Love Poems Through the Ages
By J.Lynne Moore
Valentine’s Day is all about love and expressing that love to the ones we care most about. We send flowers, buy fancy chocolates, and have intimate dinners; all in the name of love. However, one of the oldest forms of the human expression of love… is the love poem.
The art of stringing words together in romantic and lyrical fashion to express feelings, many times so deep that even finding the right words can be a difficult task, is as old as time. Poets over the centuries have labored long and hard to find the perfect set of works to express their undying love and affection.
Have you ever wondered when we started expressing ourselves in this way? When and where was the first love poem written? And who wrote it?
Most historians considered the Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, to be the oldest love poem in existence, having been written sometime between 971-931 BC. The Song of Songs, written by King Solomon, speaks of the intimate love shared by a husband and wife, and the maturing of their relationship.
However in the 19th century around 1846 or 1847 archeologists unearthed a pottery tablet found in the library of an Assyrian King. Once it was dated and translated, it took the top spot as the oldest love poem in existence. It is called The Song of Love for Shu-Sin and is believed to date back to 2000 BC. This love poem is thought to be part of a yearly ritual, in which the king would partake in a symbolic marriage to one of the goddesses, to insure fertility for the coming year.
Jump forward a few thousand years and you will find, in truth, love poetry has changed little. We still have men and women counting syllables, creating rhymes and perfecting their stanzas, chasing after the ultimate love poem. Have any of them found it; the perfect combination of words, leading to the greatest love poem of all time? Well, that is a matter of opinion. We can, however, take a look at a few poems that have stood the test of time.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) wrote – Sonnet 18:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
Lord Byron (1788-1824) gave us these lasting words in – She Walks in Beauty:
“She walks in beauty, like the night
of cloudless climes and starry skies:”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) composed one of the most famous love poems ever – Sonnet 43:
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
E.E. Cummings (1894-1962) brought new life and a modern twist in his love poem – i carry your heart with me:
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
Well there you have it, a brief look at, the love poem through the ages. Whether it’s “Roses are red, violets are blue” or “How do I love thee?” love poems are one of the oldest and most heartfelt ways for one human to express their love to one another. Human beings cannot help but want to express the deep emotions that come with love; it seems that from the beginning of time we have done so, I don’t think we will stop any time soon.
So as you prepare for Valentine’s Day, consider writing your own love poem, it is a true expression of love. I would like to leave you with what I consider one of the greatest love poems of the current age.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) gave us this priceless piece – Sonnet 17
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
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