There are many famous short love poems in the world, but we will only have time for ten of them today. We will examine ten different love poems by famous poets to see what makes them tick, and, hopefully, you will find a few that you like. If poems about love are what you are looking for, then look no further. Let’s get underway and have a look at ten different short love poems!
Table of Contents
- 1 Famous Short Love Poems
- 1.1 Upon Julia’s Clothes (1648) by Robert Herrick
- 1.2 A Glimpse (1860) by Walt Whitman
- 1.3 The Falling of the Leaves (1889) by W.B. Yeats
- 1.4 Put Out My Eyes (1905) by Rainer Maria Rilke
- 1.5 Song (Between 1908 and 1968) by Ezra Pound
- 1.6 Swans (1915) by Sara Teasdale
- 1.7 You (Between 1916 and 1971) by Ruth Guthrie Harding
- 1.8 To lose thee—sweeter than to gain (1955) by Emily Dickinson
- 1.9 How Do I Love You? (2016) by Mary Oliver
- 1.10 Idle Dreams (2020) by Joanna Fuchs
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
Famous Short Love Poems
Today, we are going to look at ten famous short love poems. These poems are all concerned with the topic of love, but they all approach love in a variety of different ways. Love does not manifest in the same way from one person to the next, and there are a myriad of ways in which love can be presented and explored. So, this should be a good general overview of famous short love poems.
It should be noted that the term “short” is a subjective one that needs to have some definition to it. There are many classic love poems that are short when compared to multi-page epic poems or book-length narrative poems. However, we are going to be more restricted in our definition of a “short love poem”. We are going to only examine poems that have ten lines or fewer. This also means that sonnets will be excluded from this list. If you are interested in love sonnets, then there are many of these love poem examples that have been written by a variety of famous poets. Now that we have that out of the way, we can start our examination of famous short love poems.
Hopefully, you find a few poems in this list that are of interest to you, but it should always be remembered that there are many poems out in the world, and you will never be at a loss for poems about love if you search for them.
Upon Julia’s Clothes (1648) by Robert Herrick
|Type of Poem||Blazon|
|Rhyme Scheme||AAA BBB|
Upon Julia’s Clothes is a poem that considers both the romantic and sensual aspects of love. At only six lines in length and separated into two tercets, or three-line stanzas, this poem is one of the most famous short love poems. It has a particular focus on the clothes of the person with whom the speaker is fixated. This person, who goes by the name, Julia, is seen as someone truly beautiful while the inherent sexualization of the look at clothes is highlighted above anything else in the poem.
Robert Herrick (nd); Halleck’s New English Literature, 1913, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
This sensual aspect can be seen in the usage of words like “liquefaction” with reference to her clothes, which implies the transition of her clothes from one state to another, which can be used to mean the loss of her clothes. Furthermore, the use of a three-line rhyme scheme for each stanza allows the poem to flow from one to the next as, for instance, the first stanza ends with the words “goes”, “flows”, and “clothes”.
This reads well and allows the reader to see the fixation of the poet on the clothes and the absence of those clothes on this person of interest.
A Glimpse (1860) by Walt Whitman
|Type of Poem||Lyric poem|
|Rhyme Scheme||Free verse|
A Glimpse is a love poem by the notable free verse poet, Walt Whitman. The heavy use of enjambment in this poem, in which one line leads directly into the next, is used to strong effect here to show how five long lines can lead to a single stanza that is read in a more naturalized way to ordinary examples of poetry. This ordinary use of language also allows the poem to provide a more naturalistic presentation of the subject.
Walt Whitman (1887) by George Cox; See file page for creator info, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The poem is focused on a more working-class example of love where, in the middle of a crowded bar, two people are able to sit with each other and love each other. The use of alliteration in the words “silently” and “seating” in the third line helps to bring these two people together in a way that is seldom seen in poetry. They can be together without the usual kind of hyperbole and grand statements that can often be found.
Instead, they can sit together while “speaking little, perhaps not a word”.
The Falling of the Leaves (1889) by W.B. Yeats
|Type of Poem||Lyric poem|
|Rhyme Scheme||ABAB ACAC|
The Falling of the Leaves is a poem by one of the most notable poets who led into the Modernist era, and it is a fantastic instance of a classic love poem that is particularly short in length. The poem is comprised of only eight lines that are separated into two four-line stanzas. Each of these stanzas makes use of an alternating rhyme scheme, but one of the most interesting aspects of this rhyme is the repetition of the word “us” in every first and third line of both stanzas. This fixation on a word of unity reinforces the theme of this romantic poem.
William Butler Yeats (1920) by Bain News Service; Bain News Service, publisher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
However, the poem does also focus on the ending of love. It fixates on the passage of time and uses terms like “autumn” and “yellow” leaves to reinforce the idea of time passing for these lovers. The use of alliteration in the fifth and sixth lines only serves to reinforce this by using “waning”, “weary”, and “worn” in close succession to one another.
Not every example of the many famous short love poems out there is a necessarily happy one as an end to love must always come, even if it comes from age and death rather than a breakup.
Put Out My Eyes (1905) by Rainer Maria Rilke
|Type of Poem||Non-standard|
Put Out My Eyes is a rather dark poem that makes extensive use of the word “you” to allow for the poet to fixate on this figure that they are so desperately in love with. The word is in every line except the seventh line of this nine-line poem. This overwhelming and persistent use of a word that relates to another who is external to the self helps to show the way in which the object of love is a persistent one in the mind of the speaker in this poem.
Rainer Maria Rilke und Clara Rilke-Westhoff (1901); AnonymousUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to this, the poem makes heavy use of far darker tones and imagery to aid in the conjuring of this particular image of love-oriented obsession with this person. For instance, the very first line uses the concept of cutting out someone’s eyes to reinforce the idea that they would “see you still”, and the second line, with its idea of bashing in your ears and still being able to hear their beloved, shows the way that this kind of obsessive love can be powerful and potentially deadly. While many famous short love poems attempt to be more lovely and beautiful in their presentation, obsession can also be a powerful concept that is related to love for another person.
Love can be violent and dangerous, and not solely perfect and positive.
Song (Between 1908 and 1968) by Ezra Pound
|Date Published||Between 1908 and 1968|
|Type of Poem||Free verse|
Song is one of the lesser-known love poems by a famous poet, as it was written by the incredibly influential Ezra Pound. This was a titanic figure in the field of Modernist poetry, and he wrote many poems that explored many different topics. In the case of this particular poem, the fixation is on love. It uses the repeated language of love and dreams to repetitiously focus on the more dreamlike nature of love.
Portrait of the American poet and writer Ezra Pound (1963) by Walter Mori; Walter Mori (Mondadori Publishers), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
It first directly compares them in the first line by stating that “love thou thy dream” and then, in the final two lines, it states that dreams are where this love resides and that in the dream “I come to thee”. This shows the more dreamlike quality of love and the way in which it is something more ethereal than real.
It is not something tangible that one can grasp and is instead something that can be pursued as if in a trance.
Swans (1915) by Sara Teasdale
|Type of Poem||Lyric poem|
|Rhyme Scheme||ABAB CDCD|
Swans is an eight-line poem split into two quatrains or four-line stanzas. The poem makes strong use of alternating rhyme, and this allows the poem to have a good and consistent sense of flow throughout. The poem opens by focusing on light, such as through the use of stars that break through the night sky, lights that look like gold, and reflections in the lake. This focus on light within darkness is a fairly common one in love poetry as love can often come to us during the darkest of times.
Sara Teasdale (1907) Photograph by unknown; See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
It can help to make something positive within a world that can, often, be an immensely negative thing. However, this fixation on light gives way to the image of swans. The second stanza focuses on these swans that the speaker and subject watch together. They watch the swans in silence, and, at one point, it states that “your gaze is on my face”. The watching of the swans and the watching of each other while “never a word is said” shows that love does not need language to thrive.
It can survive within pure action or, in terms of simply watching, it can even thrive within inaction.
You (Between 1916 and 1971) by Ruth Guthrie Harding
|Date Published||Between 1916 and 1971|
|Type of Poem||Lyric poem|
You is a good example of a highly repetitive love poem. The primary repetition in the poem is based on the use of “me” as a term. This reinforces the way that the speaker sees the one about whom they are talking. It focuses on their heart, the way they see themselves, and that their heart is the primary place of focus for this poem. In fact, the term “me” is used in the vast majority of the lines as the final word of each line.
Other than this repetitious usage of the concept of “me”, the poem also does something very interesting with “you”. The only words that are capitalized in the poem are the first word of every line and the word “you”. The reason for this is because the object of their love is something that they have elevated above everything else. This kind of capitalization is often used in poetry to reinforce that something needs to be seen as being above other elements in the poem.
The simple use of capitalization conveys to the reader that this object of love is worthy of all the adoration that the speaker can muster.
To lose thee—sweeter than to gain (1955) by Emily Dickinson
|Type of Poem||Free verse|
To lose thee—sweeter than to gain is a poem by one of the most famous free verse poets of all time, and it appears to have been published significantly later than many of her other poems. Emily Dickinson’s poems are noted for their disjointed approach to grammar, but this instance of her poetry is, perhaps, one instance of more traditionally arranged poems.
Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson, (c. early 1847); See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
It is focused on the idea of the loss of love rather than the perpetuation of it. It opens with its primary statement and idea, which is that to lose love can be seen as better than to gain it. This is something of a response to the idea of it being better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but the poem continues through the use of water and drought-oriented language to compare this feeling to a great sea such as the Caspian. It relates to this sea as possessing much water as well as dry sand. The moisture above and the drought below.
It is a rather bitter poem, but one that is not concerned with solely focusing on the positives of love.
How Do I Love You? (2016) by Mary Oliver
|Type of Poem||Lyric poem|
|Rhyme Scheme||Free verse|
How Do I Love You? is a poem that is rather simple in its general presentation. This is one of the youngest poems about love in this particular list, and it makes use of free verse to strong effect. It opens with the question that is the title of this poem, and it asks us how the speaker is to show that they love the object of their love. It quickly makes use of the “oh” to open both the second and third lines as an exclamation between examples of their proof. Although, their proof is not particularly elaborated as it instead states that they love “this way and that” and “happily”.
The enjambement that ends the first stanza and starts the second, which reads as: “Perhaps/I may elaborate by/demonstration?” is a sentence that calls our confusion to mind. The speaker has not answered the question for which they started this poem, and that is not the way that poetry is generally laid out. This then leads the speaker to simply repeat themselves with the “like/ this, and/ like this” idea. The final line simply states: “no more words now”. That final line pulls everything together at the conclusion of this poem by stating something not as often seen in poetry, and that is that poetry is not an adequate medium to express love.
The poem ends by saying that the speaker cannot use language to convince you of their love, and they must instead do something that is not language-based to prove that love.
Idle Dreams (2020) by Joanna Fuchs
|Type of Poem||Free verse|
|Rhyme Scheme||ABCB DD|
Idle Dreams is, likely, the newest poem on this list, although its exact date of writing is not known for certain. In terms of famous short love poems, this one is not all that famous, but it is a great love poem example. It only makes use of two stanzas, one of which is a quatrain, or four-line stanza, and the other is a couplet or two-line stanza. There is variable rhyme throughout the poem, and those instances of rhyme include the use of “love” and “above” with one another and “know” and “grow”. These particular terms are strong terms to use in relation to one another as, for instance, the idea of love being from above implies a heavenly love while the idea of knowing and growing are consistent examples of ideas that are used in many famous short love poems.
This poem is quite traditional in how it uses the concept of love, such as through its use of the idea of a “perfect match” and comparing them to an angel. It uses this kind of imagery in the first stanza to produce this imagined form of the person they would love while the final stanza draws it back to reality while reaffirming this earlier point. They may not be heavenly, but they will “stay and thrive and grow”. This is an overwhelmingly positive image of love that does not give way to any kind of doubt or pessimism about the nature of love.
With this final classic love poem, we have come to the end of our discussion about famous short love poems. Over the course of this article, we have examined ten different love poems by famous poets; some of them were quite romantic poems and others were not as romantic, but they were all love poem examples. We hope that this article has served as a good means of showing off a few poems about love that are worth reading. However, there are many more out there that can be read and enjoyed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Love Poem?
A love poem is any kind of poem that is about the emotion of love. This generally means that these kinds of texts are romantic poems, in the sense of being about romance rather than being tied to the Romantic movement. However, this is not always the case. Love can come with sadness, and many love poems by famous poets have concerned themselves with the darker side of love. It should also be noted that there is no such thing as a love poem on a formal level because any type of poem can be about love. There are love sonnets, love sestinas, love villanelles, and so on.
What Are the Common Characteristics of Love Poetry?
Love poetry is not actually a type of poetry in the same sense that something like a sonnet or an ode is a type of poetry. Instead, any type of poem can, theoretically, be a romantic poem. There are many love poem examples that use a variety of methods and techniques to discuss and illustrate love. However, the use of hyperbole and metaphor can be especially common in examples of poems about love.
Who Are the Most Famous Poets Who Write Love Poems?
Some of the most famous poets to have written love poetry include W.B. Yeats, Sara Teasdale, and Emily Dickinson. However, there are a great many more poets out there who have written love poems. There are also many love poems by famous poets who are not generally known for their poems about love, such as a love poem by someone like Edgar Allan Poe.
What Are Some of the Most Famous Short Love Poems?
There are a great many classic love poem examples in the literary world, and many of them were also written by famous poets. Some of the most famous of these short love poem examples include The Falling of the Leaves (1889) by W.B. Yeats, Swans (1915) by Sara Teasdale, and To lose thee—sweeter than to gain (1955) by Emily Dickinson. However, there are many other famous short love poems in the world, and they are out there waiting to be read!
Can There Be Long Love Poems?
There certainly can be long love poems. While this article has focused on famous short love poems, there can be far longer ones. In fact, it could be argued that poems like The Divine Comedy (1308 – 1321) by Dante Alighieri can be seen as possessing love poem attributes, such as the fixation on the figure of Beatrice in the poem. Many long poems may include aspects of love and romance while not having those aspects as central to the poem as a whole.
Justin van Huyssteen is a freelance writer, novelist, and academic originally from Cape Town, South Africa. At present, he has a bachelor’s degree in English and literary theory and an honor’s degree in literary theory. He is currently working towards his master’s degree in literary theory with a focus on animal studies, critical theory, and semiotics within literature. As a novelist and freelancer, he often writes under the pen name L.C. Lupus.
Justin’s preferred literary movements include modern and postmodern literature with literary fiction and genre fiction like sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, and horror being of particular interest. His academia extends to his interest in prose and narratology. He enjoys analyzing a variety of mediums through a literary lens, such as graphic novels, film, and video games.
Justin is working for artincontext.org as an author and content writer since 2022. He is responsible for all blog posts about architecture, literature and poetry.
Cite this Article
Justin, van Huyssteen, “Famous Short Love Poems – A List of the 10 Best.” Art in Context. October 5, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/famous-short-love-poems/
van Huyssteen, J. (2023, 5 October). Famous Short Love Poems – A List of the 10 Best. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/famous-short-love-poems/