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Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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How Do I Love Thee?
from Sonnets from the Portuguese
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 candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men might 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.
The forty-four poems that became Sonnets from the Portuguese were written by the future Mrs. Browning (1806-1861) 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. (A supposed 1847 edition of the Sonnets by themselves was later proven a hoax.)
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.