Two Valentine's Day poems, selected by Robert Pinsky: one pure, the other impure.

What makes them great.
Feb. 15 2011 12:03 PM

Valentine's Voices

Two love poems, one pure, the other deeply impure.

Also in Slate: Slate writers and editors pick their favorite Valentine's Day poems.  

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Click the arrow on the audio player below to hear Robert Pinsky read Philip Sidney's "My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His." You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

"Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae"

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Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
…Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
…When I awoke and found the dawn was gray;
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
…Yea, all the time, because the dance was long;
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
…Yea hungry for the lips of my desire:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.
—Ernest Dowson

Click the arrow on the audio player below to hear Robert Pinsky read Ernest Dowson's "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae." You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

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here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site.

Former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky is Slate's poetry editor. His Selected Poems is now available.