How Do I Love Thee?

cffblog6.jpgFebruary 12, 2018 (Monday)

Wednesday will be Valentine's Day. I would like to share a love poem each day before the arrival of the special day, which is all about love. The first, "How Do I Love Thee?" is the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The second, "Love," is by Roy Croft. Both are very familiar to many people.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 - 1861

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 is one of the world's most famous love poems. "How do I love thee..." (Sonnet 43) is featured in the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese, a sequence of 44 sonnets (published 1850) by Elizabeth Barret Browning, who was a prominent Victorian poet.

Though she suffered lifelong illness, she married the poet and playwright Robert Browning, who was a major influence on her work, and to whom Sonnet 43 is addressed. This sonnet describes the poet's passionate adoration for fellow poet and soon-to-be-husband Robert Browning.

A Sonnet is a poem which expresses a thought or idea and develops it, often cleverly and wittily. It is made up of 14 lines, each being 10 syllables long. Its rhymes are arranged according to Italian or English schemes. This sonnet is characterized by hypnotic repetition. Elizabeth Barrett Browning uses one of Shakespeare's ideas -- that of love enduring beyond death -- and recasts it for her own sonnet, a device known as "intertextuality."

A beautiful building on Baylor University's campus honors the Brownings and the memory of Dr. A. J. Armstrong, professor for 40 years. It was completed 67 years ago, when I was a student there. It has since been renovated and is one of the most interesting and beautiful additions to a college campus to be found anywhere. Click here for an article on the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum.


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