Valentine's Day

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Romantic poetry fitting for Valentine’s Day

Traditionalists who want to commemorate Valentine's Day in the most romantic way possible may want to harken back to the days when poetry was the primary way lovers expressed their affection for each other.

Poets have been putting pen to paper for centuries, and many great works evoke the themes of love and romance. Those will little experience writing their own poetry can always borrow heartfelt words from some of history's greatest bards.

John Keats

Keats was an English Romantic poet who lost both of his parents at a very young age. As Keats grew older, he was introduced to a circle of literary men, including Percy Bysshe Shelly and William Wordsworth. Keats decided to try his hand at poetry as well and went on to publish many poems now considered among the greatest ever written. Tragically, Keats died from tuberculosis at the age of 25. "Bright Star" is one of his famous romantic works.

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–

Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task

Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,

Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask

Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–

No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,

Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

Robert Browning

Browning was already proficient at reading and writing by the age of 5, having studied with his father, a scholar. At an early age the young Browning became interested in poetry but didn't write much through his formative years. Only after marrying fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett did Browning begin to write in earnest. "Life in a Love" is one of his romantic musings.

Life in a Love

Escape me?

Never—

Beloved!

While I am I, and you are you,

So long as the world contains us both,

Me the loving and you the loth,

While the one eludes, must the other pursue.

My life is a fault at last, I fear:

It seems too much like a fate, indeed!

Though I do my best I shall scarce succeed.

But what if I fail of my purpose here?

It is but to keep the nerves at strain,

To dry one's eyes and laugh at a fall,

And baffled, get up to begin again,—

So the chase takes up one's life, that's all.

While, look but once from your farthest bound,

At me so deep in the dust and dark,

No sooner the old hope drops to ground

Than a new one, straight to the selfsame mark,

I shape me—

Ever

Removed!

William Shakespeare

It should come as no surprise that the man who wrote the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet would also prove himself an accomplished poet. "Sonnet 18" is evidence of Shakespeare's grasp of the theme of love.

Sonnet 18

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 dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,

Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest 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.