Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, This Historical Poetry Is Perfect For You

Sanna Walker, Staff Writer

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Valentine’s Day often has us come across trite love poems, packed with cliches and scrawled across premade valentines and chocolate boxes. But before “Roses are Red,” there were beautiful love poems that expressed deeper emotions. These poems are often forgotten in this age of modern cynicism. An antidote to this cynicism is a more in-depth reading of the most classic love poetry.

Sonnets are a traditional form of poetry and are usually written in iambic pentameter (the emphasis on certain syllables). Although it was used in many different languages, it became known as an English poem form because of the genius of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Sonnet 18 became one of his most frequently recited and recognizable love poems.

 

Excerpt from William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18

 

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date …”

 

His opening line “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” starts his description of his love towards a mysterious woman. He then depicts her sustained youth and implied beauty through the comparison with summer. 

He uses consistent iambic pentameter with some exceptions to bring attention to the meaning of the love and to stress certain words and phrases. 

 

Excerpt from Robert Burns’ “A Red Red Rose”

 

“O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,

That’s newly sprung in June:

O my Luve’s like the melody,

That’s sweetly play’d in tune.”

 

Robert Burns uses “A Red Red Rose” to declare love for his romantic partner. Roses are known as a symbol of beauty and romance, and the symbolic reference to the color red further strengthens the comparison of  his “Luve” to a red rose. He emphasizes the lengths he would go to realize his love for her. At the end he tragically announces that he must go away for “awhile”, but will return for her (“And I will come again, my luve,”) no matter the distance or cost (“Though it were ten thousand mile”).

 

Excerpt from Elizabeth Barret Browning’s Sonnet 43

 

“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.”

 

Browning is a renowned Victorian poet who, in spite of being a woman, achieved fame during her life. And Browning’s “Sonnet 43” partly contributed to her fame. In this sonnet, she outlines her love for her husband Robert Browning and asks God for the ability to continue loving him after she dies. She explains that her love is pure and the description of this love has good intentions and wants no praise. She uses her religion in her poems to describe the depth of her love for her husband, emphasizing its eternal nature (“And of God choose, I shall love thee better after death”).

 

Although these love poems are classic poems, I hope that some of these are new to you, and that you are able to be exposed to some classic love poetry and maybe even recite these poems to someone you “luve”.