How Do I Love Thee?
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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 every day’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 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.
This sonnet may be a bit corny today, but it is one of my favorite sonnets. I happen to love sonnets, and I find this one particularly beautiful. My poor high school English Lit students get a bit sick of sonnets when I teach them British poetry. I still love this one.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- Born: 6 March 1806
- Birthplace: Durham, England
- Died: 29 June 1861
After anonymously publishing a book of poetry and a translation of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, Elizabeth Barrett published The Seraphim and Other Poems in 1838 under her own name. Her literary success drew the attention of poet Robert Browning and they met and fell in love. In defiance of her father, and in spite of ill-health, she married Browning secretly in 1846. She continued to publish poems, including the “novel in verse” Aurora Leigh, published in 1857.