LGBTQ+ Poetry Classics

Love the Light-Giver
By Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

To Tommaso De’ Cavalieri

Veggio co’ bei vostri occhi.

With your fair eyes a charming light I see,
 For which my own blind eyes would peer in vain;
 Stayed by your feet, the burden I sustain
 Which my lame feet find all too strong for me;
Wingless upon your pinions forth I fly;
 Heavenward your spirit stirreth me to strain;
 E’en as you will, I blush and blanch again,
 Freeze in the sun, burn ‘neath a frosty sky.
Your will includes and is the lord of mine;
 Life to my thoughts within your heart is given;
 My words begin to breathe upon your breath:
Like to the moon am I, that cannot shine
 Alone; for lo! our eyes see nought in heaven
 Save what the living sun illumineth.

Love Returned
By Bayard Taylor (1825-1878)

He was a boy when first we met;
 His eyes were mixed of dew and fire,
And on his candid brow was set
 The sweetness of a chaste desire:
But in his veins the pulses beat
 Of passion, waiting for its wing,
As ardent veins of summer heat
 Throb through the innocence of spring.

As manhood came, his stature grew,
 And fiercer burned his restless eyes,
Until I trembled, as he drew
 From wedded hearts their young disguise.
Like wind-fed flame his ardor rose,
 And brought, like flame, a stormy rain:
In tumult, sweeter than repose,
 He tossed the souls of joy and pain.

So many years of absence change!
 I knew him not when he returned:
His step was slow, his brow was strange,
 His quiet eye no longer burned.
When at my heart I heard his knock,
 No voice within his right confessed:
I could not venture to unlock
 Its chambers to an alien guest.

Then, at the threshold, spent and worn
 With fruitless travel, down he lay:
And I beheld the gleams of morn
 On his reviving beauty play.
I knelt, and kissed his holy lips,
 I washed his feet with pious care;
And from my life the long eclipse
 Drew off; and left his sunshine there.

He burns no more with youthful fire;
 He melts no more in foolish tears;
Serene and sweet, his eyes inspire
 The steady faith of balanced years.
His folded wings no longer thrill,
 But in some peaceful flight of prayer:
He nestles in my heart so still,
 I scarcely feel his presence there.

O Love, that stern probation o’er,
 Thy calmer blessing is secure!
Thy beauteous feet shall stray no more,
 Thy peace and patience shall endure!
The lightest wind deflowers the rose,
 The rainbow with the sun departs,
But thou art centred in repose,
 And rooted in my heart of hearts!

A Shropshire Lad, XXXVI
By A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

White in the moon the long road lies,
 The moon stands blank above;
White in the moon the long road lies
 That leads me from my love.

Still hangs the hedge without a gust,
 Still, still the shadows stay:
My feet upon the moonlit dust
 Pursue the ceaseless way.

The world is round, so travellers tell,
 And straight though reach the track,
Trudge on, trudge on, ’twill all be well,
 The way will guide one back.

But ere the circle homeward hies
 Far, far must it remove:
White in the moon the long road lies
 That leads me from my love.

Undressing You
By Witter Bynner (1881-1968)

Fiercely I remove from you
All the little vestiges—
Garments that confine you,
Things that touch the flesh,
The wool and the silk
And the linen that entwine you,
Tear them all away from you,
Bare you from the mesh.
And now I have you as you are,
Nothing to encumber you—
But now I see, caressing you,
Colder hands than mine.
They take away your flesh and bone,
And, utterly undressing you,
They tear you from your beauty
And they leave no sign.

The More Loving One
By W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

And for the “L” in LGBTQ+:

[In my eyes he matches the gods]
By Sappho (c. 630-c. 570 BCE)

In my eyes he matches the gods, that man who
sits there facing you–any man whatever–
listening from closeby to the sweetness of your
  voice as you talk, the

sweetness of your laughter: yes, that–I swear it–
sets the heart to shaking inside my breast, since
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.

But all must be endured, since even a poor

About the Poets

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, known simply as Michelangelo, was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance born in the Republic of Florence.

Bayard Taylor was an American poet, literary critic, translator, travel author, and diplomat. Though he wanted to be known most as a poet, Taylor was mostly recognized as a travel writer during his lifetime. Modern critics have generally accepted him as technically skilled in verse, but lacking imagination and, ultimately, consider his work as a conventional example of 19th-century sentimentalism.

Alfred Edward Housman, usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet. His cycle of poems, A Shropshire Lad, wistfully evoke the dooms and disappointments of youth in the English countryside.

Harold Witter Bynner, also known by the pen name Emanuel Morgan, was an American poet and translator. He was known for his long residence in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and association with other literary figures there.

Wystan Hugh Auden, usually known as W.H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet. Auden’s poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form, and content. 

Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. Sappho is known for her lyric poetry, written to be sung while accompanied by a lyre. In ancient times, Sappho was widely regarded as one of the greatest lyric poets and was given names such as the “Tenth Muse” and “The Poetess”. Most of Sappho’s poetry is now lost, and what is extant has mostly survived in fragmentary form.


About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

One response to “LGBTQ+ Poetry Classics

  • Beau

    These poems remind me of being a freshman at the University of Georgia in the early 1980s. I found a book about homosexuality in literature at the library, but I dared not check it out in fear that someone would have a record that I checked out a “gay” book. Instead, I sat in a concealed, study area and read the book cover to cover over the course of weeks, taking notes. When I finished a chapter or two, I would put the book on the sorting shelf, writing down the page where I left off in my notebook, to resume there later. I checked out volumes by Bayard Taylor, Housman, and Auden, figuring that my secret was safe as they were obscure at the time. The campus had a gay Christian group, but I was too closeted to go to their meetings and I did not consider myself Christian then. Thanks for sharing this and stirring memories.

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