In this guide, we’re going to discuss romantic poetry and why an elegant gentleman should be familiar with it. We’ll delve into its historical roots, some of the world’s most romantic poems and poets as well as a curated list of books worthy of any gentleman’s library.
History of Romanticism and Poetry
In the late 1700s there were many artistic movements, and yet romanticism was arguably the most popular. The movement spanned all of the continents and continued well into the mid-nineteenth century, paving the way for what we now refer to simply as romantic poetry.
Poetry is rarely heard today, although frequently written and read. For most of us, the chance to read it aloud or hear it in public only happens at small coffee house readings and special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, and funerals.
It is most difficult to determine exactly when the romantic movement began as it applies to poetry as there are many events that it can be traced back to and much of it is speculation or folklore. From the Brothers Grimm to reactions against neoclassicism as well as the Augustan poets, there is a belief among many historians that political events helped to shape the movement. Despite its origins, romantic poetry can be traced back to times where national pride was at its greatest. The ideal world fostered emotions of love and passion in those who were merry. The romantics opposed order and rather than focus on rational thoughts, took advantage of a time where they could embrace artistry, drama and freedom that came with uprisings and revolutions. Germany, France and Britain saw a great number of romantic poets. From William Wordsworth and Lord Byron to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, there were many poets who caused the world to take notice and even more who remained private and wrote simply for their lovers. In America, men like Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe began cultivating interest in the art and the renowned French poet Victor Hugo who is known best for his novel Les Misérables was quickly shot into stardom. These men (and women) were true artists and they became the birth of the stereotypical poet/artist that is tortured, perhaps melancholy and yet an artistic visionary.
Today, much of the poetry published is romantic. Some remain dark and morbid tales, but even the vilest and most grotesque poems about death and torture often have a hint of lust, love or at least passion intertwined within.
Why Should Men Care About Poetry Today
As men, it can be a daunting or dreaded task to express our emotions, especially towards our significant other. We often assume they know of our love for them, and passion can become an afterthought in our busy lives.
We all have a way we prefer to use to express our feelings. For some, it’s a kind act or sharing reaffirming words. The key is to know what your partner likes, rather than just what you like. Many times, it is the need to be told how one feels that is desired. Despite the argument that actions speak louder than words, in many relationships, those words are the most cherished. As men, we may possess a discomfort or lack of ability to verbally express our love.
Thankfully, there is poetry.
A poem is more than words. It’s a vivid account or description of a feeling at a certain moment in time. It becomes a memory. For many men, a poem first read at their wedding can serve a beautiful reminder of that innocent love on anniversaries or even during random periods throughout the life of the relationship. It can be a soothing touch during times of adversity or a reminder of your undying love for them during moments of tenderness. A poem can act as foreplay before making love and act as the curtain call after a significant life event. Choosing a poem that expresses your love for someone is akin to selecting a font for your signature, a crest for your family or a ring to signify your affiliation. That poem becomes a sentimental signature of your love for one another and after time, a simple sentence or word can be enough to remind them how you feel.
Poetry is a means to express emotion and sentimentality without the pressure of coming up with something profound yourself. Using another’s words and reading a poem is a way to show your significant other how you feel. However, it must be said that a poem should not be chosen lightly, and it’s vital that you take time and care to select the perfect expression of your love.
Regular Readings of Poetry
Often, it is said that spouses don’t spend enough quality time together. The same can be said for families with children. Too often, those who should be connecting are simply connected, whether it be to a device like a smartphone or a tablet, or whether it be watching television. One way to connect with those you love is by regular readings of poetry. A famous scene from the film The Notebook depicts a father and son sitting on their porch as the son reads from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. When the son’s girlfriend arrives at the home, the father explains to her that reading poetry is their way of bonding and that reading Walt Whitman poems was how his son overcame a speech impediment.
The fact is whether you read poetry as an expression of love, or just as a way to engage with those you care for, poetry also serves as a way to broaden your interests and knowledge, improve your vocabulary, reading capabilities and communication skills. There are many reasons to enjoy and read poetry on a regular basis. And for the manliest of men, one reason may be the most primal of all: that your significant other will almost certainly become enchanted and very possibly seduced.
Selection of Romantic Poems
Here are a few of our favorite poems to get your started. These poems are by some of the most prolific romance writers and poets throughout the ages and ones that we believe will help you in your endeavour to become a more romantic and expressive partner, person, and gentleman.
She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.
Requiescat by Oscar Wilde
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.
Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.
Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.
Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it.
A Glimpse by Walt Whitman
A glimpse through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around the stove late of a winter night, and I unremark’d seated in a corner,
Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently approaching and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand,
A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of drinking and oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word.
I Loved You First by Christina Rossetti
I loved you first: but afterwards your love
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? my love was long,
And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I loved and guessed at you, you construed me
And loved me for what might or might not be –
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’
With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.
I Carry Your Heart With Me by E.E. Cummings
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
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.
*all poems are unedited and have been published as found in print.
There are thousands of poetry books containing enchanting romantic balladry. From the masters of romanticism, to the contemporary and tortured poet living among us, there is a vast collection of poems available around the world. Here is a curated list of some of our favorite poetry books you can buy today.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Originally published in 1855, this oeuvre was a continual work in progress throughout much of Whitman’s professional life. The first edition contained just twelve poems with his last a compilation of more than four hundred. This is a masterful treasury of one of the greatest American poet’s most influential pieces containing romantic verse as well as other poems worth reading. Click here to get a copy today.
Selected Poems by Lord Byron
Not entirely one of Lord Byron’s most treasured works, this is a published library of the master’s most prominent work. Lord Byron has long been considered the godfather of romanticism and many believe it should be a requirement to have his poems at one’s immediate disposal. His poem ‘She Walks in Beauty’ can be bookmarked on page 315. Click here to buy your copy.
Romantic Poetry: An Annotated Anthology edited by Michael O’Neill and Charles Mahoney
A remarkably in-depth anthology, as we as an insightful vade mecum on understanding romanticism, this book features poems by Smith, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Barbauld, Byron, Shelley, Hemans, Keats and Landon with a discussion on their most important elements. Click here to get your copy.
There is no shortage of poetry and the benefits of reading it quietly and aloud are vast. Whether it be to impress the woman or man you’re courting, remind your spouse of your love or simply to increase your knowledge base, there is no wrong reason to start reading romantic poetry. You may be surprised just how often it comes in handy.
What are your favorite poems?