Sunday, March 6, 2016

How Do I Love Thee? Elizabeth Barrett Browning Counts the Ways

Also known as Sonnet 43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese.

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 was published in 1850 as a collection off 44 sonnets, with the second to last being Elizabeth Barrett Browning's most famous sonnet — Sonnet 43.

She had originally intended to call the deeply personal collection Sonnets from the Bosnian. Her husband Robert Browning didn't like the sound of Sonnets from the Bosnian and suggested Sonnets from the Portuguese for a number of reasons including the fact that his nickname for her was, "my little Portuguese."