Best Love Poems

In the afterglow of yesterday’s celebration of love, here are some timeless treasures from the work of Persian poet Rumi. Born in Afghanistan, Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) was a Sufi mystic and poet, known among his people as the Quth, or pole, of love, and as Maulana (Our Master).

Part of the wonder of Rumi’s poetry is that it speaks of a love that is all-embracing, universal and unconditional. While the tone is ecstatic, it does not romanticize or trivialize love. The hard, earthy stuff is still in there – the violent grip of love, the pain of separation, the longing and the confusion.

Rumi uses familiar imagery from the natural world to illustrate the wonder and power of love. In one of my favorite verses, Rumi’s experience of love is quite violent. He dies and is reborn, and there appears an animal image that is as startling as love’s power:

I died a hundred times and I learned this:

Your fragrance came, and I was made alive.

I gave my life a hundred times, and fell –
I heard your call, and I was born again.

I placed a net to catch the falcon Love

Deep in my heart – he seized my heart, and
went. …

Rumi lived as part of the dervish community famed for their whirling. The whirling of the dervishes is a devotional ritual and signifies a “turning toward the truth.” When Rumi poured out his verses, of which there are thousands, he probably did so while whirling or dancing to music. I always find it inspiring to imagine this as I read his work. You can almost feel yourself whirling with the rhythms, cadences and repetition of his lines. This is an especially fine example:

Blessed time! when we are sitting,

I and thou,

With two forms and only one soul,

I and thou.

Fragrance, song of birds, they quicken


When we come into the garden,

I and thou.

All the stars of heaven hurry

to see us,

And we show them our own moon,
I and thou –

I and thou without words,

I and thou –

In delight we are united,

I and thou.

Sugar chew the heaven’s parrots

in that place

Where we’re sitting, laughing sweetly,

I and thou.

Strange that I and thou together

in this nook

Are apart a thousand miles, see –

I and thou.

One form in this dust,

the other
in that land,

Sweet eternal Paradise there…

I and thou.

Shambhala publishes a charming pocket-sized edition (from which the two poems here were taken) called Look! This is Love, translated by Annemarie Schimmel. Coleman Barks is also a reknowned translator of Rumi’s verses. Let the spirit of love lead you to Rumi and poetry, and hopefully to some ecstatic experiences of your own — each and every day!

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