In honor of April being National Poetry Month, I asked some of the AAR staffers to share their favorite romantic poetry. As it turns out, our staff shares a love of poems, both classic and contemporary. There were so many excellent suggestions that I can’t include them all, so there are links to even more. If you would like to celebrate National Poetry Month with a bit of romance, here are some of their picks.
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!
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
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 winged 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 kinsman 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 the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No:
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined,
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do.
And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.
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.
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 every day’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 the 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.
I’ve dreamed of you so much that you are losing your reality.
Is there still time to touch this living body
And to plant on this mouth the birth
Of the voice that I hold dear?
I’ve dreamed of you so much that my arms accustomed
In embracing your shadow to crossing over my chest would not reach
Around your body, perhaps.
And that, before the real semblance of what has haunted
And governed me for days and years,
I would become a shadow, doubtless.
Oh sentimental hesitations.
I’ve dreamed of you so much that there is
Doubtless not time for me to wake up now.
I sleep standing up, my body exposed
To all semblance of life
And love and you, the only one
Who matters to me now,
I would be less able to touch your forehead
And your lips than the first lips
And first forehead to come my way.
I’ve dreamed of you so much, walked, spoken,
Slept with your ghost so much
That all that remains for me to do perhaps,
And yet, is to be a ghost
Among the ghosts and a hundred times
More shadow than the shadow which strolls
And will stroll blithely
On the sundial of your life.
Other selections that are available to read online:
“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” by e.e. cummings, selected by Dabney.
“As We Are So Wonderfully Done with Each Other” by Kenneth Patchen – Selected by Dabney
“when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story” by Gwendolyn Brooks – Selected by Dabney
“If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda – Selected by Dabney
“I loved you first: but afterwards your love” by Christina Rossetti – Selected by Melanie
“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe – Selected by Melanie and Dabney
“Why do I love” You, Sir? by Emily Dickinson – Selected by Melanie
“The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes – Selected by Dabney and Melanie
“To Lucasta on Going to the Wars” by Richard Lovelace – Selected by Maggie
“To The Virgins, To Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick – Selected by Maggie
“When You Are Old” by William Butler Yates – Selected by Lee and Dabney
“Sonnet 116” by William Shakespeare – Selected by Beverly
“Antonio” by Laura Elizabeth – Selected by Lynn
“Her Words” by Lang Leav – Selected by Haley
“Le Serpent Qui Danse” by Charles Baudelaire – Selected by Haley
What are your favorite poems?