love lineBefore romance novels there were love poems. Sometimes sweet, sometimes tender, sometimes raunchy but always intimate and direct. Most love poems are from the author to a specific lover, a genuine communication that wasn’t necessarily intended for commercial  consumption.  That authentic, sincere emotional communication can often capture the essence of love in far fewer lines than a romance novel. And it does so in such a way that it lingers on the mind and tongue in a way that a book often doesn’t.Here are some of the AAR staff’s favorite poems about love:

JennaAntonio by Laura Elizabeth Richards I remember this poem from when I was a student in elementary school, and it’s perhaps the first one I ever memorized completely. In fact, I think I can remember that some students dressed up and acted it out, which perhaps is another reason it stayed with me – I can very much visualize imagery to go along with it. I also love how Richards alters words in such a way as to make the rhyme work, such as “polo-ponio” and “ice cream conio”. It’s very simplistic in its lymerick form, but that gives it a rolling cadence that is fun to read out loud.

Antonio

 

Antonio, Antonio

Was tired of living alonio.

He thought he would woo

Miss Lissamy Lu,

Miss Lissamy Lucy Molonio.

 

Antonio, Antonio,

Rode off on his polo-ponio.

He found the fair maid

In a bowery shade,

A-sitting and knitting alonio.

 

Antonio, Antonio,

Said, “If you will be my ownio,

I’ll love you true,

And I’ll buy for you

An icery creamery conio!”

 

“Oh, Nonio, Antonio!

You’re far too bleak and bonio!

And all that I wish,

You singular fish,

Is that you will quickly begonio.”

 

Antonio, Antonio,

He uttered a dismal moanio;

Then he ran off and hid

(Or I’m told that he did)

In the Antecatarctical Zonio.

 

Dabney:  There are so many. I can’t pick just one. I grew up reading poetry and many of the old classics still thrill me. The rhythm of Noyes’  The Highwayman, the power of Yates’ When You Are Old, the whimsy of Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat are all forever in my heart. In my twenties, I fell hard for modern poetry where love is usually portrayed as complicated and tricky. Of that set, XVII (I do not love you…) by Pablo Neruda might be my favorite.

I do not love you…

 

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,

or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.

I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,

in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

 

I love you as the plant that never blooms

but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;

thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,

risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

 

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.

I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;

so I love you because I know no other way than this:

where I does not exist, nor you,

so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,

so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

 

Lee: One of my favorites is When You Are Old  by W. B. Yeats. It is an oldie but goodie and so romantic and sad and melancholy but hits you in the heart.

When You Are Old

 

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

 

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

 

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

 

Pat: A Red, Red Rose Robbie Burns Well, it may be a little pedestrian, but I love the joy and happiness of it as if love is something to dance and shout about, not something to dwell in melancholy about. The words, the spelling, the sentiment are all wonderful!

A Red, Red Rose

 

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,

That’s newly sprung in June:

O my Luve’s like the melodie,

That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

 

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,

So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry.

 

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

 

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!

And fare-thee-weel, a while!

And I will come again, my Luve,

Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile.

 

Mary: How do I Love Thee Elizabeth Barrett Browning  It just makes you believe in that all encompassing and unselfish love.  Your breath hitches a little when you recite it out loud.  It is simple but profound

How do I Love Thee

 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

 

Melanie: If I had to pick a favorite, I have to go with Shakespeare – specifically Sonnet 130. I particularly like this one (though 116 is a close second) because he flat out states that his mistress isn’t the perfect paragon of beauty found in other poems. He’s downright insulting at times. But in the end, he finds her rare and lovely as she is. No one is perfect, and I remember the moment in high school when I read this poem, and realized I didn’t need to be a Disney Princess to be lovely.

Sonnet 130

 

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

 

Blythe: Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe and A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne

Annabel Lee

 

It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

By the name of Annabel Lee;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me.

 

I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the sea,

But we loved with a love that was more than love—

I and my Annabel Lee—

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven

Coveted her and me.

 

And this was the reason that, long ago,

In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her highborn kinsmen came

And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

In this kingdom by the sea.

 

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,

Went envying her and me—

Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,

In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud by night,

Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

 

But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we—

Of many far wiser than we—

And neither the angels in Heaven above

Nor the demons down under the sea

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

 

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,

In her sepulchre there by the sea—

In her tomb by the sounding sea.

 

Maggie: This isn’t my favorite love poem (that would be Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare) but I wouldn’t feel right not including a poet known to most historical romance readers – Lord Byron (George Gordon).  This is one of his most famous poems and a personal favorite.

She Walks in Beauty

 

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

 

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o’er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express,

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

 

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!

 

So these are a few of our favorites.  Do you have a love poem that really speaks to you? Which one? What makes it stand out from the crowd for you?

Maggie AAR