Top Love Poem of All Time

Yes, it's a big claim to make, that one can select the top poem on a subject that has been written about more than any other. But I believe I can make a good case that I have done it here.

Speaking of love, the love between a mother is daughter is often complicated.
For all that you gave me, Mom, thank you.
For my short comings and failures, I'm sorry.
I'm glad you're with the Lord finally, but the space you leave behind will never be filled.
I loved you.

Sonnet 43
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."

So ends 14 days celebrating love and poetry. I hope you've enjoyed reading them. I'll return later with more normal posts.


Sonnet 29

This atypical love poem is truly one of the world's best. Truly Shakespeare the poet at his finest.

"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,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
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 remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings."

Tomorrow, the world's greatest love poem.


Shall I Compare Thee...

Today we have one of the best love poems ever written in the English language, Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare.

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."


The Dueling Poets: Marlowe vs Shakespeare

Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were both born in 1564. But Marlowe was a product of the educated upper class, a university trained classic scholar and translator. The darling of the disaffected elite of his time, he rose to dominate England's literary and dramatic scene. Shakespeare, on the other hand, was forced to withdraw from school at the age of 14, when his father's fortunes began to fail. Though most scholars deny the claim that Marlowe actually wrote the plays we attribute to William Shakespeare, there's no doubt that Christopher Marlowe was a brilliant writer. Among other works, he gave us one of the most memorable love poems of all time. After reading it you will find one of Shakespeare's many great love sonnets. Compare them for yourself, dear reader.

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

-- Christopher Marlowe

Sonnet 116

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 proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

-- William Shakespeare

Read Well, Friend

I found another version of the fourth line of Marlowe listed several times online. In fact, one site published it both ways. Bartlett online uses the version I printed above, and that is the most common. But a few sources say "And all the craggy mountains yield," instead.


She Dwelt Among Untrodden Ways

"She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mosy tone
Half hidden from the eye!
---Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!"

-- William Wordsworth


love in lower case

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)"

-- E. E. Cummings


Love that Spans the Ages

One of the most poignant love poems ever written, William Yeats When You are Old and Grey.

"When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire,
take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars."

Enjoy those beautiful words, then when you're ready move on to consider a different kind of young lover, by A. E. Housman.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
'Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.'
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
'The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.'
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.

Read Well, Friend


Jenny Kissed Me -- More Than Once

"Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I'm growing old, but add-
Jenny kissed me!"

-- Jenny Kissed Me, Leigh Hunt

There's a fun story -- actually there are two -- behind this cute poem. Hunt was a neighbor of poet and author, Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane, aka Jenny. One story says that when Hunt visited to tell them he would publish one of Thomas Carlyle's poems, Carlyle's wife, in a very uncharacteristic move, jumped up and kissed him.

The other story is that one winter Hunt was ill for so long that when he finally recovered and went to visit, Jane jumped up and kissed him as soon as he appeared. A few days later one of the Hunt servants delivered a note, "From Mr. Hunt to Mrs. Carlyle." It contained the poem, "Jenny Kissed Me."

Oddly enough, someone wrote a song based on this poem, which seems to have been recorded by several crooners in the 1050's. You can see Eddie Albert sing it, and hear him recite the poem itself, here. There's a different version by a High School ensemble here. Finally, watch this recitation of the poem only here. As interesting as these versions are, I think I prefer just reading it myself. How about you?

Read Well, Friend

There are also numerous written parodies available on the web. Clearly this poem strikes a favorable chord with many.


She Walks in Beauty

"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 mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!"

And another still by Byron:
"There be none of Beauty's daughters
With a magic like Thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:
When, as if its sound were causing
The charm├ęd ocean's pausing,
The waves lie still and gleaming,
And the lull'd winds seem dreaming:
And the midnight moon is weaving
Her bright chain o'er the deep,
Whose breast is gently heaving
As an infant's asleep:
So the spirit bows before thee
To listen and adore thee;
With a full but soft emotion,
Like the swell of Summer's ocean."

-- Lord Byron

Read Well, Friend


A Poem for Betsy

Today I wish my beautiful, amazing daughter Happy Birthday. Every year she grows more special to me, and I'm so proud to be part of her life! In honor of her, I present here a poem she enjoyed as a child -- a tale of love and adventure. Happy Birthday, Betsy!

The Owl and the Pussy-cat by Edward Lear

"The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon."

Runcible is a word coined by Lear. If you've read his poetry you know that he uses it to describe various items, like a hat, a rat, and a goose. In the
illustrations to another poem drawn by Lear himself, a runcible spoon looks like a ladle. Despite that, dictionaries today usually define it as a three-pronged curved fork.

Read Well, Friend

For more Lear click here.


Poems for Young Love

"O Mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love's coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know.

What is love? 'Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies not plenty;
Then, come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure."
-- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene III

As I finished reading this my mind immediately went to...

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry."
-- Robert Herrick, To Virgins to Make the Most of Time

Finally, speaking of roses we have A Red, Red Rose by Burns.

"O my luve's like a red, red rose.
That's newly sprung in June;
O my luve's like a melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
Till a'the seas gang dry.

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.

And fare thee weel my only Luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!"

Read Well, Friend


Love Poem #1

"If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only.
Do not say
'I love her for her smile her look her way
Of speaking gently, for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of ease on such a day'
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee, and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheek dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity."

-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese #14

This is the first of what I hope will be fourteen love poems for fourteen days.

Read Well, Friend


Winnie-the-Pooh Day

Today, according to the A Kids Book-a-Day Almanac, is officially Winnie-the-Pooh day. In honor of the august occasion, (but it's January, not August, Pooh grumbles. Yes, I know that, I tell him...), anyway, in honor of the occasion, I will present you with a few of Pooh's thoughts on education, spelling, and other brainy stuff.

I will admit, first, to being a Pooh snob, and thus only using quotes he actually said, as reported by Mr. Milne. Those other people have no business putting words in his mouth. (Actually, he says, his mouth is empty right now, and he wouldn't mind a bit of honey or condensed milk, but never mind the bread.)

So, Pooh on reading:
"I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me."

"My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places."

"You can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY," (speaking about Owl), "even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn't count."

And here's one from Eyore:
"This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it."

Pooh on thinking:
"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."
I know what you mean, Pooh, I often feel the same way when it's time to write on my blog. (You do? he asks. I assure him I do. Then might we have a little something to help us feel better? Perhaps, I say.)

In the mean time, here's a little winter poem for you, from my good friend, Winnie-the-Pooh.
"The more it snows (Tiddely pom),
The more it goes (Tiddely pom),
The more it goes (Tiddely pom),
On snowing. And nobody knows (Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (Tiddely pom),
Are growing."

Good-bye and keep warm.

Read Well, Friend