The HyperTexts

Wedding Poems
Free Poems about Weddings and Marriage, Brides and Grooms

These are my best poems about weddings and my best translations of poems about weddings, marriages, brides and grooms. The poems can be used for noncommercial purposes as long as I am credited as the author or translator. Michael R. Burch

“Isn’t it time,”
the young bride asks,
“to light the lantern?”
Ochi Etsujin, translation by Michael R. Burch

First Rendezvous
by Amjad Islam Amjad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This story of the earth
is as old as the universe,
as old as the birth
of the first day and night.

This story of the sky
is included in the words we casually uttered,
you and I,
and yet it remains incomplete, till the end of sight.

This earth and all the scenes it contains
remain witnesses to the moment
when you first held my hand
as we watched the world unfolding, together.

This world
became the focus
for the first rendezvous
between us.

Maura Garven told me that she and her fiancé planned to use my translation of “First Rendezvous” at their wedding.


by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill
both of them naked,
both consisting of nothing but themselves.

As in all beginnings
the world is naked,
empty, free of deception,
dark with unspoken explanations
a silence that extends
to the limits of time.

Then comes light,
life, the animals and man.

As in all beginnings
everything is naked,
empty, open.

They're both young,
yet both have already come a long way,
passing through the illusions of brilliant dawns,
of skies illuminated by hope,
of rivers intimating contentment.

They have experienced the sun's warmth,
drenched in each other's sweat.

Here, standing by barren reefs,
they watch evening fall
bringing strange dreams
to a bed arrayed with resplendent coral necklaces.

They lift their heads to view
trillions of stars arrayed in the sky.
The universe is their inheritance:
stars upon stars upon stars,
more than could ever be extinguished.

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill
both of them naked,
to recreate the world's first face.

I wrote the poem below for my wife Beth as our wedding day neared ...

The Quickening
by Michael R. Burch

for women who teach men to love

I never meant to love you
when I held you in my arms
promising you sagely
wise, noncommittal charms.

And I never meant to need you
when I touched your tender lips
with kisses that intrigued my own
such kisses I had never known,
nor a heartbeat in my fingertips!

You touched me more than words can say
with a passion I aroused in you,
a passion fierce, yet gentle too.
And the passion you aroused in me,
when it was gentled, came to be
a love meant for our wedding day.

Human beings can be shaken by passion, as Sappho of Lesbos illustrated with a tremendous metaphor, one of the best in world literature ...

Eros harrows my heart:
wild winds whipping desolate mountains,
uprooting oaks.
—Sappho, fragment 42, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Then, perhaps to prove it wasn't a fluke, she does it again ...

Eros, the limb-shatterer,
rattles me,
an irresistible
—Sappho, fragment 50, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A bride-to-be can find it hard to concentrate on love ...

Mother, how can I weave,
so overwhelmed by love?
—Sappho, fragment 90, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

But how will that skimpy wedding night attire be received? ...

A short revealing frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!
—Sappho, fragment 155, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That enticing girl's clinging dresses
leave me trembling, overcome by happiness,
as once, when I saw the Goddess in my prayers
eclipsing Cyprus.
—Sappho, fragment 22, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The ubiquitous "they" have called Sappho not "a" love poet but "THE" love poet, and I'm not going to argue with them ...

Your voice beguiles me.
Your laughter lifts my heart’s wings.
If I listen to you, even for a moment, I am left speechless.
—Sappho, fragment 31, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

In all the celebrations and festivities, let's not forget the roles mothers play in the lives of both bride and groom ...

A man may attempt to burnish pure gold,
but who can think to improve on his mother?
—Mahatma Gandhi, translation by Michael R. Burch

God's ultimate masterpiece is a mother's heart.
—St. Therese of Lisieux, loose translation/interpretation/paraphrase by Michael R. Burch

Children anchor their mothers to life.
— Sophocles, translation by Michael R. Burch

What is the earth's oldest love poem, regardless of language? The oldest extant love lyric seems to be the ancient Sumerian poem "The Love Song of Shu-Sin," which has also been called "The Love Song for Shu-Sin" because it was apparently written to be recited to the ancient Sumerian king Shu-Sin by a woman he was about to marry (or perhaps just have sex with). It also seems to be the oldest poem about marriage, brides and grooms. The poem was written circa 2000 BC, making it ancient indeed! My modern English translation of the poem appears below. In my opinion the poem is notable for the emotion it communicates and the expert use of repetition.―Michael R. Burch

The Love Song of Shu-Sin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Darling of my heart, my belovèd,
your enticements are sweet, far sweeter than honey!
Darling of my heart, my belovèd,
your enticements are sweet, far sweeter than honey!

You have captivated me; I stand trembling before you.
Darling, lead me swiftly into the bedroom!
You have captivated me; I stand trembling before you.
Darling, lead me swiftly into the bedroom!

Sweetheart, let me do the sweetest things for you!
This crevice you'll caress is far sweeter than honey!
In the bedchamber, dripping love’s honey,
let us enjoy the sweetest thing.
Sweetheart, let me do the sweetest things for you!
This crevice you'll caress is far sweeter than honey!

Bridegroom, you will have your pleasure with me!
Speak to my mother and she will reward you;
speak to my father and he will give you gifts.
I know how to give your body pleasure —
then sleep easily, my darling, until the sun dawns.

To prove that you love me,
give me your caresses,
my Lord God, my guardian Angel and protector,
my Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil’s heart,
give me your caresses!

My place like sticky honey, touch it with your hand!
Place your hand over it like a honey-pot lid!
Cup your hand over it like a honey cup!

This is a balbale-song of Inanna.

This may be earth’s oldest love poem. It may have been written around 2000 BC, long before the Bible’s “Song of Solomon,” which had been considered to be the oldest extant love poem by some experts. The poem was discovered when the archaeologist Austen Henry Layard began excavations at Kalhu in 1845, assisted by Hormuzd Rassam. Layard’s account of the excavations, published in 1849 CE, was titled Nineveh and its Remains. Due to Nineveh’s fame (from the Bible), the book became a best seller. But it turned out that the excavated site was not Nineveh, after all, as Layard later discovered when he excavated the real Nineveh! Shu-Sin was a Mesopotamian king who ruled over the land of Sumer close to four thousand years ago. The poem seems to be part of a rite, probably performed each year, known as the “sacred marriage” or “divine marriage,” in which the king would symbolically marry the goddess Inanna, mate with her, and so ensure fertility and prosperity for the coming year.

Of course there are also humorous poems about marriage, like these limericks of mine ...

Honeymoon Not-So-Suite
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a mockingbird, Clyde,
who bragged of his prowess, but lied.
To his new wife he sighed,
"When again, gentle bride?"
"Nevermore!" bright-eyed Raven replied.

Shotgun Bedding
by Michael R. Burch

A pedestrian pediatrician
set out on a dangerous mission;
though his child bride, Lolita,
was a sweet senorita,
her pa's shotgun cut off his emissions.

There are also sad, dark and bitter poems about relationships that didn't work out ...

by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Best wishes for an impending deflowering

Yes, I understand: you will never be mine.
I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
I contemplate
irrational numbers complex & undefined.

And yet I wish love might ... ameliorate ...
such negative numbers, dark and unsigned.

But at least I can’t be held responsible
for disappointing you. No cause to elate.
Still, I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
The gods have spoken. I can relate.

How can this be, when all it makes no sense?
I was born too soon such was my fate.
You must choose another, not half of who I AM.
Be happy with him when you consummate.

Unfit Gifts
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

At sunrise, I cast my nets into the sea,
dredging up the strangest and most beautiful objects from the depths ...
some radiant like smiles, some glittering like tears, others flushed like brides’ cheeks.
When I returned, staggering under their weight, my love was relaxing in her garden, idly ripping leaves from flowers.
Hesitant, I placed all I had produced at her feet, silently awaiting her verdict.
She glanced down disdainfully, then pouted: "What are these bizarre things? I have no use for them!"
I bowed my head, humiliated, and thought:
"Truly, I did not contend for them; I did not purchase them in the marketplace; they are unfit gifts for her!"
That night I flung them, one by one, into the street, like refuse.
The next morning travelers came, picked them up and carted them off to exotic countries.

The Divide
by Michael R. Burch

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
was man born to sorrow that first day?
The moon—a pale beacon across the Divide,
the brighter for longing, an object denied—
the tug at his heart’s pink, burgeoning clay.

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
but grew bitter, bitter—man’s torrents supplied.
The bride of their longing—forever astray,
her shield a cold beacon across the Divide,
flashing pale signals: Decide. Decide.
Choose me, or His Brightness, I will not stay.

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
imploring her, ebbing: Abide, abide.
The silver fish flash there, the manatees gray.
The moon, a pale beacon across the Divide,
has taught us to seek Love’s concealed side:
the dark face of longing, the poets say.

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
the moon a pale beacon across the Divide.

Published by Neovictorian/Cochlea, The Eclectic Muse, Freshet, Better Than Starbucks, Sonnetto Poesia, The New Formalist and Pennsylvania Review

The Bachelor Spectacular
by Michael R. Burch

One heart? Tossed aside.
The other? A bride’s.
In all his great wisdom, the bachelor decides.

Eeenie, mean-ie, mine-y, mo’,
one gal must stay and one must go.
If she hollers? That’s the show!

No heart can handle such despair!
But hearts get broken, hearts repair.
Next season? The treasoned will rule the air.

Originally published by Light

There are also dark poems about relationships that ended in death ...

You, my tall Columns, and you, my small Urn,
the receptacle of Hades’ tiny pittance of ash—
remember me to those who pass by
my grave, as they dash.

Tell them my story, as sad as it is:
that this grave sealed a young bride’s womb;
that my name was Baucis and Telos my land;
and that Erinna, my friend, etched this poem on my Tomb.
—Erinna, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Baucis is also spelled Baukis. Erinna has been attributed to different locations, including Lesbos, Rhodes, Teos, Telos and Tenos. Telos seems the most likely because of her Dorian dialect. Erinna wrote in a mixture of Aeolic and Doric Greek. In 1928, Italian archaeologists excavating at Oxyrhynchus discovered a tattered piece of papyrus which contained 54 lines Erinna’s lost epic, the poem “Distaff.” This work, like the epigram above, was also about her friend Baucis.

Excerpts from “Distaff”
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

… the moon rising …
… leaves falling …
… waves lapping a windswept shore …

… and our childish games, Baucis, do you remember? ...

... Leaping from white horses,
running on reckless feet through the great courtyard.
“You’re it!’ I cried, ‘You’re the Tortoise now!”
But when your turn came to pursue your pursuers,
you darted beyond the courtyard,
dashed out deep into the waves,
splashing far beyond us …

… My poor Baucis, these tears I now weep are your warm memorial,
these traces of embers still smoldering in my heart
for our silly amusements, now that you lie ash …

… Do you remember how, as girls,
we played at weddings with our dolls,
pretending to be brides in our innocent beds? ...

... How sometimes I was your mother,
allotting wool to the weaver-women,
calling for you to unreel the thread? ...

… Do you remember our terror of the monster Mormo
with her huge ears, her forever-flapping tongue,
her four slithering feet, her shape-shifting face? ...

... Until you mother called for us to help with the salted meat ...

... But when you mounted your husband’s bed,
dearest Baucis, you forgot your mothers’ warnings!
Aphrodite made your heart forgetful ...

... Desire becomes oblivion ...

... Now I lament your loss, my dearest friend.
I can’t bear to think of that dark crypt.
I can’t bring myself to leave the house.
I refuse to profane your corpse with my tearless eyes.
I refuse to cut my hair, but how can I mourn with my hair unbound?
I blush with shame at the thought of you! …

... But in this dark house, O my dearest Baucis,
My deep grief is ripping me apart.
Wretched Erinna! Only nineteen,
I moan like an ancient crone, eying this strange distaff ...

O Hymen! ... O Hymenaeus! ...

Alas, my poor Baucis!

On a Betrothed Girl
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I sing of Baucis the bride.
Observing her tear-stained crypt
say this to Death who dwells underground:
"Thou art envious, O Death!"

Her vivid monument tells passers-by
of the bitter misfortune of Baucis —
how her father-in-law burned the poor girl on a pyre
lit by bright torches meant to light her marriage train home.
While thou, O Hymenaeus, transformed her harmonious bridal song into a chorus of wailing dirges.

Hymen! O Hymenaeus!

by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who are the final fulfillment of life,
Death, my Death, come and whisper to me!
Day after day I have kept watch for you;
for you I have borne the joys and the pangs of life.
All that I am, all that I have and hope, and all my love
have always flowed toward you in the depths of secrecy.
One final glance from your eyes and my life will be yours forever, your own.
The flowers have been woven and the garland prepared for the bridegroom.
After the wedding the bride must leave her home and meet her lord alone in the solitude of night.

Poems have even been included in brides' dowries ...

Shota Rustaveli (c. 1160-1250), often called simply Rustaveli, was a Georgian poet who is generally considered to be the preeminent poet of the Georgian Golden Age. “The Knight in the Panther's Skin” or “The Man in the Panther’s Skin” is considered to be Georgia’s national epic poem and until the 20th century it was part of every Georgian bride’s dowry. It is believed that Rustaveli served Queen Tamar as a treasurer or finance minister and that he may have traveled widely and been involved in military campaigns. Little else is known about his life except through folk tradition and legend.

The Knight in the Panther's Skin
by Shota Rustaveli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

excerpts from the PROLOGUE

I sing of the lion whose image adorns the lances, shields and swords
of our Queen of Queens: Tamar, the ruby-throated and ebon-haired.
How dare I not sing Her Excellency’s manifold praises
when those who attend her must bring her the sweets she craves?

My tears flow profusely like blood as I extol our Queen Tamar,
whose praises I sing in these not ill-chosen words.
For ink I have employed jet-black lakes and for a pen, a flexible reed.
Whoever hears will have his heart pierced by the sharpest spears!

She bade me laud her in stately, sweet-sounding verses,
to praise her eyebrows, her hair, her lips and her teeth:
those rubies and crystals arrayed in bright, even ranks!
A leaden anvil can shatter even the strongest stone.

Kindle my mind and tongue! Fill me with skill and eloquence!
Aid my understanding for this composition!
Thus Tariel will be tenderly remembered,
and three star-like heroes who always remained faithful.

Come, let us mourn Tariel with undrying tears
because we are men born under similar stars.
I, Rustaveli, whose heart has been pierced through by many sorrows,
have threaded this tale like a necklace of pearls.

There are also poems in which courtesans have pointed out they they can offer the advantages of marriage without its disadvantages. My favorite courtesan poem is Veronica Franco ...

Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"I resolved to make a virtue of my desire."

My rewards will be commensurate with your gifts
If only you give me the one that lifts

Me, laughing. If it comes free,
Still, it is of immense value to me.

Your reward will be—not just to fly,
But to soar—so incredibly high

That your joys eclipse your desires
(As my beauty, to which your heart aspires

And which you never tire of praising,
I employ for your spirit’s raising).

Afterwards, lying docile at your side,
I will grant you all the delights of a bride,

Which I have more expertly learned.
Then you, who so fervently burned,

Will at last rest, fully content,
Fallen even more deeply in love, spent

At my comfortable bosom.
When I am in bed with a man I blossom,

Becoming completely free
With the man who freely enjoys me.

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