If you’re looking for the perfect sentiment about love for Valentine’s Day, and greeting cards and conversation hearts just aren’t cutting it, why not turn to classic literature for some insights on romance? Here are seven timeless quotes on love.
“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” –Aristotle, derived from The Symposium, by Plato
Ever since people have been people, they’ve been thinking about love. Witness this idea, which Aristotle said was sparked by his mentor, Plato, in his work, The Symposium, a fictional dialogue between Socrates and his buddies about love written more than 2300 years ago. This philosophical dinner party banter is credited with inspiring the idea of “soul mates.”
“If you wish to be loved, love.” –Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, by Seneca the Younger
In this collection of 124 letters that Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC–AD 65) wrote late in life, he quotes this sage and simple love advice, which he attributes to stoic philosopher Hecato of Rhodes. Two thousand years later, it still rings true.
“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs/ Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes.” –Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare
However lovelorn a teen might be, there’s no way he’s as lovelorn as Romeo and Juliet. Here’s a line in which Romeo muses about the nature of love while chatting with his cousin Benvolio.
“The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.” –Pensées, by Blaise Pascal
Seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and inventor Blaise Pascal was big on logic and reason, but as one of the most famous lines in his Pensées suggests, he threw logic out the window when it came to love.
“It is best to love wisely, no doubt; but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all.” –The History of Perdennis, by William Makepeace Thackeray
Thackeray was a British novelist during the Victorian era, best known for his novel Vanity Fair, first published as a serial from 1847 to 1848. He followed it up with another serial, The History of Perdennis (1848–1850), which includes this nugget of wisdom.
“Love flowers best in openness and freedom.” –Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey
Edward Abbey is best known as a cranky defender of nature, not a writer given to pondering love, but this line from 1968’s Desert Solitaire is as mushy as they come. Abbey’s rep remains intact, though—he was talking about desert plants, not people. The full quote: “The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.”
“Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.” –Jazz, by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison shows she knows a thing or two about love—forbidden, brutal, sweet, selfless, and otherwise—in her many fine novels. Forbidden love turns violent in this unforgettable novel set in Harlem in the 1920s.