English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald. The Harvard Classics. 1909–14. 620. Sonnets from the Portuguese XLIII
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
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
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. 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.
this seems to say that a love reserved for the most deserved of all loves, as deep and wide and strong and compassionate a love that exists, after all, is the kind of love described here; a fusion of passion and purity, fathoms of clarity entwined with a love so irrevocable from one’s spirit that to undo it would be to invoke death