Sunday Poetry – Elizabeth Barrett Browning


I do like the daily emails from Interesting Literature. As well as the poems & authors they feature that are new to me, they often remind me of old favourites. This post, about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s most famous poem, was a case in point.

I’ve always loved EBB’s poetry. I can remember reading her novel in verse, Aurora Leigh, sitting on the back porch of a friend’s house in Daylesford over 30 years ago. I love both versions of the movie The Barretts of Wimpole Street (Norma Shearer or Jennifer Jones? The lovely movie poster is from here. I do like the way they reference Jennifer Jones’ most famous role – The Many Splendored star in her greatest romance) & I think I still have them on video, taped from the TV. I’ve read biographies of the Brownings, literary criticism (Alethea Hayter’s book on poets & opium as well as her book on EBB), commentary on their letters & even a psychological examination of Elizabeth. So, how has it been so long since I read the 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 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.

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