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Poems for the Season (St. Valentine's Day)

While I rarely manage to be timely or topical (or relelvant, for that matter), I noticed it is still Valentines Day (at least in the Americas), so , since our collection has a seemingly endless supply of love poems, here is a sampling. Note that most of these selections are quite old - the tradition of St. Valentine's day appears to date at least from the time of Chaucer, in the 14th century, and Shakespeare mentions it in Hamlet, around 1600. --Steve


To His Fairest Valentine, Mrs. A.L.

"Come, pretty birds, present your lays,
And learn to chaunt a goddess praise;
Ye wood-nymphs, let your voices be
Employ'd to serve her deity:
And warble forth, ye virgins nine,
Some music to my Valentine.

"Her bosom is love's paradise,
There is no heav'n but in her eyes;
She's chaster than the turtle-dove,
And fairer than the queen of love:
Yet all perfections do combine
To beautifie my Valentine.

"She's Nature's choicest cabinet,
Where honour, beauty, worth and wit
Are all united in her breast.
The graces claim an interest:
All virtues that are most divine
Shine clearest in my Valentine."

--Richard Lovelace, from Lucasta, 1649

To My Dear and Loving Husband

IF ever two were one then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife were 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.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor aught but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so perservere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

--Anne Bradstreet, mid-17th century

XLIII

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 candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
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 Barret Browning, from Sonnets from the Portuguese, 1850

III

Thou sovereign beauty which I do admire,
Witness the world how worthy to be praised:
The light whereof hath kindled heavenly fire,
In my frail spirit by her from baseness raised.
That being now with her huge brightness dazed,
Base things I can no more endure to view;
But looking still on her I stand amazed,
At wondrous sight of so celestial hew.
So when my tongue would speak her praises due,
It stopped is with thought's astonishment:
And when my pen would write her titles true,
It ravished is with fancy's wonderment:
Yet in my heart I then both speak and write
The wonder that my wit cannot endite.

--Edmund Spenser, from Amoretti, 1595

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 th 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, 1589


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