Searching for sarcastic love poems

Greetings Dopers-

I am on the lookout for some sort of unusual love poetry- whether it be sarcastic, ironic, bitter, etc. (Vague, I know.) Basically, I need something other than the usual sappy, overly-romantic schlock. Anything on the humorous or morbid side would be great. Sorry, I can’t really think of any examples as I know next to nothing about poetry.

And the fun part: I have been asked to set the poems for voice and piano for a Valentine’s Day concert next February, so I would prefer if the poetry were available in a public domain edition. I don’t feel like dealing with the hassle of obtaining permission from a publisher.

Many thanks in advance.

The one that springs to mind immediately is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes there is no delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground;
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138 may be what you are looking for:

Sonnet 147:

  • My love is as a fever, longing still
    For that which longer nurseth the disease,
    Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
    Th’ uncertain sickly appetite to please.
    My reason, the physician to my love,
    Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
    Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
    Desire is death, which physic did except.
    Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
    And frantic mad with evermore unrest;
    My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
    At randon from the truth vainly express’d;
    For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
    Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.*

I’m pretty certain Dorothy Parker’s poetry is copyright protected, but I don’t think you’ll find better bitter anywhere.

Dorothy Parker is also the first one that I thought of. Her One Perfect Rose is so dry!

Wendy Cope fits the bill. This link came readily to hand, unfortunately it’s not a terribly good selection. I’d suggest poking around for more:

Here’s one of Cope’s that’s developed into a populist metaphor:
Bloody Men

Bloody men are like bloody buses-

You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.
You look at them flashing their indicators,
Offering you a ride.
You’re trying to read the destinations,
You haven’t much time to decide.
If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.

Wendy Cope

I think the poems of Aphra Behn might meet your requirements; I’m paricularly fond of “The Disappointment” myself (I find it freakin’ hilarious, in fact) but it may be kind of long for your purposes. “A Thousand Martyrs” is another fun one. The selection on these sites is pretty thin, but if you dig a bit you ought to be able to find a lot more of her poetry.

How about To his coy mistress by Andrew Marvell - he’s basically getting impatient for a shag, and tries to persuade her using sarcasm:

*Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day. *

Check Tom Lehrer’s lyrics – gotta be something in there.

I like this one, author unknown:

Do you love me, or do you not?
YOu told me once, but I forgot.