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How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Poem Introduction:

“How Do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways” or Sonnet 43 written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This famous poem is from her collection Sonnets from the Portuguese which was first published in 1850. These sonnets chronicled couple’s courtship and marriage. Also this was written to her husband Robert Browning who rescued her from secluded life in London from her dominated father who wouldn’t allow her to marry. Even-though she was filled with wealth, as an ailing woman she spent most of her time in an upstairs room and used opium and laudanum to cure her pain. Later by reading her works, Robert was impressed and both fell in love and shared many love letters. Come let’s see a Victorian woman's love for her man beyond grave.


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.

Poem Summary:

The poem starts with a rhetorical question, How do I love thee (you) and with an immediate respond by herself saying that she is going to compile all the ways she do to love her man. She says that she loves him to the very end of depth, breath and height until the edges of her soul. Even her soul might reach the end of her life and even god’s divine-help might end, but not her love for him. She fills her love for him (mentioned as thee) with those quite moments of every, day and evening. The poet mentions day as sun and evening as candle-light. She says that she loves him like the men who choose to strive with free choice to do right things. And, loves him purely and doesn’t expect regards for this own accomplishment. She loves him with the passion (feeling) that she used to feel with her old griefs and pain and also with her childhood faith (that refers her pure and innocent faith). She loves him with a love that she had lost with saints, whom once she loved. She says that she loves him with all her breath, smile, and tear for the rest of the life. And, if god permits, she will carry on loving him in afterlife even more.

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