20 Love Poems for Every Mood
Fumbling for words of love? Let the great poets speak your heart on all occasions.
What kind of love are you in the mood for?
From romance to friendship and everything in between, there are many types of love in the world. And for each of them, there’s a love poem out there that eloquently captures their essence. While there are innumerable books and movies about love, poets have a way of conveying what can’t be communicated through prose or candid speech. Somehow, their verses reflect exactly what you’re feeling.
For proof, see our list of love poems for every mood and occasion. Whether you’re in love, looking for love, or have some complicated feelings about this complicated emotion, we’ve got the perfect one for you. Want to show that special someone how you feel? Share these beautiful words from the people who said it best, or try these romantic ideas to say, “I love you.”
I wish I could remember that first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or Winter for aught I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May.
If only I could recollect it, such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much;
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand – Did one but know!
—”I Wish I Could Remember That First Day,” Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)
When you’re thinking back to that very first moment between the two of you, you may turn to Christina Rossetti’s words of longing in “I Wish I Could Remember That First Day.” If only you knew how big of an impact that tiny moment would make—and if only you could have held onto every memory from it. In the 19th century, Rossetti found her voice as the youngest of a family of Italian-English scholars. Surrounded by her accomplished parents and siblings, she rose to fame as one of the Victorian era’s greatest poets.
After all, there’s no need
to say anything
at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares
like a tulip on a wedgewood plate
Anything can happen.
Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs
and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart
is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!
Quiet’s cool flesh—
let’s sniff and eat it.
There are ways
to make of the moment
so the pleasure’s in
—”Flirtation,” Rita Dove (b.1952)
Capturing those brief moments that hold a whole world of feeling, “Flirtation” by Rita Dove is the love poem to turn to when you sense those sparks flying. The poet was raised in Ohio by her trailblazing African American chemist parents and went on to publish multiple works in her distinctive style, which blends historical narrative with a personal touch. Her book Thomas and Beulah won a Pulitzer Prize in 1987. These stories of first loves will touch your heart.
on the train, I thought
we were attacked
hatching from the lagoon.
That first day
the buoys were all
that made the harbor
pennies sewn into a hemline.
Later I learned to live in it,
through the alien city—
a beekeeper’s habit—
with fierce light
clinging to my head and hands.
Treated as gently as every
each house’s barbed antennae
trawling for any kind
still I sobbed in a glass box
on an unswept street
with the last
few lire ticking like fleas
off my phonecard I’m sorry
stand this, which
one of us do you love?
—”Venice, Unaccompanied,” Monica Youn (b.1971)
If you’re dreaming of faraway places and alluring adventures, then this poem by Monica Youn, which combines a sense of wanderlust with bittersweet longing, is for you.
More than friends
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.
—”Love and Friendship,” Emily Brontë (1818–1848)
This poem by Emily Brontë captures those often-confusing, in-between feelings of friendship and love. Wondering whether to take a friendship to the next level? Get a sense of the other person’s feelings by deciphering their body language. This research on how a person’s gaze can reveal their affections will help.
I loved you, and I probably still do,
And for a while the feeling may remain…
But let my love no longer trouble you,
I do not wish to cause you any pain.
I loved you; and the hopelessness I knew,
The jealousy, the shyness—though in vain—
Made up a love so tender and so true
As may God grant you to be loved again.
—”I Loved You,” Alexander Sergeyevich Puskin (1799–1837)
Published in 1830, this Russian poem expresses both respect and devotion toward a former love. Pushkin, who is often regarded as Russia’s greatest poet, wrote in an autobiographical style that captured the rather tumultuous episodes of his love life. His seminal work, Eugene Onegin, even foreshadowed his own death in a duel against an admirer of his wife, Natalia. Find out how these real couples knew they’d found “the one.”
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
—”Love After Love,” Derek Walcott (1930–2017)
How do we reach a state of elation? For some, that sense of true happiness comes from a loving relationship, and for others, like Caribbean poet Derek Walcott, it comes from a place of self-satisfaction and understanding. Sometimes the happiest times are born from our acceptance of ourselves as we are.
may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she
(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she
(let’s go said he
not too far said she
what’s too far said he
where you are said she)
may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she
may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you’re willing said he
(but you’re killing said she
but it’s life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she
(tiptop said he
don’t stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she
ummm said she)
you’re divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)
—”may i feel said he,” E. E. Cummings (1894–1962)
Seductive, straightforward, and playful, this to-and-fro between a man and a woman as they engage in an affair captures the complications that come with sexual relationships in its deceptively simple prose. FYI, here’s how to tell if you’re in love…or just lust.
I want to be your love for ever and ever,
Without break or decay.
When the hills are all flat,
The rivers are all dry.
When it thunders in winter,
When it snows in summer
When heaven and earth mingle,
Not till then will I part from you.
This short classical Chinese verse from the perspective of a woman confessing her undying affection to a lover is a Yuefu folk song from the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). For more ancient wisdom, check out these timeless Chinese proverbs worth remembering.
I felt a spirit of love begin to stir
Within my heart, long time unfelt till then:
And saw Love coming towards me fair and fain
(That I scarce knew him for his joyful cheer),
Saying, “Be now indeed my worshipper!”
And in his speech he laughed and laughed again.
Then, while it was his pleasure to remain,
I chanced to look the way he had drawn near,
And saw the Ladies Joan and Beatrice
Approach me, this the other following,
One and a second marvel instantly.
And even as now my memory speaketh this,
Love spake it then: “The first is christened Spring;
The second Love, she is so like to me.”
—”I Felt a Spirit of Love Begin to Stir,” Dante Alighieri (1265–1321)
Dante, at the age of 9, first fell in love with the Lady Beatrice, then 8 years old herself, when he caught a glimpse of her in passing. Struck by her beauty, he remained devoted to her for the rest of his life and immortalized her as a model of love and beauty in his poetry and writing. It’s unknown whether he ever actually spoke to the object of his affection before her untimely death in 1290, but who can say why we love who we love?
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
—”She Walks in Beauty,” Lord Byron (1788–1824)
“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” the poet Lord Byron was the heartthrob of 19th-century London, setting the fashion for every tousled, troubled troubadour who has followed to the present day. Despite Byron’s terrible reputation and clubfoot, no one could resist the lyrical, romantic overtures in his love poems (supposedly not even his own half-sister!), and this tender verse gives us a hint as to why.
I am not jealous
of what came before me.
Come with a man
on your shoulders,
come with a hundred men in your hair,
come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet….
Bring them all
to where I am waiting for you;
we shall always be alone,
we shall always be you and I
alone on earth,
to start our life!
—”Always,” Pablo Neruda (1904–1973)
He may have served his native country as a diplomat and politician, as well as won the Nobel Prize for literature, but Neruda was best known as “a frank, sensuous spokesman for love.” Perhaps the most passionate of all modern poets, no one makes a woman with a past sound sexier than Neruda in these bold, ringing lines. Here are more romantic poetry lines that will make you swoon.
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
—”Sonnet 43,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
Nothing sums up the feeling of complete and total love quite like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnet 43.” By the time the poetess met her much younger husband, Robert Browning, she was already a literary celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic, but her poor health and overprotective family kept her almost a prisoner in her room. Although Barrett Browning was already 40, she was forced to elope with her husband and fled to Italy, where her newlywed bliss apparently continued.
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending….
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
—”somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond,” E. E. Cummings (1894–1962)
As the first poet to popularize all lower-case letters and random punctuation, E. E. Cummings was considered a rule breaker. But here, he declares in subtle, heartfelt metaphors how deeply he respects his love’s boundaries and how willing he is to retreat at the least sign of rejection. Now that’s a timely poem.
…once I look at you for a moment, I can’t speak any longer, but my tongue breaks down, and then all at once a subtle fire races inside my skin, my eyes can’t see a thing and a whirring whistle thrums at my hearing, cold sweat covers me and a trembling takes ahold of me all over: I’m greener than the grass is and appear to myself to be little short of dying.
—”In My Eyes He Matches the Gods,” Sappho (7th century BC)
Yes, she’s that Sappho, the classical Greek poetess from the island of Lesbos. Remarkably, we only have a few fiery fragments of Sappho’s writing left, but those love poems are still inspiring lovers of all kinds after almost 3,000 years.
Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead….
For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always, —
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.
—”Music I Heard with You,” Conrad Aiken (1889–1973)
As you might guess, Aiken was a man on intimate terms with tragedy. When he was a child, his father killed his mother and then took his own life. Aiken grew up to be a sensitive soul. According to the Academy of American Poets, “he avoided military service during World War I by claiming that, as a poet, he was part of an ‘essential industry.'” He married three times, but as we can see from some of his poetry, including the lines above, he never fully recovered from his childhood trauma.
Last night, your memory stole into my heart—
as spring sweeps uninvited into barren gardens,
as morning breezes reinvigorate dormant deserts,
as a patient suddenly feels better, for no apparent reason …
—”Last Night,” Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911–1984)
Pakistan’s most beloved modern poet was as well-known for writing about political protest as romance. But here, Faiz carries on the tradition of classical South Asian love poetry, showing his lyrical, wistful side as he revels in the recollection of love. For more words of wisdom, read these inspirational poems that will warm your heart.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
—”Dover Beach,” Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)
Believe it or not, these darkly beautiful lines are actually part of a honeymoon poem, composed on England’s Dover Beach shortly after the poet’s wedding in 1851. Maybe his new wife, Frances Lucy Wrightsman, was charmed by Arnold’s bleak passion in his love poems, because their marriage lasted 37 more years and produced six children.
Oh, western wind, when wilt thou blow
the small rain down can rain
Christ, if my love were in my arms
and I in my bed again
—”Western Wind,” Anonymous (16th century)
This evocative fragment was first recorded as a song. Whether the speaker is a soldier or a shepherd, he longs for the rainy season, which will give him an excuse to come home to his beloved. We don’t know if the narrator is cursing or pleading to see her, but the third line gives this 500-year-old poem a surprisingly modern tone.
We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing….
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.
—”Neutral Tones,” Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)
We’ve all experienced those post-breakup blues, when memories of what once was become grayed by the reality of separation and the loss of love. In these moments, most of all, we need a companion in our melancholy…like Thomas Hardy’s words in this poem. The 19th-century English poet lived and wrote in Dorset, a small coastal town on the southern coast of England, where he drew inspiration for his acclaimed fiction and poetry. Dealing with heartbreak? We totally get it—but you should still never do these 20 things to get over a breakup.
When you come to me, unbidden,
To long-ago rooms,
Where memories lie.
Offering me, as to a child, an attic,
Gatherings of days too few.
Baubles of stolen kisses.
Trinkets of borrowed loves.
Trunks of secret words,
—”When You Come,” Maya Angelou (1928–2014)
Here, the great African American memoirist and civil rights poet explores the painful tenderness of human vulnerability. In these lines, we see that romantic love is the key that opens Angelou’s storehouses of secrets and pain. Next, take a look at these other quotes that show Maya Angelou at her best.