I started to do a post on the origins of Valentine’s Day and end with a favorite love poem. However, I changed my mind. The origins of Valentine’s Day is just a bit depressing with the martyrdom of two different men named Valentine in the third century (if you want to read about the origins, click on this article form NPR: The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day), so then I looked for a poem. After looking at several different poems, I had to come back to my favorites, even though they are a bit corny/sappy, and I couldn’t choose just one. I happen to think that sonnets are the most beautiful form of poetry, and so the first two are sonnets, one from Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the other from Shakespeare. I am sure that all of you have read both of these first two, and I absolutely love them.
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.
Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day? (Sonnet 18)
by William Shakespeare
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 owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
The last poem, I found in a list of author’s favorite love poems for Valentine’s Day. This one is from Blake Morrison, a British poet and author whose greatest success came with the publication of his memoirs And When Did You Last See Your Father? In his offering of a love poem, he states:
Love poems may be addressed to someone in particular but the “you” invariably remains unidentified or is represented only by a body part or item of dress – a sleeping head, a naked foot, an air-blue gown. Thom Gunn’s “Touch” is an extreme example of this. His lover is no more than a mound of bedclothes and embraces him in sleepy oblivion (“do / you know who / I am or am I / your mother or / the nearest human being”). This feeling of anonymity is important: it links the two lovers to the rest of us: they’re part of a “realm where we walk with everyone”. But the poem is also intimate and domestic: here are two people (plus cat) in their own bed – naked, cocooned, “ourselves alone”. Gunn was gay but his lover’s gender isn’t specified, since the theme is the inclusiveness of touch: the way it breaks down the “resilient chilly hardness” we all adopt to function in the outside world. The syllabic form enacts this dissolution or slippage, as the words seep gently from line to line, without the hardness of end stops. The word “love” isn’t used; the words “dark” and “darkness” recur three times. But the poem exudes warmth, familiarity and how it feels to lie naked with a fellow creature, whoever he or she may be.
by Thom Gunn
You are already
asleep. I lower
myself in next to
you, my skin slightly
numb with the restraint
of habits, the patina of
self, the black frost
of outsideness, so that even
unclothed it is
a resilient chilly
hardness, a superficially
You are a mound
of bedclothes, where the cat
in sleep braces
its paws against your
calf through the blankets,
and kneads each paw in turn.
Meanwhile and slowly
I feel a is it
my own warmth surfacing or
the ferment of your whole
body that in darkness beneath
the cover is stealing
bit by bit to break
down that chill.
You turn and
hold me tightly, do
you know who
I am or am I
your mother or
the nearest human being to
hold on to in a
What I, now loosened,
sink into is an old
big place, it is
there already, for
you are already
there, and the cat
got there before you, yet
it is hard to locate.
What is more, the place is
not found but seeps
from our touch in
continuous creation, dark
enclosing cocoon round
ourselves alone, dark
wide realm where we
walk with everyone.
February 14th, 2012 at 8:42 am
Excellent!!! As you stated, I knew the first two, but was unaware of the last poem. Wonderful expressions in each of them.And to you, JoeBlow, from one reader and his special (male) valentine, hugs and kisses as well:XOXOXOXOXO
February 14th, 2012 at 12:02 pm
Happy Valentine's Day to you! It's good to have a more cerebral approach to it in my day!
February 14th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
Happy Valentines! 🙂
February 14th, 2012 at 10:10 pm
Happy V-Day!!! Thanks for sharing!!!
February 14th, 2012 at 10:36 pm
Happy Valentine's to Joe and HRH.