ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING


Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) and her husband Robert are known for their beautiful love and marriage. Elizabeth was an invalid who lived with her father, when Robert began writing her letters of admiration about her poetry. They secretly married a year later, and ran off to Italy, where they lived a happy life together, writing poetry, enjoying friends and visitors, and eventually raising their one son. In 1850 her love poems to her husband were published under the name of Sonnets from the Portuguese, in reference to her husband's affectionate nickname for her, "my little Portuguese." We include two of her sonnets (XIV and XLIII), the second one of the most famous love poems in the English language.



IF THOU MUST LOVE ME

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
I love her for her smile - her look - her way
Of speaking gently, - for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of ease on such a day -
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee, - and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheek dry, -
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.




HOW DO I LOVE THEE?

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 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.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning
1850



Poetry