Back

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 'How do I love thee?'

1850

'How do I love thee?'

Share

  • Intro

    ‘How do I love thee?’ was first published in the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850), which Elizabeth Barrett Browning dedicated to her husband, the poet Robert Browning. The poem is a conventional Petrarchan sonnet that lists the different ways in which the poet loves her husband. It follows in a tradition of sonnet-writing that reaches back to the poetry of the Renaissance, showing affection for one’s beloved whilst also displaying one’s own poetic skill.

     

    Born in 1806, Barrett Browning spent most of her adult life as an invalid, ruled over by a tyrannical father who forbade any of his sons and daughters to marry. She married Robert Browning in 1846 after a courtship that had to be kept secret. Despite her poor health, Barrett Browning was renowned during her lifetime for her intelligence and open-mindedness. ‘How do I love thee?’ is her most famous poem, reproduced in countless anthologies of love poetry.

  • Transcript

    Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 'How do I love thee?'

    Original text:

     

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways - 

    I love thee to the doeth and breadth and height

    My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

    For the end of Being and Ideal Grace.

    I love thee to the level of everyday'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 a passion, put to use

    In my old griefs; and with my childhood's faith -

    I love thee with the love I seemed to lose

    With lost Saints' - I love thee with the breath,

    Smiles, tear, of all my life! - and, if God choose,

    I shall but love thee better after death.

Explore more timeline content: