Poetry is often a long forgotten pastime left in the schoolyard, ruined by lessons on meter, rhyme, and strict interpretations. It’s something we are forced to memorize for a test and leave behind us when the grade arrives. But poetry is more than a check mark in your liberal arts lessons, it’s a reminder of all that is broken and beautiful, joyful and decaying, poignant and deplorable. It is the human condition bursting with love and fighting in the trenches, and sitting on a lonely hill. We should all stop from time to time and converse with it, and perhaps find a little more of our humanity along with it.
While Elizabeth Bennet may believe the surest way to kill love is with a sonnet, we thought in honor of Valentine’s Day next week, we’d compile some of our favorite excerpts from love poems.
“There is a better thing, dear heart,
Than youthful flush or girlish grace.
There is the faith that never fails,
The courage in the danger place,
The duty seen, and duty done,
The heart that yearns for all in need,
The lady soul which could not stoop
To selfish thought or lowly deed.
All that we ever dreamed, dear wife,
Seems drab and common by the truth,
The sweet sad mellow things of life
Are more than golden dreams of youth.”
-Arthur Conan Doyle, “Retrospect”
It’s so dark right now, I can’t see any light around me.
That’s because the light is coming from you.
You can’t see it but everyone else can.”
― Lang Leav, “Love & Misadventure”
When we came home together
We found the inside weather
All of our love unended
The quiet light demanded
And we gave, in a look
At yellow walls and open book
The deepest world we share
and do not talk about
But have to have, was there,
and by that light found out.
—Mary Sarton, “A Light Left On”
He is crossing a lawn that glows with green.
His back is to me, but I know it’s him
from his walk, his body outlined with light
like the moon as it eclipses the sun.
—David Bergman, “The Infinite Recession of the Object of Desire”
Next time I won’t waste my heart
on anger; I won’t care about
being right. I’ll be willing to be
wrong about everything and to
concentrate on giving myself away.
—Joyce Sutphen, “Next Time”
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever; I was wrong.
– W.H. Auden, “Funeral Blues”
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
– Pablo Neruda, “Sonnet XVII”
It happens all the time in heaven, and some day
It will begin to happen again on earth –
That men and women who are married,
And men and men who are lovers,
And women and women who give each other light,
Often will get down on their knees
And while so tenderly holding their lover’s hand,
With tears in their eyes, will sincerely speak, saying,
My dear, how can I be more loving to you;
How can I be more kind?”
–Hafiz, “The Subject Tonight Is Love”
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.”
-Lord Byron, “She Walks in Beauty”
Held close enough for the eye to
drink it in, and remember, I said,
I’ll always love you, no matter what.
—Joyce Sutphen, “These Few Precepts”
“Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,
because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?”
-Pablo Neruda, “Don’t Go Far Off, Not Even For A Day”
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