Selected Poems

5 Poems About Longing We Can All Relate To

Last Updated: January 21, 2023

There is something about longing that is both painful and beautiful. It is the ache of desire, the sweet torture of wanting something we can never have. And yet, in those moments of yearning, we also taste a moment of pure joy. For in longing, we are alive. We are feeling deeply and fully. These poems about longing capture that complex emotion perfectly.

1. Longing by Matthew Arnold

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

In Arnold’s poem Longing, the speaker implores his partner to visit him in his dreams to assuage his daytime yearning. This poem is not too difficult to understand. It is addressed to the speaker’s lover, from whom he is divided. He has resorted to pleading with this individual to appear to him in his dreams since he is unable to satisfy his need. He believes that the only things that will make the days tolerable are these fictitious interactions.

Matthew Arnold explores themes of intimacy and needs throughout Longing. His speaker is addressing a particular person with an unmet need. He finds it challenging to go about his daily life since he can’t get rid of his thinking about this person. His days are plagued by memories of the woman he loves, and he dreams that she will come to him and help him release some of the stress that is pushing him to the brink of desperation.

2. Longing is like the Seed by Emily Dickinson

Longing is like the Seed
That wrestles in the Ground,
Believing if it intercede
It shall at length be found.

Longing is like the Seed by Emily Dickinson is a beautiful and evocative exploration of the theme of longing. The image of the seed struggling to grow and emerge from the ground is a powerful metaphor for the intense and often tumultuous feelings that often accompany longing. The seed represents the desire or hope that we have, and its struggle to grow and emerge from the ground represents the effort and determination that we may need to put in in order to fulfill our longings.

The last two lines “What Constancy must be achieved / Before it see the Sun!” highlights the idea that fulfilling our longings often requires patience and perseverance. It may take time and effort to achieve our goals and fulfill our desires, and we may need to be persistent and consistent in our efforts in order to see our longings come to fruition.

Overall, Longing is like the Seed does a wonderful job of capturing the intensity and complexity of the emotion of longing, and the metaphor of the seed struggling to grow and emerge from the ground is particularly powerful and evocative.

3. The Great Longing by Kahlil Gibran

Here I sit between my brother the mountain and my sister the sea.
We three are one in loneliness, and the love that binds us together
is deep and strong and strange.

The Great Longing by Gibran is a lovely and moving examination of the subject of longing and isolation. The speaker sits between their “brother the mountain” and “sister the sea,” and the three are united in their loneliness. The love that binds them together is described as “deep and strong and strange,” suggesting the intensity and complexity of their connection.

The speaker speaks of the passage of time, noting that “aeons upon aeons have passed” since they first became visible to one another. Despite this, they remain “young and eager,” suggesting that their longing persists despite the passage of time.

The speaker also speaks of their desire for a romantic partner, asking “whence shall come the flaming god to warm my sister’s bed?” and “what she-torrent shall quench my brother’s fire?” and wondering “who is the woman that shall command my heart?” These lines speak to the speaker’s deep-seated longing for connection and love.

Overall, this poem beautifully captures the sense of loneliness and palpable desire for connection.

4. Longing by Paul Laurence Dunbar

If you could sit with me beside the sea to-day,
And whisper with me sweetest dreamings o’er and o’er;
I think I should not find the clouds so dim and gray,
And not so loud the waves complaining at the shore.

Dunbar’s poem Longing is a lovely illustration of the want for someone else’s company and love. The speaker wishes for someone to sit with them besides the sea, to hold their hand, and to walk with them on the shore. These simple acts of companionship are described as having the power to transform the speaker’s experience, bringing lightness to their heart and banishing their “sad thoughts.”

The line “I think I should not find the clouds so dim and gray / And not so loud the waves complaining at the shore” suggests that the speaker’s longing is fueled by a desire for emotional support and connection. In the absence of this companionship, the speaker finds the world around them to be cold and uninviting. However, the possibility of being with the person they love brings hope and the possibility of joy.

5. Longing by Sara Teasdale

I am not sorry for my soul,
But oh, my body that must go

In her brief, reflective poem Longing, Teasdale examines ideas related to existence and mortality. The poet discusses the future of her body and soul, noting that one has a better destiny than the other. The speaker in the poem starts out by saying she doesn’t feel pity for her soul. It will continue to exist and find a home in eternity.

She feels sorry for her body, however. It will eventually perish, deteriorate, and return to the dirt and dust from which it originally came. There, it would never discover the happiness it searched for in its entire existence. This speaks to the finitude of human life and the sense of loss and regret that can come with the realization that we will not be able to experience everything we desire.

Final thoughts

These poems about longing capture the emotions we all feel at some point in our lives. Whether you are missing someone who is far away or pining for a love that is just out of reach, these poems will speak to your heart. We hope you enjoy them.

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