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35 Sweet Love Poems for the Man in Your Life

Want to tell your guy just how much he means to you? Recite one of these love poems for him, and Cupid's arrow will surely hit the mark.

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Moving love poems for him

Love is an enormous emotion, so sometimes a tiny “I love you” doesn’t express the immensity of your feelings. But the beauty of poetry is that it can speak for us when we can’t find the words. Whether you want to rekindle an old flame, express appreciation for a longtime companion, let your boyfriend or husband know you miss him or patch things up after an argument, you can find love poems for him from across the centuries and continents.

These love poems touch on the range of emotions and situations we can find ourselves in when we’re in love. And while they are love poems for him, they express universal themes and are still perfect for people who identify as female or nonbinary. That said, poetry books are full of love poems of all kinds, including love poems for her. If you need something more lighthearted, try one of these funny poems or limerick examples—they’re guaranteed to get a chuckle. And if you’re hunting for a poem appropriate for a more serious occasion, read these touching funeral poems.

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1. “How do I love thee? (Sonnet 43)” by 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.

“How do I love thee” might be the most beautiful love poem ever written, and with good reason—the story behind it is the stuff of romance novels and romantic movies. The author, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, wrote it as part of Sonnets from the Portuguese, a series of sonnets she wrote about her future husband, Robert Browning, during their courtship, of which her father didn’t approve. Luckily, the pair were able to marry. After three years of wedded bliss, Barrett Browning finally showed her husband the poems he had inspired, and he was amazed and insisted that she publish them. The rest is history.

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2. “A Brief Love Poem” by Nizar Qabbani

My darling, I have much to say
Where o precious one shall I begin?
All that is in you is princely
O you who makes of my words through their meaning
Cocoons of silk
These are my songs and this is me
This short book contains us
Tomorrow when I return its pages
A lamp will lament
A bed will sing
Its letters from longing will turn green
Its commas be on the verge of flight
Do not say: why did this youth
Speak of me to the winding road and the stream
The almond tree and the tulip
So that the world escorts me wherever I go?
Why did he sing these songs?
Now there is no star
That is not perfumed with my fragrance
Tomorrow people will see me in his verse
A mouth the taste of wine, close-cropped hair
Ignore what people say
You will be great only through my great love
What would the world have been if we had not been
If your eyes had not been, what would the world have been?

Not exactly sure how to express love for the man in your life? Craft a love poem for him that acknowledges your inability to convey what he means to you. Or just send him this inspirational poem from celebrated Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani.

Qabbani broke barriers by writing about both heterosexual and queer love, and he uses this questioning device to begin a love poem addressed by a masculine speaker to a “princely” beloved. The poem starts with the beloved inspiring these verses, then expands to acknowledge how the poem itself will share the beloved’s beauty, and the poet’s love, with the entire world—including readers like us.

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3. “Sonnet” by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

I had not thought of violets late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
And garish lights, and mincing little fops
And cabarets and soaps, and deadening wines.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields; and clear brown streams;
The perfect loveliness that God has made,—
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.
And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream
Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.

Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson’s sonnet evokes that phenomenon that occurs when we meet someone new and life just seems to shine a little brighter. The poem is a small example of the poems, essays, diaries and short stories that Dunbar-Nelson, born in New Orleans to parents of mixed white, Black and indigenous heritage, produced during the career she carved out for herself in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Once you’ve sent this poem off to your one true love, read more work by Black poets.

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4. “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved 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.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought 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 persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Anne Bradstreet wrote this poem in the 17th century, but it certainly contains one of the most romantic and timeless happy anniversary messages that a wife can send to her husband: He’s simply the best.

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5. “I Love You” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I love your lips when they’re wet with wine
And red with a wild desire;
I love your eyes when the lovelight lies
Lit with a passionate fire.
I love your arms when the warm white flesh
Touches mine in a fond embrace;
I love your hair when the strands enmesh
Your kisses against my face.

Not for me the cold, calm kiss
Of a virgin’s bloodless love;
Not for me the saint’s white bliss,
Nor the heart of a spotless dove.
But give me the love that so freely gives
And laughs at the whole world’s blame,
With your body so young and warm in my arms,
It sets my poor heart aflame.

So kiss me sweet with your warm wet mouth,
Still fragrant with ruby wine,
And say with a fervor born of the South
That your body and soul are mine.
Clasp me close in your warm young arms,
While the pale stars shine above,
And we’ll live our whole young lives away
In the joys of a living love.

Poems for kids can be fun, but if you’re looking for something steamier, Ella Wheeler Wilcox has the answer. In this 19th-century poem, the speaker frankly states that they are not interested in prudishness or purity: it’s all about the wine and warm embraces. And the title gets straight to the point.

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6. “Forget Me Not” by Ann Plato

When in the morning’s misty hour,
When the sun beams gently o’er each flower;
When thou dost cease to smile benign,
And think each heart responds with thine,
When seeking rest among divine,
Forget me not.

When the last rays of twilight fall,
And thou art pacing yonder hall;
When mists are gathering on the hill,
Nor sound is heard save mountain rill,
When all around bids peace be still,
Forget me not.


“Should sorrow cloud thy coming years,
And bathe thy happiness in tears,
Remember, though we’re doom’d to part,
There lives one fond and faithful heart,
That will forget thee not.”

This poem contains several more stanzas, each telling the poet’s beloved to remember her no matter what their circumstance or mood. A sweet poem for someone who is far away, it appears in a collection published by Ann Plato in 1841, when she was just 20 years old. As if that weren’t impressive enough, the collection became the second book of poetry published by a Black woman in the United States. For more from an impressive young poet, read these Amanda Gorman poems.

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7. “Green” by Paul Verlaine

Here are the fruits, the flowers, the leaves, the wands,
Here my heart that beats only for your sighs.
Shatter them not with your snow-white hands,
Let my poor gifts be pleasing to your eyes.

I come to you, still covered with dew, you see,
Dew that the dawn wind froze here on my face.
Let my weariness lie down at your feet,
And dream of the dear moments that shed grace.

Let my head loll here on your young breast
Still ringing with your last kisses blessed,
Allow this departure of the great tempest,
And let me sleep now, a little, while you rest.

While this poem speaks of rest and repose, 19th-century French poet Paul Verlaine’s love life was anything but peaceful. In his late 20s, while married, he began an affair with another poet, Arthur Rimbaud, who was in his late teens. They eventually ran away together and spent three years traveling Europe. The affair didn’t last—both used drugs, and Verlaine was sent to prison for shooting Rimbaud in the wrist—but the poems they both wrote certainly have. For more ways to express your adoration for the man in your life, check out these love quotes.

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8. “The Song of the Highest Tower” by Arthur Rimbaud

Let it come, let it come
The day when hearts love as one.

I’ve been patient so long
I’ve forgotten even
The terror and suffering
Flown up to heaven,
A sick thirst again
Darkens my veins.

Let it come, let it come
The day when hearts love as one.

So the meadow
Freed by neglect,
Flowered, overgrown
With weeds and incense,
To the buzz nearby
Of foul flies.

Let it come, let it come
The day when hearts love as one.

The longing in these verses is palpable; maybe Arthur Rimbaud was hoping for a little harmony in his relationship with Paul Verlaine. Whatever the true story may be, it certainly expresses that feeling after a difficult stretch in a relationship when you’re hoping to finally see the light. For something totally different, browse these funny limericks.

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9. “Love and Friendship” by Emily Brontë

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree—
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most constantly?

The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who will call the wild-briar fair?

Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He still may leave thy garland green.

Is the most important man in your life just a friend? This poem uses the imagery of plants and weather to convey a sentiment that often rings true: A new romance may be more fun, but deep friendships last more than a season. While you’re at it, share these friendship quotes with him too.

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10. “I Am Not Yours” by Sara Teasdale

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love—put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind

Sara Teasdale was born in 1884 and published seven books of poetry. If you’re new to her work, “I Am Not Yours” is a good place to start. In it, she takes a first line that seems to speak of rejection and beautifully twists it into a declaration that she desires a love that’s even deeper.

As you look for ways to express your adoration, browse these love songs. After all, poetry and music go hand in hand.

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11. “If Thou Shouldst Return” by Clara Ann Thompson

If thou shouldst return with the sweet words of love,
So earnestly spoken that day,
Methinks that thy words, this sad heart would move,
For my pride has melted away;
And I’ve learned how true was the heart that I spurned,
And I’ve longed for the face that never returned.

If thou shouldst return to claim me thy bride,
How gladly thy fate would I share;
How gladly I’d spend my whole life at thy side,
How honored I’d feel to be there;
Oh, I’ve learned to revere the heart that I spurned!
And I long for the face that never returned.

If thou shouldst return, ah, vain is the dream!
I’ll cherish the fancy no more;
Though dark and forsaken my pathway may seem,
I’ll press bravely on as before;
And trust in the One who forgives our mistakes,
And heals the deep wounds that our waywardness makes.

That guy you turned down years ago and then kept thinking about forever afterward? This is the poem for him. (Well, you may not be ready to propose marriage yet.) These heartfelt verses come from the pen of Clara Ann Thompson, a Black woman who was born in Ohio in 1869 to parents who had been enslaved. She had a vibrant career as a writer, speaker and social worker but, as the poem suggests, never married.

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12. “Knight of My Maiden Love” by Priscilla Jane Thompson

Knight of my maiden love,
Stalwart and manly—
Ever my yearning heart searcheth for thee;
Searcheth the busy crowd;
Hearken its babble loud;
Yearning in secret, thy dear face to see.

Knight of my maiden love,
Stalwart and manly—
Tender thy words were, and tender thy mien;
Deep in my loving heart,
Thee, hath I set apart—
Prince of my fancy, and lord of my dream;

Knight of my maiden love, Stalwart and manly—
Calm and composed in thy presence I seem;

This is my sex decree—
Maidens must modest be;
And manly courage hath made thee my dream.

Knight of my maiden love,
Stalwart and manly—
‘Tis not thy noble form, I love the best;
Nay, ’tis thy tenderness,
Tempered with manliness,
Forming a noble heart,
deep in thy breast.

If you’re still thinking about that guy you had a crush on in high school—and if he doesn’t mind a little wordplay about knights and maidens—this poem shows that you’re still thinking about him and wished you hadn’t been quite so “modest” at the time. Priscilla Jane Thompson was Clara Ann Thompson’s sister; apparently good poetry ran in the family.

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13. “One Perfect Rose” by Dorothy Parker

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet—
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
“My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

This poem’s hilarious spin on the cliched motif of the rose is perfect for someone who has a sense of humor. But really, who wouldn’t rather be sent a limousine than a simple flower? For other clever takes on the rose motif, take a look at these funny roses-are-red poems.

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14. “Wild Nights—Wild Nights! (249)” by Emily Dickinson

Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a Heart in port –
Done with the Compass –
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight –
In thee!

Though “Wild Nights” makes no mention of gender, Emily Dickinson may have written these lines for Susan Gilbert, a lifelong friend and probably the object of her romantic affection. Gilbert married Dickinson’s brother so that the two could live near each other, and the poem evokes the mix of passion and longing that Dickinson probably felt for her friend.

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15. “[Oh, come to me in dreams, my love!]” by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Oh, come to me in dreams, my love!
I will not ask a dearer bliss;
Come with the starry beams, my love,
And press mine eyelids with thy kiss.

‘Twas thus, as ancient fables tell,
Love visited a Grecian maid,
Till she disturbed the sacred spell,
And woke to find her hopes betrayed.

But gentle sleep shall veil my sight,
And Psyche’s lamp shall darkling be,
When, in the visions of the night,
Thou dost renew thy vows to me.

Then come to me in dreams, my love,
I will not ask a dearer bliss;
Come with the starry beams, my love,
And press mine eyelids with thy kiss.

Mary Shelley is famous for having written one of the greatest horror novels of all time—Frankensteinwhen she was only 18, ensuring her a lasting place in popular culture. But her love life was also pretty electric. She eloped to Italy with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was 16 and he was still a married man. Whether or not you find that romantic, you can’t deny Shelley knew her romance, as this love poem for him attests.

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16. “I long for him most” by Ono No Komachi

I long for him most
during these long moonless nights.
I lie awake, hot,
the growing fires of passion
bursting in my heart.

Ono No Komachi may have written these lines in the ninth century, but they’re still just as hot today. The Japanese poet was famous in her own era and the subject of many legends that claimed she had a reputation for being very difficult to please.

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17. “Marriage” by William Carlos Williams

So different, this man
And this woman:
A stream flowing
In a field.

This 1916 poem beautifully evokes, with William Carlos Williams’s signature brevity, the transformation that occurs when two people come together in marriage. It also envisions marriage as a permanent joining: the stream doesn’t flow through the field but into it. It’s as if the poet is saying the whole is really more than the sum of the parts.

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18. “Songs to Joannes, XIII” by Mina Loy

Come to me There is something
I have got to tell you and I can’t tell
Something taking shape
Something that has a new name
A new dimension
A new use
A new illusion

It is ambient And it is in your eyes
Something shiny Something only for you
Something that I must not see

It is in my ears Something very resonant
Something that you must not hear
Something only for me

Let us be very jealous
Very suspicious
Very conservative
Very cruel
Or we might make an end of the jostling of aspirations
Disorb inviolate egos

Where two or three are welded together
They shall become god

— — — — — — —

Oh that’s right
Keep away from me Please give me a push
Don’t let me understand you Don’t realise me
Or we might tumble together
Into the terrific Nirvana
Me you — you — me

This excerpt is but one of the many sections of a long poem Mina Loy wrote between 1915 and 1917. She addressed it to “Joannes,” a code name for her former lover, the Italian futurist writer Giovanni Papini. While the poem goes on for several pages, it’s no competition for the longest love poetry: “Marina,” written in 1846 by Slovakian writer Andrej Sládkovič, has 2,900 verses.

In “Songs to Joannes,” Loy expresses the frustration that one feels when two people are so close and yet are still disconnected, but she brilliantly invites her lover to let the ego dissolve and enjoy the bliss of true understanding. For more wisdom on what makes a relationship work, take a look at these relationship quotes.

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19. “Electricity” by Lola Ridge

Out of fiery contacts …
Rushing auras of steel
Touching and whirled apart …
Out of the charged phallases
Of iron leaping
Female and male,
Complete, indivisible, one,
Fused into light.

Writing in 1920, the adventurous, independent poet Lola Ridge harnessed the awe and power of the technology of the booming industrial age to create a new metaphor for the union between two people. And that’s the beauty of poetry: What at first glance may seem cold with references of steel and iron is transformed upon closer reading into a highly sensual poem.

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20. “[Lo, Love once more, the limb-dissolving King]” by Sappho

Lo, Love once more, the limb-dissolving King,
The bitter-sweet impracticable thing,
Wild-beast-like rends me with fierce quivering.

Born around 620 BC, Sappho wrote poems whose visceral immediacy has made them withstand the test of time. While scholars over the ages have tried to hide it, this female poet wrote love poems expressing her passion for women. Nicknamed the “Tenth Muse” (by Plato, no less!), Sappho is one of the most enduring poets, and books of her poetry are still studied and enjoyed today—in fact, she made our list of favorite LGBTQ+ books. But while she wrote for women, her evocations of passion are profound, arresting and expressive of the love felt for and by people of any gender. So next time you’re crafting a love message for your guy, include one of Sappho’s love poems for him as well.

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21. “Mariposa” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Butterflies are white and blue
In this field we wander through.
Suffer me to take your hand.
Death comes in a day or two.

All the things we ever knew
Will be ashes in that hour,
Mark the transient butterfly,
How he hangs upon the flower.

Suffer me to take your hand.
Suffer me to cherish you
Till the dawn is in the sky.
Whether I be false or true,
Death comes in a day or two.

If you feel like the man you’re crushing on is dragging his feet to make a move, you might conjure Edna St. Vincent Millay to remind him of the fleetingness of life. That’s exactly what she does in this poem, originally published in 1921 in Second April. Like the short-lived butterfly, she seems to be saying to her would-be beau, we won’t live forever, so make your move.

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22. “Anticipation” by Amy Lowell

I have been temperate always,
But I am like to be very drunk
With your coming.
There have been times
I feared to walk down the street,
Lest I should reel with the wine of you,
And jerk against my neighbors
As they go by.
I am parched now, and my tongue is horrible in my mouth,
But my brain is noisy
With the clash and gurgle of filling wine-cups.

To say I like you in a poetic way, you can use any image on hand, even the mundane metaphor of wine, as Amy Lowell does in “Anticipation.” Although the poem doesn’t state the gender of the beloved, scholars guess Lowell wrote about her secretary, Ada Dwyer Russell, who she began to live with when she was well into her 30s. The earthiness of the metaphor makes the sentiment all the more poignant.

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23. “Meeting on the Path” by Murasaki Shikibu

Meeting on the path:
But I cannot clearly know
If it was he,
Because the midnight moon
In a cloud had disappeared.

Not only was she the first novelist in the history of humankind, but Murasaki Shikibu, born in about 975 A.D. in Japan, also knew how to write one hell of a “Missed Connections” blurb. In “Meeting on the Path,” she laments over the dark of a night that hid the identity of a man she met one fateful night. If your meet-cute with your guy happened in a similar way, this is one of the most perfect love poems for him. But it’s also a great prompt for a love letter: Write about how you’re lucky to have caught his name (and digits!) when you met so you wouldn’t be lost to each other forever.

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24. “Love peruse me, seeke, and finde” by Lady Mary Wroth

Love peruse me, seeke, and finde
How each corner of my minde
Is a twine
Woven to shine.
Not a Webb ill made, foule fram’d,
Bastard not by Father nam’d,
Such in me
Cannot bee.
Deare behold me, you shall see
Faith the Hive, and love the Bee,
Which doe bring.
Gaine and sting.
Pray desect me, sinewes, vaines,
Hold, and loves life in those gaines;
Lying bare
To despaire,
When you thus anotamise
All my body, my heart prise;
Being true
Just to you.
Close the Truncke, embalme the Chest,
Where your power still shall rest,
Joy entombe,
Loves just doome.

If your partner is more of a Renaissance-fair type of guy with a macabre sense of humor, this poem by Lady Mary Wroth, born in 1587 in England, might be the right choice. The speaker invites her beloved to not only undress her but also dissect her to determine that her heart is, indeed, pure before burying her in the joy of love.

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25. “[I loved you first]” by Christina Rossetti

I loved you first: but afterwards your love
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? my love was long,
And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I loved and guessed at you, you construed me
And loved me for what might or might not be –
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’
With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.

If you’ve ever jokingly argued with your partner about who made the first move or who loves the other more, Christina Rossetti’s poem provides a romantic answer. Because love unites two people, it’s impossible to compete. Each person’s feelings are not separate but rather a shared phenomenon. Each person’s love also belongs, by definition, to the other.

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26. “I Want to Die While You Love Me” by Georgia Douglas Johnson

I want to die while you love me,
While yet you hold me fair,
While laughter lies upon my lips
And lights are in my hair.

I want to die while you love me,
And bear to that still bed,
Your kisses turbulent, unspent
To warm me when I’m dead.

I want to die while you love me
Oh, who would care to live
Till love has nothing more to ask
And nothing more to give?

I want to die while you love me
And never, never see
The glory of this perfect day
Grow dim or cease to be!

If your beau appreciates dramatic declarations of love, this poem has the ultimate one. Considered the leading female poet of the Harlem Renaissance (despite living in Washington, D.C.), Georgia Douglas Johnson published four collections of poetry, wrote several plays and even studied music. In fact, this poem was released in about 1919 as a song with sheet music.

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27. “All Paths Lead to You” by Blanche Shoemaker Wagstaff

All paths lead to you
Where e’er I stray,
you are the evening star
At the end of the day.

All paths lead to you
Hill-top or low,
you are the white birch
In the sun’s glow.

All paths lead to you
Where e’er I roam
You are the lark-song
Calling me home!

This one is sweet and simple but contains one of the most beautiful love messages you can send someone: You’re home to me. It works just as well as a love poem for him as it does a piece of platonic love poetry; it’s an especially lovely Mother’s Day poem for the woman who raised you and built you a home.

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28. “Marriage” by Mary Weston Fordham

The die is cast, come weal, come woe,
Two lives are joined together,
For better or for worse, the link
Which naught but death can sever.
The die is cast, come grief, come joy,
Come richer, or come poorer,
If love but binds the mystic tie,
Blest is the bridal hour.

Mary Weston Fordham’s “Marriage” is frank in its assessment of married life: It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but if there’s love, it will be a blessing. Although not much is known about the poet, what we do know is impressive. Fordham was born in the United States in 1843 as a free Black woman, ran a school during the Civil War and taught in South Carolina during the Reconstruction afterward.

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29. “A Decade” by Amy Lowell

When you came, you were like red wine and honey,
And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.
Now you are like morning bread,
Smooth and pleasant.
I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour,
But I am completely nourished.

Infatuation is sweet like honey and as intoxicating as wine, and as Amy Lowell writes in “A Decade,” it’s a wonderful feeling. But as the speaker here notes, it eventually fades. That’s not a bad thing. Steady love—the sort where you know one another’s ins and outs—is just as nourishing. This short-and-sweet poem makes for a wonderful inclusion in a “thinking of you” message for a man you’ve known and loved for a long time.

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30. “The Parting Kiss” by Josephine Delphine Henderson Heard

We were waiting at the station,
Soon the cars would surely start,
Hearts beat high with love’s emotion,
For we knew we soon must part.
On dark lashes seemed to glisten
Tiny crystal tear drops shine;
To the fond voice glad I listed,
While dear eyes look into mine.

And the last words quickly spoken,
Darling still to me be true,
Let your promise be unbroken,
For I will be true to you.

Once I felt the soft hand tremble,
And my heart throbbed with its bliss;
Lips that rose-buds did resemble,
Met in one last loving kiss.

Sweet good-bye, do not forget me,
Spoken in the softest tone,
In your mem’ry, precious keep me,
For my love is all your own.
I will ever be brave-hearted—
Nothing shall your love efface;
One last kiss and then we parted,
One last loving, long embrace.

If you’re pining for a long-distance lover, “The Parting Kiss” will let him know. It comes from Josephine Delphine Henderson Heard’s 1890 book Morning Glories. Born in 1821 to enslaved Black parents, Heard went on to be a teacher as well as a poet after her emancipation.

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31. “A Love-Letter” by Mary Eliza Perine Tucker

You wished for a love-letter, Doctor—but then,
I know you to be most conceited of men;
You’ll think I’m in earnest, I vow now I ain’t,
For I would not deign to love even a saint.

You must never believe what the fair ladies say:
Take their nay for a yes, and their yes for a nay.
Like doctors, the darlings are very deceiving,
And most that they say is not half worth believing.

But now for my letter. How shall I begin?
If I say, my dear Doctor, that will be a sin!
And a love-letter without dear, darling, or dove,
Would be as insipid as one without love.

Love, glorious love, with its grand mystic art,
Sways each mortal mind, and scathes each human heart;
Without care or regret it inflicts pain or joy,
Tossing high the frail heart that becomes its day’s toy.

It drinks up the life-sap, becomes life itself,
Regardless of true love, of beauty of pelf—
An object most “homely” in love’s eye I ween—
Will seem like an angel, as bright as a queen.

It glosses its object, like man’s serpent tongue—
Makes even the aged appear as if young;
Waving locks to love’s eye, e’en if sprinkled with gray,
Does not lessen, but strengthens its powerful sway.

Love, bright, joyous love, heals each sad, breaking heart,
But breaks it again when it strives to depart:
For the void, when once pulled by love, never again
A vision can fill it, save only great pain.

The blessing of blessings, the greatest of woes,
Will leave its bright signet wherever it goes:
Then seek love and find it, whenever you can—
My counsel is needless, for you are a—man.

Now, Doctor, I’m sure that this letter you’ll find
Is suited exactly to your turn of mind;
I’ve sent what I promised—a true loving letter,—
And if it don’t suit you, why, just write a better!

Not much is known about this 19th-century American poet and journalist, but her sense of humor and sharp mind (what a dissection of love!) comes through clearly in this poem. It’s the perfect playful, yet serious, response to someone who is trying to get your attention. And if there’s a certain someone in your life constantly begging for a love poem? Send him Mary Eliza Perine Tucker’s hilariously sarcastic response.

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32. “Soul Incense” by Henrietta Cordelia Ray

As round the rose’s heart the golden threads
Of summer sunshine gently wind themselves,
And deeper, richer grows the native tinge,
More beauteous in its kindling loveliness,
So round the human heart unconsciously
The tendrils gold of love entwine themselves,
And make it sweeter, richer, holier far
Than ’twas before;
and as on deep’ning blooms
The gaze of man delights to rest awhile,
So on the heart lit by love’s radiant glow,
The angels look with glance serene and pure.

This excerpt of Henrietta Cordelia Ray’s “Soul Incense” (the full version is also worth a read) celebrates the power of love to bring out the best in us. A Black American poet and activist who came to prominence in the late 19th century, she’s best known for her poem “Lincoln,” which was read to celebrate the completion of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1876.

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33. “For myself alone, I would not be” by Louisa May Alcott

For myself alone,
I would not be ambitious in my wish,
To wish myself much better; yet for you,
I would be trebled twenty times myself;
A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich;
That, only to stand high in your account,

If you’re more about understatement, short poems like this one from Louisa May Alcott, the celebrated author of Little Women, can pack a punch without getting too sentimental. It appears in a lesser-known classic novel by the author titled Work: A Story of Experience. As this excerpt shows, it says a lot if you’d like to be 20 times better as a person, not for yourself but for the one you love.

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34. “[Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand] Sonnet VI” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore—
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

Any of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese could make it onto this list, but “Sonnet VI” is especially moving if you, like Barrett Browning, are feeling a bit love-struck. If you know that you’ll never be the same again now that you’ve met your guy, this is the perfect way to say so.

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35. “for my someone out there somewhere” by Whitney Hanson

sometimes when i look at the moon
i like to imagine
you are looking too
our gaze is a bridge
from us to the sky
and there’s an invisible line
that connects you and i
and even if i’m miles from you
after sunset
can we meet on the moon?

Long-distance love is notoriously tough, but as up-and-coming poet Whitney Hanson illustrates in this poem from her book Home, it helps to remember you’re laying under the same sky. You may not be able to reach out and grip each other’s hands, but you can lay in the warm grass and stare at the moon and know you’re seeing exactly what your partner sees.

From Home by Whitney Hanson, published by Penguin Life, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023 by Whitney Hanson.

Lauren Schenkman
Lauren Schenkman is a fiction writer and journalist covering culture, literature, travel and science for Reader's Digest and others. She has an MFA in creative writing from Cornell University and undergraduate degrees in literature and physics from the University of Southern California. Read more of her work at laurenschenkman.com.