25 Most Beautiful Love Poems Ever Written
Let the greatest poets express your heart's true feelings with these gorgeous love poems
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What kind of love poems are you in the mood for?
Throughout literary history, love poems have connected lonely hearts, transcended cultural barriers and ultimately withstood the test of time. After all, no other medium captures the essence of love so accurately. While romance book series and romantic movies certainly make you feel fuzzy inside, poetry strives to distill the most emotion into a short and sweet (sometimes even bittersweet) message.
We’ve gathered the best love poems ever written to help you express what you’re feeling, from adoration to yearning to heartbreak. And these aren’t just love poems for her or love poems for him! In addition to romantic poems, you’ll find sad poems alongside funny poems, as well as short poems amid excerpts from longer epics. These poets have searched high and low for the perfect combination of words to convey exactly what it feels like to love your romantic partner, friend or even yourself. Just keep in mind that some of these poems are passionate by nature, so check out these poems for kids for younger audiences.
Whether you’re just starting to get your poetry feet wet, are an avid reader of up-and-coming poets like Whitney Hanson or prefer the classics, you’ll be inspired by this list and moving on to whole poetry books before you know it. So the next time you want something more eloquent than “I love you” or “I miss you,” share these love poems by the literary greats with that special someone.
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1. “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by W.B. Yeats
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Acclaimed Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) wrote this exquisite poem for fiery Irish revolutionary and actress Maud Gonne in 1899. Arguably one of the most beautiful love poems ever written, “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” uses repetition to emphasize a forlorn yearning, almost as if to cast a love spell. It’s no wonder this poem has been referenced in countless songs, movies and love quotes as well. Use this poem to convey your desire to give your loved one anything and everything, whether it’s the celestial heavens or your dreams.
2. “I wish I could remember that first day” by Christina Rossetti
I wish I could remember that first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or Winter for aught I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May.
If only I could recollect it, such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much;
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand – Did one but know!
Don’t we all dream of being able to rewind time to when we met our first love for the very first time? If only we knew how special that moment was—and if only we could have held onto every memory from it. Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) captures this bittersweet nostalgia in her 1881 sonnet “I wish I could remember that first day” through nature imagery. In the 19th century, Rossetti found her voice as the youngest of a family of Italian-English scholars. Surrounded by her accomplished parents and siblings, she rose to fame as one of the Victorian era’s greatest poets.
Pair this poem with some sweet love messages to show your one true love just how much they mean to you.
3. “Your Hands” by Angelina Weld Grimké
I love your hands:
They are big hands, firm hands, gentle hands;
Hair grows on the back near the wrist . . . .
I have seen the nails broken and stained
From hard work.
And yet, when you touch me,
I grow small . . . . . . . and quiet . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . And happy . . . . . . . .
If I might only grow small enough
To curl up into the hollow of your palm,
Your left palm,
Curl up, lie close and cling,
So that I might know myself always there,
. . . . . . . Even if you forgot.
Written in 1927 by Black poet and playwright Angelina Weld Grimké (1880–1958), “Your Hands” is a sweet ode to an otherwise mundane part of the human body. By examining each aspect of her lover’s hands, from his body hair to his nails, Grimké paints a portrait of a working-class man who provides gentle strength and comfort. This love poem totally gets that feeling of always wanting to be close to your lover.
4. “Love Song” by Dorothy Parker
My own dear love, he is strong and bold
And he cares not what comes after.
His words ring sweet as a chime of gold,
And his eyes are lit with laughter.
He is jubilant as a flag unfurled—
Oh, a girl, she’d not forget him.
My own dear love, he is all my world,—
And I wish I’d never met him.
My love, he’s mad, and my love, he’s fleet,
And a wild young wood-thing bore him!
The ways are fair to his roaming feet,
And the skies are sunlit for him.
As sharply sweet to my heart he seems
As the fragrance of acacia.
My own dear love, he is all my dreams,—
And I wish he were in Asia.
Any poems about love by Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) are bound to be a bit scathing! Parker was an American writer, satirist and critic renowned for her wit and remembered as one of the founding members of the Algonquin Round Table in the 1920s. Darkly funny, with a playful rhyme scheme and surprising twists, “Love Song” gets at a truth we may hate to admit: Sometimes it’s the ones you love who get under your skin the most. Read the poem in its entirety, as well as some more funny poems, in Parker’s 1926 poetry collection Enough Rope: A Book of Light Verse.
5. “Love and Friendship” by Emily Brontë
Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree—
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most constantly?
The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who will call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He still may leave thy garland green.
You’ve probably read Emily Brontë’s classic Gothic romance novel Wuthering Heights in your high school lit class, but Brontë (1818–1848) is also celebrated for her poetry. Her poem “Love and Friendship” offers a more realistic take on romance: though we may neglect our friends while we are in love, it is ultimately these friendships that will remain steadfast when winter (which you can interpret as hard times or old age) comes. Send this poem, along with these friendship quotes, to your friends who have stuck by you through thick and thin.
6. “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron
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
Once described as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb, poet Lord Byron (1788–1824) was the heartthrob of 19th-century London, setting the fashion for every tousled, troubled troubadour who has followed to the present day. Despite George Gordon Byron’s terrible reputation, no one could resist the lyrical, romantic overtures in his love poems, and this tender verse gives us a hint as to why. Make sure to read the poem in its entirety in The Selected Poetry of Lord Byron.
7. “[The flowers and my love,]” by Ono no Komachi
The flowers and my love,
Passed away under the rain,
While I idly looked upon them:
Where is my yester-love?
Scholars don’t know much about the poet Ono no Komachi, other than the fact that she was most likely a court lady during the early Heian period (794–1192) and is still considered one of the most esteemed women poets in Japan. Translated by Yone Noguchi, this wistful waka poem encompasses the fragile beauty of lost love. The simplicity and precision of short Japanese poems, and their ability to convey so much in so few characters, later inspired Imagist poets in the West like Ezra Pound. If you liked this poem, check out these books by Asian authors.
8. “Let me not to the marriage of true minds (Sonnet 116)” by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
No collection of romantic poems would be complete without at least one of William Shakespeare’s iconic love sonnets. First published in 1609, “Sonnet 116” stresses that true love should not change or fade with time, but be steady like the North Star for sailors even in metaphorical storms. We like to imagine Romeo and Juliet’s love would have endured like this had they met as adults instead of overdramatic, angsty teens.
9. “Poem—To the Black Beloved” by Langston Hughes
My black one,
Thou art not beautiful
Yet thou hast
My black one,
Thou art not good
Yet thou hast
My black one,
Thou art not luminous
Yet an altar of jewels,
An altar of shimmering jewels,
Would pale in the light
Of thy darkness,
Pale in the light
Of thy nightness.
In a world that upheld (and continues to uphold) Eurocentric beauty standards, Langston Hughes (1901–1967) celebrated Black beauty and Black love in “Poem—To the Black Beloved.” Hughes, of course, was a Black poet and activist. He rose to fame during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, a time when he said his fellow community members could “express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame.”
If you love Langston Hughes, you’ll love these Amanda Gorman poems for a modern-day take on social justice and civil rights.
10. “Pagan Passion” by Luis G. Dato
I am sweetly perplexed by love sallies, releases,
By the countless retreats and the numberless captures,
By the petulant coldness and agreeable raptures,
By the whisper of phrases that hurts and then pleases,
I am drunk by the prodigal total of leases
From her body and spirit, her soul and her senses,
I revel in approaches and artless offenses,
In her challenging taunts and her tenderly teases.
Now will I disengage a red flower from her tresses,
And uplift her lithe form from a divan of roses,
For the zephyr of night too much passion opposes,
And in delicate folds now has rumpled her dresses.
On tomorrow’s new ventures the heart eager presses,
I repose now to ponder on life-soothing losses.
At just 20 years old, Filipino poet Luis Guevara Dato (1906–1985) wrote Manila: A Collection of Verse, establishing himself as one of the first Filipinos to publish his works in English. Dato’s love poem “Pagan Passion” exemplifies his mastery of the written word, playing with a melodic rhyme scheme and alliteration to show the joys and torments of flirtation.
11. “Batter my heart, three person’d God (Holy Sonnet 14)” by John Donne
Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
This sonnet from English poet John Donne (1571–1631) isn’t a conventional love poem but rather a love poem dedicated to God. On the surface, the narrator struggles with his faith and beseeches God to return to him and make him new. But the violent, and even erotic, verbs make “Holy Sonnet 14” arguably one of the most passionate poems and greatest love poems of all time. It’s certainly one that poetry lovers (both religious and non-religious) revisit time and time again.
12. “I Loved You” by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
I loved you, and I probably still do,
And for a while the feeling may remain…
But let my love no longer trouble you,
I do not wish to cause you any pain.
I loved you; and the hopelessness I knew,
The jealousy, the shyness—though in vain—
Made up a love so tender and so true
As may God grant you to be loved again.
Published in 1830, this poem about love by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799–1837) expresses both respect and devotion toward a former love. Pushkin, who is often regarded as Russia’s greatest poet, wrote in an autobiographical style that captured the rather tumultuous episodes of his love life, exploring the hopelessness, jealousy and tenderness that come with the territory of love. His seminal work, “Eugene Onegin,” even foreshadowed his own death in a duel against an admirer of his wife, Natalia.
13. “On Love” by Kahlil Gibran
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
Spiritual and philosophical, The Prophet (1923) by Lebanese American writer and poet Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931) is a celebrated collection of 28 prose-poetry fables. Gibran’s “On Love” is one of the most famous poems from the collection. In it, a fictional prophet explains to his followers to expect both pain and ecstasy when they fall in love. After all, the best type of poem about love is an honest one: one that admits love is hard but also worth the many joys. Read the rest of “On Love,” along with other inspirational poems, in The Prophet.
14. “Wild Nights—Wild Nights! (249)” by Emily Dickinson
Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Futile – the winds –
To a heart in port –
Done with the compass –
Done with the chart!
Rowing in Eden –
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor – Tonight –
Acclaimed American poet Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was thought to be an eccentric recluse and spinster, and yet many of her posthumously published love poems, including “Wild Nights—Wild Nights!” suggest Dickinson had a livelier romantic life behind closed doors. The poem opens with a passionate desire to spend the night with a lover, setting the stage for an erotic extended metaphor of a sailor who seeks to dock their ship. There is a hint of sadness, of course, that these nights cannot actually come to fruition, perhaps due to forbidden love—many scholars believe Dickinson’s romantic poems were actually about her sister-in-law.
15. “Love’s Acolyte” by Elsa Gidlow
Many have loved you with lips and fingers
And lain with you till the moon went out;
Many have brought you lover’s gifts;
And some have left their dreams on your doorstep.
But I who am youth among your lovers
Come like an acolyte to worship,
My thirsting blood restrained by reverence,
My heart a wordless prayer.
The candles of desire are lighted,
I bow my head, afraid before you,
A mendicant who craves your bounty
Ashamed of what small gifts he brings.
While many poets had to hide their homosexuality under layers of metaphors, Canadian American poet Elsa Gidlow (1898–1986) was one of the first to publish openly lesbian love poetry. Gidlow’s 1923 “Love’s Acolyte” imagines a narrator who distinguishes herself from previous lovers by showing her absolute devotion and reverence to her godlike lover. Read more of Gidlow’s poems ruminating on her political and sexual identity in her collection On a Grey Thread. And if you like that, check out these other LGBTQ+ books.
16. “Love” by Hermogénes Irisarri
Fair maid! believe me, love is like a lake,
Whose crystal depths reflect thy brow of snow;
The roses on thy cheek that come and go,
When in thy azure eyes the smiles awake,
No passing winds the liquid mirror wake,
The cool refreshing airs so softly blow.
But hidden currents in the depths below
The angry surface in an instant shake.
Gaze then in safety from the emerald shore;
Nor launch thy shallop on the treacherous wave.
Even the gentle touch of thy light oar
May rouse the slumbering peril from its grave.
Thy fragile bark is on rough waters tossed;
The picture fades, thou sinkest, and art lost.
Chilean poet, writer and politician Hermogénes Irisarri (1819–1886) wrote “Love” in 1918, using an extended simile for love as a lake. Translated from Spanish by Agnes Blake Poor, the poem argues that on the surface, love is beautiful, but it can be ugly and treacherous if you get too close. The narrator instead urges his beautiful lover to stay far away on the shore, where she cannot get hurt and where he can continue to idealize her reflection.
17. “How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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.
Forget funny roses-are-red poems! Nothing sums up the feeling of complete and total devotion quite like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnet 43.” By the time the poetess (1806–1861) met her much younger husband, Robert Browning, she was already a literary celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic, but her poor health and overprotective family kept her almost a prisoner in her room. Although Barrett Browning was already 40, she was forced to elope with her husband and fled to Italy, where her newlywed bliss apparently continued.
18. “Why I Love Thee?” by Sadakichi Hartmann
Why I love thee?
Ask why the seawind wanders,
Why the shore is aflush with the tide,
Why the moon through heaven meanders;
Like seafaring ships that ride
On a sullen, motionless deep;
Why the seabirds are fluttering the strand
Where the waves sing themselves to sleep
And starshine lives in the curves of the sand!
While it may be easy to explain how much you love someone, it’s harder to explain why you love someone. If you’ve ever been asked the latter, “Why I Love Thee?” is the perfect response. Written in 1904 by German Japanese American poet Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (1867–1944), the poem lists natural occurrences that, like love, would have been impossible to explain (at that time anyway).
19. “This Much and More” by Djuna Barnes
If my lover were a comet
Hung in air,
I would braid my leaping body
In his hair.
Yea, if they buried him ten leagues
Beneath the loam,
My fingers they would learn to dig
And I’d plunge home!
American artist, journalist and writer Djuna Barnes (1892–1982) is best known for her cult classic lesbian novel Nightwood and for her career as a journalist in 1920s Jazz Age Paris. Her poem “This Much and More” explores the “more” in the phrase “I love you this much and more,” with the narrator proving her utmost devotion to her lover. It’s the ultimate poem to tell your love that you will follow them wherever they go, whether it means leaping into the sky or plunging into the earth and dying beside them.
20. “Let Thine Eyes Whisper” by Ameen Rihani
Grieve not, for I am near thee;
Sigh not, for I can hear thee;
Wash from thy heart all memory of past wrong;
Doubt not that doubts besmear thee;
Speak not, for I do fear thee;
Let thine eyes whisper love’s conciling song.
Sweet and to the point, “Let Thine Eyes Whisper” is a love poem written by Syrian American writer and activist Ameen Rihani (1876–1940) in 1905. The narrator comforts a grieving loved one (making this a good funeral poem), assuring them that they are not alone and that love will heal them.
21. “Longing” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
If you could sit with me beside the sea to-day,
And whisper with me sweetest dreamings o’er and o’er;
I think I should not find the clouds so dim and gray,
And not so loud the waves complaining at the shore.
If you could sit with me upon the shore to-day,
And hold my hand in yours as in the days of old,
I think I should not mind the chill baptismal spray,
Nor find my hand and heart and all the world so cold.
If you could walk with me upon the strand to-day,
And tell me that my longing love had won your own,
I think all my sad thoughts would then be put away,
And I could give back laughter for the Ocean’s moan!
There’s just something about spending time with your loved one that makes the world seem brighter and the mundane infinitely more romantic. Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906), one of the first Black poets to gain recognition, “Longing” gets at just that feeling. The poem paints a scene of a cold, cloudy day at the beach, where the narrator misses his lover and imagines how much better it would be if she were beside him.
22. “Bright Star” by John Keats
Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
One of literary history’s most famous love poems, “Bright Star” was written by English Romantic poet John Keats (1795–1821) and dedicated to his love, Fanny Brawne. The sonnet starts with the narrator admiring a star in the sky for its steadfast brightness and solitude but then admitting he would rather be steadfast in his love, lying with his beautiful lover forever. Keats revised the poem until his last days; shortly after its completion, he tragically died of tuberculosis at just 25 years old. If the woman in your life loves poems, “Bright Star” is sure to impress her.
23. “Secret” by Gwendolyn Bennett
I shall make a song like your hair. . . .
gold-woven with shadows green-tinged,
And I shall play with my song
As my fingers might play with your hair.
Deep in my heart
I shall play with my song of you,
Gently. . . .
I shall laugh
At its sensitive lustre. . .
I shall wrap my song in a blanket,
Blue like your eyes are blue
With tiny shots of silver.
I shall wrap it caressingly,
Tenderly. . . .
I shall sing a lullaby
To the song I have made
Of your hair and eyes . . .
And you will never know
That deep in my heart
I shelter a song of you
Secretly . . . .
We’ve all felt the thrill and heartbreak of a secret love, one you can’t even dare to express. Harlem Renaissance poet Gwendolyn Bennett (1902–1981) begins “Secret” by describing the song she would write for her lover, but she then reveals the song can be played only deep in her heart. Given the blond-haired, blue-eyed object of this Black poet’s affections during a time period when interracial marriage was banned, it’s possible to interpret this poem as being about forbidden love. Looking to further diversify your reading? Add these must-read books by Black authors to your reading list.
24. “I know I am but summer to your heart (Sonnet XXVII)” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I know I am but summer to your heart,
And not the full four seasons of the year;
And you must welcome from another part
Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear.
No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell
Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;
And I have loved you all too long and well
To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring.
Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes,
I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums,
That you may hail anew the bird and rose
When I come back to you, as summer comes.
Else will you seek, at some not distant time,
Even your summer in another clime.
Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) was a feminist ahead of her time, and many of her poems unabashedly explore female desire and subvert the male gaze. In “Sonnet XXVII,” however, the narrator paints herself as summer, a brief relationship that will soon be replaced by the other seasons, as the narrator recognizes that she cannot be everything for her lover. While this is technically a breakup poem, it’s a complex one in which affection still lingers, but the narrator chooses to leave the relationship for now, with dignity and love for herself.
25. “Song of Myself, 1 [I Celebrate myself]” by Walt Whitman
I Celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
Considered one of the most influential poems ever written, “Song of Myself” by American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892) is, as its title suggests, a celebration of the metaphysical self. Whitman’s narrator takes in the beautiful sensory imagery around him, examining its relationship to his own body and the life that courses through it. And although it’s not a poem about love in the romantic sense, it’s a poem about self-love. After all, we cannot truly love others without first loving ourselves. Make sure to read this poem in its entirety in the Song of Myself book.