Celebrating Love with Elizabeth Barrett Browning


How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (née Moulton-Barrett) was born in Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England, on March 6, 1806, the eldest of 12 children.  Poetry was her life from the age of 11. She was to become a renowned English poet of the Romantic Movement.

I invite you to visit Poetry.org for Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s bio and collection of her poetry.

Published by Rebecca Budd

Lifestyle Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

47 thoughts on “Celebrating Love with Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    1. I am delighted that you enjoyed the video. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was known for her love poems “Sonnets from the Portuguese, but I am now interested in her Aurora Leigh which is now considered an early feminist text. I understand that she was a supporter of Wollstonecraft’s ideas. I continue to learn and learn and learn! Many thanks for your visit and comments, Jean-Jacques. Truly appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I did not know that, Shey. I looked up her name and found Sarah Ann Née Wiedemann. And then I fell into a rabbit hole and found that Robert Browning’s grandfather was a slave owner in Saint Kitts, West Indies, but his father was an abolitionist. And then I found that Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s family derived their wealth mostly from Caribbean agricultural ventures based on the labor of enslaved African. It is heartening to know that Elizabeth Barrett Browning used her writing to fight wrongdoing. And Robert Browning supported the emancipation of women, and opposed slavery and was an animal rights champion.

      Sending hugs for Valentine’s Day!!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My goodness… well once again I guess history isn’t ours to rewrite, just to say that very unfortunately to say the very least where there was money to be made and when people were facing harsh economic realities —and Robert Burns despite all his fine poetry about men being men for ah that, considered working in the Indies and not to study plants either-people saw nothing wrong with the forcible removal and enslavement of other people. I often wonder if it goes all the way back to the serf system and the bonded laborer bit cos I know that when the people of Fife colliery villages got money together together to raise a case in Edinburgh -which would have been the first in Scotland, had the owner not died the night before the case was due to be heard– to have a black servant freed, they were bonded laborers themselves, hanseled at birth to a landowner. So they maybe didn’t always see what was wrong here….. Not excusing, just saying. Anyway what is interesting now is that the Wiedemanns–lived near a street here called to this day Sugar House Wynd. Nowadays that area is not the best in the town but there was a Sugar House there–obviously–quite a fancy looking building from the sketches and the father ran it I think. he certainly was something to do with it. So I am now factoring in the connection to the Indies there. Cos I aye wondered how a woman –all right they were Dutch I believe– from Dundee ended up being mother of Robert Browning.

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      2. Actually it was Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s family that derived their wealth from Caribbean agricultural ventures based on the labour of enslaved Africans. Both sides of her family (maternal and paternal) were somehow involved in the Caribbean.

        Then there is Robert Browning. His father was sent to the West Indies to work on a sugar plantation but returned due to a slave revolt. I found the link to Dundee: Browning’s mother was the daughter of a German shipowner who had settled in Dundee, Scotland with his Scottish wife.

        Which suggests as you said, that society values were not as acute in the area of slavery as we are now. I agree no excuses, but I am reminded that, even during my lifetime, society values have changed dramatically.

        I do love our conversations!!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Dave for your encouraging comments. What I did not realize until just recently was EBB’s determination to speak out against injustice. She was politically astute and used poetry to call out wrongdoing. The power of words cannot be contained.

      One of the her most famous poems is ‘The Cry of the Children’ which was prompted by her shock when she read a parliamentary report published by the Children’s Employment Commission in 1842. This is the first verse…

      Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
      Ere the sorrow comes with years ?
      They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, —
      And that cannot stop their tears.
      The young lambs are bleating in the meadows ;
      The young birds are chirping in the nest ;
      The young fawns are playing with the shadows ;
      The young flowers are blowing toward the west—
      But the young, young children, O my brothers,
      They are weeping bitterly !
      They are weeping in the playtime of the others,
      In the country of the free.

      https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43725/the-cry-of-the-children

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I am delighted that you enjoyed the recitation, Liz. I am fascinated by Elisabeth Barrett Browning and how she used writing to advocate for injustices. Consider her poem “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point.” I continue to learn….

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I was looking into Denise Levertov ever since you left the comment yesterday. I did not know about the Olga Poems so many thanks for the introduction. The Olga Poems poems led me to look into the emotion power of poetry from a cognitive and psychology perspective. I have often wondered why most poetry has sadness embedded within the words. Still reflecting up this thought.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think part of it may be related to T.S. Eliot’s concept of the obejctive correlative, which allows a poet to give grief a concrete form outside of herself through the use of specific imagery.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. You selected an excellent poem for Valentine’s Day. And–I enjoyed your reading of the author’s well chosen love words and descriptions-so musical! Although I hadn’t remembered all of the words, your reading of it brought back precious memories. This is not the only poem she wrote, it would be good to search for more of her poetry. Your mention of the Portuguese language! Did she write anything in that language? And, a Happy Valentines Day to you and all your family! !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am delighted that you enjoyed the poetry recitation. I was reading an excellent article about how Elizabeth Barrett Browning spent many years in lockdown and in self-isolation because of her severe respiratory illness. I was relieved to read that the Brownings move to Italy was beneficial for her health.

      As to “Portuguese” in the title of her poetry collection, that is a very interesting piece of information. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was hesitant to publish her poetry, but with the encouragement of her husband, Robert Browning, she agreed, but on the condition that they would be published as if they were translations of foreign sonnets. Her first title was “Sonnets translated from the Bosnian” but Robert Browning proposed that she claim their source was from Portuguese.

      I continue to learn and learn and learn…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Poetry is a wonderful way to communicate emotional nuances. I love reciting poetry. I started a few years ago when I read poetry out loud to an empty room, then I transitioned to reading poetry out loud when I went for a walk. And now, hopefully with their videos I will inspire others to read poetry out loud and feel the energy when words are giving voice. Many thanks for your heartwarming comments, Margaret.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I adore this sonnet!
    Your reading was special.

    When I was 17, I had a torrid affair with this real cute guy. He was a romantic mush head. He had this book (from his parents’ library). We read Sonnets From The Portuguese to each other, for days. I memorized this sonnet, so I could passionately recite it to him. We wept together.

    About a week later, we broke up. He switched to my girlfriend. I switched to a friend of his. Well, such is youth in a time of modernity.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am so happy, Rebecca, that you have found me! I just love your post since I learned so many details new to me.
    Despite studying Literature, and having over 10 thousand books in my library, I still could learn and learn.

    Do you know who wrote, “All things come to those who wait”? If not, please, look up my post about France,
    two weeks ago at naturetails.blog

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

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