2BackgroundElizabeth had health problems from an early age and was deeply upset by the death of her brother who was killed in a sailing accident.Because of these factors and the strictness of her father, she became reclusive, writing poems, one of which praising a work by Robert Browning caught his attention and led to a correspondence between them.This, in turn, led to a strong and lasting love between them which initially remained secret because of her father’s opposition.
3Subject and ToneHow does the poet describe her love for Browning in the poem?What tone is created?
4How do I love thee?Browning lists 7 ‘ways’ to describe her love for him. In groups you will each summarise one ‘way’. Do not try to translate each image exactly but think about the overall feeling created and the words used.Prepare to present your findings to the class.
5Let me count the ways… The First Way In the second line, what do the references to different dimensions tell us about her love?What does the repetition of the '&' also emphasise?What does the reference to being 'out of sight' in connection with these dimensions further emphasise?Is the fourth line a reference to the physical or non-physical?
6Let me count the ways… The Second Way the two lines expressing the second ‘way’ bring us closer to ordinariness. Which words express this most clearly?What is the significance of sun and candlelight?
7Let me count the ways… The Third and Fourth Ways What does the word ‘freely’ mean? What are the associations for this in the poem?What is meant by ‘as men strive for Right’?Why is Right capitalised?What does the word ‘purely’ mean? What are the associations of this in the poem?What is meant by ‘as they turm from Praise?Why is Praise capitalised?
8Let me count the ways… The Fifth Way What is the effect of the words ‘passion’ and ‘old griefs’?How might ‘childhood’s faith’ differ from ‘adult’s faith’?Is childhood faith portrayed as positive or negative here?
9Let me count the ways… The Sixth Way Who might the poet be referring to in the phrase ‘my lost Saints’?How does this add to the overall effect of the poem?
10Let me count the ways… The Seventh Way Comment on the list if 3 ‘breath, smiles, tears’Why does Browning say ‘if God choose’? What is the effect of this phrase?How do the final lines convey the sense of climax?
11FormHow does the use of the sonnet form contribute to the way that Browning expresses her love?How is repetition used?How is punctuation used to contribute to the overall effect?
12FormIn the last four lines, the punctuation helps to increase the pace of the poem. There are no full-stops, or even colons or semi-colons, to create real breaks in the lines. Even the use of the dashes only serves to add fluency to the lines. The impassioned tone created by this increased tempo is best demonstrated in the phrase “I love thee with the breath/Smiles, tears of all my life!” – here the unstoppable force of love’s effect on Browning is mirrored in the grouping or listing of the “breath/Smiles, tears” together. There is no ‘and’ present (which would, grammatically speaking, be necessary) to separate these effects – they all rush out at once.
13Feeling“Browning is most concerned in exploring how being in love has brought her satisfaction for the needs of her soul – a satisfaction that religion has failed to bring her.”To what extent do you agree with this statement?