How Do I Love Thee?


Idyll, Frederic Leighton, c. 1880-81

 
 

NUMBER 43

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sonnets from the Portuguese

 
 

Sonnets from the Portuguese, written ca. 1845–1846 and first published in 1850, is a collection of 44 love sonnets written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The poems largely chronicle the period leading up to her 1846 marriage to Robert Browning. The collection was acclaimed and popular in the poet’s lifetime and it remains so today.

Barrett Browning was initially hesitant to publish the poems, feeling that they were too personal. However, her husband insisted that they were the best sequence of English-language sonnets since William Shakespeare‘s time and urged her to publish them. To offer the couple some privacy, she decided that she might publish them as translations of foreign sonnets. Therefore, the collection was first to be known as Sonnets from the Bosnian, until Robert suggested that she change their imaginary original language to Portuguese, probably after her admiration for Luís Vaz de Camões and his nickname for her: “my little Portuguese.” The title is also a reference to Les Lettres portugaises. By far the most famous poems from this collection, with one of the most famous opening lines in the English language, are numbers 33 and 43.

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6 thoughts on “How Do I Love Thee?

  1. Thank you as ever for the mix of beauty and humanity on your blog. I admire the variety and the depth of research, so even while I am being reminded of a familiar and much-loved image, artist or poet, you surprise me with a new insight. The Genealogy of Style is a precious resource, and a joy-giver.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on LAST POST and commented:
    The Genealogy of Style is one of those rare blogs that is a genuine cultural resource. Luixe gives us exquisitely framed perspectives of the arts, often slantwise, or focussing on a detail of a picture or poem that you stupidly thought you knew all about already.

    All Luixe’s posts deserve reblogging – I can’t keep up with their frequency, depth and breadth – so I’ve selected this one out of pure sentiment’s sake. I was brought up by my mother to love Elizabeth Barratt and Robert Browning, history’s most romantic and equal couple, as family friends. I was named after Browning’s Pippa Passes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: “How do I love thee?” collateral « LAST POST

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