Love is an abstract emotion and has been known to rule the universe of man since time immemorial. Stories, epics, and dramas’ core theme has been love in most works of fiction and non-fiction, and most prominently in poetries. Love Poems or Contemporary Love poems are as intense as ever. Poets have written fine words in the honor of love and lovers. Some of the best poems written in praise or love, for love, or about love are as follows.
This sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, written around two centuries back, is still considered the greatest English love poem. It is included here due to its being honest, rhetorical, and literary. The poem opens with a rhetorical question, presenting the intense passion of the love of the poet and its outreach to the soul of the poet with the purpose to find love. The use of parallelism and the reality of love have been juxtaposed side by side in a way that several anaphoric phrases of “I love thee…” transform the poem into praise of love. Some of the memorable verses of the sonnet are as follows.
- How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.
- My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight.
- I shall but love thee better after death.
This short poem with just three stanzas was written by Lord Byron and published in 1814. He is known as a great Romantic poet, and the poem seems an epitome of the expression of love. However, the very mention of the gendered-specific phrases makes it unique. The poet presents his beloved as if she is wrapped in beauty, saying that she is the paragon of all best seasons, weathers, objects, and everything that heaven denies to other things. The presentation of the whole physical persona of the beloved and the argument that everything beautiful emerges out of it shows the poet’s command over the subject, theme, and poetic skill. Some of the best verses of the poem are as follows.
- She Walks in Beauty, like the night.
- How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
- A heart whose love is innocent.
Air and Angels by John Donne
This poem by a great metaphysical poet, John Donne, is one of the greatest love poems. Although it was published way back four and half centuries, its freshness, its expression, and its innocence still rule the world of poetry, the reason that it is still considered an important poetic example for curriculums across the globe. The poet dexterously points out to his beloved that he has loved her counting numbers and even he has failed to sense the heavenly bodies where she has been present. In fact, he argues that she is love incarnate, adding that love is present in everything but between heavenly love and love for other things, the main thing is the love of a man for a woman. Some literary devices such as metaphors, parallels, and a few poetic devices have made this poem memorable. Some of the best verses from this poem are as follows.
- Twice or thrice had I lov’d thee.
- Some lovely glorious nothing I did see.
- Is much too much, some fitter must be sought.
- ‘Twixt women’s love, and men’s, will ever be.
This poem by the Irish poetic icon, William Butler Yeats, published in 1893, is one of the best love poems to make it on the list. In fact, this poem seems to be about old age and yet the mention of Love with initial capital seems to drive the whole poem toward it. The beauty of being the greatest love poem lies in the simplicity, sincerity in the expression of ideas, and above all the onslaught of memory. However, amidst this old age, the spark of love continues flickering, making a person realizes the significance of love in life. You-centric approach of the poet and amalgamation of thematic strands of old age in love has transformed this simple poem into a forceful voice. Some memorable verses from the poem are as follows.
- When You Are Old and grey and full of sleep.
- How many loved your moments of glad race.
- But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you / And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
Song: To Celia by Ben Jonson
This poem first published even before Shakespeare back in 1616 has impressed generations for centuries for its simplicity, precision, and directness. Comprising two stanzas, the poem talks about loving, involving the poet with his beloved advising her to drink to him and he to her – that means to love each other. This, he adds, seems “a drink divine” but he would not change in case there is nectar from Jove. The second stanza presents the description of his presentation of a gift and its return from the beloved. Some of the memorable verses from the poem are as follows.
- Drink to me only with thine eyes.
- Or leave a kiss but in the cup.
- Since when it grows, and smells, I swear, / Not of itself, but thee.
I Think I Should Have Loved You Presently by Edna St. Vincent Millay
This sonnet, published in 1922, is also considered one of the best love poems, thus included in the list. The sonnet is also called Sonnet IV. The poet presents himself as a jester and a wicked person who has won his beloved but now he is advising her that he will shear himself of his pranks and wicked ways to present his true self before her. The presentation of himself in half of the sonnet makes the poet as if he is dreaming and imploring his beloved to act likewise. However, the last line shows his sincerity adding that nobody would have shown such an intense love within a day or two. Some of the memorable lines are as follows.
- I think I shold have loved you presently.
- That won you to me, and bneath your gaze.
- Who would have loved you in a day or two.
Life in a Love by Robert Browning
This short love poem was first published in 1855 and made it here among the best English love poems on account of the presentation of love through confused and bewildered thoughts. The poet rhetorically asks whether she could ask him after showing loathsome intentions toward him. Although he stays baffled and points it out to her, his beloved does not budge from this stand. Despite this persistence from his beloved that she would not accept him as his lover and continue running away from him, he vows to chase her. The linebreaks, the use of beautiful comparison, and parallelism have added to the beauty of this poem. Some popular verses from the poem are as follows.
- While I am I, and you are you.
- My life is at a fault at last, I fear.
- Then a new one, straight to the self-same mark.
I Wish I Could Remember That First Day by Christina Rossetti
This beautiful sonnet by Christina Rossett was first published in 1881. The poem is specially included among the list of the best love poems for its simplicity and terseness. The poem opens with the desire of the poet to prod his memory to dig out for the moment when he first met her. Then his lamentation in a direct way shows that he still loves his beloved in the same way as on the first day. He is still smitten by that day so much that he calls it “a day of days” implying that it would be great for him if he could only recall that touch of his beloved. Th use of anaphoric lines and a perfect rhyme scheme has made it a memorable poem. Some of the best verses of this sonnet are as follows.
- I wish I could remember that first day.
- So blined was I to see and to foresee.
- If only now I could recall that touch.
Despite being proverbial in some stanzas, this short poem with four stanzas is declared one of the best love poems from Scotland. Using a beautiful simile that has become universal, Burns has equated his love to the most beautiful things on this earth. The interesting thing is that he has equated this abstract emotion with the physical presence of his love. Then using different metaphors, Burns vows that his love would continue. This forceful expression has brought this poem to the top among love poems. Some of its memorable verses are as follows.
- O my Luve is like a red, red, rose.
- So fair art thoug, my bonnie lass.
- And fare thee weel, my only luve!
Before You Came by Faiz Ahmad Faiz
This poem has won laurels for its beauty, expression, and above all presentation of love couched in the wording used for drinkers. This unique poem was translated from Urdu directly into English. Faiza, a celebrated Urdu poet, has used beautiful phrases, similes, and connotations to express his extreme love for his beloved. The association of love with the wine that is common in Urdu poetry is presented here by Faiz with his perfect skills. Some of the best verses of this poem are as follows.
- Before you came things were just what they were.
- With your advent roses burst into flame.
- The sky noting but sky / The glass of win, as it should be, the glass of wine.