Poets And Poetry

Poetry Analysis Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning



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A poetry analysis of Sonnet 43,by Elizabeth Barrett Browning will always end up talking about love for this one of the most famous and loved romantic poems in the world and is written as a sonnet. A sonnet usually has fourteen lines and an iambic pentameter rhyme. Sonnets are nearly always written about the theme of love, almost like a love song. This sonnet,like many others, shows how the poet, in this case Elizabeth Barrett Browning, must be disciplined in confining her thoughts to a particular structure.

The first eight lines of this Petrarchan sonnet,the octave,present the theme of love and the degree of the depth of love felt by Elizabeth for her husband. Here she compares her deep feelings to religious,spiritual and even political aspirations:

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 candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

The last six lines compare the feelings she has at the moment to those emotions of love she experienced as a child. Concluding the poem, she hopes that she will go on to love her husband even more in the future if God permits. If not, then there is always Heaven!

I love with a 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.

At the beginning of the poem Elizabeth Barrett Browning discusses her own personal experience of love in terms of its intensity. She loves Robert Browning of her own free will in a very pure way expecting nothing more of it than the joy of love itself, comparing it to suffering - perhaps similar to that of Christ on the cross. She is reminded of the childlike love she had for Christian saints in her girlhood - although she does describe these as 'griefs.' Passion she says, is much better put to use in love than grief.

She uses repetition to reinforce the strength of her love (I love thee) and for its alliterative powers (th)

The poet aligns her love with life itself and its laughters and sorrows and breathing and concludes on a metaphysical note, believing their love as a couple will cross through the grave to the other side - to heaven.

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