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.