Love poems

Various authors

Provided originally for St. Valentine's Day 2003

This selection of love poems offered is not by any means comprehensive or all inclusive - for how could it be? However an attempt has been made to include mostly poems which show the joyous side of love, rather than its more tortured elements, since that is what is important for Valentine lovers.

Readers are welcome to use any material found here for private Valentine messages, but for all other uses it is important to remember that copyright restrictions apply. Please refer to the Oxquarry Books Ltd home page.

Shakespeare's sonnets are not given here, as they are readily available on the main site. For those desirous of a quick selection I suggest Nos 18, 23, 31, 46, 53, 61, 75, 91, 98, 105, 116, 123.

The poems are not in chronological order. After the first two, which are intended to set the tone, follow some previously unpublished ones. Then a fairly catholic selection from all places and times. Readers will have to make the effort of reading and browsing until they find what they want. Only a small task for the determined lover.


Western wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.

Anonymous 16th. Cent.


True love is a durable fire,
In the mind ever burning,
Never sick, never dead, never cold,
From itself never turning.

From an anonymous poem of the 16th. Cent.
More is given in the commentary to
Sonnet 40


If I should think of love
I'd think of you, your arms uplifted,
Tying your hair in plaits above,
The lyre shape of your arms and shoulders,
The soft curve of your winding head.
No melody is sweeter, nor could Orpheus
So have bewitched. I think of this,
And all my universe becomes perfection.
But were you in my arms, dear love,
The happiness would take my breath away,
No thought could match that ecstasy,
No song encompass it, no other worlds.
If I should think of love,
I'd think of you.

The web-master,   2002.


 Dupid Bound by Nymphs Kauffmann

 In Praise of Beauty

Of all my loves this is the first and last
That in the autumn of my years has grown,
A secret fern, a violet in the grass,
A final leaf where all the rest are gone.
Would that I could give all and more, my life,
My world, my thoughts, my arms, my breath, my future,
My love eternal, endless, infinite, yet brief,
As all loves are and hopes, though they endure.
You are my sun and stars, my night, my day,
My seasons, summer, winter, my sweet spring,
My autumn song, the church in which I pray,
My land and ocean, all that the earth can bring
     Of glory and of sustenance, all that might be divine,
     My alpha and my omega, and all that was ever mine.

The web-master,   2002

 The above sonnet is one of a set of 16.
If you wish to see the others, please click here.



Shy love, I think of you
As the morning air brushes the window pane,
And how much time of all it takes to know
The movement of your arm, the steps you take,
The curves along your head, your ears, your hair.
For all of this, each hand, each finger,
Each lip, each breath, each sigh,
Each word and sound of voice or tongue,
 I would require an age to contemplate.
     But for your heart your mind your thoughts, all these,
     To love them all I need at least five centuries.


Sometimes I think
Our heads might be enclosed
Closer together upon the pillow's space,
And how into the dark deeps of your eyes
I'd look and think of angels. Then your breath
And all the aura of your body's breathing
Intoxicatedly would overwhelm me
And I would die. For it is too much
 That such a thing should be and I should live.
     Surely the thought is greater than reality,
     The sum of you and love outsteps infinity.


If happiness were like
The flowers of June then I would take
The best of them, roses and columbine,
The lilies, and bind them in your hair.
They are not more beautiful but they add
Meaning to my love. For all our words
Are short and lame of breath and stumble,
And you surpass them though I know not why.
 Shy love I think of you as the day wanes
     And as the sun sinks deep into the ocean
     And as the stars turn round above in silent motion.

The web-master,   2002




That night we lay on the dark brown carpet
and you told me that expected thing
I closed my eyes and tried to do
the soft and mutable equation
of what we do and what we promise to do
and I just couldn't think for the sound
of strange doors opening and old ones closing.
You know I'm not good with figures
even when the world is still and calm.
But now I will answer you as best I can:
and the feeling was without a name
like the true colour of light
before it is fractured and labelled
containing simply everything
in the known and unknown spectra
of my life.

Lekshmy Sujathan       Kerala, India      2002



We rehearse our dreams
before we dream them
and it has the mystifying smell
of strange flowers.

We are the oceans we are the shores
we allow desires, they rise and fall
dreams outlive dreams
as we solicit the solitude of the moon.

Lekshmy Sujathan       Kerala, India      2002



Come! O come, my life's delight!
Let me not in languour pine!
Love loves no delay; thy sight,
The more delayed, the more divine!
O come, and take from me
The pain of being deprived of thee!

Thou all sweetness dost enclose!
Like a little world of bliss:
Beauty guards thy looks. The rose
In them, pure and eternal is.
Come then! and make thy flight
As swift to me, as heavenly light!

T. Campion, circa 1613

Shall I come, sweet love! to thee,
    When the evening beams are set?
Shall I not excluded be?
    Will you find no feigned let?
        Let me not, for pity, more,
        Tell the long hours at your door!

Who can tell what thief or foe,
    In the covert of the night,
For his prey, will work my woe;
    Or through wicked, foul despite.
        So may I die unredrest,
        Ere my long love be possest.

But to let such dangers pass,
    Which a lover's thoughts disdain:
'Tis enough in such a place,
    To attend love's joy's in vain.
        Do not mock me in thy bed!
        While these cold nights freeze me dead.

T. Campion c. 1613



I can tell you how it rains on a summer day
and make you feel it fall on your window pane--
I--your woman, a poet--have such powers.


I can make you unbolt your door, wait for me
when I say I have finished my day’s work, I need rest--
I -- your woman, a poet -- a thousand miles apart.


I can give you heaven on an average day, even
when I talk to you about the life that doesn’t love us--
I -- your woman , a poet -- calm you in your nights.


I can write for you alone, on a wordless universe
and make you feel my god, to whom I can belong more than once--
I -- your woman , a poet -- can make you immortal with a song.

Lekshmy Sujathan       Kerala, India      2003


Help me to seek for I lost it there,
And if that ye have found it, ye that be here,
And seek to convey it secretly,
Handle it soft, and treat it tenderly :
Or else it will plain and then appear ;

But rather restore it mannerly,
Since that I do ask it thus honestly ;
For to lose it, it sitteth me too near;
Help me to seek.

Alas and is there no remedy ?
But have I thus lost it wilfully ?
I wis it was a thing all too dear
To be bestowed, and wist not where :
It was mine heart, I pray you heartily
Help me to seek.

Sir Thomas Wyatt 1503 - 1542


Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Or woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle.

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold.

A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning.
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

Christopher Marlowe.       1564 - 1593.


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,
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
     Every wise man's son doth know.


What is love? 'Tis not hereafter,
Present mirth hath present laughter,
     What's to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
So come kiss me sweet and twenty,
     Youth's a stuff will not endure.

William Shakespeare       1564 - 1616.
From Twelfth Night Act 2 Scene 3.


To Mistress Margaret Hussey

   Merry Margaret
      As midsummer flower,
      Gentle as falcon,
      Or hawk of the tower.
With solace and gladness,
Much mirth and no madness,
All good and no badness,
      So joyously,
      So maidenly,
      So womanly
      Her demeaning
      In everything,
      Far far passing
      That I can indite
      Or suffice to write
Of Merry Margaret,
As midsummer flower,
Gentle as falcon
Or hawk of the tower.
As patient and still
And as full of good will
As fair Isaphill,
Sweet pomander,
Good Cassander.
Steadfast of thought,
Well made, well wrought,
Far may be sought
Ere that ye can find
So courteous, so kind
As merry Margaret,
This midsummer flower,
Gentle as falcon
Or hawk of the tower.

John Skelton 1460 - 1529


Upon Julia's Clothes

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
The liquefaction of her clothes!

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free
Oh how that glittering taketh me.

Robert Herrick 1591 - 1674


The Bracelet: To Julia

Why I tie about thy wrist,
Julia, this silken twist,
For what other reason is't
But to show thee how, in part,
Thou my pretty captive art?
But thy bond slave is my heart.

'Tis but silk that bindeth thee,
Knap the thread and thou art free,
But 'tis otherwise with me:
I am bound and fast bound so
That from thee I cannot go;
If I could I would not so.

Robert Herrick 1591 - 1674


To Anthea, who may command him Anything

Bid me to live, and I will live
   Thy Protestant to be,
Or bid me love, and I will give
   A loving heart to thee.

A heart as soft, a heart as kind,
   A heart as sound and free
As in the whole world thou canst find,
   That heart I'll give to thee.

Bid that heart stay, and it will stay
   To honour thy decree:
Or bid it languish quite away,
   And 't shall do so for thee.

Bid me to weep and I will weep
   While I have eyes to see:
And having none, yet will I keep
   A heart to weep for thee.

Bid me despair, and I'll despair
   Under that cypress tree.
Or bid me die, and I will dare
   E'en death to die for thee.

Thou art my life, my love, my heart,
   The very eyes of me,
And hast command of every part,
   To live and die for thee.

Robert Herrick 1591 - 1674



Of a' the airts the wind doth blaw,
   I dearly like the west,
For there the bonnie lassie lives,
   The lassie I lo'e best.
There wild woods grow, and rivers row,
   And many a hill between,
But day and night my fancy's flight
   Is ever wi' my Jean.

I see her in the dewy flowers,
   I see her sweet and fair:
I hear her in in the tunefu' birds,
   I hear her charm the air.
There's not a bonnie flower that springs
   By fountain, shaw, or green;
There's not a bonnie bird that sings,
   But minds me o' my Jean.

Robert Burns 1759 - 1796


O my love's like a red, red rose
   That's newly sprung in June;
O my love's like the melody
   That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
   As deep in love am I,
And I will love 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.
I will love thee still, my dear,
   While the sands of life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Love,
   And fare thee well a while!
And I will come again, my Love,
   Tho' it were ten thousand mile.

Robert Burns 1759 - 1796



Love will find out the Way.

Over the mountains
    And over the waves,
Under the fountains
    And under the graves;
Under floods that are deepest,
    Which Neptune obey,
Over rocks that are steepest,
    Love will find out the way.

When there is no place
    For the glow-worm to lie,
When there is no space
    For receipt of a fly;
When the midge dares not venture
    Lest herself fast she lay,
If love come, he will enter
    And will find out the way.

You may esteem him
    A child for his might;
Or you may deem him
    A coward for his flight;
But if she whom Love doth honour
    Be concealed from the day --
Set a thousand guards upon her
    Love will find out the way.

You may train the eagle
    To stoop to your fist:
Or you may inveigle
    The Phoenix of the east;
The lioness, you may move her
    To give o'er her prey;
But you'll ne'er stop a lover -
    He will find out the way.

If the earth it should part him,
    He would gallop it o'er;
If the seas should o'erthwart him,
    He would swim to the shore;
Should his love become a swallow,
    Through the air to stray,
Love will lend wings to follow,
    And will find out his way. 

There is no striving
    To cross his intent;
There is no contriving
    His plots to prevent;
But if once the message greet him
    That his true love doth stay,
If death should come and meet him,
    Love will find out the way!

Anonymous 15th/16th Cent.

To Chloe, who for his sake wished herself younger

There are two births: the one when light
    First strikes the new awakened sense;
The other when two souls unite,
    And we must count our life from thence,
When you loved me and I loved you,
Then both of us were born anew.

Love then to us new souls did give
    And in those souls did plant new powers.
Since when another life we live,
    The breath we breathe is his, not ours.
Love makes those young whom age doth chill,
And whom he finds young keeps young still.

William Cartwright 1611-1643



To a Lady asking him how long he would love her.

It is not, Celia, in our power
    To say how long our love will last;
It may be we within this hour
    May lose these joys we now do taste.
The Blessed, that immortal be,
From change in love are only free.

Then since we mortal lovers are,
    Ask not how long our love will last;
But while it does, let us take care
    Each minute be with pleasure past.
Were it not madness to deny
To live because we're sure to die?

Sir George Etherege 1635-1691



 'Twas in green leafy springtime,
    When the birds on every tree
Were breakin' all their little hearts
    In a merry melody.
An' the young buds hung like tassels,
    An' the flowers grew everywhere -
'Twas in green leafy springtime
    I met sweet Rose Adair.
O Rose Adair ! O Rose Adair !
    You are the radiant sun,
The blossomed trees, an' scented breeze,
    An' song-birds all in one.

I met her sowin' mushrooms
    With her white feet in the grass,
'Twas eve, but mornin' in the smile
    Of my sweet cailin deas.
An' I kissed her - oh, so secretly
    That not a one should know -
But the rogueish stars they winked above
    An' the daisies smiled below.

The Father, in confession, Rose,
    Won't count that love a sin
That with a kiss taps at the heart
    An' lets an angel in.
'Twas so love entered into mine
    An' made his dwellin' there -
If that's a sin, the Lord forgive
    Your beauty, Rose Adair! 

If springtime never came at all
    To chase the winter's frown,
Her smile would coax the flowers up
    An' charm the sunshine down.
There's not a perfumed breeze that blows
    Or bird that charms the air,
But stole its sweetness from the lips
    Of lovely Rose Adair.

The leaves will fall in autumn,
    An' the flowers all come to grief,
But the green love in my heart of hearts
    Will never shed a leaf!
For the sunshine of your bonny eyes
    Will keep it green and fair,
An' your breath will be its breeze-o'-spring.
    O lovely Rose Adair.

Malachy Ryan     c. 1870


The Reconcilement.

Come, let us now resolve at last
    To live and love in quiet;
We'll tie the knot so very fast
    That Time shall ne'er untie it.

The truest joys they seldom prove
    Who free from quarrels live.
'Tis the most tender part of love
    Each other to forgive.

When least I seemed concerned, I took
    No pleasure nor no rest,
And when I feigned an angry look,
    Alas, I loved you best.

Own but the same to me - you'll find
    How blest will be our fate.
Oh to be happy, to be kind,
    Sure never is too late!

John Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire    1648 - 1721. 


Give all to Love

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit, and the Muse -
Nothing refuse.

'Tis a brave master -
Let it have scope.
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope.
High and more high,
It dives into noon,
With wings unspent,
Untold intent.
But it is a god,
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.

It was never for the mean,
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valour unbending,
Such 'twill reward:
They will return
More than they were,
And ever ascending. 

Leave all for love:
Yet hear me yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavour:
Keep thee today,
Tomorrow, for ever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.

Cling with life to the maid,
But when the surprise
First vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young,
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy free;
Nor thou detain her vesture's hem.
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay;
Though her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive,
Heartily know,
When half-gods go
The gods arrive.

Ralph Waldo Emerson    1803 - 1882.


I am here Inezilda,
I am her 'neath your room.
All wrapped is Sevilla
In mists and in gloom.

With my cloak close around me,
And more bolder than doom,
My guitar and my bright sword
Shine out 'neath your room.

Do you sleep? With my songs
I will sing you awake.
If the old man should stumble here,
Then my rapier I'll slake.

These soft silken nooses
To your balcony tie.
Why delay, why be clumsy -
Is a rival nearby?

I am here Inezilda,
I am her 'neath your room.
All shrouded is Sevilla
In mists and in gloom.

Alexander Pushkin     1799 - 1837.


 From "Sonnets from the Portuguese"

If thou must love me, let it be for naught
    Except for love's sake only.
Do not say, 'I love her for her smile, her look, her way
Of speaking gently, for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
    A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'.
    For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee -- and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
    Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep who bore
    Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
    Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning     1806 - 1861.


 From an old chap-book

If seas were infinite, my love would be
Yet greater still and more profound;
If roads led to eternity
Even there it would be found.

Stars, sunshine, the night, the day
Are images of something better,
But words, thoughts, fire, water and clay
Can never my true love fetter.

Laugh then, and be yourself, but give
Me, my dear sweet, one kiss -
The gods that on Olympus live
Have never known such bliss.

The web-master,   2003 



My true-love hath my heart, and I have his,
By just exchange one for another given:
I hold his dear and mine he cannot miss,
There never was a better bargain driven:
    My true-love hath my heart, and I have his.

His heart in me keeps him and me in one,
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his own,
I cherish his because in me it bides:
    My true-love hath my heart, and I have his.

Sir Philip Sidney     1554 - 1586.



To Alexandra Ivanovna Osipov

I love you so, I know it's madness,
I know it's toil and shameful vanity,
I know its vast stupidity,
But here at your knees I must confess.
It does not suit my looks or years,
It's more than time I should be wise,
But by all the signs I recognise
The pain of love, its sighs and tears.
Without you, I am lost, I yawn,
When you are near I'm melancholy,
I want to speak, the words are gone,
My angel, you are all that's holy!
When from the hall I hear the sound
Of your soft footstep, or your dress,
Or your sweet voice's innocence,
My heart crumbles, I am all a mess.
If you should smile - it's heaven for me,
You turn away - it seems eternity;
In days of sadness, the only solace,
Is your pale hand, or your sweet face.
When at the sewing frame you sit
Diligently bending over it,
Your hair and eyelids lowering,
Then in amazement I sit wondering,
Tenderly, silently, like a child.
Should I then tell you of my grief?
What use to you would be my talk,
My jealous love, my awkwardness,
When, on a clouded day, you dress
To take a stroll or lengthy walk?
Your tears when all alone you stray,
Or sometimes when we talk together,
Your journeys out in wind and weather,
At the piano when you sit and play,
I love it all. Alina dearest,
Have pity on me, sweet, I pray,
I dare not ask for love, I may not,
Perhaps I am not worthy of it,
My angel, for my sins forbid it.
At least pretend! For your glance so holy
Always could wondrously prove love.
Deceive me then, by the heavens above
I yearn for it, I die, your look alone will save me.

c 1826.
Alexander Pushkin     1799 - 1837.


There is a Lady sweet and kind,
Was never face so pleased my mind,
I did but see her passing by
And yet I love her till I die.

Her gesture, motion and her smiles,
Her wit, her voice my heart beguiles,
Beguiles my heart I know not why,
And yet I love her till I die.

Cupid is wingèd and doth range,
Her country so my love doth change,
But change she earth, or change she sky,
Yet will I love her till I die.

c 1607.  Anonymous.


From John Wilbye's Second Set of Madrigals.

Love not me for comely grace,
For my pleasing eye or face,
Nor for any outward part,
No, nor for a constant heart.
For these may fail or turn to ill,
So thou and I shall sever.
Keep therefore a true woman's eye
And love me still but know not why,
So hast thou the same reason still
To dote upon me ever.

c 1609.  Anonymous.



Will I still write with you around? Of course.
Just now I wrote: "Love is a passive thing."
It's just a jotting, but it wants to sing.
Love cannot be contained. Resort to force,
it vanishes, sucked inwards to its source;
dodges, watching and wary; or takes wing,
soars out of reach. Once I tried arguing
with it - and won - then choked on thick remorse.
You've got more sense! In love you seem to glide,
find airy pathways no-one else has tried,
while both your feet stay firmly on the ground.
In love you're flesh and blood and yet your eyes,
the movements of your head, tell otherwise.
That's why I can - must - write with you around.

James Turner, Exeter, England       2000



There was a time when sad was sad, elation
was elation: feelings needed neither
defending, warding off, nor explanation.
Today we know it's all down to the weather.
This sunshine's why you feel this way today
about a neighbour you've known all this while.
Let's face it, nothing else has changed. The way
she does her hair's the same. Her childlike smile,
her sometimes haunted look, her mode of dress,
her accent, gestures, preference for jazz
to pop or classical - all more or less
the same. What power the weather has!
It changed today. And it could change again,
and what you thought was love dissolve in rain.

James Turner, Exeter, England       2000



Be in when I call
Be pleased to see me
Welcome me with a hug
Offer me coffee.

As you move to make it
Intercept with your hair
The sun
By chance.

When the phone rings
Tell them you're busy
Tell them you'll ring back
In two hours.

Sit close
Talk to me
Ask me all about me
Listen astonished.

Say it wasn't my fault
Touch my arm
Look at me that way again.

Go on!
Let me go
If I want to.

James Turner, Exeter, England       2000

The years speed by
Each bearing a fragment of our past,
Like broken glass.
And so do we.

One day upon another treads
Like sheep with undistinguishable heads
Crowding together
One on another.
And so do we.

Minute by minute
Like raindrops upon the horizon's limit
Or waves of the sea,
Our short lives pass imperceptibly.
And so do we.

Against the advancing, bracing tide
Our love shall stand
On beaches unfathomably wide
Where shell heaps on shell and sand meets sand,
With towering cliffs that the elements hide
And lines of waves that the waves efface,

Yet shall our footsteps together trace
A path as we travel it hand in hand,
That vast immeasurable strand,
Planting a kiss upon its face,
One for you and yet one for me
So shall it be.

The web-master,   2006

Cupid bound by Nymphs

Cupid Bound by Nymphs.  Stipple engraving by W. Ryland after Angelica Kauffmann

Published 1777