The 20 Best Romantic Love Poems of All Time
Quote these masters to your partner and consider that romance rekindled.
Sometimes, the heartfelt note you want to write your partner isn't the heartfelt note that comes out. Unless you're a master wordsmith, there's only so much you can do when you put pen to paper (or thumb to phone screen). Fortunately, when you're suffering from writer's block, there are innumerable masters out there whose romantic poems can get the job done for you. And while you might think that quoting the best love poems ever written isn't as impressive as crafting your own missive, consider two things. First, you can never go wrong with a classic. Second, simply proving that you know something about poetry is bound to impress.
So, whether you're looking for something to put in a birthday card or just want to spice up your texting game, these love poems will make you sound like the hopeless romantic you'd like to be.
"I Am Not Yours"—Sara Teasdale
In this romantic poem, Sara Teasdale wants to be so in love that she completely loses herself, a romantic notion that's better in theory than in practice. But hey, it's the thought that counts.
Excerpt: "I am not yours, not lost in you, /Not lost, although I long to be / Lost as a candle lit at noon, / Lost as a snowflake in the sea."
"i carry your heart with me(i carry it in)"—e.e. cummings
Sometimes when you're in love, the feelings you have for another person permeate your every waking moment. If you've ever felt this way, you'll know what e.e. cummings is talking about in "i carry your heart with me(i carry it in)."
Excerpt: "i carry your heart with me(i carry it in / my heart)i am never without it(anywhere / i go you go,my dear."
"Amoretti LXXV: One Day I Wrote her Name"—Edmund Spenser
Not everyone can immortalize their adoration of their partner with a poem that will live on 400 years after their death, but Edmund Spenser managed it with "Amoretti LXXV: One Day I Wrote her Name."
Excerpt: "One day I wrote her name upon the strand, / But came the waves and washed it away: / Again I wrote it with a second hand, / But came the tide, and made my pains his prey."
"Always for the First Time"—Andre Breton
If you've ever sat around dreaming of the imaginary person you'll meet and fall madly in love with one day, you'll want to read one of the most aspirational love poems by Andre Breton.
Excerpt: "You return at some hour of the night to a house at an angle to my window / A wholly imaginary house / It is there that from one second to the next / In the inviolate darkness / I anticipate once more the fascinating rift occurring / The one and only rift / In the facade and in my heart."
"Music, When Soft Voices Die"—Percy Bysshe Shelley
Just like the smell of a certain perfume can remind you of whoever wore it, sometimes memories of a person are so strong that you recall them with perfect clarity even if they aren't around. This is what Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote about in one of his gloomiest love poems.
Excerpt: "Rose leaves, when the rose is dead, / Are heap'd for the belovèd's bed; / And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone, / Love itself shall slumber on."
"How Do I Love Thee?"—Elizabeth Barrett Browning
If "'til death do us part" has always seemed to cut things a little bit short to you, you'll appreciate this sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who hoped she would "but love thee better after death."
Excerpt: "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."
"Love Sonnet XI"—Pablo Neruda
Being overcome with longing for every aspect of a person is an inescapable part of having a serious crush on someone, and Pablo Neruda describes that feeling perfectly in "Love Sonnet XI."
Excerpt: "I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair. / Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets. / Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day / I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps."
"To Be in Love"—Gwendolyn Brooks
This poem by Gwendolyn Brooks should resonate with anyone's who's ever had to sit on saying "I love you" to someone for the first time.
Excerpt: "To be in love / Is to touch with a lighter hand. / In yourself you stretch, you are well. / You look at things / Through his eyes. / A cardinal is red. / A sky is blue. / Suddenly you know he knows too."
"Sonnet 130"—William Shakespeare
We can't all be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, a fact even William Shakespeare was willing to admit in this sonnet. But beauty comes in many forms.
Excerpt: "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."
"She Walks in Beauty"—Lord Byron
If you've ever felt someone's beauty was beyond compare to anything on earth, you'll relate to Lord Byron "She Walks in Beauty," as he compares his lover to "the night of cloudless climes and starry skies."
Excerpt: "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."
"Again and Again"—Rilke
In "Again and Again," Rilke explains that love gives us hope, even when everything around us seems dark and hopeless—a valuable belief to take with us through life every day.
Excerpt: "Again and again, however we know the landscape of love / and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names, / and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others / fall: again and again the two of us walk out together."
"Before You Came"—Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Sometimes, falling in love can upend our entire lives. Fortunately, it does so for the better in one of the best love poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, "Before You Came."
Excerpt: "Stay. So the world may become like itself again: / so the sky may be the sky, / the road a road, / and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine."
"Variations on the Word Love"—Margaret Atwood
"Variations on the Word Love" is a poem for anyone who's ever felt love isn't the word to describe your feelings for someone, because you also "love" spaghetti. Margaret Atwood writes of the shortcomings of the word, saying "you can rub it all over your body and you can cook with it too."
Excerpt: "This word / is far too short for us, it has only / four letters, too sparse / to fill those deep bare / vacuums between the stars / that press on us with their deafness. / It's not love we don't wish / to fall into, but that fear. / this word is not enough but it will / have to do."
"If I Could Tell You"—W.H. Auden
Remember this love poem by W.H. Auden if you've ever wanted to offer a reassuring word to someone you love but find yourself unable to find the right one.
Excerpt: "Suppose the lions all get up and go, / And all the brooks and soldiers run away; / Will Time say nothing but I told you so? / If I could tell you I would let you know."
"Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal"—Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Those among us who have spent hours fantasizing about holding the person we love know exactly what Alfred, Lord Tennyson is talking about in "Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal," which requests his love "slip into his bosom and be lost in me."
Excerpt: "Now folds the lily all her sweetness up, / And slips into the bosom of the lake: / So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip / Into my bosom and be lost in me."
You might feel like your love goes to the stars and beyond, but the real act of loving someone takes place in the quiet moments you spend together "turning and working," as described in "Distances" by Philippe Jaccottet.
Excerpt: "The heart flies from tree to bird, / from bird to distant star, / from star to love; and love grows / in the quiet house, turning and working, / servant of thought, a lamp held in one hand."
"Come, And Be My Baby"—Maya Angelou
Sometimes, the chaos of modern life can be too much to bear. In "Come, And Be My Baby," Maya Angelou writes about how love can offer us respite from the cruel world.
Excerpt: "Some prophets say the world is gonna end tomorrow / But others say we've got a week or two / The paper is full of every kind of blooming horror / And you sit wondering / what you're gonna do. / I got it. / Come. And be my baby."
"When You Are Old"—William Butler Yeats
This is one you may not be ready to quote until after a breakup. William Butler Yeats wrote the perfect romantic poem to send to someone you're certain will one day regret leaving you.
Excerpt: "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."
"Echo"—Carol Ann Duffy
Sometimes you might long for nothing more than the "iced fire" of someone's kiss, so much so that you imagine their face wherever you might be looking. If that's the case, "Echo" by Carol Ann Duffy is the poem for you.
Excerpt: "Your face, / like / the moon in a well / where I might wish … / might well wish / for the iced fire of your kiss."
"It Is Here"—Harold Pinter
You probably know Harold Pinter as a playwright, but he also wrote romantic poetry. In "It Is Here," he writes of the enduring power of the moment when you and your sweetheart first met.
Excerpt: "What did we hear? / It was the breath we took when we first met. / Listen. It is here."