Love – Analyzing “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.”

“Sonnets From the Portuguese, 43” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I am fascinated by these words. The power, the immensity of love. In the second and third lines, “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach” I love the way Browning captures the essence of a love that stretches beyond boundaries, beyond words even. To love someone as far as your reach can go, and on. To love someone as far as you can see, your mind can stretch–it is beautifully described.

“I love thee to the level of every day’s / Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.” I love Browning’s need for love. She uses the sun and the candle at night to explain how she is so reliant on this other person–without sun and light we cannot see, without love she is blinded. It is a love to aspire to. To be so connected to another that your survival is dependent on them–that is so beautiful, but is often looked down upon in society. We are taught to be independent and self-reliant. It is ‘weak’ to base our happiness and center our worlds around another. But in this poem, Browning definitely does that, and shows that true love is beautiful in its codependency.

“I love thee with the passion put to use / In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.” These lines touch me because I am reminded of childhood innocence, of the way we are so forgiving and open as children. When Browning references old griefs, she is talking about the passion in which we cling to past events and moments that have hurt us, and saying that we should love with this same passion. Love with emotion, yet also honestly and blindly like a child.

I love the words of this poem because they glorify love in a way that today’s world doesn’t. Browning shares the passion, the vulnerability behind true love and glorifies it. I appreciate the way she exposes a woman’s perspective on love that is in contrast with some of the feminist ideals of today’s world. Browning shows that is okay to be completely, almost irrationally, in love with another. It’s okay to be dependent on them, to love them fully. I think it’s important to read these words today and be reminded of the power of connecting emotionally to another’s being and soul.

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