4 very romantic French love poems

Ah, l’amour! Whether you want to celebrate a new love or a lasting one, there are fortunately lots of ways to do so, very much including reading and sharing a beautiful poem.

Here are four of our favorite classic French love poems and the years they were first published. Each one is followed by an English translation.

Les amoureux (The Sweethearts) by Madeleine de Scudéry (1664)

two lit candles

French poem

L'eau qui caresse le rivage,
La rose qui s'ouvre au zéphir,
Le vent qui rit sous le feuillage,
Tout dit qu'aimer est un plaisir.

De deux amants l'égale flamme
Sait doublement les rendre heureux.
Les indifférents n'ont qu'une âme ;
Mais lorsqu'on aime, on en a deux.

English translation

The water that caresses the shore,
The rose that opens itself to the breeze,
The wind that laughs beneath the leaves,
Everything says that to love is a pleasure.

From two lovers the same flame
Knows doubly how to make them happy.
Those who are indifferent have but one soul;
But when we love, we have two.

Mon bras pressait ta taille frêle…(My arm clasped your fragile waist) by Victor Hugo (1834)

Two people in sweaters have their hands meet so that they form a heart shape.

French poem

Mon bras pressait ta taille frêle
Et souple comme le roseau ;
Ton sein palpitait comme l’aile
D’un jeune oiseau.

Longtemps muets, nous contemplâmes
Le ciel où s’éteignait le jour.
Que se passait-il dans nos âmes ?
Amour ! Amour !

Comme un ange qui se dévoile,
Tu me regardais, dans ma nuit,
Avec ton beau regard d’étoile,
Qui m’éblouit.

English translation

My arm clasped your fragile waist
that’s supple as a reed;
Your breast beat like the wing
Of a young bird.

In a long silence we contemplated
The sky where the day was fading away.
What was happening in our souls?
Love! Love!

Like an angel who reveals herself,
You looked at me, in my night,
With your beautiful star’s gaze,
Blinding me with light.

If you prefer, here’s a slightly more literal translation of this poem.

L’extase d’un baiser (The ecstasy of a kiss) by François Tristan L’Hermite (1648)

An man and woman lean in for a kiss on a hilly landscape beside water, at sunset.

French poem

Au point que j’expirais, tu m’as rendu le jour
Baiser, dont jusqu’au cœur le sentiment me touche,
Enfant délicieux de la plus belle bouche
Qui jamais prononça les Oracles d’Amour.

Mais tout mon sang s’altère, une brûlante fièvre
Me ravit la couleur et m’ôte la raison ;
Cieux ! j’ai pris à la fois sur cette belle lèvre
D’un céleste Nectar et d’un mortel poison.

Ah ! mon âme s’envole en ce transport de joie !
Ce gage de salut, dans la tombe m’envoie ;
C’est fait ! je n’en puis plus, Élise je me meurs.

Ce baiser est un sceau par qui ma vie est close :
Et comme on peut trouver un serpent sous des fleurs,
J’ai rencontré ma mort sur un bouton de rose.

English translation

At the moment I was dying, you brought me back to life
Kiss, whose sentiment touches my heart,
Delicious child of the most beautiful mouth
That ever pronounced the Oracles of Love.

But all my blood sickens, a burning fever
Steals the color from me and takes away my reasoning;
Heavens! I took from this beautiful lip at once
A celestial nectar and a mortal poison.

Ah! my Soul flies away in this transport of joy!
This ticket to salvation sends me to the tomb;
It’s done! I cannot go on, Élise I’m dying.

This kiss is a seal by which my life is closed:
And just as one can find a serpent beneath the flowers,
I’ve found my death on the bud of a rose.

Éloge de l’amour (In Praise of Love) Jean de La Fontaine by (1669)

Hanging heart decorations of shiny paper in red and dark pink.

French poem

Tout l'univers obéit à l'amour ;
Belle Psyché, soumettez-lui votre âme.
Les autres Dieux à ce Dieu font la cour,
Et leur pouvoir est moins doux que sa flamme.
Des jeunes cœurs c'est le suprême bien :
Aimez, aimez ; tout le reste n'est rien.

Sans cet amour, tant d'objets ravissants,
Lambris dorés, bois, jardins, et fontaines,
N'ont point d'appas qui ne soient languissants,
Et leurs plaisirs sont moins doux que ses peines,
Des jeunes cœurs c'est le suprême bien :
Aimez, aimez ; tout le reste n'est rien.

English translation

All the universe obeys love;
Beautiful Psyche, submit your soul to him.
The other Gods this God do woo,
And their power is less sweet than his flame.
For young hearts it’s the ultimate good:
Love, love, all the rest is nothing.

Without this love, so many beautiful objects,
Gilded paneling, wood, gardens, fountains,
Have nothing but languishing charms,
And their pleasures are less sweet than his sorrows.
For young hearts it’s the supreme good:
Love, love, all the rest is nothing.

Where can I find more French love poems?

Three light pink roses in a bowl form a shape like a heart.

If these poems have left you in the mood for more love, there’s good news: As in most cultures, love poems in French abound. You can find many more of them on sites like Poésie française.fr, Éternels Éclairs, and Mon Poème.fr.

If you have a favorite French poet or author, doing an online search for their name plus “poème” or “poème d’amour” could yield some results as well.

Is it easy to read French poetry?

As you might have noticed from the poems here, centuries-old French is surprisingly easy to understand compared to centuries-old English. This is because the Académie Française has been regulating the French language since 1635, while English has been allowed to run wild and evolve more or less on its own terms.

Both of our languages are rich and have a lot of beauty in them, but the advantage of French over English is that you can read poetry, not to mention plays, nonfiction works, and more, from as far back as the 16th or 17th centuries with little problem.

Of course, poetry is often at least a little trickier than prose, since it can include unusual word order, complex wordplay, and other poetic devices. So don’t be discouraged if you come upon a French poem that’s difficult. Try to take your time and untangle the line(s) – something a native speaker would have to do, as well.  And if that’s too difficult, you can also see if there is an English translation of the poem online.

Many famous French authors have been translated into English. Poetry in translation loses a lot more than prose in most cases, but at least it can help you get through a particularly difficult passage. And hopefully, as your French skills grow, you can return to the poem and understand it completely in its original version.

Do you have a favorite French love poem – classic or more contemporary? Feel free to share in the comments!

Must reads

  1. What are the best French learning apps in 2024?
  2. The 16 best websites and apps for French conversation practice
  3. Duolingo French review: The good, the bad and the ugly

Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.