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How do I love thee ? Summary Analysis

 

How do I love thee?  Summary Analysis

An Introductory Note:[How do I love thee ? Summary Analysis]

“How do I love thee? was first published in the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850), which Elizabeth Barrett Browning dedicated to her husband, the poet Robert Browning. The poem is a conventional Petrarchan sonnet that lists the different ways in which the poet loves her husband. It follows in a tradition of sonnet writing that reaches back to the poetry of the Renaissance, showing affection for one’s beloved whilst also displaying one’s own poetic skill.

“How Do I Love Thee?” is one of the poems that make up the forty-four poems of Sonnets from the Portuguese. They were written while she was still courting her future husband, Mr. Browning, between 1845 and 1846. She writes that the love she has for him is everlasting and consumes every part of her.

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Substance:

The speaker asks how she loves her beloved and tries to list the different ways in which she loves him. Her love seems to be eternal and to exist everywhere, and she intends to continue loving him after her own death, if God lets her. The speaker asks how she loves her beloved and tries to list the different ways in which she loves him. Her love seems to be eternal and to exist everywhere, and she intends to continue loving him after her own death, if God lets her.

An Analytical Summary:

1. The sonnet does not actually have a title, being known by its first line “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”. This line tells us that the poem is a list of ways that the speaker loves her beloved.

II. In the next lines “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.” She is talking about how deep her love for him. She is basically saying that her love is physical but at the same time it is spiritual.

III. The love she has for him is in her soul, body and mind. She loves him until she doesn’t exist anymore; she loves him as the perfect gift. The kind of love described in this passage almost sounds more like admiration and esteem – loving someone to the greatest “height” that your soul can go.

IV. The lines “I love thee to the level of everyday’s/ Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light” suggest that his love is one of her basic needs, like air and water and she needs it day and night.

V. The fact that she loves him freely as in not by force or obligation but by her own free will is suggested by the line “I love thee freely, as men strive for Right”. VI. In “I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise” she is saying that she loves him purely for love and not the praises and benefits from love.

VII. The following lines “I love thee with a love I seemed to lose/ With my lost saints” expresses the speaker’s love for “thee” as the kind of love she had for her childhood heroes and other people she admired. Either she has lost these people because they died, or she’s been disillusioned about them.

VIII. In the end of the poem “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 author emphasizes the fact that she loves him with the life that’s in her. She loves him with the breath that is in her body, through the happy and sad times in her life, and even after death, beyond the grave if God will allow it she will still love him forever more.

Paraphrase :

How much do I love you? I’ll count all the ways I do. I love you to the edges of my soul, when it reaches out for the unseen goals of eternity and oneness with God. I love you as you need to be loved every day, whether during the day or the evening. I love you by my free choice, like those who choose to do the right thing. I love you without self-regard, like those who don’t brag about their own accomplishments.

I love you with the passion I used to feel for my old sufferings, and for the religion of my childhood. I love you with a love I thought I had lost when I lost faith in my saints. I love you with my every breath, smile, and tear, and I will for the rest of my life. And if God brings us to heaven, I’ll love you even more in the afterlife.

Annotations :

thee. the poet’s husband, Robert Browning; depth, breadth. internal rhyme; when … Grace. when my soul feels its way into the spiritual realm; out of sight. to find the goal of being alive and living uprightly; day. sun; the night. candle-light; freely. willingly-and just as intensely as men who fight for freedom; purely. genuinely, without desire for praise; with the passion put to use. with an intensity equal to that experienced during suffering or mourning; with… saints. with a childlike fervor for saints and holiness; breath. echoes; Smiles… life: perhaps too sentimental; I shall but love thee better after death: their love is eternal, never ending.

Title :

In the print anthology, this poem is titled simply “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” The forty-four poems that became Sonnets from the Portuguese were written by the future Mrs. Browning between 1845 and 1846 while she was being courted by Robert Browning. They were first published in 1850 in her Poems with the 1856 edition containing most of the desired revisions and corrections.

It is thought that the title was meant to shroud some of the personal nature of the poems by implying they were a translation of an older work. The link between the contents of these poems and her correspondence with Robert are detailed in the introduction to Dow’s edition. Harmon notes that the title Sonnets Translated from the Bosnian was also considered. 

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