Love Sonnets

I’d rather
heave half a brick than say
I love you, though I do
I’d rather
crawl in a hole than call you
darling, though you are
I’d rather
wrench off an arm than hug you though
it’s what I long to do
I’d rather
gather a posy of poison ivy than
ask if you love me
 

Phyllis Gotlieb
“First Person Demonstrative”

——————–

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 everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,–I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“Sonnets from the Portuguese 43”

——————–

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
 

Anne Bradstreet
“To my Dear and Loving Husband”

——————–

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will luve thee still my Dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

Robbie Burns
“A Red, Red Rose”

——————–

Upon my trouth I say you faithfully
That you are of my life and death the queen,
For with my death the truth shall be seen.
Your eyes two will slay me suddenly.
I may the beauty of them not sustain
So woundeth it thoroughout my heart keen.
 

Geoffrey Chaucer
“Yowr Yen Two Woll Sle me Sodenly”

——————–

You are the Rose of me,
In you have I lost myself utterly,
Your fragrance, as a breath from Paradise,
About me ever lies;
I crush you to my heart with subtlest ecstasy
And on your lips I live, and in your passionate eyes.
 

Govinda Krishna Chettur
“Beloved”

——————–

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
 

Matthew Arnold
“Dover Beach”

——————–

I’ve a ring of bright gold, which I gaze on when lonely,
And sigh with Hope’s eloquence, “When will it be?”
There needs but thy “Yes,” love–one little word only,
So don’t tell the world that you’re waiting for me.
 

Eliza Cook
“Don’t Tell the World that You’re Waiting for Me”

——————–

I like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows.
 

E. E. Cummings
“i like my body when it is with your”

 

——————–

I want you to see the hole in my shirt where your
heart went through like a Colt 45, and opened
a dream at the back of the neck. Here, let me unbutton it for you.

Pier Giorgio Di Cicco
“I Want You to See”

 

——————–

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long;
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.
 

Ernest Dowson
“Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae”

 

——————–

True wife, housemother, worn with many cares,
Love’s afterglow shall brighten all the years
That yet are ours; and closer still shall be our clasp
Of hands, until they nerveless fall and cease to grasp.
 

Thomas Henry Huxley
“From Shanklin”

 

——————–

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I’ll not look for wine.

Ben Jonson
“Song to Celia”

 

——————–

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
Do noble things, not dream them, all day long:
And so make life, death, and that vast for-ever
One grand, sweet song.
 

Charles Kingsley
“Farewell”

 

——————–

I know what my heart is like
Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
Left there by the tide,
A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
“Ebb”

 

——————–

Forsake me not thus, Adam! Witness Heav’n
What love sincere and reverence in my heart
I bear thee, and unweeting have offended,
Unhappily deceiv’d! Thy suppliant
I beg, and clasp thy knees. Bereave me not
Whereon I live, thy gentle looks, thy aid,
Thy counsel in this uttermost distress,
My only strength and stay. Forlorn of thee,
Whither shall I betake me, where subsist?
 

John Milton
“Paradise Lost: Book X”

 

——————–

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

William Shakespeare
“Sonnet 29”

 

——————–

Take pity on your pitying friends!
Nor let your ills affect your mind,
To fancy they can be unkind.
Me, surely me, you ought to spare,
Who gladly would your suff’rings share;
Or give my scrap of life to you,
And think it far beneath your due;
That I’m alive to tell you so.

Jonathan Swift
“Stella’s Birthday March 13, 1727”

 

——————–

They came to tell your faults to me,
They named them over one by one;
I laughed aloud when they were done,
I knew them all so well before, —
Oh, they were blind, too blind to see
Your faults had made me love you more.

Sara Teasdale
“Faults”

 

——————–

Alas, madam, for stealing of a kiss
Have I so much your mind there offended?
Have I then done so grievously amiss
That by no means it may be amended?
Then revenge you, and the next way is this:
Another kiss shall have my life ended,
For to my mouth the first my heart did suck;
The next shall clean out of my breast it pluck.

Sir Thomas Wyatt
“Alas, madam, for stealing of a kiss”

 

——————–

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

Pablo Neruda
from Sonnet XVII
100 Love Sonnets, Cien Sonetus de Amor
translated Stephen Topscott (1960)

 

——————–

Did you love well what very soon you left?
Come home and take me in your arms and take
away this stomach ache, headache, heartache.

Marilyn Hacker
“Coda”

 

——————–

I wish that I could lie down in your arms
and, turned toward sleep there (later), say, “Goodnight,
love. It was good.”

Marilyn Hacker
“Rondeau after a Transatlantic Telephone Call”

 

——————–

The other props are gone.
Sighing in one another’s
Iron arms, propped above nothing,
We praise Love the limiter.

Thomas Kinsella
“Je t’adore”

——————–

My lizard, my lively writher,
May your limbs never wither …

Theodore Roethke
“Wish for a Young Wife”

 

——————–

Like a spindle, like a dreydl,
I will turn in the center
of my intricate weave
spelling your name in my dance
in my weaving, in my work,
your hidden name which
is simply, finally,
love.
 

Marge Piercy
“All lovers have secret names”

 

——————–

stand to face me beloved
and open out the grace of your eyes

Sappho, trans. Anne Carson
Fragment 138

 

——————–

The moth’s kiss, first!
Kiss me as if you made believe
You were not sure, this eve,
How my face, your flower, had pursed
Its petals up; so, here and there
You brush it, till I grow aware
Who wants me, and wide ope I burst.
The bee’s kiss, now!
Kiss me as if you entered gay
My heart at some noonday,
A bud that dares not disallow
The claim, so all is rendered up,
And passively its shattered cup
Over your head to sleep I bow.
 

Robert Browning
“In a Gondola”

——————–

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.
 

W. B. Yeats
“The Lover Tells of the Rose in his Heart”

 

——————–

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Sonnet xxx, “Fatal Interview”

——————–

I love you at the finish line.
I love you wishing you had run.
I love you saying you will next time.
I love you at the marathon.
 

Molly Peacock
“Marathon Song”

 

——————–

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.
 

Alfred Lord Tennyson
“The Princess: Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal”

 

——————–

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

Robert Herrick
“To Anthea, who may Command him Anything”

 

——————–

 My heart is like a singing bird
    Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple tree
    Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
    That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
    Because my love is come to me.
Raise me a dais of silk and down;
    Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
    And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
    In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
    Is come, my love is come to me.
 

Christina Rossetti
“Birthday”

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