Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Ode to Valentine's Day

This is my favorite love poem of all time...enjoy it on this wonderful Valentine's Day.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

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 candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a 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.

Elzabeth Barrett Browning

Notes on "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways"

This is poem number XLIII (43) of Sonnets from the Portuguese, written by Elizabeth Barrett for Robert Browning in the 1840s, during their courtship. It is the most famous of the Sonnets from the Portuguese, and one of the best known love poems in the English language. It hardly seems to require explanation, except to remind those who don't know that "my old griefs" refers to the sorrows of her long period of invalidism and perhaps to mourning for her drowned brother.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) is now best remembered for her "Sonnets from the Portuguese," a cycle of sonnets written during her courtship with Robert Browning. In fact however, she was an accomplished poet before she met Browning. Most of her poems were not about romantic love. They were topical poems about political issues such as child labor, slavery and the Italian national cause. Elizabeth Barrett was a "hopeless" invalid and recluse, six years older than Robert Browning. They were happily married and had a son. The fame of the poets, and the fairy-tale story of the girl who was thought to be doomed to be an old maid, rescued from a loveless existence and brought back to life and the world by a gallant suitor, kindled the imagination of the public.

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