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TheBestLovePoemsandRomanticPoemsofAllTime

TheHyperTexts
TheBestLovePoemsofAllTime
TheBestRomanticPoemsEverWritten
TheBestValentine'sDayPoems
Selectingthegreatestlovepoemsofalltimewasalmostentirelyamatterofpersonaltasteandfancy.Ifyou
disagreewithmychoices,pleasefeelfreetocompileyourown,butattheveryleastyoumayfindpoems
herethatmerityourconsideration.Althoughmostofthepoemsonthispagearefairlyrecent,Ihave
included"modernized"translationsofancientclassicssuchas"WulfandEadwacer"andWilliamDunbar's
wonderful"SweetRoseofVirtue"becausemanyreadersmaynothavereadthem,andthat'sashame.I
havealsoincludedtranslationsofsomeofmyfavoriteUrdulovepoems.
WhowerethegreatestlovepoetsoftheEnglishlanguage?Inmyopinion,forwhateverit'sworth,theten
bestlovepoetsare:LouiseBogan,ElizabethBarrettBrowning,RobertBurns,HartCrane,e.e.cummings,
EmilyDickinson,JohnDonne,ErnestDowson,JohnKeats,WilliamShakespeareandWilliamButler
Yeats.HighhonorablementionsgotoWilliamBlake,LordByron,RobertFrost,RobertHerrick,Ben
Jonson,ChristopherMarlowe,EdnaSt.VincentMillay,SylviaPlath,ChristinaRossetti,DanteGabriel
RossettiandWaltWhitman.GreatlovepoetsinotherlanguagesincludeDante,KahlilGibran,Czeslaw
Milosz,PabloNeruda,Ovid,Petrarch,Rumi,Sappho,KingSolomonandRabindranathTagore.Whoisthe
greatestlovepoetofalltime?Myvotegoestothefirstgreatlyricpoetweknowbyname,Sapphoof
Lesbos,whoseeroticpoemsgaveustheterms"sapphic"and"lesbian."
Nowhere,withoutfurtherado,aremytoptenlovepoemsofalltime,recentlyexpandedtothetop25love
poems,withafewties,followedbyanumberofhighhonorablementions:
#25Sappho,fragment42
loosetranslationbyMichaelR.Burch
Erosharrowsmyheart:
wildgaleswhippingdesolatemountains,
uprootingoaks.

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GleyreLeCoucherdeSapphobyMarcCharlesGabrielGleyre
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SapphoofLesbos(circa630570BC)isperhapsthefirstgreatfemalepoetstillknowntoustoday,andshe
remainsoneoftheverybestpoetsofalltime,regardlessofgender.Sheissoreveredforhereroticlove
poetrythatwegetourterms"sapphic"and"lesbian"fromhernameandislandofresidence.Andasyou
canseefromtheutterlystellarepigramabove,sheremainsatimelesstreasure.

WhenElizabethBarrettmarriedRobertBrowning,theirsbecamethemostfamouscouplingintheannalsof
Englishpoetry.HerbestknownbooktodayisSonnetsfromthePortuguese.
#24HowDoILoveThee?
byElizabethBarrettBrowning
HowdoIlovethee?Letmecounttheways.
Ilovetheetothedepthandbreadthandheight
Mysoulcanreach,whenfeelingoutofsight
FortheendsofBeingandidealGrace.
Ilovetheetothelevelofeveryday's
Mostquietneed,bysunandcandlelight.
Ilovetheefreely,asmenstriveforRight
Ilovetheepurely,astheyturnfromPraise.
Ilovewithapassionputtouse
Inmyoldgriefs,andwithmychildhood'sfaith.
IlovetheewithaloveIseemedtolose
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Withmylostsaints,Ilovetheewiththebreath,
Smiles,tears,ofallmylife!and,ifGodchoose,
Ishallbutlovetheebetterafterdeath.

ElinorWylie"wasfamousduringherlifealmostasmuchforheretherealbeautyandpersonalityasforher
melodious,sensuouspoetry."
#23Valentine
byElinorWylie
Toohigh,toohightopluck
Myheartshallswing.
Afruitnobeeshallsuck,
Nowaspshallsting.
Ifonsomenightofcold
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Itfallstoground
Inappleleavesofgold
Illwrapitround.
AndIshallsealitup
Withspiceandsalt,
Inacarvensilvercup,
Inadeepvault.
Beforemyeyesareblind
Andmylipsmute,
Imusteatcoreandrind
Ofthatsamefruit.
Beforemyheartisdust
Attheendofall,
EatitImust,Imust
Wereitbittergall.
ButIshallkeepitsweet
Bysomestrangeart
WildhoneyIshalleat
WhenIeatmyheart.
Ohoneycoolandchaste
Ascloversbreath!
SweetHeavenIshalltaste
Beforemydeath.

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SylviaPlathwasoneofthefirstandbestofthemodernconfessionalpoets.ShewonaPulitzerPrize
posthumouslyforherCollectedPoemsaftercommittingsuicideattheageof31,somethingsheseemedto
havebeenpredictinginherwritingandpracticingforinreallife.
#22Mystic
bySylviaPlath
Theairisamillofhooks
Questionswithoutanswer,
Glitteringanddrunkasflies
Whosekissstingsunbearably
Inthefetidwombsofblackairunderpinesinsummer.
Iremember
Thedeadsmellofsunonwoodcabins,
Thestiffnessofsails,thelongsaltwindingsheets.
OnceonehasseenGod,whatistheremedy?
Onceonehasbeenseizedup
Withoutapartleftover,
Notatoe,notafinger,andused,
Usedutterly,inthesun'sconflagration,thestains
Thatlengthenfromancientcathedrals
Whatistheremedy?
ThepilloftheCommuniontablet,
Thewalkingbesidestillwater?Memory?
Orpickingupthebrightpieces
OfChristinthefacesofrodents,
Thetameflowernibblers,theones
Whosehopesaresolowtheyarecomfortable
Thehumpbackinhissmall,washedcottage
Underthespokesoftheclematis.
Istherenogreatlove,onlytenderness?
Doesthesea
Rememberthewalkeruponit?
Meaningleaksfromthemolecules.
Thechimneysofthecitybreathe,thewindowsweats,
Thechildrenleapintheircots.
Thesunblooms,itisageranium.
Thehearthasnotstopped.

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EdnaSt.VincentMillaywasthefirstwomantowinaPulitzerPrizeforpoetry.Shewasopenlybisexual
andhadaffairswithotherwomenandmarriedmen.Whenshefinallymarried,herswasanopenmarriage.
Her1920poetrycollectionAFewFigsFromThistlesdrewcontroversyforitsnovelexplorationoffemale
sexuality.Shewasoneoftheearliestandstrongestvoicesforwhatbecameknownasfeminism.Oneofthe
recurringthemesofherpoetrywasthatmenmightuseherbody,butnotpossessherorhaveanyclaimover
her.(Andperhapsthattheirdesireforherbodygavehertheupperhandinrelationships.)
#21I,BeingBornaWoman,andDistressed
byEdnaSt.VincentMillay
I,beingbornawoman,anddistressed
Byalltheneedsandnotionsofmykind,
Amurgedbyyourpropinquitytofind
Yourpersonfair,andfeelacertainzest
Tobearyourbody'sweightuponmybreast:
Sosubtlyisthefumeoflifedesigned,
Toclarifythepulseandcloudthemind,
Andleavemeonceagainundone,possessed.
Thinknotforthis,however,thispoortreason
Ofmystoutbloodagainstmystaggeringbrain,
Ishallrememberyouwithlove,orseason
Myscornwithpityletmemakeitplain:
Ifindthisfrenzyinsufficientreason
Forconversationwhenwemeetagain.

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#20Requiescat
byOscarWilde
Treadlightly,sheisnear
Underthesnow,
Speakgently,shecanhear
Thedaisiesgrow.
Allherbrightgoldenhair
Tarnishedwithrust,
Shethatwasyoungandfair
Fallentodust.
Lilylike,whiteassnow,
Shehardlyknew
Shewasawoman,so
Sweetlyshegrew.
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Coffinboard,heavystone,
Lieonherbreast,
Ivexmyheartalone,
Sheisatrest.
Peace,Peace,shecannothear
Lyreorsonnet,
Allmylife'sburiedhere,
Heapearthuponit.
OscarWilde'sexquisitelylovely"Requiescat"isawonderfullymovingpoem,andoneofthebestelegiesin
theEnglishlanguage.

WilliamButlerYeatswasthemostfamousIrishpoetofalltime,andhisunrequitedloveforthebeautiful
anddangerousrevolutionaryMaudGonnehelpedmakeheralmostasfamousashewasinIreland.The
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movingpoembelowisYeats'loosetranslationofaRonsardpoem,inwhichYeatsimaginestheloveofhis
lifeinherlateryears,tendingafirethatsymbolizesthebankedflamesofawaninglove.
#19WhenYouAreOld
byWilliamButlerYeats
Whenyouareoldandgreyandfullofsleep,
Andnoddingbythefire,takedownthisbook,
Andslowlyread,anddreamofthesoftlook
Youreyeshadonce,andoftheirshadowsdeep
Howmanylovedyourmomentsofgladgrace,
Andlovedyourbeautywithlovefalseortrue,
Butonemanlovedthepilgrimsoulinyou,
Andlovedthesorrowsofyourchangingface
Andbendingdownbesidetheglowingbars,
Murmur,alittlesadly,howLovefled
Andpaceduponthemountainsoverhead
Andhidhisfaceamidacrowdofstars.

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AnneSextonwasamodelwhobecameaconfessionalpoet,writingaboutintimateaspectsofherlife,after
herdoctorsuggestedthatshetakeuppoetryasaformoftherapy.ShestudiedunderRobertLowellat
BostonUniversity,whereSylviaPlathwasoneofherclassmates.SextonwonthePulitzerPrizeforPoetry
in1967,butlatercommittedsuicideviacarbonmonoxidepoisoning.Topicsshecoveredinherpoems
includedadultery,masturbation,menstruation,abortion,despairandsuicide.Thepoembelowisaboutthe
loveofthelivingforthedead,dedicatedtoherdepartedparents.
#18TheTruththeDeadKnow
byAnneSexton
FormyMother,bornMarch1902,diedMarch1959
andmyFather,bornFebruary1900,diedJune1959
Gone,Isayandwalkfromchurch,
refusingthestiffprocessiontothegrave,
lettingthedeadridealoneinthehearse.
ItisJune.Iamtiredofbeingbrave.
WedrivetotheCape.Icultivate
myselfwherethesunguttersfromthesky,
wheretheseaswingsinlikeanirongate
andwetouch.Inanothercountrypeopledie.
Mydarling,thewindfallsinlikestones
fromthewhiteheartedwaterandwhenwetouch
weentertouchentirely.Noone'salone.
Menkillforthis,orforasmuch.
Andwhatofthedead?Theyliewithoutshoes
inthestoneboats.Theyaremorelikestone
thantheseawouldbeifitstopped.Theyrefuse
tobeblessed,throat,eyeandknucklebone.
#17ComeLordandLift
byT.Merrill
ComeLord,andliftthefallenbird
Abandonedontheground
Thesoulbereftandlongingso
Tohavethelostbefound.
Theheartthatcriesletitbuthear
Itssweetloveanswering,
Oroutofetheronefaintnote
Oflivingcomfortwring.
"ComeLordandLift"isoneofmyfavoritepoemsbyacontemporarypoet.It'sawonderfullytouching,
movingpoemaboutloveandempathyforalllife.
#16AfterParadise
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byCzeslawMilosz
Don'trunanymore.Quiet.Howsoftlyitrains
Ontheroofsofthecity.Howperfect
Allthingsare.Now,forthetwoofyou
Wakingupinaroyalbedbyagarretwindow.
Foramanandawoman.Foroneplantdivided
Intomasculineandfemininewhichlongedforeachother.
Yes,thisismygifttoyou.Aboveashes
Onabitter,bitterearth.Abovethesubterranean
Echoofclamoringsandvows.Sothatnowatdawn
Youmustbeattentive:thetiltofahead,
Ahandwithacomb,twofacesinamirror
Areonlyforeveronce,evenifunremembered,
Sothatyouwatchwhatitis,thoughitfadesaway,
Andaregratefuleverymomentforyourbeing.
Letthatlittleparkwithgreenishmarblebusts
Inthepearlgraylight,underasummerdrizzle,
Remainasitwaswhenyouopenedthegate.
Andthestreetoftallpeelingporticos
Whichthisloveofyourssuddenlytransformed.
#16LastNight
byFaizAhmedFaiz
loosetranslationbyMichaelR.Burch
Lastnight,yourmemorystoleintomyheart
asspringsweepsuninvitedintobarrengardens,
asmorningbreezesreinvigoratedormantdeserts,
asapatientsuddenlyfeelsbetter,fornoapparentreason...
#16StrangeCurrents
byAmirKhusrow
loosetranslationbyMichaelR.Burch
OKhusrow,theriveroflove
exhibitsstrangetides
theonewhowouldswiminitinvariablydrowns,
whiletheonewhosurrenders,survives.
PercyByssheShelleyandMaryWollstonecraftShelleymayhavebeenthemostnotoriousmarriedcouple
oftheirera.Hewasadashingromanticpoetandhereticwhowroteatract,"TheNecessityofAtheism,"
thatgothimexpelledfromOxford.Healsowroteinfavorofnonviolenceandagainstmonarchies,
imperialismandwar.Shewasthedaughterofoneoftheearliestfeministwritersofnote,Mary
Wollstonecraft,andtheliberalphilosopherWilliamGodwin.In1814,atageseventeen,shebecame
romanticallyinvolvedwithPercyShelley,whowasmarriedatthetimebutthreatenedtocommitsuicideif
shespurnedhisadvances.TheyspenttimetogetherinFranceandSwitzerlandwhentheyreturned,Mary
waspregnant.Percy'swifeHarriet,whowasalsopregnant,committedsuicidein1816PercyandMary
marriedsoonthereafter.ThesameyeartheyspentthesummerwithLordByron.Itwasatthistimethat
MaryconceivedthestorythatbecameherfamousgothicnovelFrankenstein.In1822,Percydrownedat
seaatagethirty.Whoknowswhathewouldhaveaccomplishedifhehadlivedlonger,butheisstill
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consideredtobeoneofthegreatestEnglishpoets.Hereisoneespeciallylovelyexampleofhiswonderful
touchwithrhythmandrhyme:
#15MusicWhenSoftVoicesDie(To)
byPercyByssheShelley
Music,whensoftvoicesdie,
Vibratesinthememory
Odours,whensweetvioletssicken,
Livewithinthesensetheyquicken.
Roseleaves,whentheroseisdead,
Areheapedforthebelovd'sbed
Andsothythoughts,whenthouartgone,
Loveitselfshallslumberon.
#14ARed,RedRose
byRobertBurns
Ohmyluveislikeared,redrose,
That'snewlysprunginJune:
Ohmyluveislikethemelodie,
That'ssweetlyplay'dintune.
Asfairartthou,mybonielass,
SodeepinluveamI
AndIwillluvetheestill,mydear,
Tilla'theseasgangdry.
Tilla'theseasgangdry,mydear,
Andtherocksmeltwi'thesun
AndIwillluvetheestill,mydear,
Whilethesandso'lifeshallrun.
Andfaretheeweel,myonlyluve!
Andfaretheeweelawhile!
AndIwillcomeagain,myluve,
Tho'itweretenthousandmile!
RobertBurnswasoneofthegreatearlyRomantics,perhapsaforerunnerofbothShelleyandClare.
DespitethefactthathewroteinaScotsEnglishdialect,hestillreadswelltoday.Heis,ofcourse,most
famousforhisnostalgicdrinkingsong"AuldLangSyne."WhenBobDylanwasaskedtonametheworkof
artthathadthegreatestimpactonhisownartisticlife,henamedthepoemabove.
SirThomasWyatthasbeencreditedwithintroducingthePetrarchansonnetintotheEnglishlanguage.His
father,HenryWyatt,hadbeenoneofHenryVII'sPrivyCouncilors,andremainedatrustedadviserwhen
HenryVIIIcametothethronein1509.ThomasWyattfollowedhisfathertocourt.Butitseemstheyoung
poetmayhavefalleninlovewiththekingsmistress.Manylegendsandconjecturessuggestthatan
unhappilymarriedWyatthadarelationshipwithAnneBoleyn.Theiracquaintanceiscertain,butwhether
ornotthetwoactuallysharedaromanticrelationshipremainsunknown.Butinhispoetry,Wyattcalledhis
mistressAnna,andsometimesembeddedpiecesofinformationthatseemtocorrespondwithherlife.For
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instance,thispoemmightwellhavebeenwrittenabouttheKingsclaimonAnneBoleyn:
#13WhosoListtoHunt
bySirThomasWyatt
Whosolisttohunt,Iknowwhereisanhind,
Butasforme,alas,Imaynomore.
Thevaintravailhathweariedmesosore,
Iamofthemthatfarthestcomethbehind.
YetmayIbynomeansmyweariedmind
Drawfromthedeer,butasshefleethafore
FaintingIfollow.Ileaveofftherefore,
SinceinanetIseektoholdthewind.
Wholistherhunt,Iputhimoutofdoubt,
AswellasImayspendhistimeinvain.
Andgravenwithdiamondsinlettersplain
Thereiswritten,herfairneckroundabout:
Nolimetangere,forCaesar'sIam,
Andwildfortohold,thoughIseemtame.
Nolimetangeremeans"Touchmenot."AccordingtotheBible,thisiswhatJesussaidtoMaryMagdalene
whenshetriedtoembracehimaftertheresurrection.SoperhapsafterherbetrothaltoHenry,religious
vowsalsoenteredintothepicture,andleftWyattout.
#12TheyFleefromMe
bySirThomasWyatt
Theyfleefrommethatsometimedidmeseek
Withnakedfootstalkinginmychamber.
Ihaveseenthemgentletameandmeek
Thatnowarewildanddonotremember
Thatsometimetheyputthemselvesindanger
Totakebreadatmyhandandnowtheyrange
Busilyseekingwithacontinualchange.
Thankedbefortune,ithathbeenotherwise
Twentytimesbetterbutonceinspecial,
Inthinarrayafterapleasantguise,
Whenherloosegownfromhershouldersdidfall,
Andshemecaughtinherarmslongandsmall
Andtherewithalsweetlydidmekiss,
Andsoftlysaid,Dearheart,howlikeyouthis?
Itwasnodream,Ilaybroadwaking.
Butallisturnedthoroughmygentleness
Intoastrangefashionofforsaking
AndIhaveleavetogoofhergoodness
Andshealsotousenewfangleness.
ButsincethatIsokindlyamserved,
Iwouldfainknowwhatshehathdeserved.
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#11SweetRoseofVirtue
byWilliamDunbar
loosetranslationbyMichaelR.Burch
Sweetroseofvirtueandofgentleness,
delightfullilyofyouthfulwantonness,
richestinbountyandinbeautyclear
andineveryvirtuethatisheldmostdear
exceptonlythatyouaremerciless.
Intoyourgarden,today,Ifollowedyou
thereIsawflowersoffreshesthue,
bothwhiteandred,delightfultosee,
andwholesomeherbs,wavingresplendently
yeteverywhere,noodorbutbitterrue.
IfearthatMarchwithhislastarcticblast
hasslainmyfairroseofpallidandgentlecast,
whosepiteousdeathdoesmyheartsuchpain
that,ifIcould,Iwouldcomposeherrootsagain
socomfortingherboweringleaveshavebeen.
WilliamDunbar'swonderful"SweetRoseofVirtue"isanotherofmyfavoritepoemsfromtheearlydaysof
Englishpoetry.Ichosetotranslateitmyself,tomakeitmoreaccessibletomodernreaders.
#10LaFigliaChePiange(TheWeepingGirl)
byT.S.Eliot
Standonthehighestpavementofthestair
Leanonagardenurn
Weave,weavethesunlightinyourhair
Claspyourflowerstoyouwithapainedsurprise
Flingthemtothegroundandturn
Withafugitiveresentmentinyoureyes:
Butweave,weavethesunlightinyourhair.
SoIwouldhavehadhimleave,
SoIwouldhavehadherstandandgrieve,
Sohewouldhaveleft
Asthesoulleavesthebodytornandbruised,
Astheminddesertsthebodyithasused.
Ishouldfind
Somewayincomparablylightanddeft,
Somewaywebothshouldunderstand,
Simpleandfaithlessasasmileandashakeofthehand.
Sheturnedaway,butwiththeautumnweather
Compelledmyimaginationmanydays,
Manydaysandmanyhours:
Herhairoverherarmsandherarmsfullofflowers.
AndIwonderhowtheyshouldhavebeentogether!
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Ishouldhavelostagestureandapose.
Sometimesthesecogitationsstillamaze
Thetroubledmidnight,andthenoon'srepose.
AlongwithEzraPound,T.S.Eliothelpedcreatemodernfreeverse.Thispoemdemonstrateshishis
remarkabletalents.WhileEliotwasasophisticated,urbanepoet,hismainthemewashumanlove,andhe
oftencomesacrossasasomewhat"nerdy,"disillusionedromantic.
#9ToEarthward
byRobertFrost
Loveatthelipswastouch
AssweetasIcouldbear
Andoncethatseemedtoomuch
Ilivedonair
Thatcrossedmefromsweetthings,
Theflowofwasitmusk
Fromhiddengrapevinesprings
Downhillatdusk?
Ihadtheswirlandache
Fromspraysofhoneysuckle
Thatwhentheyregatheredshake
Dewontheknuckle.
Icravedstrongsweets,butthose
SeemedstrongwhenIwasyoung:
Thepetaloftherose
Itwasthatstung.
Nownojoybutlackssalt,
Thatisnotdashedwithpain
Andwearinessandfault
Icravethestain
Oftears,theaftermark
Ofalmosttoomuchlove,
Thesweetofbitterbark
Andburningclove.
Whenstiffandsoreandscarred
Itakeawaymyhand
Fromleaningonithard
Ingrassorsand,
Thehurtisnotenough:
Ilongforweightandstrength
Tofeeltheearthasrough
Toallmylength.
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It'shardtoimagineabetterwrittenlovepoemthanRobertFrost's"ToEarthward,"andyetwestillhave
fivehigherspotstogo...
#8SongForTheLastAct
byLouiseBogan
NowthatIhaveyourfacebyheart,Ilook
Lessatitsfeaturesthanitsdarkeningframe
Wherequinceandmelon,yellowasyoungflame,
Liewithquilleddahliasandtheshepherd'scrook.
Beyond,agarden.There,ininsolentease
Theleadandmarblefigureswatchtheshow
Ofyetanothersummerloathtogo
Althoughthescytheshangintheappletrees.
NowthatIhaveyourfacebyheart,Ilook.
NowthatIhaveyourvoicebyheart,Iread
Intheblackchordsuponadullingpage
Musicthatisnotmeantformusic'scage,
Whoseemblemsmixwithwordsthatshakeandbleed.
Thestavesareshuttledoverwithastark
Unprintedsilence.Inadoubledream
Imustspelloutthestorm,therunningstream.
Thebeat'stooswift.Thenotesshiftinthedark.
NowthatIhaveyourvoicebyheart,Iread.
NowthatIhaveyourheartbyheart,Isee
Thewharveswiththeirgreatshipsandarchitraves
Theriggingandthecargoandtheslaves
Onastrangebeachunderabrokensky.
Onotdeparture,butavoyagedone!
Thebalesstandonthestonetheanchorweeps
Itsredrustdownward,andthelongvinecreeps
Besidethesaltherb,inthelengtheningsun.
NowthatIhaveyourheartbyheart,Isee.
LouiseBogan'smagnificent"SongfortheLastAct"isanabsolutelywonderfulpoemaboutlovetowardthe
endofone'slife,oracouple'slives.
#7BreadandMusic
byConradAiken
MusicIheardwithyouwasmorethanmusic,
AndbreadIbrokewithyouwasmorethanbread
NowthatIamwithoutyou,allisdesolate
Allthatwasoncesobeautifulisdead.
Yourhandsoncetouchedthistableandthissilver,
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AndIhaveseenyourfingersholdthisglass.
Thesethingsdonotrememberyou,belovd,
Andyetyourtouchuponthemwillnotpass.
Foritwasinmyheartyoumovedamongthem,
Andblessedthemwithyourhandsandwithyoureyes
Andinmyhearttheywillrememberalways,
Theyknewyouonce,Obeautifulandwise.
ConradAiken,inhisbestpoems,rivalsWallaceStevensandHartCraneasmastersofmodernEnglish
poeticmeter.Aiken's"BreadandMusic"isoneofmyveryfavoritepoems,regardlessofera.
#6Piano
byD.H.Lawrence
Softly,inthedusk,awomanissingingtome
Takingmebackdownthevistaofyears,tillIsee
Achildsittingunderthepiano,intheboomofthetinglingstrings
Andpressingthesmall,poisedfeetofamotherwhosmilesasshesings.
Inspiteofmyself,theinsidiousmasteryofsong
Betraysmeback,tilltheheartofmeweepstobelong
TotheoldSundayeveningsathome,withwinteroutside
Andhymnsinthecozyparlor,thetinklingpianoourguide.
Sonowitisvainforthesingertoburstintoclamor
Withthegreatblackpianoappassionato.Theglamour
Ofchildishdaysisuponme,mymanhoodiscast
Downinthefloodofremembrance,Iweeplikeachildforthepast.
#5NonsumqualiserambonaesubregnoCynarae
byErnestDowson
"IamnotasIwasunderthereignofthegoodCynara"Horace
Lastnight,ah,yesternight,betwixtherlipsandmine
Therefellthyshadow,Cynara!thybreathwasshed
Uponmysoulbetweenthekissesandthewine
AndIwasdesolateandsickofanoldpassion,
Yea,Iwasdesolateandbowedmyhead:
Ihavebeenfaithfultothee,Cynara!inmyfashion.
AllnightuponmineheartIfeltherwarmheartbeat,
Nightlongwithinminearmsinloveandsleepshelay
Surelythekissesofherboughtredmouthweresweet
ButIwasdesolateandsickofanoldpassion,
WhenIawokeandfoundthedawnwasgray:
Ihavebeenfaithfultoyou,Cynara!inmyfashion.
Ihaveforgotmuch,Cynara!gonewiththewind,
Flungroses,rosesriotouslywiththethrong,
Dancing,toputthypale,lostliliesoutofmind
ButIwasdesolateandsickofanoldpassion,
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Yea,allthetime,becausethedancewaslong
Ihavebeenfaithfultothee,Cynara!inmyfashion.
Icriedformaddermusicandforstrongerwine,
Butwhenthefeastisfinishedandthelampsexpire,
Thenfallsthyshadow,Cynara!thenightisthine
AndIamdesolateandsickofanoldpassion,
Yea,hungryforthelipsofmydesire:
Ihavebeenfaithfultothee,Cynara!inmyfashion.
ErnestDowson'sinfluenceonT.S.Eliotisobvious,andanyonewhoreadshisbestpoemscaneasily
understandtheattraction.Otherwritersunabashedly"borrowed"phrasesfromDowson:"gonewiththe
wind,""thedaysofwineandroses,""hollowlands,"etc.Thebestpoetswritememorablelines,and
Dowson'sbestpoemsarefullofmemorablelines.SeveralofhispoemscanbefoundontheMasterspage
ofTheHyperTexts.
#4Lullaby
byW.H.Auden
Layyoursleepinghead,mylove,
Humanonmyfaithlessarm:
Timeandfeversburnaway
Individualbeautyfrom
Thoughtfulchildren,andthegrave
Provesthechildephemeral:
Butinmyarmstillbreakofday
Letthelivingcreaturelie,
Mortal,guilty,buttome
Theentirelybeautiful.
Soulandbodyhavenobounds:
Toloversastheylieupon
Hertolerantenchantedslope
Intheirordinaryswoon,
GravethevisionVenussends
Ofsupernaturalsympathy,
Universalloveandhope
Whileanabstractinsightwakes
Amongtheglaciersandtherocks
Thehermit'scarnalecstasy.
Certainty,fidelity
Onthestrokeofmidnightpass
Likevibrationsofabell
Andfashionablemadmenraise
Theirpedanticboringcry:
Everyfarthingofthecost.
Allthedreadedcardsforetell.
Shallbepaid,butfromthisnight
Notawhisper,notathought.
Notakissnorlookbelost.
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Beauty,midnight,visiondies:
Letthewindsofdawnthatblow
Softlyroundyourdreaminghead
Suchadayofwelcomeshow
Eyeandknockingheartmaybless,
Findourmortalworldenough
Noonsofdrynessfindyoufed
Bytheinvoluntarypowers,
Nightsofinsultletyoupass
Watchedbyeveryhumanlove.
Auden's"Lullaby"isoneofthetrulygreatpoemsintheEnglishlanguage.HiselegytoWilliamButler
Yeatsisanother.
#3Go,LovelyRose
byEdmundWaller
Go,lovelyRose,
Tellherthatwasteshertimeandme,
Thatnowsheknows,
WhenIresemblehertothee,
Howsweetandfairsheseemstobe.
Tellherthat'syoung,
Andshunstohavehergracesspied,
Thathadstthousprung
Indesertswherenomenabide,
Thoumusthaveuncommendeddied.
Smallistheworth
Ofbeautyfromthelightretir'd:
Bidhercomeforth,
Sufferherselftobedesir'd,
Andnotblushsotobeadmir'd.
Thendie,thatshe
Thecommonfateofallthingsrare
Mayreadinthee
Howsmallapartoftimetheyshare,
Thataresowondroussweetandfair.
"Go,LovelyRose"isapictureperfectcarpediem("seizetheday")poem.Otherfamouslovepoemsthat
"advise"virginstohopintobedwiththepoetinclude"ToHisCoyMistress"byAndrewMarvell,"Tothe
Virgins,toMakeMuchofTime"and"ToDaffodils"byRobertHerrick,"SweetRoseofVirtue"by
WilliamDunbarand"WhenIWasOneandTwenty"byA.E.Housman.Butinmyopinion,thispoemis
justasclever,andmorebeautifulthananyofitscompetitors.
#2CradleSong
byWilliamBlake
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Sleep,sleep,beautybright,
Dreaminginthejoysofnight
Sleep,sleepinthysleep
Littlesorrowssitandweep.
Sweetbabe,inthyface
SoftdesiresIcantrace,
Secretjoysandsecretsmiles,
Littleprettyinfantwiles.
AsthysoftestlimbsIfeel
Smilesasofthemorningsteal
O'erthycheek,ando'erthybreast
Wherethylittleheartdothrest.
Othecunningwilesthatcreep
Inthylittleheartasleep!
Whenthylittleheartdothwake,
Thenthedreadfulnightshallbreak.
Auden's"Lullaby"waswrittenfromoneadulttoanother.Blake's"CradleSong"isalullabywrittenbyan
adulttoasleepingbaby.Blakewasmarriedbutneverhadchildren,asfarasweknow,yethisloveand
compassionforthenamelesssleepingbabyarewonderfullyevidentinthisverymovingpoem.
#1Voyages
byHartCrane
I
Abovethefreshrufflesofthesurf
Brightstripedurchinsflayeachotherwithsand.
Theyhavecontrivedaconquestforshellshucks,
Andtheirfingerscrumblefragmentsofbakedweed
Gailydiggingandscattering.
Andinanswertotheirtrebleinterjections
Thesunbeatslightningonthewaves,
Thewavesfoldthunderonthesand
AndcouldtheyhearmeIwouldtellthem:
Obrilliantkids,friskwithyourdog,
Fondleyourshellsandsticks,bleached
Bytimeandtheelementsbutthereisaline
Youmustnotcrossnorevertrustbeyondit
Sprycordageofyourbodiestocaresses
Toolichenfaithfulfromtoowideabreast.
Thebottomoftheseaiscruel.
II
Andyetthisgreatwinkofeternity,
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Ofrimlessfloods,unfetteredleewardings,
Samitesheetedandprocessionedwhere
Herundinalvastbellymoonwardbends,
Laughingthewraptinflectionsofourlove
TakethisSea,whosediapasonknells
Onscrollsofsilversnowysentences,
Thesceptredterrorofwhosesessionsrends
Asherdemeanorsmotionwellorill,
Allbutthepietiesoflovershands.
Andonward,asbellsoffSanSalvador
Salutethecrocuslustresofthestars,
Inthesepoinsettiameadowsofhertides,
Adagiosofislands,OmyProdigal,
Completethedarkconfessionsherveinsspell.
Markhowherturningshoulderswindthehours,
Andhastenwhileherpennilessrichpalms
Passsuperscriptionofbentfoamandwave,
Hasten,whiletheyaretrue,sleep,death,desire,
Closeroundoneinstantinonefloatingflower.
Bindusintime,OSeasonsclear,andawe.
OminstrelgalleonsofCaribfire,
Bequeathustonoearthlyshoreuntil
Isansweredinthevortexofourgrave
Thesealswidespindriftgazetowardparadise.
III
Infiniteconsanguinityitbears
Thistenderedthemeofyouthatlight
Retrievesfromseaplainswherethesky
Resignsabreastthateverywaveenthrones
WhileribbonedwaterlanesIwind
Arelavedandscatteredwithnostroke
Widefromyourside,wheretothishour
Thesealifts,also,reliquaryhands.
Andso,admittedthroughblackswollengates
Thatmustarrestalldistanceotherwise,
Pastwhirlingpillarsandlithepediments,
Lightwrestlingthereincessantlywithlight,
Starkissingstarthroughwaveonwaveunto
Yourbodyrocking!
andwheredeath,ifshed,
Presumesnocarnage,butthissinglechange,
Uponthesteepfloorflungfromdawntodawn
Thesilkenskilledtransmembermentofsong
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Permitmevoyage,love,intoyourhands...
IV
Whosecountedsmileofhoursanddays,suppose
Iknowasspectrumoftheseaandpledge
Vastlynowpartinggulfongulfofwings
Whosecirclesbridge,Iknow,(frompalmstothesevere
Chilledalbatrossswhiteimmutability)
Nostreamofgreaterloveadvancingnow
Than,singing,thismortalityalone
Throughclayaflowimmortallytoyou.
Allfragranceirrefragably,andclaim
Madlymeetinglogicallyinthishour
Andregionthatisourstowreatheagain,
Portendingeyesandlipsandmakingtold
ThechancelportandportionofourJune
Shalltheynotstemandcloseinourownsteps
BrightstavesofflowersandquillstodayasI
Mustfirstbelostinfataltidestotell?
Insignatureoftheincarnateword
Theharborshoulderstoresigninmingling
Mutualblood,transpiringasforeknown
Andwideningnoonwithinyourbreastforgathering
Allbrightinsinuationsthatmyyearshavecaught
Forislandswheremustleadinviolably
Bluelatitudesandlevelsofyoureyes,
Inthisexpectant,stillexclaimreceive
Thesecretoarandpetalsofalllove.
V
Meticulous,pastmidnightinclearrime,
Infrangibleandlonely,smoothasthoughcast
Togetherinonemercilesswhiteblade
Thebayestuariesfleckthehardskylimits.
Asiftoobrittleortoocleartotouch!
Thecablesofoursleepsoswiftlyfiled,
Alreadyhang,shredendsfromrememberedstars.
Onefrozentracklesssmile...Whatwords
Canstranglethisdeafmoonlight?Forwe
Areovertaken.Nownocry,nosword
Canfastenordeflectthistidalwedge,
Slowtyrannyofmoonlight,moonlightloved
Andchanged...Theres
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Nothinglikethisintheworld,yousay,
KnowingIcannottouchyourhandandlook
Too,intothatgodlesscleftofsky
Wherenothingturnsbutdeadsandsflashing.
Andnevertoquiteunderstand!No,
InalltheargosyofyourbrighthairIdreamed
Nothingsoflaglessasthispiracy.
Butnow
Drawinyourhead,aloneandtootallhere.
Youreyesalreadyintheslantofdriftingfoam
YourbreathsealedbytheghostsIdonotknow:
Drawinyourheadandsleepthelongwayhome.
VI
Whereicyandbrightdungeonslift
Ofswimmerstheirlostmorningeyes,
Andoceanrivers,churning,shift
Greenbordersunderstrangerskies,
Steadilyasashellsecretes
Itsbeatingleaguesofmonotone,
Orasmanywaterstroughthesuns
Redkelsonpastthecapeswetstone
Oriversminglingtowardthesky
Andharborofthephoenixbreast
Myeyespressedblackagainsttheprow,
Thyderelictandblindedguest
Waiting,afire,whatname,unspoke,
Icannotclaim:letthywavesrear
Moresavagethanthedeathofkings,
Somesplinteredgarlandfortheseer.
Beyondsiroccosharvesting
Thesolsticethunders,creptaway,
Likeacliffswingingorasail
FlungintoAprilsinmostday
Creationsblitheandpetalledword
Totheloungedgoddesswhensherose
Concedingdialoguewitheyes
Thatsmileunsearchablerepose
Stillfervidcovenant,BelleIsle,
Unfoldedfloatingdaisbefore
Whichrainbowstwinecontinualhair
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BelleIsle,whiteechooftheoar!
TheimagedWord,itis,thatholds
Hushedwillowsanchoredinitsglow.
Itistheunbetrayablereply
Whoseaccentnofarewellcanknow.
Inmyopinion,HartCrane's"Voyages"isthebestlovepoemofalltime,andthesecondbestlovepoem
isn'tevenclose.HartCranewasan"uneven"poetwhosometimesbordersonbeingunreadable,butinhis
bestpoems,heisawonder.Otherpoemsofhissuchas"ToBrooklynBridge"and"TheBrokenTower"
rankwiththebestpoemsintheEnglishlanguage.
Thesearemyhighhonorablementions...
ExcerptfromTheSongofSongs
attributedtoKingSolomon
IamtheroseofSharon,andthelilyofthevalleys.
Asthelilyamongthorns,soismyloveamongthedaughters.
Astheappletreeamongthetreesofthewood,soismybelovedamongthesons.
Isatdownunderhisshadowwithgreatdelight,andhisfruitwassweettomytaste.
Hebroughtmetothebanquetinghouse,andhisbannerovermewaslove.
Staymewithflagons,comfortmewithapples:forIamsickoflove.
Hislefthandisundermyhead,andhisrighthanddothembraceme.
Ichargeyou,OyedaughtersofJerusalem,bytheroes,
andbythehindsofthefield,thatyestirnotup,norwakemylove,tillheplease.
Who'dhavethoughttolookforeroticpoetryintheBible?Butthe"SongofSongs"(alsoknownasthe
"SongofSolomon")remainsoneofthesexiestpoemsofalltime.
Donotstandatmygraveandweep
byMaryElizabethFrye
Donotstandatmygraveandweep:
IamnotthereIdonotsleep.
Iamathousandwindsthatblow,
Iamthediamondglintsonsnow,
Iamthesunonripenedgrain,
Iamthegentleautumnrain.
Whenyouawakeninthemorningshush
Iamtheswiftupliftingrush
Ofquietbirdsincirclingflight.
Iamthesoftstarshineatnight.
Donotstandatmygraveandcry:
IamnotthereIdidnotdie.
Thisconsolingelegyhadaverymysteriousgenesis,asitwaswrittenbyMaryElizabethFrye,aBaltimore
housewifewholackedaformaleducation,havingbeenorphanedatagethree.Shehadneverwrittenpoetry
before.Fryewrotethepoemonarippedoffpieceofabrowngrocerybag,inaburstofcompassionfora
JewishgirlwhohadfledtheHolocaustonlytoreceivenewsthathermotherhaddiedinGermany.Thegirl
wasweepinginconsolablybecauseshecouldn'tvisithermother'sgravetosharehertearsofloveand
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bereavement.WhenthepoemwasnamedBritain'smostpopularpoemina1996Bookwormpoll,withmore
than30,000callinvotesdespitenothavingbeenoneofthecritics'nominations,anunletteredorphangirl
hadseeminglysurpassedallEngland'smanyculturedanddegreedivorytoweristsinthepublic'sestimation.
Althoughthepoem'soriginwasdisputedforsometime(ithadbeenattributedtoNativeAmericanand
othersources),Frye'sauthorshipwasconfirmedin1998afterinvestigativeresearchbyAbigailVanBuren,
thenewspapercolumnistbetterknownas"DearAbby."Thepoemhasalsobeencalled"IAm"duetoits
ratherbiblicalrepetitionsofthephrase.Fryeneverformallypublishedorcopyrightedthepoem,sowe
believeitisinthepublicdomainandcanbeshared,althoughwerecommendthatitnotbeusedfor
commercialpurposes,sinceFryenevertriedtoprofitfromitherself.
Friday
byAnnDrysdale
Theprintofabarefoot,thesecondtoe
Alittlelongerthantheonewhichis
Traditionallydesignated"great".
Praxiteleswouldhaveadmiredit.
Youmusthaveleftinhasteyourlastwetstep
Beforeboardingyoursuitandsettingsail,
Outlinedintalcumonthebathroomfloor
Mocksyourhabitualfastidiousness.
Thereisnotideheretoobliterate
Youroversight.UnlessIwipeorsweep
Orsuckitup,itwillnotgoaway.
Thethoughtdelightsme.Iwillkeepthefootprint.
Tooslight,toosimplyhumantobecalled
TokenorpromiseIamkeepingit
Becauseitisapreciousevidence
ThatonthisislandIamnotalone.
AnnDrysdaleisoneofourbettercontemporarypoets,inmyopinion.
Valentine
byCarolAnnDuffy
Notaredroseorasatinheart.
Igiveyouanonion.
Itisamoonwrappedinbrownpaper.
Itpromiseslight
likethecarefulundressingoflove.
Here.
Itwillblindyouwithtears
likealover.
Itwillmakeyourreflection
awobblingphotoofgrief.
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Iamtryingtobetruthful.
Notacutecardorakissogram.
Igiveyouanonion.
Itsfiercekisswillstayonyourlips,
possessiveandfaithful
asweare,
foraslongasweare.
Takeit.
Itsplatinumloopsshrinktoaweddingring,
ifyoulike.
Lethal.
Itsscentwillclingtoyourfingers,
clingtoyourknife.
TheRaimentWePutOn
byKellyCherry
Doyouremember?Wewereinaroom
Withwallsaswarmasanybodysbreath,
Andmusicwoveusonitspatterningloom,
Thecomplicatedloomoflifeanddeath.
Yourhandsmovedovermyfacelikesmallclouds.
(Rainfellintoariverandsank,somewhere.)
Imovedamongyourfingers,brushedbythesmallcrowds
Ofthem,feelingmyselfknown,everywhere,
Andinthatdesperatecountrysofarfromhere,
Iheardyousaymynameoverandover,
Yourvoicethreadingitswayintomyear.
Iwillspendmydaysworkingtodiscover
Thepatternanditsmeaning,whatyoumeant,
Whathasbeenraveledandwhathasbeenrent.
ToCelia
byBenJonson
Drinktome,only,withthineeyes,
AndIwillpledgewithmine
Orleaveakissbutinthecup,
AndI'llnotlookforwine.
Thethirstthatfromthesouldothrise,
Dothaskadrinkdivine:
ButmightIofJove'snectarsup,
Iwouldnotchangeforthine.
Isentthee,late,arosywreath,
Notsomuchhonouringthee,
Asgivingitahope,thatthere
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Itcouldnotwitheredbe.
Butthouthereondidstonlybreathe,
Andsent'stbacktome:
Sincewhenitgrows,andsmells,Iswear,
Notofitself,butthee.
BenJonson
WulfandEadwacer(AnonymousBallad,circa960990AD)
loosetranslationbyMichaelR.Burch
Theoutlanderspursuehimasifheweregame.
Theywillkillhimifhecomesinforce.
Itisotherwisewithus.
WulfisononeislandI,onanother.
Thatislandisfast,surroundedbyfens.
Therearefiercemenonthisisland.
Theywillkillhimifhecomesinforce.
Itisotherwisewithus.
MythoughtspursuedWulflikeapantinghound.
WheneveritrainedandIwokedisconsolate
theboldwarriorcame:hetookmeinhisarms.
Forme,therewaspleasure,butitsendwasloathsome.
Wulf,O,myWulf,myacheforyou
hasmademesickyourinfrequentvisits
haveleftmefamished,butwhyshouldIeat?
Doyouhear,Eadwacer?Ashewolfhasborne
ourwretchedwhelptothewoods.
Onecaneasilysunderwhatwasneverone:
oursongtogether.
"WulfandEadwacer"hasbeenoneofmyfavoritepoemssincethefirsttimeIreadit.Infact,Ilikedthe
poemsomuchthatIendeduptranslatingitmyself!ThisisoneoftheoldestpoemsintheEnglish
language,andinalllikelihoodthefirstextantpoembyanEnglishfemalepoet.Itisalsooneofthefirst
Englishpoemstoemployarefrain,andtheclosingmetaphorofalovelessrelationshipbeinglikeasongin
whichtwovoicesneverharmonizedremainsoneofthestrongestinallliterature.
Distantlight
byWalidKhazindar
Harshandcold
autumnholdstoitournakedtrees:
Ifonlyyouwouldfree,atleast,thesparrows
fromthetipsofyourfingers
andreleaseasmile,asmallsmile
fromtheimprisonedcryIsee.
Sing!Canwesing
asifwewerelight,handinhand
shelteredinshade,underastrongsun?
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Willyouremain,thisway
stokingthefire,morebeautifulthannecessary,andquiet?
Darknessintensifies
andthedistantlightisouronlyconsolation
thatone,whichfromthebeginning
has,littlebylittle,beenflickering
andisnowabouttogoout.
Cometome.Closerandcloser.
Idon'twanttoknowmyhandfromyours.
Andlet'sbewareofsleep,lestthesnowsmotherus.
TranslatedbyKhaledMattawafromtheauthor'scollectionsGhurufTa'isha(DaralFikr,Beirut,1992)and
SatwatalMasa(DarBissan,Beirut,1996).ReprintedfromBanipalNo6.TranslationcopyrightBanipal
andtranslator.Allrightsreserved.WalidKhazindarwasbornin1950inGazaCity.Heisconsideredoneof
thebestPalestinianpoetshispoetryhasbeensaidtobe"characterizedbymetaphoricoriginalityanda
novelthematicapproachunprecedentedinArabicpoetry."HewasawardedthefirstPalestinePrizefor
Poetryin1997.
Juan'sSong
byLouiseBogan
Whenbeautybreaksandfallsasunder
Ifeelnogriefforit,butwonder.
Whenlove,likeafrailshell,liesbroken,
Ikeepnochipofitfortoken.
Ineverhadamanforfriend
Whodidnotknowthatlovemustend.
Ineverhadagirlforlover
Whocoulddiscernwhenlovewasover.
Whatthewisedoubt,thefoolbelieves
Whoisit,then,thatlovedeceives?
DylanThomas'selegytohisdyingfatheristhebestvillanelleintheEnglishlanguage,inmyopinion,and
oneofthemostpowerfulandhauntingpoemseverwritteninanylanguage.
DoNotGoGentleIntoThatGoodNight
byDylanThomas
Donotgogentleintothatgoodnight,
Oldageshouldburnandraveatcloseofday
Rage,rageagainstthedyingofthelight.
Thoughwisemenattheirendknowdarkisright,
Becausetheirwordshadforkednolightningthey
Donotgogentleintothatgoodnight.
Goodmen,thelastwaveby,cryinghowbright
Theirfraildeedsmighthavedancedinagreenbay,
Rage,rageagainstthedyingofthelight.
Wildmenwhocaughtandsangthesuninflight,
Andlearn,toolate,theygrieveditonitsway,
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Donotgogentleintothatgoodnight.
Gravemen,neardeath,whoseewithblindingsight
Blindeyescouldblazelikemeteorsandbegay,
Rage,rageagainstthedyingofthelight.
Andyou,myfather,thereonthesadheight,
Curse,bless,menowwithyourfiercetears,Ipray.
Donotgogentleintothatgoodnight.
Rage,rageagainstthedyingofthelight.
DoverBeach
byMatthewArnold
Theseaiscalmtonight,
Thetideisfull,themoonliesfair
UponthestraitsontheFrenchcoastthelight
GleamsandisgonethecliffsofEnglandstand,
Glimmeringandvast,outinthetranquilbay.
Cometothewindow,sweetisthenightair!
Only,fromthelonglineofspray
Wheretheseameetsthemoonblanchedland,
Listen!youhearthegratingroar
Ofpebbleswhichthewavesdrawback,andfling,
Attheirreturn,upthehighstrand,
Begin,andcease,andthenagainbegin,
Withtremulouscadenceslow,andbring
Theeternalnoteofsadnessin.
Sophocleslongago
HearditontheAegean,anditbrought
Intohismindtheturbidebbandflow
Ofhumanmiserywe
Findalsointhesoundathought,
Hearingitbythisdistantnorthernsea.
Theseaoffaith
Wasonce,too,atthefull,androundearth'sshore
Laylikethefoldsofabrightgirdlefurled.
ButnowIonlyhear
Itsmelancholy,long,withdrawingroar,
Retreating,tothebreath
Ofthenightwind,downthevastedgesdrear
Andnakedshinglesoftheworld.
Ah,love,letusbetrue
Tooneanother!fortheworldwhichseems
Toliebeforeuslikealandofdreams,
Sovarious,sobeautiful,sonew,
Hathreallyneitherjoy,norlove,norlight,
Norcertitude,norpeace,norhelpforpain
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Andwearehereasonadarklingplain
Sweptwithconfusedalarmsofstruggleandflight,
Whereignorantarmiesclashbynight.
"DoverBeach"maybethefirstmodernEnglishpoem.WhenArnoldspeaksofthe"SeaofFaith"
retreating,heseemstobesettingthestageforModernism,whichtosomedegreewasamovementof
skepticswhodoubtedthatthe"wisdom"containedintheBiblewastherevelationofanallknowingGod.
Song
byChristinaRossetti
WhenIamdead,mydearest,
Singnosadsongsforme
Plantthounorosesatmyhead,
Norshadycypresstree:
Bethegreengrassaboveme
Withshowersanddewdropswet
Andifthouwilt,remember,
Andifthouwilt,forget.
Ishallnotseetheshadows,
Ishallnotfeeltherain
Ishallnothearthenightingale
Singon,asifinpain:
Anddreamingthroughthetwilight
Thatdothnotrisenorset,
HaplyImayremember,
Andhaplymayforget.
ChristinaRossettiwroteahandfulofimmortalpoems,andthatmakesheranimmortalpoet.Twoofher
poemscanbefoundontheMasterspageofTheHyperTexts.
ForHerSurgery
byJackButler
I
Overthecitythemoonridesinmist,
scrimscarredwithfaintrainbow.
TwodaystillEaster.Thethincloudsrunslow,slow,
thewindbellsbleedthequietest
ofpossiblemusicstothedarklawn.
Allpossibilitywewillhavechildrenisgone.
II
Iraiseaglasshalfwater,halfalcohol,
tothatlightcomefullagain.
Inside,yousleep,somewherebelowthepain.
Downattheriver,thereisatall
ghosttossingflowerstodarkwater
jessamine,rose,anddaisy,salvialyrata...
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III
Ohgoodbye,goodbyetobloominthewhiteblaze
ofmoonontheriver,goodbye
tocreekjoiningthecreekjoiningtheriver,theaxil,theY,
goodbyetotheYesoftwoIfsinonephrase...
Childrenbearchildren.Wearegrown,
andtimehasthrownusfreeunderthetimelessmoon.
JackButlerisoneofmyfavoritecontemporarypoets.
OneArt
byElizabethBishop
Theartoflosingisn'thardtomaster
somanythingsseemfilledwiththeintent
tobelostthattheirlossisnodisaster.
Losesomethingeveryday.Acceptthefluster
oflostdoorkeys,thehourbadlyspent.
Theartoflosingisn'thardtomaster.
Thenpracticelosingfarther,losingfaster:
places,andnames,andwhereitwasyoumeant
totravel.Noneofthesewillbringdisaster.
Ilostmymother'swatch.Andlook!mylast,or
nexttolast,ofthreelovedhouseswent.
Theartoflosingisn'thardtomaster.
Ilosttwocities,lovelyones.And,vaster,
somerealmsIowned,tworivers,acontinent.
Imissthem,butitwasn'tadisaster.
Evenlosingyou(thejokingvoice,agesture
Ilove)Ishan'thavelied.It'sevident
theartoflosing'snottoohardtomaster
thoughitmaylooklike(Writeit!)likedisaster.
ElizabethBishopwroteasmallhandfuloftrulygreatpoemssuchas"OneArt,""TheFish"and"The
Armadillo,"andcanprobablybeconsideredamajorpoetasaresult.
SometimesMysteriously
byLuisOmarSalinas
Sometimesintheeveningwhenlove
tunesitsharpandthecrickets
celebratelife,Iamlikeatroubadour
insearchoffriends,lovedones,
anyonewhowillsharewithme
abitofconversation.Myloneliness
arrivesghostlikeandpretentious,
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itseeksmysoul,itisravenous
andhurting.Iadmiremyfather
whoalwayshasadviceinthesematters,
butagameofchesswon'tdo,or
thefrivolityofreligion.
Iwanttofindasolution,soI
writeletters,poems,andsometimes
Itouchsolitudeontheshoulder
andsurrendertoagreattranquility.
IunderstandIneedcourage
andsometimes,mysteriously,
Ifeelwhole.
LuisOmarSalinasisgenerallyconsideredtobeoneoftheverybestHispanicpoetstowriteinEnglish,
withgoodcause."SometimesMysteriously"isoneofthosemysteriouspoemsthatsometimesmakesus
feelaspecialkinshipwiththepoet.
TheMaidensSong
MedievalLyric,PoetUnknown
ThemaidenscamewhenIwasinmymothersbower.
IhadallthatIwould.
Thebaileybeareththebellaway
Thelily,therose,theroseIlay.
Thesilveriswhite,redisthegold
Therobestheylayinfold.
Thebaileybeareththebellaway
Thelily,therose,theroseIlay.
Andthroughtheglasswindowshinesthesun.
HowshouldIlove,andIsoyoung?
Thebaileybeareththebellaway
Thelily,therose,theroseIlay.
TimeinEternity
byT.Merrill
Whenyouwereasanangelinmyarms,
Hadlaidyourbareheadjustbelowmychin,
Yourlengthpresseduptomine,entrustingcharms
Mywholeyouth'sstarwardlongingcouldnotwin
Withstillthemurmurofyourloveinme,
Miracletonesofallmylifelonghope,
Iwishedthattheremightstarteternity
Andsealforeverthatsweetenvelope
Andasitdid,mythoughtsarenowforyou
Aseverystarisblottedbythesun,
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Andsothesunitself
Hasperishedtoo,
Andwithit,everydreamofmine
Butone.
TomMerrillisoneofmyfavoritecontemporarypoets.
InMyCraftOrSullenArt
byDylanThomas
Inmycraftorsullenart
Exercisedinthestillnight
Whenonlythemoonrages
Andtheloverslieabed
Withalltheirgriefsintheirarms,
Ilabourbysinginglight
Notforambitionorbread
Orthestrutandtradeofcharms
Ontheivorystages
Butforthecommonwages
Oftheirmostsecretheart.
Notfortheproudmanapart
FromtheragingmoonIwrite
Onthesespindriftpages
Norforthetoweringdead
Withtheirnightingalesandpsalms
Butforthelovers,theirarms
Roundthegriefsoftheages,
Whopaynopraiseorwages
Norheedmycraftorart.
Inpoemslike"DoNotGoGentleintothatGoodNight,""InMyCraftorSullenArt"and"FernHill"the
WelshpoetDylanThomasrankswithanypoetwhoeverwroteinEnglish.Severalofhispoemscanbe
foundontheMasterspageofTheHyperTexts.
Sonnet147
byWilliamShakespeare
Myloveisasafever,longingstill
Forthatwhichlongernurseththedisease,
Feedingonthatwhichdothpreservetheill,
Theuncertainsicklyappetitetoplease.
Myreason,thephysiciantomylove,
Angrythathisprescriptionsarenotkept,
Hathleftme,andIdesperatenowapprove
Desireisdeath,whichphysicdidexcept.
PastcureIam,nowreasonispastcare,
Andfranticmadwithevermoreunrest.
Mythoughtsandmydiscourseasmadmen'sare,
Atrandomfromthetruthvainlyexpressed,
ForIhavesworntheefair,andthoughttheebright,
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WhoartasblackasHell,asdarkasnight.
Comeslowly,Eden
byEmilyDickinson
Comeslowly,Eden
Lipsunusedtothee.
Bashful,sipthyjasmines,
Asthefaintingbee,
Reachinglatehisflower,
Roundherchamberhums,
Countshisnectarsalights,
Andislostinbalms!
itmaynotalwaysbesoandisay
bye.e.cummings
itmaynotalwaysbesoandisay
thatifyourlips,whichihaveloved,shouldtouch
another's,andyourdearstrongfingersclutch
hisheart,asmineintimenotfaraway
ifonanother'sfaceyoursweethairlay
insuchasilenceasiknow,orsuch
greatwrithingwordsas,utteringovermuch,
standhelplesslybeforethespiritatbay
ifthisshouldbe,isayifthisshouldbe
youofmyheart,sendmealittleword
thatimaygountohim,andtakehishands,
saying,Acceptallhappinessfromme.
Thenshalliturnmyface,andhearonebird
singterriblyafarinthelostlands.
WildNights
byEmilyDickinson
Wildnights!Wildnights!
WereIwiththee,
Wildnightsshouldbe
Ourluxury!
Futilethewinds
Toaheartinport,
Donewiththecompass,
Donewiththechart.
RowinginEden!
Ah!thesea!
MightIbutmoor
Tonightinthee!
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SheWalksInBeauty
byLordBryon
Shewalksinbeauty,likethenight
Ofcloudlessclimesandstarryskies
Andallthat'sbestofdarkandbright
Meetinheraspectandhereyes:
Thusmellow'dtothattenderlight
Whichheaventogaudydaydenies.
Oneshadethemore,oneraytheless,
Hadhalfimpair'dthenamelessgrace
Whichwavesineveryraventress,
Orsoftlylightenso'erherface
Wherethoughtsserenelysweetexpress
Howpure,howdeartheirdwellingplace.
Andonthatcheek,ando'erthatbrow,
Sosoft,socalm,yeteloquent,
Thesmilesthatwin,thetintsthatglow,
Buttellofdaysingoodnessspent,
Amindatpeacewithallbelow,
Aheartwhoseloveisinnocent!
MeetingatNight
byRobertBrowning
Thegreyseaandthelongblackland
Andtheyellowhalfmoonlargeandlow
Andthestartledlittlewavesthatleap
Infieryringletsfromtheirsleep,
AsIgainthecovewithpushingprow,
Andquenchitsspeedi'theslushysand.
Thenamileofwarmseascentedbeach
Threefieldstocrosstillafarmappears
Atapatthepane,thequicksharpscratch
Andbluespurtofalightedmatch,
Andavoicelessloud,throughitsjoysandfears,
Thanthetwoheartsbeatingeachtoeach!
MadGirl'sLoveSong
bySylviaPlath
Ishutmyeyesandalltheworlddropsdead
Iliftmylidsandallisbornagain.
(IthinkImadeyouupinsidemyhead.)
Thestarsgowaltzingoutinblueandred,
Andarbitraryblacknessgallopsin:
Ishutmyeyesandalltheworlddropsdead.
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Idreamedthatyoubewitchedmeintobed
Andsungmemoonstruck,kissedmequiteinsane.
(IthinkImadeyouupinsidemyhead.)
Godtopplesfromthesky,hell'sfiresfade:
ExitseraphimandSatan'smen:
Ishutmyeyesandalltheworlddropsdead.
Ifanciedyou'dreturnthewayyousaid,
ButIgrowoldandIforgetyourname.
(IthinkImadeyouupinsidemyhead.)
Ishouldhavelovedathunderbirdinstead
Atleastwhenspringcomestheyroarbackagain.
Ishutmyeyesandalltheworlddropsdead.
(IthinkImadeyouupinsidemyhead.)
ShallICompareTheetoaSummer'sDay?
byWilliamShakespeare
ShallIcomparetheetoasummer'sday?
Thouartmorelovelyandmoretemperate.
RoughwindsdoshakethedarlingbudsofMay,
Andsummer'sleasehathalltooshortadate.
Sometimetoohottheeyeofheavenshines,
Andoftenishisgoldcomplexiondimmed
Andeveryfairfromfairsometimedeclines,
Bychance,ornature'schangingcourseuntrimmed.
Butthyeternalsummershallnotfade
Norlosepossessionofthatfairthouow'st
Norshalldeathbragthouwand'restinhisshade,
Whenineternallinestotimethougrow'st,
Solongasmencanbreatheoreyescansee,
Solonglivesthis,andthisgiveslifetothee.
Whoeverloved
byChristopherMarlowe
Itliesnotinourpowertoloveorhate,
Forwillinusisoverruledbyfate.
Whentwoarestripped,longerethecoursebegin,
Wewishthatoneshouldlove,theotherwin
Andoneespeciallydoweaffect
Oftwogoldingots,likeineachrespect:
Thereasonnomanknowsletitsuffice
Whatwebeholdiscensuredbyoureyes.
Wherebothdeliberate,theloveisslight:
Whoeverloved,thatlovednotatfirstsight?
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BrightStar
byJohnKeats
Brightstar,wouldIweresteadfastasthouart
Notinlonesplendourhungaloftthenight,
Andwatching,witheternallidsapart,
Likenature'spatientsleeplesseremite,
Themovingwatersattheirpriestliketask
Ofpureablutionroundearth'shumanshores,
Orgazingonthenewsoftfallenmask
Ofsnowuponthemountainsandthemoors
Noyetstillsteadfast,stillunchangeable,
Pillow'duponmyfairlove'sripeningbreast,
Tofeelforeveritssoftfallandswell,
Awakeforeverinasweetunrest,
Still,stilltohearhertendertakenbreath,
Andsoliveeverorelseswoontodeath.
Heart,wewillforgethim
byEmilyDickinson
Heart,wewillforgethim,
YouandI,tonight!
Youmustforgetthewarmthhegave,
Iwillforgetthelight.
Whenyouhavedonepraytellme,
ThenI,mythoughts,willdim.
Haste!'lestwhileyourelagging
Imayrememberhim!
Song
byJohnDonne
Goandcatchafallingstar,
Getwithchildamandrakeroot,
Tellmewhereallpastyearsare,
Orwhocleftthedevilsfoot
Teachmetohearmermaidssinging,
Ortokeepoffenvy'sstinging,
Andfind
Whatwind
Servestoadvanceanhonestmind.
Ifthoube'stborntostrangesights,
Thingsinvisibletosee,
Ridetenthousanddaysandnights
TillAgesnowwhitehairsonthee
Thou,whenthoureturn'stwilttellme
Allstrangewondersthatbefellthee,
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Andswear
Nowhere
Livesawomantrueandfair.
Ifthoufind'stoneletmeknow
Suchapilgrimageweresweet.
YetdonotIwouldnotgo,
Thoughatnextdoorwemightmeet.
Thoughsheweretruewhenyoumether,
Andlast,tillyouwriteyourletter,
Yetshe
Willbe
False,ereIcome,totwoorthree.
JohnDonnewrotesomeofthesexiestpoemsintheEnglishlanguage,andsomeofthebestdevotional
poemsaswell.Talkaboutrange!
OneoftheirGods
byConstantineP.Cavafy
WhenoneofthemmovedthroughthecentreofSelefkia
justasitwasgettingdark
movedlikeayoungman,tall,extremelyhandsome,
thejoyofbeingimmortalinhiseyes,
hishairblackandperfumed
thepeoplegoingbywouldgazeathim,
andonewouldasktheotherifheknewhim,
ifhewasaGreekfromSyria,orastranger.
Butsomewholookedmorecarefully
wouldunderstandandstepaside
andashedisappearedunderthearcades,
amongtheshadowsandtheeveninglights,
goingtowardthequarterthatlives
onlyatnight,withorgiesanddebauchery,
witheverykindofintoxicationanddesire,
theywouldwonderwhichofThemitcouldbe,
andforwhatsuspiciouspleasure
he'dcomedownintothestreetsofSelefkia
fromtheAugustCelestialMansions.
LoveLetter
bySylviaPlath
Noteasytostatethechangeyoumade.
IfI'malivenow,thenIwasdead,
Though,likeastone,unbotheredbyit,
Stayingputaccordingtohabit.
Youdidn'tjusttowmeaninch,no
Norleavemetosetmysmallbaldeye
Skywardagain,withouthope,ofcourse,
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Ofapprehendingblueness,orstars.
Thatwasn'tit.Islept,say:asnake
Maskedamongblackrocksasablackrock
Inthewhitehiatusofwinter
Likemyneighbors,takingnopleasure
Inthemillionperfectlychisled
Cheeksalightingeachmomenttomelt
Mycheeksofbasalt.Theyturnedtotears,
Angelsweepingoverdullnatures,
Butdidn'tconvinceme.Thosetearsfroze.
Eachdeadheadhadavisorofice.
AndIsleptonlikeabentfinger.
ThefirstthingIwaswassheerair
Andthelockeddropsrisingindew
Limpidasspirits.Manystoneslay
Denseandexpressionlessroundabout.
Ididn'tknowwhattomakeofit.
Ishone,micescaled,andunfolded
Topourmyselfoutlikeafluid
Amongbirdfeetandthestemsofplants.
Iwasn'tfooled.Iknewyouatonce.
Treeandstoneglittered,withoutshadows.
Myfingerlengthgrewlucentasglass.
IstartedtobudlikeaMarchtwig:
Anarmandaleg,andarm,aleg.
Fromstonetocloud,soIascended.
NowIresembleasortofgod
Floatingthroughtheairinmysoulshift
Pureasapaneofice.It'sagift.

OtherLovePoemsofNote:
Farewell,LovebyThomasWyatt
ToDaffodilsbyRobertHerrick
TotheVirgins,toMakeMuchofTimebyRobertHerrick
TheHighwaymanbyAlfredNoyes
TheSilkenTentbyRobertFrost
AfterthePersianbyLouiseBogan
LedaandtheSwanbyWilliamButlerYeats
MarianabyLordAlfredTennyson
TheLoveSongofJ.AlfredPrufrockbyT.S.Eliot
ForUnabyRobinsonJeffers
mayifeelsaidhebye.e.cummings
TheSkeleton'sDefenseofCarnalitybyJackFoley
AcharminvestsafacebyEmilyDickinson
IgavemyselftohimbyEmilyDickinson
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WildnightsbyEmilyDickinson
itisatmomentsafterihavedreamedbye.e.cummings
somewhereihavenevertravelled,gladlybeyondbye.e.cummings
IKnewAWomanbyTheodoreRoethke
LukeHavergalbyEdwardArlingtonRobinson
WordMadeFleshbyAnnDrysdale
Sothereyouhavethem...thebestlovepoemsofalltime,accordingtome.Everyone'slistwillbe
different,butifoneortwoofmineisnowonyours,hopefullyyourtimeherewaswellspent.
Relatedpages:TheMostBeautifulSonnetsintheEnglishLanguage,TheMostBeautifulLinesinthe
EnglishLanguage,TheBestAngloSaxonRiddlesandKenningsAncientGreekEpigramsandEpitaphs,
TheBestPoemsEverWritten,TheBestLovePoems,TheBestEroticPoems,TheBestLoveSongsEver,
TheBestUrduLovePoetry,VisionsofBeauty,TheBestThanksgivingPoems,TheBestAutumnalPoems
TheHyperTexts

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