Example poetry

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with poetry

roses are red

violets are blue

i like a rhyme

I hope you too

At the time of writing this blog, I had a crucial question: what is the origin of “roses are red, violets are blue”? These two lines have inspired many struggling Valentine’s poets and, conversely, parodies for lovers. It turns out that a variation of these lines have appeared throughout history in different languages. The first example seems to be Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Fairy Queen of the 16th century. In the poem, a man sees a fairy woman bathing and describes, “She bathed herself with red roses and violets blew, / And all the sweetest flowers that grew in the forest.” The 18th century nursery rhyme book Garland of Gammar Gurton features a poem titled “Valentine’s Day”, which reads: “The rose is red, the violet is blue,/ Honey is sweet, and so are you./ You are my love, and I am yours; I drew you to my Valentine:/ The spell was cast, then I cast,/ And fortune said it must be you.

Victor Hugo gave his own twist to the phrase in Wretched. Translated from the French, Fantine sings: “We’re going to buy very pretty things/ A-walking around the suburbs./ The violets are blue, the roses are red./ The violets are blue,/ I love my loves. She sings the lullaby reminiscing about happier times with her daughter, Cosette. Although Fantine’s story doesn’t have a happy ending, the song shows that these lines don’t have to have a romantic connotation – they can be a celebration of love in all its forms.

With that in mind, we’ve collected more poems to share with your Valentine, whether it’s your child, partner, friend, or pet! Let us know your favorite or if you were inspired to write your own on Twitter @NEAarts.

For your best friend…

“Love is like the wild rosehip, / Friendship like the holly – / The holly is dark when the rosehip blooms / But which will bloom most constantly?” From “Love and friendship” by Emily Bronte

For a new love…

It is neither red nor sweet.  It doesn't melt or turn, shatter or harden, so it can't feel pain, desire, regret.

“It’s neither red/ nor sweet./ It doesn’t melt/ nor turn over,/ it doesn’t break or harden,/ so it can’t feel/ pain,/ desire,/ regret.” From “Heart to Heart” by Rita Dove

For a long time partner…

    Nothing remains.  I want to see you walking down the hall to the cold tiled bathroom - all night, a lifetime.

“Nothing remains. I want to / watch you walk // from the hallway to the cold tiles / the bathroom – all // night, a lifetime. ” From “Ditty” by Kevin Young

For a parent or child…

                    You can strive to be like them, but don't try to make them look like you.  Because life does not retreat and does not dwell on yesterday.  You are the bows from which your children are shot like living arrows.  The archer sees the mark on the way to infinity, and He bends you with His power so that His arrows can go fast and far.

“You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. / For life neither recedes nor lingers with yesterday. / You are the bows from which your children are drawn like living arrows./ The archer sees the trace the path of infinity, and he bends you with his power so that his arrows go fast and far.” From “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran

For a lost love…

Like an oyster That encloses a loot of pearls, Untouched — The heart that has had enough Remains closed.

“Like an oyster/ Which encloses a loot of pearls,/ Untouched -// The heart which has had/ Enough/ Remains closed.” From “Poem” by Jill Alexander Essbaum

For your dog… hey, who said he doesn’t understand poetry?

LOVING friend, the gift of a person who, his own true faith, ran, through your lower nature;  Be my blessing said With my hand on your head, Sweet fellow!

“FRIEND IN LOVE, someone’s gift,/ Who, his own faith, ran,/ Through your lower nature;/ My blessing be spoken/ With my hand on your head,/ Sweet companion!” From “To Flush, My Dog” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning



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