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Sonnet 43 By Elizabeth Barret Browning

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1 Sonnet 43 By Elizabeth Barret Browning
Sonnet 43 is the penultimate poem of a series called Sonnets from the Portuguese ( 1850) written by Browning to express her love for her husband-to-be Robert Browning. This particular poem is arguably to most well know out of the series.

2 A Sonnet Sonnet, from the Italian word sonetto (little song) is a lyrical poem that often has a theme related to Love. This poem is a typical Italian or Petrarchan style sonnet written in iambic pentameter. (10 syllables per line with five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables) I LOVE..|..thee TO..|..the DEPTH..|..and BREADTH..|..and HEIGHT My SOUL..|..can REACH,..|..when FEEL..| OUT..|..of SIGHT ( Lines 2&3 ). It has 14 lines and a rhyme scheme of two quatrains and two tercets, ABBA ABBA CDC DCD.

3 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. A B “My soul can reach…Ideal Grace.” “…depth and breadth and height…” “Let me count the ways!”

4 “How do I love thee?” – follows the format of and Italian sonnet, starts by posing a question. (not really rhetorical because she actually answers it). “Let me count the ways!” – Attempts to mathematically measure love which is emotion. This shows that her love is so deep that even she is still trying to fully understand it. The exclamation mark illustrates her own disbelief at the number of ways she can love him. “…depth and breadth and height…”- All dimensions, expresses the volume of her love for him. Makes her love seem so passionate that it is almost touchable. Suggests at the vastness of her heart’s capability to love him. “My soul can reach…Ideal Grace.” “feeling out of sight”- exploring or searching for… “ends” – results and “Being” – life i.e. the results or achievements in her life. “Ideal Grace” – heaven, idealism and perfection. This part means: in her search for love, obtaining his love is one of her life’s best achievements. And in her quest for an ideal life and perfection, she has found him.

5 I love thee to the level of everyday'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. A B “…love thee freely,” “…sun and candlelight.” “…everyday’s most quiet need…” “I love thee” “Love thee purely,”

6 Line 5: ‘everyday’s / most quiet need’ – translates to a basic constant need which can’t live without. 6: ‘sun & candlelight’ – it’s the only reference in poem to concrete imagery, but even this is very tangeable. The range between the two shades of light encompasses all light, shows ‘thee’ is light of all shades and intensities, providing comfort and warmth in every situation. 7:’freely’ – love ‘thee’ as intensely men fighting their ‘Right’ to freedom. Perhaps she has ‘lost’ her freedom for her love, being unable to stop loving ‘thee’. 8: ‘purely’ – genuine, without desire for ‘Praise’ & requital. Anaphora ‘I love thee’ in lines 7 and 8 – reinforce the theme of love, builds rhythm. Poem is like a list of ways of loving ‘thee’.

7 “…passion … in my old griefs” “My childhood’s faith”
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 C D “…passion … in my old griefs” “Smile and tears…” “If God choose…” “…love thee better after my death” “My childhood’s faith” “…breath…”

8 At this point, the rhyme scheme turns into CDC DCD
At this point, the rhyme scheme turns into CDC DCD. This is associated with a narrowing in perspective. Up to this point, the poem has been talking about love in a religious and idealistic tone. Now she begins to express more of her personal feelings. “…passion … in my old griefs” – old griefs may relate to the loss of her favourite brother or her mother. The intensity with which she mourned their loss is compared to her love for Robert Browning. “My childhood’s faith” – she was a stout Christian. She loves him with the simple and unquestioning manner she did with her faith. “…breath, Smile, tears…” breath means that he is as precious to her as the very air that she breaths. He is essential to her being and she can’t live without him. Smile and tears: she is proclaiming that their love with not fail through all the ups and downs of life. They will accompany each other through both happiness and sadness. “If God choose” – she recognizes that fact that their love may not last forever. Also she’s expressing her frustration and anxiety that this may be so. “…love thee better after my death” – shows that their love is restricted by neither time nor life, that their love is eternal- goes on after they die. Shows that their relationship is not merely physical but more emotional.

9 Themes Love: The entire poem is like a list of the different ways the speaker’s love for ‘thee’. Spiritual: “…my soul can reach”, “Being and Ideal Grace”: Lines 3 and 4 Political: as men strive for right: Line 7 Religious: as they turn from Praise: Line 8 with my lost saints: Line 12 Love thee better after my death: Line 14

10 Theme: Love Spiritual So intense is her love for him, that it rises to the spiritual level Political She loves him freely, without external motives Religious She loves him purely, without expectation of personal gain She even loves him with the passion of her childhood faith She loves him in the way that she loved saints as a child She expects to continue to love him after death She talks about ‘her childhood’s faith’ as though it’s something way in the past, suggesting she is now mature and old, not a young girl experiencing her first crush. This adds weight to her love. The poem relates to anyone who has been in love because there is an uncertainty in the identity of the speaker/’thee’.

11 Grief and Loss: as discussed in the second half of poem   The speaker has also had feelings of grief, bitterness and the loss of innocence in the past.   Loss of innocence: ‘childhood’s faith’ (line 10) Disallusionment: ‘lost Saints’ (line 12) Griefs: ‘tears of all my life’ (line 13)

12 Griefs   ‘My childhood’s faith’: it is uncertain what the ‘faith’ is, but it is expressed in such a way that it suggests that the faith no longer exists. However, the passion is still there.   Similiarly, she also ‘seemes to lose…her lost ‘Saints’, suggesting that the love for it still lingers, even though she has not felt it for so long that she seems to have lost it.   She now uses these passions to love ‘thee’, and ‘thee’ has replaced and become her faith and the Saints. Also, because this love is childlike, it is therefore implicit, simple, and unchanging.   These griefs represent the tears, as in line 13, which she uses to love him together with the smiles.  

13 Possible essay questions.
Explore the methods the poet uses to express her love for her husband How does the poet make the love seem heartfelt and genuine With reference to the poem, explain how it effectively expresses emotions and how the poem is made memorable.

14 Don’t get what all this fuss about love is about
Don’t get what all this fuss about love is about? Here's a version you might understand better. Sonnets from the Internet, #43 by Harley Hahn (2003) How do I access thee? Let me count the ways. I access thee to the depth and breadth and height Your topology can reach, when connecting out of sight For the ends of bandwidth and ideal servers. I look at thee to the level of everyday's Most quiet need, by Web site and . I look at thee freely, as men strive for data; I look at thee purely, as they turn from spam. I look at thee with the hypertext put to use In my old browsers, and with my childhood's graphics. I look at thee with a resolution I seem to lose With my lost pixels — I look at thee with the bits, Bytes, folders, of all my data! — and, if God choose, I shall but look at thee better after losing my connection. © All contents Copyright 2010, Harley Hahn

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