As I continue with my posts of love poems until Valentine's Day, I can't resist posting this one.
Sonnets from the Portuguese are a collection of love letters or poems written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her husband Robert Browning while they were courting, in 1845.
Theirs is a fairly spectacular love story. She was 39 when they met, six years his senior, and she had a history of poor health. Both families opposed the marriage. His, because she was a sickly spinster, and hers, because her father deemed him a fortune hunter. But their love could not be denied and, in 1846, they wed in secret. A week later, they left together for Italy. They lived there happily for fifteen years, raised a son, and both continued writing. Elizabeth died in Robert’s arms in 1861.
Following is what most would agree is Elizabeth’s most famous and certainly her most oft-quoted poem. Enjoy!
Sonnets from the Portuguese XLII
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 candlelight.
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 loved 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.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Surely, the past, present, and future connect in this miraculous state we call life. In this light, history and all human experience are ever-present. Wouldn't it be nice, then, if we could enjoy each other, if we could appreciate and celebrate our differences? Let us love! Let us have fun. Let us toast each other and wish each other well. Now, in our awareness, is the time to be happy, to do our best, to live fully to our purest, highest standards.