A love of poetry seems to be a rare thing today. If I mention enjoying a particular poem to someone, almost always that person will tell me they love poetry too. When I ask what their favorite poem or poet is ninety five out of a hundred can not name either. So I am doing my part in keeping poetry alive by all the books of poems I have collected which are frequently picked up. There is always joy to find within those old volumes many beautiful words expressed from the heart. The best poems for my taster are lyrical in nature with relatively even lines and balanced rhyming words, although there are exceptions like the Apache poem below.
My favorite poet is Elizabeth Barrett Browning. There is something unique and extraordinary about how her words touch me and stir the heart. I hope you find meaning in the work of Mrs. Browning and a few other favorites I have put here to share.
How Do I Love Thee?” By Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806-1861
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 candlelight,
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with passion put to use
In my old grief’s, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seem 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.
If Thou Must love Me” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806-1861
If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
I love her for her smile, her look, her way
Of speaking gently, for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day,
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee, and love, so wrought.
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby.
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou may’st love on, through love’s eternity.
“The Years” by Sara Teasdale 1884 – 1933
Tonight I close my eyes and see
A strange procession passing me.
The years before I saw you face
Go by me with wishful grace.
They pass, the sensitive shy years,
As one who strives to dance, half blind with tears.
The years went by and never knew
That each one brought me nearer to you.
Their path was narrow and apart
And yet it led me to your heart.
Oh sensitive shy years, oh lonely years,
That strove to sing with voices drowned in tears
“A White Rose” by John Boyle O-Reilly 1844 – 1890
The red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
Oh, the red rose is a falcon,
And the white rose is a dove.
But I send you a cream-white rosebud,
With a flush on its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips.
From “Sudden Light” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882
I have been here before
But when or how I can not tell.
You have been mine before
How long ago I may not know.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet 1612-1672
If ever two were one then surely we.
If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee.
If ever wife were happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Of all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor aught but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay.
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere
That when we live not more, we may live ever.
From “Shall I Compare Thee” by William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
‘Wedding Prayer” - Tradition Apache Prayer date unknown
Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now each of you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place,
To enter into the days of your togetherness
And may your days be good and long upon the Earth.
My heart swells with gratitude and feelings as I read these poems again. I have read them so many times each has have become a dear old friend. The newest of the poetry here is almost a hundred years old and yet the words can reach across the years from the writer if one is receptive to the poet’s message. I am grateful for the beauty in word these writers left as their legacy for me to discover and enjoy…. very grateful!