10 Best 17th Century Love Poems

The 17th Century or the 1600s was one of the best eras with great literary works and the time when the transformation in the language and writing style began as a revolution. Poets have always written poems or songs of praise (paeans) in the praise of the abstract emotion of love. It is not only a driving force, according to them, but also a dominant human passion that has made humans obsessed with it. Some of the best poetic pieces based on the intensity of emotions and forcefulness of the poetic language are as follows.

Poem #1

Tell Me Not, Sweet by Richard Lovelace

Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind
For, from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith – embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this unconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
For, I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more.

One of the best poems written by Richard Lovelace, in the 1640s, is one of the best among the love poems from the 17th century. The poet is trying to be humble and describes his best qualities as if they are no match to his lover’s faith and beauty. He also tells her that because he is a soldier, he is an unkind person, chasing after wars. Though he loves her and knows that he is loved too, he cannot trade love for the honor.

Poem #2

Sonnet XVIII 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 dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
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.

This is the second-best love poem written in 1609. Although Shakespeare is an Elizabethan, he could be termed ancient as compared to the present postmodern age. This sonnet is the popular one “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” in which he tries to pose questions about his beloved whether he should compare her beauty to the day of summer or the buds of May and so on. The use of stereotypical metaphors for his beloved shows the intense expression of his powerful emotions toward his beloved. The final hyperbolic use of words and sentences shows Shakespeare has used almost all of his expressive abilities to bow before his beloved “So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” This is considered the culmination of love.

Poem # 3

Song by Edmund Waller

Go, lovely rose!
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.

Tell her that’s young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts, where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.

Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired;
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.

Then die! that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee;
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair!

Although having passed his life in the limelight and yet penury, Waller has become a celebrated poet on account of his lyrics. This song, written in 1645 is one of the best ancient love poems. Comprising four stanzas, Waller uses an apostrophe to call rose to inform his beloved about his feelings, his love for her beauty, her youthful period, and her sweetness when compared to a rose.

Poem #4

Song: To Celia by Ben Jonson

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.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent’st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.

This beautiful song by Ben Jonson shows the deep love between him and his beloved. It almost seems to transcend the natural limits of time and space. It was written in 1616. The first stanza shows his love, his submission, and his obedience to his beloved while the second one shows his love compared to a fresh rose and its comparative outgrowth like his beloved. It shows the intensity of Jonson’s feelings for his beloved. Also, the use of eyes and rose has made this ancient love poem a classic piece of expressions of love.

Poem #5

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

This short poem by Andrew Marwell is one of the best English love poems written in 1681. The message is to take action when there is time before it becomes late. The threat of imminent death has made this poem more beautiful than it actually seems. The use of imagery to paint the picture of a reluctant beloved shows that it would not be a crime. The use of British and Biblical imagery and their comparison has accentuated the metaphorical beauty of his beloved. That is why this poem seems an intense expression of Marvell’s love and is ranked as one of the best love poems.

Poem #6

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Christopher Marlowe

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.

 This poem by Christopher Marlow, written in 1599, a year short of the 17th Century, shows the expression of his emotions for his beloved that he has put into the mouth of the shepherd who calls her to sit beside him and prove that they love each other more than any other person. The description of this love with the words of the shepherd couched in rustic innocence shows that this poem of love is better than various other love poems of that age. That is why it has been included in the best classical love poems.

Poem #7

The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd by Sir Walter Ralegh

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every Shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb,
The rest complains of cares to come.

The Flowers do fade, and wanton fields,
To wayward winter reckoning yields,
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds,
The Coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee, and be thy love.


This seems a response to Christopher Marlow’s poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” in a witty manner. The first poem is an invitation to a lady to sit beside the shepherd and be his mistress but this is the response of the nymph that she gives to the shepherd. It was also written in 1599. The objection of the nymph in her response lies in that everything that the shepherd is proposing is temporary and would lose importance as well as beauty. Therefore, she does not find anything that could move her to be his mistress forever. This passionate response has made this poem one of the best love poems on the list.

Poem # 8

Song: Go and catch a falling star by John Donne

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be’st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true, and fair.

If thou find’st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet;
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

This is poem is not a typical love poem. It was written in 1633 by John Donne, after his death. It shows the intense expression of the love of the poet for his beloved. The phrases such as a falling star, mandrake’s root, mermaid’s singing, and the counting of time show that the love for the woman who is true and fair has found appropriate expression in this poem. The poem is of the view that if such a woman lives in this world, it is fair to see her as a divine edict. This approach of the poet that the transience of woman’s beauty is proverbial shows that the poem has been ranked as one of the best love poems.

Poem #9

It Was A Lover And His Lass by William Shakespeare

It was a lover and his lass
With a hey and a ho, and a hey-nonino!
That o’er the green corn-field did pass
In the spring-time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing hey ding a ding:
Sweet lovers love the Spring.

Between the acres of the rye
These pretty country folks would lie:
This carol they began that hour,
How that life was but a flower:

And therefore take the present time
With a hey and a ho, and a hey-nonino!
For love is crowned with the prime,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing hey ding a ding:
Sweet lovers love the Spring.

This poem is actually a song from As You Like It and is considered one of the best love poems by William Shakespeare. He takes about the love during the spring season and compares their emotions that match with the blooming trees, flowers, and nature during the season. Thus expressing that young love is new, idyllic, and green just like the spring season.

Poem #10

The Good-Morrow by John Donne

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

This poem was written around 1633 by one of the best romantic poets, John Donne. The poet expresses is in awe and drowning in love when he wakes up beside his lover. He tries to recollect what they did before they were together. Thus trying to recall his hazy past that he had forgotten after finding true love. The poet as usual does not give importance to physical and sensual love but compares their love with purity and everlasting, which is also spiritual love. Such love, according to the poet, frees them from selfishness and death, making them inseparable.