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How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Transcript of How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Biography of the Author
Elizabeth Moulton Barrett was the first of twelve children born to Edward and Mary Moulton on March 6, 1806 in Durham, England.
Though she never received any formal education, Elizabeth loved to read. By age eight, she had learned to read
in the original Greek and had begun to write poetry.
When fifteen, Elizabeth suffered a spinal injury caused by saddling a pony, and became addicted to pain relievers (opium). Being weak, she was sent with her brother Edward to the sea of Torquay, where her brother drowned to death, causing her to be emotionally broken.
All the while she had been deep in reading and writing poetry, and she had published some anonymous works which received much unexpected praise. She continued to write, despite her depressed state, but refused to leave her house for the next five years. During this time, she published a collection named
By far the most significant result of
was the beginning of Barrett's relationship with the poet Robert Browning.
Attracted by her praise of his poetry, Browning wrote to her on January 10, 1845, and thus began England's most famous literary love affair.
In order to marry, Elizabeth and Robert had to elope and go to Italy. Elizabeth's father never forgave her, but the Brownings' marriage was famously happy and passionate.
About the Poem
One of the most famous love poems in the world, “
How do I love thee…
” (Sonnet 43) is featured in the collection
Sonnets from the Portuguese
(published 1850) and was named after her husband's pet name for her,
My Little Portuguese
. It describes the poet’s passionate adoration for fellow poet and soon-to-be husband, Robert Browning.
Image by goodtextures: http://fav.me/d2he3r8
How Do I Love Thee?
Let Me Count the Ways (Sonnet 43)
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.
Why the Poem was Chosen
There's a specific reason why this poem was chosen. If you've ever had a crush on someone, fallen head-over-heels for a girl, or felt a warm fuzzy affection for a guy, then you've probably wondered how exactly this whole "love" thing works. After all, we all know that people fall in and out of love. But how does it work while you're in it? What kinds of love are there, and how and when do they happen? And what if you love someone in many different, conflicting ways? These are the questions Elizabeth Barrett Browning asks – and tries to answer – with this sonnet.
Elizabeth Barret Browning in "
How Do I Love Thee?
" expresses the eternal nature of love and its power to overcome everything, including death. It is the epitome of her expression of love. Line 1 serves as the poem's introduction and captures the reader's attention with a simple question, "How do I Love Thee?" The remainder of the poem serves as an answer as the poem's speaker counts the ways. The repetition of "I love thee" serves as a constant reminder, but it is the depth of love, not the quantity of love, that gives the poem its power: She loves. The ultimate expression of her enduring love occurs in the last line which states her love will be stronger "after death."
Elements of Poetry
The poem is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter. The poem's structure follows the form of an Italian sonnet, consisting of an octet (first eight lines), and the sestet (final six lines).
In the octet, the poem's speaker lists the depth of her love through hyperbole, or exaggeration, a fitting poetic device for a love poem. It presents the theme of the poem, and draws analogies between the poet's love and religious and political ideals.
The sestet discusses a more mature love - a love that transcends all, including death. It draws analogies between the intensity of love she felt while writing the poem and the intensity of love she experienced earlier in her life.
The rhyme scheme for the first eight lines is A,B,B,A,A,B,B,A, followed by C,D,C,D,C,D in the remaining six lines (
is a slant rhyme of
A technique called anaphora, or repetition of the words “I love thee” is used in the poem that emphasizes the intensity of the speaker's love.
Alliteration, the repetition of consonants, is also used. Examples include purely and praise in line 8, passion and put in line 9, and love and lose in line 11.
Similes are used to add depth in the poem, Examples are the lines
"I love thee freely, as men strive for right"
"I love thee purely, as they turn from praise."
The diction is rather formal yet passionate and romantic.
The use of
in the poem makes it deeper and more meaningful.
The author uses simple vocabulary and ordinary or usual syntax (the arrangement of words follows the way people usually speak).
The author also uses a metaphor (in lines 2-4) to describe the extent of her love, comparing her soul to a physical three-dimensional object in the world.
Tone and Mood
Sincere, passionate, romantic, loving, and idealistic.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning shares her feelings honestly and openly. She loves honorably and with her whole soul.
Submitted by Azriell V. Bautista, Gian Karlo Toledo, Alexandra Nicole De Veyra
Grade 9 - Our Lady of Manaoag