Classics: Sonnets From the Portuguese

As strong as the literary influences have been recently, it seems that perhaps the thing to do is to share some of these much loved classics with you. With that in mind, I’m starting a new series I may occasionally post to called Classics. I don’t know exactly how this will all turn out, it’s sort of an organic idea, so for this first Classic I’ll refrain from giving any lengthy special background on the artist or the work beyond its impact or pleasure within myself and just throw it out there.

This piece has been a personal favorite of mine for more than 20 years. Browning’s Sonnets From the Portuguese were written over time while the man who would become her husband slowly wooed her and won her heart. I love how in the early Sonnets she uses all the poetic elements and figurative language popular in Victorian England but there is lacking the passion of true love, yet by the time she gets to #43 you can see that she is no longer writing what would be considered typical love poetry but actually writing her heart. I think the fact that it is the most famous of her Sonnets is do to the powerful love you can feel in her words and phrasing.

I awoke yesterday with these words floating in my subconscious and although I’ve read this poem a thousand times (at least), reading it yesterday somehow resounded anew with me with a sudden *knowing understanding* of one of the lines whose weight somehow had managed to elude me up until this present moment.

Sonnet From the Portuguese #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.

Photo from The Poetry Foundation.

11 thoughts on “Classics: Sonnets From the Portuguese

  1. I have read this many times, but in the eyes of this group, it became more. It was deeper and went soaring higher in the sky.
    I also enjoy the classics, the ones I know. They are written so beautifully and with such feeling. Please continue. Although newly written prose and poetry have some stunning parts, I often wonder if they began with the writers background in classics.
    I believe that no matter what your subject matter is, your talent of putting words on paper touches people. There are those of us that will always follow and those that will find you and begin to follow. We are reading the beginnings of your books. 🌹

    Liked by 2 people

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