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‘Sonnet 43’ is a poem written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Each sonnet in this collection, including this poem, is directed toward her beloved husband Robert Browning, who also happened to be an eminent Victorian poet at that time.
About the Poet:
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) was a prominent English poet. Noted to be the spouse of Robert Browning, she is famed for penning poetry from the age of 11. Famous works of hers include ‘Aurora Leigh’, ‘The Runaway Slave At Pilgrim’s Point’, and ‘Bianca Among The Nightingales’.
Explanation of the Sonnet:
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.
The poem begins with the persona listing the ways in which they love their beloved. They firstly state that they love their beloved to every nook and cranny their soul could possibly reach, when reaching out for ‘ends of being’, that is, death, and ‘ideal grace’, referring to God.
Then, the persona goes on to state how they love their beloved as they needed to be loved every day, both during the day and at the night. They further proceed to state that their loving them was a free choice, just as the rights men strive for. Again, the love for them is pure and complete as the virtue of men who shun praises directed towards them.
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.
The persona here states that they love them with the passion that accompanied their past sufferings. They love them with their childhood faith, with a love they had lost with their lost saints. The persona ends the sonnet by asserting that they love them with every fiber of their being- their breath, their smiles, their tears, and all of their life. Should God choose to take their life away, then they will love their beloved even more after death.
This is a beautiful poem that captures the deep love the persona, and Elizabeth Barrett Browing herself, have for their beloved. Every verse thus portrays the extent of the love they have for their significant other.