Elizabeth Barrett Browning is reknown for her famous love poetry "Sonnets from the Portugese".
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) whose famous love poetry is our subject, was born into the wealthy English Barrett family. She never quite enjoyed good health throughout her life, and her physical incapacity contrived to confine her indoors, which situation in turn fuelled her passion for reading and writing. Her earliest published book of poems was with the support of her doting father, who financed its publication in 1819 when she was just 13.
It was through this activity that she attracted the attention of the poet Robert Browning, who in 1844 wrote her, in admiration of her latest book Poems. Even though her father was disapproving, Browning's growing attention resulted in an engagement in1845.
They secretly wedded in 1846 and ran off to Italy where Elizabeth's health actually improved. She settled in the villa of Casa Guidi for the rest of her life.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning is chiefly known for her famous love poetry "Sonnets from the Portugese" a collection of 44 sonnets that record her love for Robert her husband. He often called her "my little Portuguese" because of her dark complexion.
The first famous love poetry we shall examine from her famous sonnets is Sonnet 43 "How do I Love Thee?"
How Do I Love Thee?
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 everyday'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.
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.
Sonnet 43 illustrates the natural rhythm and spontainety of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous love poetry. Here is another example, Sonnet 14, which is equally famous:
Sonnets from the Portuguese, XIV
If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently,--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,--and love, so
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love, thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.
We shall end the page with two more examples of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous love poetry. One of them is Sonnets from the Portuguese, XIII and the last offering, Change Upon Change shows that she did write other famous love poetry apart from the ubiquitous Sonnets from the Portuguese!
Sonnets from the Portuguese, XIII
And wilt thou have me fashion into speech
The love I bear thee, finding words enough,
And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough,
Between our faces, to cast light upon each?
I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach
My hand to hold my spirit so far off
From myself.. me.. that I should bring thee proof,
In words of love hid in me... out of reach.
Nay, let the silence of my womanhood
Commend my woman-love to thy belief,
Seeing that I stand unwon (however wooed)
And rend the garment of my life in brief
By a most dauntless, voiceless fortitude,
Lest one touch of this heart convey its grief.
Change Upon Change
Five months ago the stream did flow,
The lilies bloomed within the sedge,
And we were lingering to and fro,
Where none will track thee in this snow,
Along the stream, beside the hedge.
Ah, Sweet, be free to love and go!
For if I do not hear thy foot,
The frozen river is as mute,
The flowers have dried down to the root:
And why, since these be changed since May,
Shouldst thou change less than they.
And slow, slow as the winter snow
The tears have drifted to mine eyes;
And my poor cheeks, five months ago
Set blushing at thy praises so,
Put paleness on for a disguise.
Ah, Sweet, be free to praise and go!
For if my face is turned too pale,
It was thine oath that first did fail, --
It was thy love proved false and frail, --
And why, since these be changed enow,
Should I change less than thou.
This brings us to the end of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous love poetry, but there are still many more if you follow the links below:
Famous Love Poetry Examples 1
Emily Dickinson 1
Emily Dickinson 2
If you like Famous Love Poetry and would like to receive more information directly in your inbox, subscribe to my Love Poetry of The World newsletter
Return from Famous Love Poetry to Love Poetry of The World