only bolsters the ending metaphor and the speaker's sincere expression of affection.
One day the Nouns were clustered in the street.
An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.
The Nouns were struck, moved, changed.
The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence.
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.
Like in most Hilda Doolittle poems, "Take me anywhere, anywhere;" is focused on the theme of love and its role in the human day-to-day. While this love poem is not the sweetest, as it conveys the poet's deep dependence on love for protection and insight, it is an interesting exploration into relationship dynamics and emotional attachment.
Take me anywhere, anywhere;
I walk into you,
‘Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?,’ also known as ‘Sonnet 18,’ is one of the Fair Youth poems. It is addressed to a mysterious male figure that scholars have been unable to identify.
Love is a central theme in this poem that celebrates true affection's enduring power. The poem suggests that love can transcend the limitations of time and mortality and can inspire acts of compassion, kindness, and generosity. Shakespeare's exploration of love reflects his belief in the transformative power of human connection and his conviction that the bonds of affection are essential to the human experience.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
‘Howl’ is Allen Ginsberg’s best-known poem and is commonly considered his greatest work. It is an indictment of modern society and a celebration of anyone living outside it.
This poem contains references to various forms of love, from romantic to platonic. Ginsberg also celebrates the love between individuals and the unity of all beings.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
‘Another Insane Devotion’ by Gerald Stern is about a man reflecting on his life experiences. His memories, while not always easily understood, help him see the value of the choices he has made.
At first glance, this poem does not appear to be about love. However, it turns out that the story about the cat eating the sandwich is not what the poem is really about. The speaker remembers the cat and the sandwich because that event occurred on the last day he spent with the woman he loved. The poem is about love, choices, and memory over many years.
This was gruesome—fighting over a ham sandwich
with one of the tiny cats of Rome, he leaped
on my arm and half hung on to the food and half
hung on to my shirt and coat.
‘Cuddle Doon’ by Alexander Anderson is a poem about a mother trying to persuade her children to go to sleep. It uses Scots dialect to convey the culture of the speaker and her family.
The speaker's love for her children pervades every line of this poem. It would be easy for her to scold her sons for refusing to go to sleep, but she never does. Instead, she humors them and even lies to her husband about when they went to sleep. She values her time with her children as they will one day grow up and stop being the charming, silly boys that she loves.
The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi muckle faught and din.
“Oh try an’ sleep, ye waukrife rogues,
Your faither’s comin’ in.”
‘Everything I touch’ by Kobayashi Issa is a beautiful Japanese haiku written by one of the four great haiku masters. This piece speaks on what one might receive in return when they reach out with tenderness.
In this poem, Issa explores the complexities of love and the pain it can bring. The poem suggests that even when we approach love with tenderness, it can still hurt us like a prickly bramble. This theme of the pain of love is a common one in literature and reflects the many challenges that love can present.
Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
‘Beeny Cliff’ by Thomas Hardy examines the disenchantment of a location that was once fondly beloved for its setting as a happy memory.
The speaker's love for the woman is one of the defining sources of the poem's beautiful imagery and language. It illuminates their memory and presents Beeny Cliff as this idyllic place. The brilliant way the speaker describes the past is due to their feelings towards the woman. While her absence reveals how life and the location have been marred, the memory persists.
O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free–
The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.
‘Brilliance’ by Mark Doty describes a dying man who wants to control his own life. He eventually opens himself up to new experiences.
Love is foundational to the meaning and importance of 'Brilliance' by Mark Doty. The man in the poem is deliberately closing himself off from love, hope, and positive experiences in preparation for his imminent death. The choice to let love in, even if that love takes the form of a bowl of goldfish, is a brave one that reframes the man's experiences in a positive way. Although love is important to this poem, 'Brilliance' is by no means one of the more famous or critically acclaimed poems on the subject of love; love is one of the most important themes in all of poetry.
Maggie’s taking care of a man
who’s dying; he’s attended to everything,
said goodbye to his parents,
‘City of Orgies’ by Walt Whitman is a poem written by the celebrated American poet Walt Whitman. The poem is a reflection on the city of Manhattan and Whitman’s experiences in the midst of its bustling urban culture.
Love is a universal theme that has been explored by poets throughout history. In 'City of Orgies,' love is often expressed through sensual and erotic imagery, celebrating the physical and emotional aspects of intimacy. Whitman's poetry emphasizes the importance of love in daily life, as well as its power to connect individuals and communities.
City of orgies, walks and joys,
City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one day
make you illustrious,
Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your specta-
cles, repay me,
“Venice — Venus?” by Hilda Doolittle is an insightful poem about Doolittle’s reasons for writing despite critiques. Doolittle reveals that her ultimate source of inspiration is divine.
This poem is focused on love, but not in a conventional way. Doolittle expresses that she writes about love, lust, and desire frequently because Venus compels and forces her to write. Thus, the poet must write about love, and she must write. Otherwise, she would have no purpose, and following the poem's logic, offend Venus.
Venice — Venus?
this must be my stance,
my station: though you brushed aside
‘Can life be a blessing’ by John Henry Dryden is a poem devoted to arguing the necessity of love despite the inevitable pain it might cause.
Dryden's poem is a powerful love poem that's made all the more poignant given it exists in the tension between two separated and star-crossed lovers. Even without the context of the greater text from which it is taken, the poem wrestles with the pros and cons of love. One that is idealistic and hopeful but not absent a certain foreboding.
Can life be a blessing,
Or worth the possessing,
Can life be a blessing if love were away?
Ah no! though our love all night keep us waking,
‘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 love for Odysseus is inconsolable, and although she dislikes that she has no real power over him, she is truly heartbroken, covering up her disappointment with disbelief. While Circe is accustomed to turning the men who love her into caged animals, she is now in their position, pining for someone far away.
It was easy enough
to bend them to my wish,
it was easy enough
to alter them with a touch,
‘Duplex’ by Jericho Brown explores physical and mental abuse, looking at how memory can impact a person.
The poem explores the speaker's memories of past loves, tinged with affection and pain. The repetition of the burgundy car serves as a symbol of these relationships, representing the deep emotional connection that the speaker felt with their partners.
A poem is a gesture toward home.
It makes dark demands I call my own.
Memory makes demands darker than my own:
My last love drove a burgundy car.
Li Bai’s ‘Taking Leave of a Friend’ uses different literary techniques to convey the themes of transience, nature, longing, and friendship.
This poem touches on the enduring power of friendship, which could be interpreted as a form of love. The speaker expresses a deep emotional attachment to their departing friend and wishes them well on their journey. The poem also touches on the impermanence of human relationships and the importance of cherishing the time we have with our loved ones.
Blue mountains lie beyond the north wall;
Round the city's eastern side flows the white water.
Here we part, friend, once forever.
You go ten thousand miles, drifting away
‘Marrysong’ by Dennis Scott describes the relationship between a husband and wife whose relationship is constantly shifting.
Love and passion are central themes in this poem as the speaker reflects on the ways in which his partner's moods and emotions shift like the landscape. The poem suggests that passion and love are not static, but rather constantly evolving and changing.
He never learned her, quite. Year after year
that territory, without seasons, shifted
under his eye. An hour he could be lost
in the walled anger of her quarried hurt
‘Carpe Diem’ by William Shakespeare is a love song from Twelfth Night, sung by Feste the clown/fool. It’s about love and youth.
Love is a very important theme at work in this poem. The speaker is wrapped up in the love they want to share with their mistress.
O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your true-love's coming
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,