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 everyday'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.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning ~
Sonnets from the Portuguese #XLIII
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born on March 6, 1806 in Durham, England as Elizabeth Barrett Moulton-Barrett, the eldest of twelve children. She lived in a repressive household in which her father forbade his daughters to marry.
In adolescence, she developed ill health (the causes or illnesses involved in which are still not determined) and was forced to live at home as an invalid under her father's overbearing and dominating eye.
She studied Greek, alongside her brother, while a child and began writing at a very young age, publishing her first works while in her teens.
The famous English poet, Robert Browning, admired her "Poems" (1844) so much that he wrote to her. This led to a two-year correspondence with him. After a flurry of secret correspondence, they were secretly married in 1846 and settled in Florence, Italy. There, her health markedly improved and she had a son at age 43 in 1849.
Despite her lasting grief after the drowning of her favorite brother in 1840 and her father's adamant refusal to see her after her elopement, she continued her career as one of the most prominent poets of her time.
Many critics agree that Elizabeth's best poems appear in "Sonnets from the Portuguese," a series of 44 sonnets recording the growth of her love for Robert Browning. The 43rd Sonnet is Elizabeth's most famous poem.
Elizabeth died on June 29, 1861.
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