How Do I Love Thee?

How Do I Love Thee? 
(Sonnet 43)
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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s grave in the English Cemetery in Florence Italy.  It is one of the most elaborate graves in the cemetery, which is taken care of by two very sweet and loving nuns.  If you ever have the chance to visit Florence, take the trek out to the cemetery.  It’s well worth it.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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