Poem introduction

I think almost everyone will recognise ‘How Do I Love Thee’ but they might not know that it was written by Elizabeth Browning. It was one of the sonnets that she wrote during her courtship with Robert Browning and she didn’t give them to him for years because he apparently said women could write neither novels nor sonnets. They are published as the Sonnets from the Portugese. They were disguised as translations, but they are some of the most artful and intelligent and passionate love poetry in English.

How do I love thee?

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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Recordings

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning Downloads read by Jo Shapcott

1How Do I Love Thee?

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2A Musical Instrument

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3Aurora Leigh

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4Sonnets from the Portuguese

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Books by Elizabeth Barrett Browning