5 Poems On Love And Longing For Red Rose Day

Valentine’s Day is overrated. Let’s celebrate National Red Rose Day instead! Here are 5 impactful poems that capture love in all its glory.

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Love is one of the most popular and versatile topics. It fuels our favorite romcoms, enemies to lovers arcs, and impassioned power ballads. It’s especially prevalent in the realm of poetry. This is not much of a surprise, considering love is a very powerful emotion! It’s only fitting that it would procure some of the most impactful and enduring verses in literary history.

Much like the poem, the red rose has long encompassed the imparting of love and romance. So, in light of National Red Rose Day, let’s journey through a handful of poems that are sure to make even romantic cynics (like me) feel the love!

1. Pablo Neruda – “Tonight I Can Write”

Image via Poetry Foundation

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms

my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer

and these the last verses that I write for her.

Read the full poem here.

Pablo Neruda was a master at his craft. Emotion bleeds from every one of his verses. This particular poem, from one of his earliest collections, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, explores how love overlaps with loneliness, longing, and despair. It’s romantic but in a more somber light. A more soul-crushing light, if you will. Neruda evokes a feeling that my teenage self liked to relish on many a night. One in which it’s not the heart that’s troubled; it’s the “soul.”

From couplet to couplet, Neruda rides a fine line between wistfulness and jealousy. It’s a testament to the way memory can haunt the mind. As a short and largely vague monologue, the poem puts an emphasis on love’s duality. For, what’s love without a bit of sorrow?

2. Dorothy Parker – “One Perfect Rose”

Image via Culver Pictures

I knew the language of the floweret;

“My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”

Love long has taken for his amulet

One perfect rose

Read the full poem here.

Most on-theme for Red Rose Day is Dorothy Parker’s short, witty poem about being presented with a single rose by her romantic suitor. Despite this classic gesture of conveying affection, Parker still finds it underwhelming. The final verses show her cynical spin on romantic gestures. She asks: “Why is it no one ever sent me yet / One perfect limousine, do you suppose? / Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get / One perfect rose.”

Parker’s chiding does well to lighten up the love poem tradition. It reminds us that sometimes love cannot be wholly condensed to a symbol. Her lighthearted and infectious confidence proves that the love poem does not have to be invariably somber and serious in order to be impactful.

3. Peter Everwine – “Aubade in Autumn”

Image via University of Arizona Poetry Center

Who am I, if not one who listens

for words to stir from the silences they keep?

Love is the ground note; we cannot do

without it or the sorrow of its changes.

Read the full poem here.

Everwine’s “Aubade in Autumn” was published in the October 2007 issue of The New Yorker and displays a more modern, meditative take on the love poem. In the opening line, he steps directly into the role of a listener: “Lawrence the handyman is singing the blues in a soft falsetto as he works, the words unclear, but surely one of them is love.” The following lines go on to advocate for tuning in to this love rather than dwelling on sadness, which “there’s never a lack of.” Everwine seamlessly transitions from past to present, capturing the flow of his mind on a quiet fall morning. He brilliantly expands our perception of love while evoking a sense of peaceful reflection.

“Aubade in Autumn” is a beautiful reminder that when we slow down and listen to the world around us (and our lingering memories), there is surely love to be found. He encompasses the essence of love in his simple claim that “we cannot do without it.” I couldn’t agree more.

4. Edna St. Vincent Millay – “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

Image via Library of Congress

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,

I have forgotten, and what arms have lain

Under my head till morning; but the rain

Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh

Upon the glass and listen for reply

Read the full poem here.

What better inspiration for a love poem than reminiscing past lovers? Edna St. Vincent Millay does just that in her poem about the ghosts of her romantic past, published in Vanity Fair circa 1920. The poem focuses not just on the act of remembering past loves but the painful act of forgetting them.

The consistent tone is one of lamentation and solitude, and Millay’s concluding lines are particularly impactful: “I cannot say what loves have come and gone, I only know that summer sang in me… that in me sings no more.” This air of finality cements this poem’s success in showing that one’s memory of love does not always provide a sense of comfort. For Millay, the past seems a hurdle to overcome or subdue.

5. Elizabeth Barrett Browning – “How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)”

Image via Wikipedia

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

Read the full poem here.

Rounding out this short list is a sonnet headlined by perhaps the most enduring single verse on love: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Sonnet 43 comes from Browning’s 1850 collection, Sonnets From the Portuguese, and is a classic ode to that special someone.

For Browning, that special someone was her husband, Robert. The story behind the literary pair is a classic story about wooing with words. The two exchanged hundreds of letters over a long courtship, and despite the match being forbidden by Elizabeth’s father, they married in secret in 1846. Now disowned by her father, the lovers settled in Italy, where she penned many renowned poems, including the sonnet above.

Need more poetry inspiration? Click here to check out our list of poetry collections to read this summer!

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