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'From you have I been absent in the spring'
by William Shakespeare 1564 - 1616

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the Lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermillion in the Rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem'd it Winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

***


'
First Love' 
by John Clare 1793 - 1864

I ne'er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet.
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.

My face turned pale, a deadly pale.
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked what could I ail
My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away.
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.

I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start.
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter's choice
Is love's bed always snow
She seemed to hear my silent voice
Not love appeals to know.

I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling place
And can return no more.

***


'Always for the First Time' 
by Andre Breton 1896 - 1966

Always for the first time
Hardly do I know you by sight
You return at some hour of the night to a house at an angle to my window
A wholly imaginary house
It is there that from one second to the next
In the inviolate darkness
I anticipate once more the fascinating rift occurring
The one and only rift
In the facade and in my heart
The closer I come to you
In reality
The more the key sings at the door of the unknown room
Where you appear alone before me
At first you coalesce entirely with the brightness
The elusive angle of a curtain
It's a field of jasmine I gazed upon at dawn on a road in the vicinity of Grasse
With the diagonal slant of its girls picking
Behind them the dark falling wing of the plants stripped bare
Before them a T-square of dazzling light
The curtain invisibly raised
In a frenzy all the flowers swarm back in
It is you at grips with that too long hour never dim enough until sleep
You as though you could be
The same except that I shall perhaps never meet you
You pretend not to know I am watching you
Marvelously I am no longer sure you know
You idleness brings tears to my eyes
A swarm of interpretations surrounds each of your gestures
It's a honeydew hunt
There are rocking chairs on a deck there are branches that may well scratch you in the forest
There are in a shop window in the rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
Two lovely crossed legs caught in long stockings
Flaring out in the center of a great white clover
There is a silken ladder rolled out over the ivy
There is
By my leaning over the precipice
Of your presence and your absence in hopeless fusion
My finding the secret
Of loving you
Always for the first time

***

'A Valentine to my Wife' 
by Eugene Field 1850 - 1895

Accept, dear girl, this little token,
And if between the lines you seek,
You'll find the love I've often spoken—
The love my dying lips shall speak.

Our little ones are making merry
O'er am'rous ditties rhymed in jest,
But in these words (though awkward—very)
The genuine article's expressed.

You are as fair and sweet and tender,
Dear brown-eyed little sweetheart mine,
As when, a callow youth and slender,
I asked to be your Valentine.

What though these years of ours be fleeting?
What though the years of youth be flown?
I'll mock old Tempus with repeating,
"I love my love and her alone!"

And when I fall before his reaping,
And when my stuttering speech is dumb,
Think not my love is dead or sleeping,
But that it waits for you to come.

So take, dear love, this little token,
And if there speaks in any line
The sentiment I'd fain have spoken,
Say, will you kiss your Valentine?

***

'I Knew a Woman' 
by Theodore Roethke 1908 - 1963


I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin:
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing did we make.)

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved.)

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)

***  

'Jenny kissed me' 
by Leigh Hunt 1784 - 1859

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad;
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me;
Say I'm growing old, but add-
        Jenny kiss'd me.

***

'Absence' 
by Pablo Neruda 1904 - 1973

I have scarcely left you
when you go in me, crystalline,
or trembling,
or uneasy, wounded by me
or overwhelmed with love, as when your eyes
close upon the gift of life
that without cease I give you.

My love,
we have found each other
thirsty and we have
drunk up all the water and the blood,
we found each other
hungry
and we bit each other
as fire bites,
leaving wounds in us.

But wait for me,
keep for me your sweetness.
I will give you too
a rose.

***

'Here I love you' 
by Pablo Neruda

Here I love you.
In the dark pines the wind disentangles itself.
The moon glows like phosphorous on the vagrant waters.
Days, all one kind, go chasing each other.

The snow unfurls in dancing figures.
A silver gull slips down from the west.
Sometimes a sail. High, high stars. Oh the black cross of a ship.
Alone.
Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.
Far away the sea sounds and resounds.
This is a port.
Here I love you.
Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.
I love you still among these cold things.
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
that cross the sea towards no arrival.
I see myself forgotten like those old anchors.
The piers sadden when the afternoon moors there.
My life grows tired, hungry to no purpose.
I love what I do not have. You are so far.
My loathing wrestles with the slow twilights.
But night comes and starts to sing to me.

The moon turns its clockwork dream.
The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.

***

'If you forget me' 
by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists:
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

* * *

Love Poetry

More Love poems

Song 
~ by Dorothea Du Bois 1728 - 74

A Scholar first my Love implor'd,
And then an empty, titled Lord;
The Pedant talk'd in lofty Strains;
Alas! his Lordship wanted Brains;
I list'ned not, to one or t'other,
But straight referr'd them to my Mother.

A Poet next my Love assail'd,
A lawyer hop'd to have prevail'd;
The Bard too much approv'd himself,
The Lawyer thirsted after Pelf;
I not, to one or t'other,
But still referr'd them to my mother.

An Officer my Heart would storm,
A miser, sought me too, in Form;
But Mars was over-free and bold,
The Miser's Heart was in his Gold:
I list'ned not, to one or t'other,
Referring still unto my Mother.

And after them, some twenty more,
Successless were, as those before;
When Damon, lovely Damon, came!
Our hearts straight felt a mutual Flame;
I vow'd I'd have him, and no other,
Without referring to my mother.

***

________________

Live With Me 
~ Anon 16th Century

Live with me, and be my love,
And we will all the pleasure prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
And all the craggy mountains yields.
There will we sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, by whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There will I make thee a bed of roses,
With a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.
A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs,
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Then live with me and be my love.

***

_________________

The Willing Mistress 
~ by Aphra Behn 1640 - 89 

Amyntas led me to a Grove,
Where all the trees did shade us;
The sun it self, though it has strove,
It could not have betray'd us;
The place secur'd from human eyes,
No other fear allows,
But when the Winds that gently rise,
Do kiss the yielding boughs.

Down there we sat upon the moss,
And did begin to play
A thousand amorous tricks, to pass
The heat of all the day.
A many kisses he did give:
And I return'd the same
Which made me willing to receive
That which I dare not name.

His charming eyes no aid requir'd
To tell their softning tale:
On her that was already fir'd,
T'was easy to prevail.
He did but kiss and clasp me round,
And lay'd me gently on the ground;
Ah who can guess the rest?

***

Once We Played 
~ by Mathilde Blind 1841 - 96

Once we played at love together -
Played it smartly, if you please;
Lightly, as a windblown feather,
Did we stake a heart apiece.
Oh, it was a delicious fooling!
In the hottest of the game,
Without thought of future cooling,
All too quickly burn'd Life's flame.

In this give-and-take of glances,
Kisses sweet as honey dews,
When we played with equal chances,
Did you win, or did I lose?

***

Giving 
~ by Nora Cunningham - late 19th Century

You think I give myself to you?
Not so, my friend, you do not see
My single purpose and intent -
To make you give myself to me.

***

A Lynmouth Widow 
~ by Amelia Josephine Burr - late 19th Century

He was straight and strong, and his eyes were blue
As the summer meeting of sky and sea,
And the ruddy cliffs had a colde hue
Than flushed his cheek when he married me.

We passed the porch where the swallows bred,
We left the little brown church behind,
And I leaned on his arm, though I had no need
Only to feel him so strong and kind.

One thing I never can quite forget;
It grips my throat when I try to pray -
The keen salt smell of a drying net
That hung on the churchyard wall that day.

He would have taken a long, long grave -
A long, long grave for he stood so tall ...
Oh, God, the crash of a breaking wave,
And the smell of the nets on the churchyard wall!

***

On Marriage from The Prophet 
~ by Kahlil Gibran 1883 - 1931

Then Almitra spoke again and said, And what of Marriage, master?

And he answered saying:

You were born together, and together you shall be for evermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

***

Sonnet 116 
~ by William Shakespeare 1564 - 1616

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

***

Brussels and Oxford 
~ by William Hurrell Mallock 1849 - 1923

How first we met do you still remember?
Do you still remember our last adieu?
You were all to me, that sweet September:
Oh, what, I wonder, was I to you?

But I will not ask. I will leave in haze
My thoughts of you, and your thoughts of me;
And will rest content that those sweet fleet days
Are still my tenderest memory.

I often dream how we went together
Mid glimmering leaves and glittering lights,
And watched the twilight Belgian weather
Dying into the starriest nights;

And over our heads the throbbing million
Of bright fires beat, like my heart, on high;
And the music clashed from the lit pavilion,
And we were together, you and I.

But a hollow memory now suffices
For what, last summer, was real and true;
Since here I am by the misty Isis,
And under the fogs of London you.

But what if you, like a swift magician,
Were to change the failing, flowerless year -
Were to make that true that is now a vision
And to bring back summer and Brussels here?

For Fanny, I know, that if you come hither
You will bring with you the time of flowers,
And a breath of the tender Belgian weather,
To Oxford's grey autumnal towers.

And in frost and fog though the late year dies,
Yet the hours again will be warm and fair,
If they meet once more in your dark, deep eyes,
And are meshed again in your golden hair.

*** 

I Hold It True from In Memoriam 
~ by Alfred Lord Tennyson 1809 - 92

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

***

________________

'Beauty is the common object of all love....virtue and honesty are great motives...The true object of honest love is virtue, wisdom, honesty, real worth, inward beauty, and this love cannot deceive or be compelled....Love itself is the most potent philtrum, virtue and wisdom the sole and only grace, not counterfeit, but open, honest, simple, naked...an infused habit from God...

This Love is the cause of all good conceits, neatness, exornations, plays, elegancies, delights, pleasant expressions, sweet motions, and gestures, joys, comforts, exultancies, and all the sweetness of our life. This Love is that salt that seasoneth our harsh and dull labours, and gives a pleasant relish to our other unsavoury proceedings...Most of our arts and sciences, painting among the rest, was first invented for love's sake. All our Tilts and Tournaments, Orders of the Garter, Golden Fleeces, etc. owe their beginnings to love, and many of our histories...'Tis the sole subject almost of Poetry, all our invention tends to it, all our songs.

They [lovers] will undergo any danger whatsoever, as Sir Walter Manny in Edward the Third's time, stuck full of ladies' favours, fought like a dragon....Not courage only doth love add but, as I said, subtilty, wit, and many pretty devices....all manner of civility, decency, compliment, and good behaviour, polite graces and merry conceits..

'Tis the common humour of all suitors to trick up themselves, to be prodigal in apparel, faultless as a lotus, neat, combed and curled, with powdered hairs, with long love-lock, a flower in his ear, perfumes, gloves, rings, scarfs, feathers, points, etc with every day new suits as the fashion varies; going as if he trod upon eggs. He must learn to sing and dance, play upon some instrument or other,, as without all doubt he will, if he be truly touched with this loadstone of love. Without question, so many gentlemen and gentlewomen would not be so well qualified in this kind, if love did not incite them....

Love, however, can break out into outrageous and prodigious events....

There be honest kisses, I deny not, the respectful kiss, friendly kisses, modest kisses, vestal-virgin kisses, officious and ceremonial kisses, etc., kissing and embracements are proper gifts of Nature to a man: but there are too lascivious kisses...too continuate, and too violent; they cling like ivy, close as an oyster, bill as doves, meretricious kisses, biting of lips...More than kisses...with other obscenities that vain lovers use, which are abominable and pernicious....Many such allurements there are, nods, jests, winks, smiles, wrestlings, tokens, favours, symbols, letters, valentines, etc.

Brute love is another matter. This is what makes people spend, steal, commit incests, rape, adulteries and murders to satisfy their lust.

Bawdry is become an art...and there be such tricks and subtilties, so many nurses, old women, panders, letter carriers, beggars, physicians, friars, confessors, employed about it that no pen could deal with it all....such occult notes, stenography, polygraphy, mindreading....Some physicians will promise to restore maidenheads, and do it without danger, make an abort if need be...The last battering engines are philters, amulets, spells, charms, images and such unlawful means...'

************

From Robert Burton's 'Anatomy of Melancholy' (to which he succumbed, in 1639)

He also 'opined' on rustic (country) love:

'it is well known in every village how many have either died for love or voluntary made away with themselves that I need not much labour to prove it...Instead of ...gaudy Masques, Tilts, Tournaments, etc., they have their Wakes, Whitsun-ales, Shepherd'-feasts, meetings on holy-days, country dances, roundelays, writing their names on trees, true lovers' knots, pretty gifts...choosing Lords, Ladies, Kings, Queens and valentines, etc.'

********************

LOVE AND THE ENGLISH

by Nina Epton (1st Edition 1960)

 

(p 63 - Love's Cosmopolitan Climate)

Philip Stubbes, the Puritan author of The Anatomie of Abuses (1582), let himself go very fully upon the subject, launching particularly venomous attacks upon hats, doublets, and the suggestive way in which posies were worn by the ladies: 'Their doublets are no less monstrous than the rest; for now the fashion is to have them hang down in the middle of their thighs, or at least to their privy members, being so hard quilted, stuffed, bombasted and sewed as they can neither worke nor yet well playe in them through the excessive heat thereof. Now what handsomeness can be in these dublettes, which stand on their bellies like or much bigger than a man's codpeece so as their bellies are thicker than all their bodies beside...I see no good end where to they serve except it be to show the disposition of the wearer, how he is inclined namely to gluttony, riotte and excesse...The women carry in their hands nosegays and posies of flowers to smell at and which is more, two or three sticked in their breastes before, for what cause I cannot tell, except it be to allure their amorous paramours to catch at them, whereby I doubt not but they get a slabbering kiss and peradventure more friendship besides - they knowe what I meane.'

and

'Thomas Nash was equally explicit: 'Their breasts they embusk up on high and their round roseate buds immodestly lay forth, to shew at their hands there is fruit to be hoped. They shew the swellings of their mind, in the swellings and plumpings of their apparel.'

* * *

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