Even the smoothest operator can get tongue-tied and ruin a romantic moment. Knowing this, the experts of sweet nothings took their time, wrote down their feelings, and edited them into dreamy, passionate poems that can be read over and over again. We’ve gathered some of their loveliest lines, all of which make up some of the best love poems of all time. Fair warning: These poems are likely to take your breath away.
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.”
—"How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways," by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Love this poem? Check out The Collected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
“I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved”
—"The Good-Morrow," by John Donne
Read more of his metaphysical poetry in The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne.
“Who said that love was fire?
I know that love is ash.
It is the thing which remains
When the fire is spent.
The holy essence of experience.”
—"Who Said That Love Was Fire?" by Patience Worth
Allegedly, Patience Worth was a spirit channeled by Pearl Lenore Curran. You can learn more about Curran/Worth's relationship in Patience Worth: a psychic mystery.
“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," by Lord Byron
All of George Gordon Byron's writing can be found in his Complete Works.
Related: Your Favorite Poems of All Time
“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)”
—"i carry your heart with me," by e.e. cummings
Read more of his best love poems sans capital letters in his Selected Poems.
“I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times...
In life after life, in age after age, forever.”
—"Unending Love," by Rabindranath Tagore
Discover more from this Bengali wordsmith in The Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore.
“That I did always love
I bring thee proof
That till I loved
I never lived.”
—"That I Did Always Love,” by Emily Dickinson
You can read the rest of Dickinson's poems in her Complete Poems.
Related: 20 Quotes From Your Favorite Poets
“You were born together, and together you shall be forever more.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.”
—"Love One Another," by Khalil Gibran
If you're unfamiliar with this Lebanese-American writer, we highly suggest reading his Complete Works.
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken”
—"Sonnet 116,” by William Shakespeare
You can't have a list of the best love poems without including the Bard. For a fun twist on Shakespurr—we mean, Shakespeare—check out Shakespeare's Cats: The Complete Sonnets for the Literary Cat Lover.
“Then seek not, sweet, the ‘If’ and ‘Why’
I love you now until I die.
For I must love because I love
And life in me is what you give.”
—"Because She Would Ask Me Why I Loved Her,” by Christopher Brennan
Brennan's heartwarming words can also be found in 50 Classic Love Poems You Have to Read.
"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," by Maya Angelou
The Complete Poetry of Maya Angelou is something that everyone should read once in their lifetime.
“Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene;
Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen.
Only your word will heal the injury
To my hurt heart, while yet the wound is clean -
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene.”
—"Rondel of Merciless Beauty," by Geoffrey Chaucer
We can't think of a higher compliment than being told you have "merciless beauty." The Canterbury Tales author's Complete Works are definitely worth a read.
“Don't go far off, not even for a day, because—
because—I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.”
—"Don't Go Far Off," by Pablo Neruda
Also don't be fooled by Neruda's innocent words here—he's known for his passionate poems that will get your heart racing. See for yourself in The Poetry of Pablo Neruda.
“love will come
and when love comes
love will hold you
love will call your name
and you will melt
love will hurt you but
love will never mean to
love will play no games
cause love knows life
has been hard enough already”
—pg. 60, Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
Not too many poets stand out in their own time, but recently Rupi Kaur has managed to do just that. Milk and Honey became a best-seller soon after its release in 2014, and her second book of poetry, The Sun and Her Flowers, managed to do the same.
"O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
As fair are thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry."
—"A Red, Red Rose," by Robert Burns
Bonus points if you read this one out loud with a light Scottish brogue. For more words to woo your bonie lass or lad, check out the Complete Works of Robert Burns.