Elizabeth Barrett Browning's How Do I love thee? Essay

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I love thee?"

This poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of many she penned for her husband Robert Browning. Using the basic form of an Italian sonnet with its fourteen lines and strict rhyme scheme - she manages to produce a surprisingly passionate poem.

The poet begins with the question, "How do I love thee?"-and it is this which sets the mood of the sonnet, as she tries to quantify, and articulate the depth of her feelings towards her husband. She uses biblical references and religious similes throughout the verse, comparing and equating her love to be as unconditional and pure -as like unto God's.

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

I love thee to the depth and
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Although it appears that her love towards her husband eclipses everything else, Elizabeth ends this poem with the acknowledgement that it's God's will if this perfect love continues after death. This recognition of God's supremacy, typifies the fervent, Christian beliefs which colored and shaped her ideals of love.

This poem to me, symbolizes the purest form of love between husband and wife. Although you could argue that it is written from a selfish perspective, in that she only speaks of her love, her feelings-you have to bear in mind that in Victorian society, women lived their lives solely through their husbands. The middle-class ladies didn't work, and didn't have a life outside their homes. They dedicated all of their time, energies and passions into keeping their men happy and contented; and in return, were loved, pampered and protected from the harsh realities of life. Even though this idea of total subjection and passivity, wouldn't have a hope of success in today's society, the level of trust and commitment these two "Romantic Poets" apparently share, could be the ideal that all couples should aspire to.

In sharp contrast to Browning idealistic and spiritual love poetry of the 1800s, Seamus Heaney's Twice Shy uses an altogether more contemporary and realistic style of prose too describe love in the 20th century. Heaney
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