How Do I Love Thee Poem Summary and Line by Line Analysis by Elizabeth Barett Browning in English


Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, also known as ‘Sonnet 43’ portrays the speaker’s devotion to her husband. The speaker of the poem expresses her unwavering love for her spouse. She expresses to her beloved the depth of her love for him as well as the various ways in which she feels for him. She adores him with all of her soul, and she prays to God to enable her to continue to do so even after she is gone.

About The Poet

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was an English poet of the Romantic Era who was born on March 6, 1806, at Coxhoe Hall in Durham, England. On June 29, 1861, Elizabeth Barrett Browning passed away in Florence.

Theme Of The Poem

In “Sonnet 43,” Browning explores subjects like love, loyalty, and relationships. One could categorize the poem as a love poem. She addresses Robert Browning, her husband, and says that she loves him for a variety of reasons, which she will then describe. At the poem’s conclusion, when the speaker discusses how strong and long their love has been, the theme of death is introduced.

Lines 1-6

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.

She starts off by addressing the topic, “How do I love thee?” She promises that she would list all the reasons why she loves him. She declares to her partner that she loves him with all of her heart, in all of its depths, in all of its heights. In fact, it is infinitely deep, wide, and tall that she cannot even “see” its edges. The speaker’s love is limitless, but she also loves her beloved in normal, everyday situations. He is as essential to her as other requirements of life. 

Lines 7-14

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.

Her devotion is given a natural sense of emotion by these lines. She freely loves, just as men naturally try to do what is right and good. She also loves him sincerely, just as men shun praise to preserve their modesty. Like decent and just men, the speaker does not seek praise or recognition for her love; rather, she loves because it is her duty to do so. Anything that a person strongly loathes can be considered an old grief.

She is expressing to her spouse that she loves him with the same zeal that she has for other things in life that she cannot bear anymore. She also has a childlike faith in him. Children typically have genuine faith. The speaker loves her husband in the same way that a child loves their parents.