No subject has been written about more by poets than love. There are a million good love poems out there, so I’m going to try to collect several dozen notable love poems.
Some of these will be my favorite love poems, while others will be notable or famous love poems that I would suggest you avoid in your romantic dalliances. I enjoy reading evocative love poems, because I imagine most of the talented poets writing them were actually inspired by real world romances. Whether it’s a classically good love poem or not, I’ll point out my favorite line or image from each romantic (or not-so romantic) poem.
Here’s hoping that people searching for the perfect love poem for their romance will find something of use. So without further ado, let’s get to this hot, hot poetry.
Love poems have been written about virtually every aspect of the love affair: expectant love and hope, being happily in love, lovers suffering obstacles or estrangement, love poems about heartbreak and even love poems for dead or dying. The following 50 love poems run the entire gamut of emotions for the person in love, so everyone should be able to find something they like. I start with William Shakespeare, who love poetry touches on just about all the subjects I’ve listed.
I don’t include the full text of the love poems, because you can find that on about a thousand different other sites. Instead, I offered a few thoughts of my own about the love poem in question. I might eventually include links to love poem sites so you can easily check out these fifty poems on your own.
William Shakespeare Love Poems
William Shakespeare’s Sonnets are poetic genius, covering the full range of emotions of what is possibly a love triangle. Most of the poems are thought to involve his complicated romance/friendship with a young man, while the last 30-odd sonnets discuss his love-hate relationship with his female lover. It’s possible the young man and the Dark Lady have an affair, though that’s only one interpretation. If so, he forgives the young man, but has passionate contempt for the betraying lady. That’s only one interpretation, though, and you can create your own, since everyone else has.
Whatever the case, the Shakespeare Sonnets are one of the great stories of love, passion and betrayal in our native language. That is, if you believe the sonnets are more than a literary exercise. Personally, I can’t imagine that something approaching the stories of the sonnets didn’t happen to Shakespeare, because the emotions seem so raw and human. Here are nine selected sonnets that cover something of the story arc: from hope to suicidal despair to true friendship to bittersweet mocking to contempt and love-hate. Also, I would suggest reading Venus & Adonis sometime, though it’s a longer work.
1. Sonnet 18 – William Shakespeare – “Shall I compare thee to a sunny day?” We get William Shakespeare at the beginning of his love affair, when he still has the calm of a poet still in control of his heart. Things will get complicated.
2. Sonnet 46 – William Shakespeare – The Bard describes the battle taking place between his heart and his eyes over his the love he feels for this person, a timeless struggle between love and lust.
3. Sonnet 66 – William Shakespeare – A dark William Shakespeare discussing whether suicide would be better. When I read “Art made tongue-tied by authority and folly – doctor-like – controlling skill”, for some reason I think of Hamlet’s description of the “insolence of office” and power-mad assistant managers and bureaucrats everywhere. Shakespeare is tired of this world and apparently disabled to the point of limping, but he suffers indignities and the pain he’s in because he doesn’t want to leave his love alone.
4. Sonnet 71 – William Shakespeare – The Bard at his most melodramatic. He warns his love not to openly mourn him when he’s dead, lest his enemies get a moment of satisfaction. “Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.” I think of a teenager in love writing this – not a man of age and experience.
5. Sonnet 106 – William Shakespeare – He lays it on thick, suggesting that all the poets in love who ever lived did not have the skill to describe his love’s worth, and all the poems of history are but simple prophecies of Shakespeare’s love.
6. Sonnet 110 – William Shakespeare – My absolute favorite Shakespeare Sonnet, because he talks about what a fool he’s made of himself and how he’s embarrassed his love by looking on truth “askance and strangely” and making himself a “motley to the view”. This is a poem for all the misfits in love who’ve ever lived.
7. Sonnet 116 – William Shakespeare – “Let Me Not To the Marriage of True Minds”. Shakespeare gives his most passionate defense of true love in the face of adversity: “love alters not when it alteration finds” and is an “ever-fixed mark”. Once again, we get the seemingly youthful spirit of the aging Shakespeare when he writes “If this be error and on me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”
8. Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare – “My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun”. Shakespeare paints an ironic view of his lover, mocking the conventions of love sonnets at the time. A very unromantic, but loving, portrait of the woman he loves.
9. Sonnet 145 – William Shakespeare – “Those lips that Love’s own hand did make breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate'” We get one of the most ambivalent poems in the English language, as Shakespeare seems to love and hate his woman in the same instant. The broiling emotions of this poem are no doubt the result of a long history of love, fighting and betrayal.
10. Venus & Adonis – William Shakespeare – This is a long poem by Shakespeare and is what he appears to have been one of his most popular and famous works during his lifetime. Venus is in love with a beautiful young man and wants to take him to bed, but Adonis would rather go on a hunt.
Love Poems For the Smitten
These poems discuss the expectant lover or the poet who is in love, but who hasn’t exactly consummated the relationship yet. For the most part, these are hopeful love poems, though some carry a sense of dread for what the object of the affection is going to do with their knowledge.
11. Sweet Disorder – Robert Herrick – This is an ode to men (and women) who see assymetry as attractive in the opposite sex. This 17th-century poet writes about how a certain dishevelled state in a woman (or art) excites him.
12. Love Letter – Sylvia Plath – Great beginning for a love poem: “Not easy to state the change you made/If I’m alive now, then I was dead”.
13. She Walks In Beauty – Lord Byron – Beautiful 18-line poem about his love. “One shade the more, one ray the less..softly lightens o’er her face”. We see the soften side of the poetry famously described as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”.
14. Cherry-Ripe – Thomas Campion – An 18-line description of a woman’s face, alternately describing her mouth, her teeth and her eyes. This one starts with the stark statement, “There is a garden in her face”.
15. My Love Reveals Objects – Isabel Fraire – Isabel Fraire compares her mind in love to a “mad sunflower” and suggests that her lover’s words splash her with stars.
16. Die Lorelei – Heinrich Heine – I’m probably pointing out the obvious to most of the readers, but this is a German title, and “die” means “the” and not a command to cease living. Poem about a German siren, who enchants men with her voice and beauty, then drowns them in their manly stupor.
17. i carry your heart – e.e. cummings – This one needs no explanation. His deepest secret is he carries his lover’s heart in his own heart.
18. Love’s Philosophy – Percy Bysshe Shelley – All the world means nothing if Shelley’s intended won’t give him a kiss.
19. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S. Eliot – All you kids who intend on going to college should read this poems and understand it, because you’ll certainly study Prufrock there (if you haven’t already in high school). It’s about a balding man approaching a dinner party, trying to decide if he should go in and make a play for the woman he loves. Carpe diem, my friends, carpe diem.
Love Poetry For Those In Love – True Love Poems
Of course, there’s nothing better in this world than to be in love with someone who is in love with us. These poems capture some of the glory of loving with all your heart and being loved in return.
20. Beautiful Dreamer – Stephen Foster – A man sings a melody to his sleeping lover. Once again, the lorelie are invoked, but this time in the form of a distant song by mermaids out at sea.
21. Dear Chains – Alexander Pushkin – I love the directness that Pushkin uses (“Chains”) in addressing the love of this poem. A lovely line to end the poem: “With her tender anthems thrilling the dusk of a voluptuous night”. I think we all know what’s going on here.
22. Meeting At Night – Robert Browning – The other side of love: two passionate young lovers meeting on a beach in the middle of the night. Makes me wonder if these are the same two people from “Life In a Love”, and whether this takes place before or after.
23. Night Thoughts – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – A strange set of thoughts for a man who apparently has just made love with his woman. Goethe is considering the stars in the night sky, and how they go forgotten and unthanked by men such as him.
24. somewhere i have never travelled – e.e. cummings – Yeah, that’s the correct way to spell the poem in all lower case. It looks more “artistic” that way, you see. This poem talks about eyes, looks, small hands and the subject’s fragility.
25. Psalm 183 – Joseph Zitt – This song invokes the Christian holy book and strikes a bit of idolatry for one’s love at the same time.
26. Lullaby – W.H. Auden – This one starts with “Lay your sleeping head, my love,” which is a great way to start off a love poem. I’m pretty sure he wrote this for a man. . William Butler Yeats – The Ragged Wood – “No one has ever loved but you and I.” That’s a sentiment any young lover has thought at least once: no love is as strong as mine.
27. The Clod and The Pebble – William Blake – A love poem from the perspective of a clod of clay. Short, sweet and to the point.
28. When You Are Old – W.B. Yeats – In this poem, a young man talks about what happens when we get old together and the man who loved the “pilrim soul” in his partner; that is, who loved the changing face of an aging woman.
29. Under The Harvest Moon – Carl Sandburg – Even though half of this poem takes place in summer, it still evokes a chilly autumn evening to me. Love “touches you with a thousand memories” and “asks you beautiful, unanswerable questions” in this work.
Love Poems About Relationship Problems – Relationship Poems
These love poems involve some manner of barrier or impediment to the realization of love, whether the problem is personal, psychological or physical. Notice that there’s a fair representation of women giving their point of view of the obstacles in question, which is nice.
30. The Nymph’s Reply To the Shepherd – Sir Walter Raleigh – An immortal nature spirit replies to the shepherd who write poetry for her, claiming she would live and love him if his youth lasted and joys did not age. Somehow, this conjures the picture of the memories of youthful love and regret that it could not last.
31. I Am Not Yours – Sara Teasdale – In this poem, the narrator (presumably a woman) wants to be with her admirer, but is held back by some manner of hesitation. She describes herself as lost and appears to want her lover to sweep her off her feet and into love.
32. Tell Me Not, Sweet – Richard Lovelace – “For I could not love thee, Dear, so much, loved I not honour more.” Richard Lovelace parts with his chaste love to go off to the dangers of war.
33. She Is Not Fair To Outward View – Hartley Coleridge – Mr. Coleridge sees something in this woman that no one else sees, but she appears to have ambivalent feelings towards the narrator: “Her very frowns are fairer far than smiles of other maidens are”.
34. I Gave Myself To Him – Emily Dickinson – Emily Dickenson turns love on its ear by comparing it to a financial transaction of some sort: “Depreciates the sight/But, ’till the merchant buy/Still fabled, in the isles of spice/The subtle cargoes lie.”
35. One Day I Wrote Her Name – Edmund Spenser – A common Elizabethan conceit about immortalizing a woman’s name by writing about her in poetry. This sonnet allows the lady in question to reply, suggesting the poet is a fool to vainly seek to immortalize a mortal creature such as her.
36. Love Is A Parallax – Sylvia Plath – This one talks of the stars and cosmic things. My favorite line is when Sylvia calls her love an “intellectual leprechaun” – which I’m pretty sure isn’t a compliment.
37. On Her Loving Two Equally – Aphra Behn – We get inside the head of a woman who loves two men equally, and the swirling emotions of a love triangle. Guys in the middle of the unstable love struggle, read and take notes.
Love Poems About Heartbreak
One of the timeless themes of poetry is the heartbreak love poems. Here’s a selection of these to salve the emotional wounds of the scorned lover, which often just make you wallow in self-pity. Still, when you suffer heartache, people need a good love song or love poem as a shoulder to cry on.
38. Farewell To Love – Michael Drayton – An old-fashioned love sonnet about acceptance and recovery from the devestation of heartbreak.
39. Life In A Love – Robert Browning – Here’s a classic case of generalization from one’s own experiences. Still, this paints a great picture of a desperate lover trying to win the love of a woman with other ideas.
40. A Wounded Deer Leaps Highest – Emily Dickenson – We all know who the wounded deer in this poem is. More inspiration for the spurned lover.
41. I Held a Jewel in My Finger – Emily Dickenson – A short poem – like most of Dickinson’s. In this case, the poem is about losing in love. Now all she has is the memory.
42. When We Two Parted – Lord Byron – This poem speaks of a secret and illicit love affair that has come and gone, and the poet who must suffer in silence on hearing his love’s name. This probably happened.
43. The Definition of Love – Andrew Marvell – Inspired by a seemingly unrequited love, Andrew Marvell has gained wisdom about the nature of love itself.
44. Love – Rupert Brooke – Love sonnet that captures the bitterness and desolation of losing at love. Love is a breach in the wall and a broken gate, and love sells the proud heart’s citadel to Fate. In other words, watch out for “Love”, because love is going to betray you at the worst possible moment.
Dark Love Poems – Love Poems About Dying – Love and Death in Poetry
These dark love poems often touch on death, but may just touch on the negative emotions which love sometimes spawns. For the most part, I would avoid quoting these to your loved ones, though love poems about death and darkness can be striking or even jolting.
45. XVII (I Do Not Love You…) – Pablo Neruda – A disturbing, dark love poem. “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved.” I knew someone who (strangely) actually sent this to the woman he admired, which didn’t work out very well. I would recommend you avoid such a rookie mistake.
46. She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways – William Wordsworth – A sad 12-line poem about the death of the otherwise ordinary Lucy: “Fair as a star – when only one is shining in the sky”.
47. Emily Dickinson – I Never Lost As Much But Twice – I’m not familiar with her biography, but it seems that Emily Dickinson’s narrator has been widowed twice in this poem.
48. Percy Bysshe Shelley – Music, When Soft Voices Die – This 8-line poem is one of the sweetest love poems about dying in the English language.
49. The Big Heart – Anne Sexton – A poem with imagery about the severed artery of the soul spurting and bleeding, messing up clothes and shoes.
50. We Are Seven – William Wordsworth – A bewitching poem about childlike innocence, love for siblings and the existence of heaven. It’s heartbreaking to hear the little girl talk of her brother and her playing around her sister’s grave, then knowing the brother died soon after. Certainly not romantic love, but a worthy love poem nonetheless.