Love and Elizabeth Browning

Elizabeth Barrett BrowningElizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) was a brilliant poet whose poems are considered among the greatest contributions to English poetry for the nineteenth century.

Before the age of ten she had read many of Shakespeare's plays, parts of Homer, passages from Paradise Lost, and the histories of England, Greece, and Rome.

For most of her life she was an invalid with various health problems and lived a life of relative seclusion in her sickroom filled with books and pictures.

Her very popular 1844 Poems caught the attention of Robert Browning who wrote to her, telling her how much he loved her poems. Their subsequent courtship and marriage became one of the most famous in literature.

However, having been six years his older and an invalid, Elizabeth could not believe that the worldly Browning really loved her as much as he professed. Her questioning of it is expressed in the Sonnets from the Portuguese.

Here are two of her poems from the Sonnets from the Portuguese. One of them is the very popular, romantic poem commonly know as How do I love thee? The other I found profoundly moving and full of gratitude to those who loved her. Enjoy!

Sonnets from the Portuguese


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 lov thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a 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.


I thank all who have loved me in their hearts,
With thanks and love from mine. Deep thanks to all
Who paused a little near the prison-wall
To hear my music in its louder parts
Ere they went onward, each one to the mart's
Or temple's occupation, beyond call.
But thou, who, in my voice's sink and fall
When the sob took it, thy divinest Art's
Own instrument didst drop down at thy foot
To harken what I said between my tears, . . .
Instruct me how to thank thee! Oh, to shoot
My soul's full meaning into future years,
That they should lend it utterance, and salute
Love that endures, from Life that disappears!

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