For Valentine’s Day, I offer you some love poems for almost any situation. The first poem, by the great poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, is perfect if you are shy; Shelley is forward enough for centuries of wooing. The second, by living poet Reid McGrath of Pawling, New York, is perfect for the new love interest. The last, by living poet Amy Foreman of Arizona, is long, but perfect for relationships on the rocks.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?—
See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?
By Reid McGrath
I didn’t know when Valentine’s Day was,
and didn’t need to. That day came and went
like any other. Now I know it cause
you’re perfect, dear; you don’t know what you’ve meant
to me, my life, completely ignorant
to Love which waters a lush Happiness,
as if my rose-like heart were pinched and pent
up in my dry yet sunless parchéd chest.
You have refreshed; you irrigate my heart.
You’re water and you’re sunshine and you’re air
that’s unpolluted: cool then warm. You part
the darkness of my isolated lair.
Now fertile is my chest; and a Love grows,
and now you are my Heart; you are my Rose.
Ballad: Our Crew of Two
By Amy Foreman
When we set forth, the breeze blew fair,
The sun shone balmy, warm.
Our sheets were fixed; sail filled with air,
No warning of the storm.
Our crew of two, so cheerfully,
With confidence untried,
Thought we could lick the strongest sea
And still enjoy the ride.
In dinghy small: in ocean great
Our tiny course still true.
We charted stars to navigate;
From Heaven took our cue.
And so we cruised for many years,
Successful in our tour.
With frequent laughter, scarcer tears,
The partnership secure.
But one night when the stars were gone
And clouds obscured our view,
A gust surprised us, struck head-on
And blew the mast askew.
In darkness thick, with rising surge,
We struggled with the sail.
The waves now threatened to submerge
Our vessel in the gale.
We could not see to douse or reef
And so we grappled, blind;
Our crew of two, in disbelief
Left buoyancy behind.
The dinghy tossed like wreckage now
And, hope so far from sight,
We tried once more and then, somehow,
Our crew began to fight.
Through foam and froth and swelling wave
Our agitation grew.
Each violent blast a cause to rave,
To quarrel, stage a coup.
Our crew of two, now one-on-one,
Not just against the squall
Attacked each other ’til undone,
A rebel’s free-for-all.
So will we drown in waters vast
This tempest take our souls?
And, sinking, will we still lambaste
Each other’s weak controls?
Or could we, if we changed our tack
And pulled together, firm,
Outlast this storm, this inky black,
Our partnership affirm?
Oh, please, let’s try, although the sky
Above is dire and grim.
You take an oar and so will I,
Together scull and skim.
I’ll call you “Captain;” call me “Mate.”
We’ll rally, make amends.
And, crew of two, we’ll navigate
This stormy night as friends.
Evan Mantyk is president of the Society of Classical Poets (ClassicalPoets.org). He teaches literature and history in upstate New York. You may send your comments, feedback, and, of course, poetry to Submissions@ClassicalPoets.org