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Sonnets from the Portuguese

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a prolific writer and reviewer in the Victorian period, and in her lifetime, her reputation as a poet was at least as great as that of her husband, poet Robert Browning. Some of her poetry has been noted in recent years for strong feminist themes, but the poems for which Elizabeth Barrett Browning is undoubtedly best know are Sonnets from the Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a prolific writer and reviewer in the Victorian period, and in her lifetime, her reputation as a poet was at least as great as that of her husband, poet Robert Browning. Some of her poetry has been noted in recent years for strong feminist themes, but the poems for which Elizabeth Barrett Browning is undoubtedly best know are Sonnets from the Portuguese. Written for Robert Browning, who had affectionately nicknamed her his "little Portuguese," the sequence is a celebration of marriage, and of one of the most famous romances of the nineteenth century. Recognized for their Victorian tradition and discipline, these are some of the most passionate and memorable love poems in the English language. There are forty-four poems in the collection, including the very beautiful sonnet, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."


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Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a prolific writer and reviewer in the Victorian period, and in her lifetime, her reputation as a poet was at least as great as that of her husband, poet Robert Browning. Some of her poetry has been noted in recent years for strong feminist themes, but the poems for which Elizabeth Barrett Browning is undoubtedly best know are Sonnets from the Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a prolific writer and reviewer in the Victorian period, and in her lifetime, her reputation as a poet was at least as great as that of her husband, poet Robert Browning. Some of her poetry has been noted in recent years for strong feminist themes, but the poems for which Elizabeth Barrett Browning is undoubtedly best know are Sonnets from the Portuguese. Written for Robert Browning, who had affectionately nicknamed her his "little Portuguese," the sequence is a celebration of marriage, and of one of the most famous romances of the nineteenth century. Recognized for their Victorian tradition and discipline, these are some of the most passionate and memorable love poems in the English language. There are forty-four poems in the collection, including the very beautiful sonnet, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

30 review for Sonnets from the Portuguese

  1. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    Elizabeth Barrett wrote these 44 love sonnets during her courtship with poet Robert Browning. After their marriage he convinced her to publish them, calling them the best English language love sonnets since Shakespeare's day. This is sonnet XXVIII, one of my favorites: My letters! All dead paper, mute and white! And yet they seem alive and quivering Against my tremulous hands which lose the string And let them drop down on my knee tonight. This said--He wished to have me in his sight Once, as a friend: Elizabeth Barrett wrote these 44 love sonnets during her courtship with poet Robert Browning. After their marriage he convinced her to publish them, calling them the best English language love sonnets since Shakespeare's day. This is sonnet XXVIII, one of my favorites: My letters! All dead paper, mute and white! And yet they seem alive and quivering Against my tremulous hands which lose the string And let them drop down on my knee tonight. This said--He wished to have me in his sight Once, as a friend: This fixed a day in spring To come and touch my hand...a simple thing, Yet I wept for it!--This...the paper's light... Said, Dear I love thee; and I sank and quailed As if God's future thundered on my past. This said, I am thine--and so it's ink has paled With lying at my heart that beat too fast. And this...O Love, thy words have I'll availed If, what this said, I dared repeat at last.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Christy B

    Christ. I don't even know what to say, here. 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 Christ. I don't even know what to say, here. 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. Sonnets from the Portuguese are love sonnets written by Elizabeth Barrett from 1845 through her secret marriage to Robert Browning in 1846. The title is from Browning's nickname for her 'my little Portuguese'. The emotion and passion practically spills from the pages. This woman knew what to do with words, how to so eloquently convey her feeling so effortlessly. Beautiful. Genius.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    I do not in the least degree possess the heart or soul of a poet. It is like an unknown language in which by luck and some slight understanding, I seem to grasp the tiniest bit of the meaning. Even then I cant be sure it is a true understanding of the poets meaning or a bad interpretation by me. I read this through and then like I do with plays, I found a recording and listened to it again. Listening is better than reading, but I was still out of my element and Im glad Im done. I will confess, I do not in the least degree possess the heart or soul of a poet. It is like an unknown language in which by luck and some slight understanding, I seem to grasp the tiniest bit of the meaning. Even then I can’t be sure it is a true understanding of the poets meaning or a bad interpretation by me. I read this through and then like I do with plays, I found a recording and listened to it again. Listening is better than reading, but I was still out of my element and I’m glad I’m done. I will confess, that on the rare occasion that a poem does grab me, it grabs me deeply, it just doesn’t happen very offen.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Inkspill

    44 love sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning written with Robert Browning in mind, they were secretly dating before they eloped. The most famous of the 44 is Sonnet 43: 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 days Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, as they 44 love sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning written with Robert Browning in mind, they were secretly dating before they eloped. The most famous of the 44 is Sonnet 43: 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 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. Together the sonnets are a portrayal of a rich and devotional love, a love that is a tonic to feeling alive again. The first sonnet starts with a sense of foreboding but ends with: Those of my own life, who by turns had flung A shadow across me. Straightway I was ’ware, So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair; And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,— “Guess now who holds thee!”—“Death,” I said, But, there, The silver answer rang, “Not Death, but Love.” The story of how this work came to be published is just as romantic. Soon after Elizabeth Barrett Browning marries Robert Browning, she nervously shows them to him, an established poet himself. When he finishes reading them, he is astounded by the skills and talent it shows believing it surpasses his own and insists they are published. They were married for 15 years before she passed prematurely from a long-standing illness.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    XXIII Is it indeed so? If I lay here dead, Wouldst thou miss any life in losing mine? And would the sun for thee more coldly shine Because of grave-dumps falling round my head? I marveled, my Belovèd, when I read Thy thought so in the letter. I am thine-- But...so much to thee? Can I pour thy wine While my hands tremble? Then my soul, instead Of dreams of death, resumes life's lower range. Then, love me, Love! Look on me--breathe on me! As brighter ladies do not count it strange, For love, to give up acres XXIII Is it indeed so? If I lay here dead, Wouldst thou miss any life in losing mine? And would the sun for thee more coldly shine Because of grave-dumps falling round my head? I marveled, my Belovèd, when I read Thy thought so in the letter. I am thine-- But...so much to thee? Can I pour thy wine While my hands tremble? Then my soul, instead Of dreams of death, resumes life's lower range. Then, love me, Love! Look on me--breathe on me! As brighter ladies do not count it strange, For love, to give up acres and degree, I yield the grave for thy sake, and exchange My near sweet view of heaven, for earth with thee!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Florencia

    I I thought once how Theocritus had sung Of the sweet years, the dear and wished for years, Who each one in a gracious hand appears To bear a gift for mortals, old or young: And, as I mused it in his antique tongue, I saw, in gradual vision through my tears, The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years, Those of my own life, who by turns had flung A shadow across me. A couple of lines I liked; couldn't find more. All love sonnets and the natural inability to connect with them. Too much sugar for I I thought once how Theocritus had sung Of the sweet years, the dear and wished for years, Who each one in a gracious hand appears To bear a gift for mortals, old or young: And, as I mused it in his antique tongue, I saw, in gradual vision through my tears, The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years, Those of my own life, who by turns had flung A shadow across me. A couple of lines I liked; couldn't find more. All love sonnets and the natural inability to connect with them. Too much sugar for me. Dec 5, 18

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    I've got this in audio and thoroughly enjoyed listening. Its beautiful poetry, that 'stream of conscientiousness' flows within Browning's text. Quote: "How do I love thee, let me count the ways, I love thee to the depth, breadth, and height, my soul can reach...." (Sonnet 43)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Noran Miss Pumkin

    How do i count the ways i love this books..... i give this tome of poems instead of a wedding card. i used it when i started to date my husband, to introduce him to the beauty of poetry. he is a computer geek and had never read for personal enjoyment, before meeting me. in fact, reading a passage in a 1850's journal moved to such emotion, he popped the question to me crying. i read this book at least annually. the brides all love this instead of a card.

  9. 5 out of 5

    mwpm

    I I thought once how Theocritus had sung Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years, Who each one in a gracious hand appears To bear a gift for mortals, old or young: And, as I mused it in his antique tongue, I saw, in gradual vision through my tears, The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years, Those of my own life, who by turns had flung A shadow across me. Straightway I was ware, So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair; And a voice said in mastery, while I I thought once how Theocritus had sung Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years, Who each one in a gracious hand appears To bear a gift for mortals, old or young: And, as I mused it in his antique tongue, I saw, in gradual vision through my tears, The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years, Those of my own life, who by turns had flung A shadow across me. Straightway I was ’ware, So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair; And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,— “Guess now who holds thee!”—“Death,” I said, But, there, The silver answer rang, “Not Death, but Love.” II But only three in all God’s universe Have heard this word thou hast said,—Himself, beside Thee speaking, and me listening! and replied One of us . . . that was God, . . . and laid the curse So darkly on my eyelids, as to amerce My sight from seeing thee,—that if I had died, The death-weights, placed there, would have signified Less absolute exclusion. “Nay” is worse From God than from all others, O my friend! Men could not part us with their worldly jars, Nor the seas change us, nor the tempests bend; Our hands would touch for all the mountain-bars: And, heaven being rolled between us at the end, We should but vow the faster for the stars. III Unlike are we, unlike, O princely Heart! Unlike our uses and our destinies. Our ministering two angels look surprise On one another, as they strike athwart Their wings in passing. Thou, bethink thee, art A guest for queens to social pageantries, With gages from a hundred brighter eyes Than tears even can make mine, to play thy part Of chief musician. What hast thou to do With looking from the lattice-lights at me, A poor, tired, wandering singer, singing through The dark, and leaning up a cypress tree? The chrism is on thine head,—on mine, the dew,— And Death must dig the level where these agree. IV Thou hast thy calling to some palace-floor, Most gracious singer of high poems! where The dancers will break footing, from the care Of watching up thy pregnant lips for more. And dost thou lift this house’s latch too poor For hand of thine? and canst thou think and bear To let thy music drop here unaware In folds of golden fulness at my door? Look up and see the casement broken in, The bats and owlets builders in the roof! My cricket chirps against thy mandolin. Hush, call no echo up in further proof Of desolation! there’s a voice within That weeps . . . as thou must sing . . . alone, aloof. V I lift my heavy heart up solemnly, As once Electra her sepulchral urn, And, looking in thine eyes, I over-turn The ashes at thy feet. Behold and see What a great heap of grief lay hid in me, And how the red wild sparkles dimly burn Through the ashen greyness. If thy foot in scorn Could tread them out to darkness utterly, It might be well perhaps. But if instead Thou wait beside me for the wind to blow The grey dust up, . . . those laurels on thine head, O my Belovëd, will not shield thee so, That none of all the fires shall scorch and shred The hair beneath. Stand further off then! go! VI Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore Alone upon the threshold of my door Of individual life, I shall command The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand Serenely in the sunshine as before, Without the sense of that which I forbore— Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine With pulses that beat double. What I do And what I dream include thee, as the wine Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue God for myself, He hears that name of thine, And sees within my eyes the tears of two. VII The face of all the world is changed, I think, Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink, Was caught up into love, and taught the whole Of life in a new rhythm. The cup of dole God gave for baptism, I am fain to drink, And praise its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear. The names of country, heaven, are changed away For where thou art or shalt be, there or here; And this . . . this lute and song . . . loved yesterday, (The singing angels know) are only dear Because thy name moves right in what they say. VIII What can I give thee back, O liberal And princely giver, who hast brought the gold And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold, And laid them on the outside of the wall For such as I to take or leave withal, In unexpected largesse? am I cold, Ungrateful, that for these most manifold High gifts, I render nothing back at all? Not so; not cold,—but very poor instead. Ask God who knows. For frequent tears have run The colours from my life, and left so dead And pale a stuff, it were not fitly done To give the same as pillow to thy head. Go farther! let it serve to trample on. IX Can it be right to give what I can give? To let thee sit beneath the fall of tears As salt as mine, and hear the sighing years Re-sighing on my lips renunciative Through those infrequent smiles which fail to live For all thy adjurations? O my fears, That this can scarce be right! We are not peers So to be lovers; and I own, and grieve, That givers of such gifts as mine are, must Be counted with the ungenerous. Out, alas! I will not soil thy purple with my dust, Nor breathe my poison on thy Venice-glass, Nor give thee any love—which were unjust. Beloved, I only love thee! let it pass. X Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed And worthy of acceptation. Fire is bright, Let temple burn, or flax; an equal light Leaps in the flame from cedar-plank or weed: And love is fire. And when I say at need I love thee . . . mark! . . . I love thee—in thy sight I stand transfigured, glorified aright, With conscience of the new rays that proceed Out of my face toward thine. There’s nothing low In love, when love the lowest: meanest creatures Who love God, God accepts while loving so. And what I feel, across the inferior features Of what I am, doth flash itself, and show How that great work of Love enhances Nature’s. XI And therefore if to love can be desert, I am not all unworthy. Cheeks as pale As these you see, and trembling knees that fail To bear the burden of a heavy heart,— This weary minstrel-life that once was girt To climb Aornus, and can scarce avail To pipe now ’gainst the valley nightingale A melancholy music,—why advert To these things? O Belovëd, it is plain I am not of thy worth nor for thy place! And yet, because I love thee, I obtain From that same love this vindicating grace To live on still in love, and yet in vain,— To bless thee, yet renounce thee to thy face. XII Indeed this very love which is my boast, And which, when rising up from breast to brow, Doth crown me with a ruby large enow To draw men’s eyes and prove the inner cost,— This love even, all my worth, to the uttermost, I should not love withal, unless that thou Hadst set me an example, shown me how, When first thine earnest eyes with mine were crossed, And love called love. And thus, I cannot speak Of love even, as a good thing of my own: Thy soul hath snatched up mine all faint and weak, And placed it by thee on a golden throne,— And that I love (O soul, we must be meek!) Is by thee only, whom I love alone. 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 on each?— I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach My hand to hold my spirits 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. 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, Belovëd, may Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought, 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 may’st love on, through love’s eternity. XV Accuse me not, beseech thee, that I wear Too calm and sad a face in front of thine; For we two look two ways, and cannot shine With the same sunlight on our brow and hair. On me thou lookest with no doubting care, As on a bee shut in a crystalline; Since sorrow hath shut me safe in love’s divine, And to spread wing and fly in the outer air Were most impossible failure, if I strove To fail so. But I look on thee—on thee— Beholding, besides love, the end of love, Hearing oblivion beyond memory; As one who sits and gazes from above, Over the rivers to the bitter sea. XVI And yet, because thou overcomest so, Because thou art more noble and like a king, Thou canst prevail against my fears and fling Thy purple round me, till my heart shall grow Too close against thine heart henceforth to know How it shook when alone. Why, conquering May prove as lordly and complete a thing In lifting upward, as in crushing low! And as a vanquished soldier yields his sword To one who lifts him from the bloody earth, Even so, Belovëd, I at last record, Here ends my strife. If thou invite me forth, I rise above abasement at the word. Make thy love larger to enlarge my worth! XVII My poet, thou canst touch on all the notes God set between His After and Before, And strike up and strike off the general roar Of the rushing worlds a melody that floats In a serene air purely. Antidotes Of medicated music, answering for Mankind’s forlornest uses, thou canst pour From thence into their ears. God’s will devotes Thine to such ends, and mine to wait on thine. How, Dearest, wilt thou have me for most use? A hope, to sing by gladly? or a fine Sad memory, with thy songs to interfuse? A shade, in which to sing—of palm or pine? A grave, on which to rest from singing? Choose. XVIII I never gave a lock of hair away To a man, Dearest, except this to thee, Which now upon my fingers thoughtfully I ring out to the full brown length and say “Take it.” My day of youth went yesterday; My hair no longer bounds to my foot’s glee, Nor plant I it from rose- or myrtle-tree, As girls do, any more: it only may Now shade on two pale cheeks the mark of tears, Taught drooping from the head that hangs aside Through sorrow’s trick. I thought the funeral-shears Would take this first, but Love is justified,— Take it thou,—finding pure, from all those years, The kiss my mother left here when she died. XIX The soul’s Rialto hath its merchandize; I barter curl for curl upon that mart, And from my poet’s forehead to my heart Receive this lock which outweighs argosies,— As purply black, as erst to Pindar’s eyes The dim purpureal tresses gloomed athwart The nine white Muse-brows. For this counterpart, . . . The bay crown’s shade, Belovëd, I surmise, Still lingers on thy curl, it is so black! Thus, with a fillet of smooth-kissing breath, I tie the shadows safe from gliding back, And lay the gift where nothing hindereth; Here on my heart, as on thy brow, to lack No natural heat till mine grows cold in death. XX Belovëd, my Belovëd, when I think That thou wast in the world a year ago, What time I sat alone here in the snow And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink No moment at thy voice, but, link by link, Went counting all my chains as if that so They never could fall off at any blow Struck by thy possible hand,—why, thus I drink Of life’s great cup of wonder! Wonderful, Never to feel thee thrill the day or night With personal act or speech,—nor ever cull Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull, Who cannot guess God’s presence out of sight. XXI Say over again, and yet once over again, That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated Should seem a “cuckoo-song,” as thou dost treat it, Remember, never to the hill or plain, Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed. Belovëd, I, amid the darkness greeted By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain Cry, “Speak once more—thou lovest!” Who can fear Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll, Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year? Say thou dost love me, love me, love me—toll The silver iterance!—only minding, Dear, To love me also in silence with thy soul. XXII When our two souls stand up erect and strong, Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher, Until the lengthening wings break into fire At either curvëd point,—what bitter wrong Can the earth do to us, that we should not long Be here contented? Think! In mounting higher, The angels would press on us and aspire To drop some golden orb of perfect song Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay Rather on earth, Belovëd,—where the unfit Contrarious moods of men recoil away And isolate pure spirits, and permit A place to stand and love in for a day, With darkness and the death-hour rounding it. XXIII Is it indeed so? If I lay here dead, Wouldst thou miss any life in losing mine? And would the sun for thee more coldly shine Because of grave-damps falling round my head? I marvelled, my Belovëd, when I read Thy thought so in the letter. I am thine— But . . . so much to thee? Can I pour thy wine While my hands tremble? Then my soul, instead Of dreams of death, resumes life’s lower range. Then, love me, Love! look on me—breathe on me! As brighter ladies do not count it strange, For love, to give up acres and degree, I yield the grave for thy sake, and exchange My near sweet view of heaven, for earth with thee! XXIV Let the world’s sharpness like a clasping knife Shut in upon itself and do no harm In this close hand of Love, now soft and warm, And let us hear no sound of human strife After the click of the shutting. Life to life— I lean upon thee, Dear, without alarm, And feel as safe as guarded by a charm Against the stab of worldlings, who if rife Are weak to injure. Very whitely still The lilies of our lives may reassure Their blossoms from their roots, accessible Alone to heavenly dews that drop not fewer; Growing straight, out of man’s reach, on the hill. God only, who made us rich, can make us poor. XXV A heavy heart, Belovëd, have I borne From year to year until I saw thy face, And sorrow after sorrow took the place Of all those natural joys as lightly worn As the stringed pearls, each lifted in its turn By a beating heart at dance-time. Hopes apace Were changed to long despairs, till God’s own grace Could scarcely lift above the world forlorn My heavy heart. Then thou didst bid me bring And let it drop adown thy calmly great Deep being! Fast it sinketh, as a thing Which its own nature does precipitate, While thine doth close above it, mediating Betwixt the stars and the unaccomplished fate. XXVI I lived with visions for my company Instead of men and women, years ago, And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know A sweeter music than they played to me. But soon their trailing purple was not free Of this world’s dust, their lutes did silent grow, And I myself grew faint and blind below Their vanishing eyes. Then thou didst come—to be, Belovëd, what they seemed. Their shining fronts, Their songs, their splendours, (better, yet the same, As river-water hallowed into fonts) Met in thee, and from out thee overcame My soul with satisfaction of all wants: Because God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame. XXVII My own Belovëd, who hast lifted me From this drear flat of earth where I was thrown, And, in betwixt the languid ringlets, blown A life-breath, till the forehead hopefully Shines out again, as all the angels see, Before thy saving kiss! My own, my own, Who camest to me when the world was gone, And I who looked for only God, found thee! I find thee; I am safe, and strong, and glad. As one who stands in dewless asphodel, Looks backward on the tedious time he had In the upper life,—so I, with bosom-swell, Make witness, here, between the good and bad, That Love, as strong as Death, retrieves as well. XXVIII My letters! all dead paper, mute and white! And yet they seem alive and quivering Against my tremulous hands which loose the string And let them drop down on my knee to-night. This said,—he wished to have me in his sight Once, as a friend: this fixed a day in spring To come and touch my hand . . . a simple thing, Yet I wept for it!—this, . . . the paper’s light . . . Said, Dear I love thee; and I sank and quailed As if God’s future thundered on my past. This said, I am thine—and so its ink has paled With lying at my heart that beat too fast. And this . . . O Love, thy words have ill availed If, what this said, I dared repeat at last! XXIX I think of thee!—my thoughts do twine and bud About thee, as wild vines, about a tree, Put out broad leaves, and soon there’s nought to see Except the straggling green which hides the wood. Yet, O my palm-tree, be it understood I will not have my thoughts instead of thee Who art dearer, better! Rather, instantly Renew thy presence; as a strong tree should, Rustle thy boughs and set thy trunk all bare, And let these bands of greenery which insphere thee, Drop heavily down,—burst, shattered everywhere! Because, in this deep joy to see and hear thee And breathe within thy shadow a new air, I do not think of thee—I am too near thee. XXX I see thine image through my tears to-night, And yet to-day I saw thee smiling. How Refer the cause?—Belovëd, is it thou Or I, who makes me sad? The acolyte Amid the chanted joy and thankful rite May so fall flat, with pale insensate brow, On the altar-stair. I hear thy voice and vow, Perplexed, uncertain, since thou art out of sight, As he, in his swooning ears, the choir’s amen. Belovëd, dost thou love? or did I see all The glory as I dreamed, and fainted when Too vehement light dilated my ideal, For my soul’s eyes? Will that light come again, As now these tears come—falling hot and real? XXXI Thou comest! all is said without a word. I sit beneath thy looks, as children do In the noon-sun, with souls that tremble through Their happy eyelids from an unaverred Yet prodigal inward joy. Behold, I erred In that last doubt! and yet I cannot rue The sin most, but the occasion—that we two Should for a moment stand unministered By a mutual presence. Ah, keep near and close, Thou dove-like help! and when my fears would rise, With thy broad heart serenely interpose: Brood down with thy divine sufficiencies These thoughts which tremble when bereft of those, Like callow birds left desert to the skies. Read the full text here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2002/2002-h/2002-h.htm

  10. 5 out of 5

    Shauna

    Sonnets from the Portuguese first of all, não é útil se você quer praticar o português. This book will in no way prepare you for the ordering of a galão in some Lisbon café. In fact, "portuguese" was a pet name Browning's (secret) husband used for her. The title also refers to the sonnets of the 16th-century Portuguese poet Luís de Camões; in all these poems Elizabethe uses rhyme schemes typical of the Portuguese sonnets. Here is one of my favourites: If thou must love me, let it be for nought Sonnets from the Portuguese first of all, não é útil se você quer praticar o português. This book will in no way prepare you for the ordering of a galão in some Lisbon café. In fact, "portuguese" was a pet name Browning's (secret) husband used for her. The title also refers to the sonnets of the 16th-century Portuguese poet Luís de Camões; in all these poems Elizabethe uses rhyme schemes typical of the Portuguese sonnets. Here is one of my favourites: 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, Belovèd, may Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought, 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. The collection also features the famous 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...'.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    My ex girlfriend, Ashleigh, gave this to me years ago, before she was forced by her family to marry this guy. Long story but she sent this book to me and signed the inside. Next to Shakespeare, this is the most bittersweet and poetic poems of love that I have ever read. It was said that a husband and wife team wrote these so one can only imagine how passionate their marriage was, huh?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." - Sonnet #43 - read this with your lover...have a "How do I love thee?" poetry night...instead of the same old "movie night."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Free download available at Project Gutenberg

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    2.5/5 Elizabeth Barrett Browning's one of those authors whom the (patriarchal) literary establishment has a particularly unique can't-live-with-her-can't-live-without-her relationship. You're more likely to run into her contemporaneously less popular husband in today's classes; audiences who do encounter her are largely spoon fed her sonnets rather than granted the pleasure of engaging with her Aurora Leigh; and her, admittedly magnificent, Sonnet 43 is so often stolen by idolaters of the Bard 2.5/5 Elizabeth Barrett Browning's one of those authors whom the (patriarchal) literary establishment has a particularly unique can't-live-with-her-can't-live-without-her relationship. You're more likely to run into her contemporaneously less popular husband in today's classes; audiences who do encounter her are largely spoon fed her sonnets rather than granted the pleasure of engaging with her Aurora Leigh; and her, admittedly magnificent, Sonnet 43 is so often stolen by idolaters of the Bard that the event serves as clear evidence how riddled the field of literature is with trolls and similar minded wastes of space. I was fortunate enough to encounter the aforementioned AL as excerpt in a community college course, (which goes to show how conveniently elitist suppositions can control the canon through sheer hierarchy), and that piece was enough to convince me to track down and enjoy the book-length poem in full. That previous influence, plus some more mercantile practicalities involving reading a complete century of women, persuaded me to pick up this 1850s piece (the fact that I had repeatedly seen it in various edition iterations at previous sales helped settle my decision). This particular edition had its positives and its negatives to the point that I feel they canceled out, leaving me with a rather middling reaction to these pieces that, in all honesty, I had expected from the outset based on the description. However, reading works by women is always a worthy pursuit, and I may as well check out the old ones for some reading cred and to see what all the fuss is about. When it comes down to this edition in particular, one thing I really liked was all the context it gave in terms of EBB, the Brownings as a pair, and a matching of nonfictional material to poetical works that fleshed out each piece based on historical reference. What I didn't like was the choices in font, minutely straightforward on the left hand side and riotously huge on the right of every two page spread. I have an especial pet peeve about font styles that prevent me from efficiently skimming over something born from years of quickly parsing through book sale displays, and to have to deal with that in the reading itself, however short the pieces, was aggravating to say the least. As for the poems themselves, I mainly value the love talk in them for the fact that it is taking place between a disabled woman and her paramour, which you really don't see that often even today without some abled person trying to make eugenic human sacrifice look romantic. Outside Sonnet 42 and a few other places when EBB, or Ba as she was apparently nicknamed, was able to escape metaphors of God and/or a male lover for two seconds, there was little that astonished or compelled in comparison to the residues of Aurora Leigh still inscribed upon my soul. So, in this case, as it has proved many a time, I prefer the longer work, whose increased length and established author may both continue to work against it when it concerns its establishment in the canon. However, unlike many an author of her time, EBB is well known, and so, having finally reviewed this popular trinket of hers after having greatly enjoyed what could be termed her magnum opus, I am ready to move on. While I wish this could have gone better, the themes combined with the poetry combined with the length was already working against me in terms of my reading predilections. I also honestly would have gotten around to this due to the sheer acclaim that heralds it from various sectors, and now that it's over and done, I don't have to waste anymore the regular microseconds I would spend contemplating whether it was worth pursuing whenever an edition or two crossed my path. On a more positive note, I imagine this work has served as a gateway drug to bigger and better things, and the fact that I didn't get around to it till now doesn't reduce the worth of the work it has likely wrought in many another reader's life whose only reading of women's writing has been in the realm of children's books. As I said previously, I imagine myself done with EBB in terms of her bibliography, but a revisit of AL would not be out of place a couple decades hence. She's no Woolf or Evans for me to continually trek after over the years of reading, but, even from this youthful perspective of mine, I can see her being welcome in my old age for a certain turn of phrase and strength of character that I will never find anywhere else.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    Some of my English-major friends would probably dare to call me lapsed. I dont read poetry as much as I used to, nor am I particularly drawn to the classics now that I dont have to be. Its even a little sad that I needed the excuse of National Poetry Month to pick up EBB again as shes always been one of my favorites. I love the concept of this collection: sonnets she wrote, but purported to have translated fromyou guessed itthe Portuguese. Just some of the loveliest love poetry youll ever read. Some of my English-major friends would probably dare to call me “lapsed.” I don’t read poetry as much as I used to, nor am I particularly drawn to the classics now that I don’t have to be. It’s even a little sad that I needed the excuse of National Poetry Month to pick up EBB again as she’s always been one of my favorites. I love the concept of this collection: sonnets she wrote, but purported to have translated from—you guessed it—the Portuguese. Just some of the loveliest love poetry you’ll ever read. Verdict: Buy from Buy, Borrow, Bypass: http://bookriot.com/2015/04/20/buy-bo...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Raghad Khamees

    Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore Alone upon the threshold of my door Of individual life, I shall command The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand Serenely in the sunshine as before, Without the sense of that which I forbore, .. Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine With pulses that beat double. What I do And what I dream include thee, as the wine Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue God for myself, He Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore Alone upon the threshold of my door Of individual life, I shall command The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand Serenely in the sunshine as before, Without the sense of that which I forbore, .. Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine With pulses that beat double. What I do And what I dream include thee, as the wine Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue God for myself, He hears that name of thine, And sees within my eyes, the tears of two. I read this amazing one

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    44 sonnets by the famous poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, chronicling her love for her husband, Robert Browning, from the time they met to their marriage. Of course, the most famous one is #43: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Etc. But there is much more than this often quoted sonnet here. A great collection to read and re-read. 44 sonnets by the famous poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, chronicling her love for her husband, Robert Browning, from the time they met to their marriage. Of course, the most famous one is #43: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Etc.” But there is much more than this often quoted sonnet here. A great collection to read and re-read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I had not expected this collection of love poems to be so melancholic. Although a degree of self-doubt and uncertainty goes along with any lover's thoughts, the tone here is of such low self-esteem, such self-recrimination that it strikes me that the poet was suffering from depression. But through the darkness, there are sparks of hope, that maybe love will come, will be true and will rescue. In the end, the poet is redeemed and transformed by love, but it seems to have been a close-run thing. I had not expected this collection of love poems to be so melancholic. Although a degree of self-doubt and uncertainty goes along with any lover's thoughts, the tone here is of such low self-esteem, such self-recrimination that it strikes me that the poet was suffering from depression. But through the darkness, there are sparks of hope, that maybe love will come, will be true and will rescue. In the end, the poet is redeemed and transformed by love, but it seems to have been a close-run thing. There's such beautiful imagery in every poem that it's almost impossible to select one out above the others, but I particularly like Sonnet V: I lift my heavy heart up solemnly, As once Electra her sepulchral urn, And, looking in thine eyes, I overturn The ashes at thy feet. Behold and see What a great heap of grief lay hid in me, And how the red wild sparkles dimly burn Through the ashen greyness. If thy foot in scorn Could tread them out to darkness utterly, It might be well perhaps. But if instead Thou wait beside me for the wind to blow The grey dust up,...those laurels on thine head, O my Belovëd, will not shield thee so, That none of all the fires shall scorch and shred The hair beneath. Stand further off then! go!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Robson

    This is one of the 52 books that feature in my novel Crossing Paths: the BookCrossing novel and I chose it before I had actually read the poems (by reputation alone). I'm so glad I did make this the centrepiece of the lovers' conversations through BookCrossing. There are some wonderful poems, especially sonnets VII, XVII and XXII. http://budurl.com/CPSaleAmazon Here is the journal entry from the novel for this book: "My Darling, this book is for you. I have had it for some time now and never found This is one of the 52 books that feature in my novel Crossing Paths: the BookCrossing novel and I chose it before I had actually read the poems (by reputation alone). I'm so glad I did make this the centrepiece of the lovers' conversations through BookCrossing. There are some wonderful poems, especially sonnets VII, XVII and XXII. http://budurl.com/CPSaleAmazon Here is the journal entry from the novel for this book: "My Darling, this book is for you. I have had it for some time now and never found a buyer. I often used to wonder what its fate would be. Now, it is obvious. The book has been waiting for you. Know only this, that I love you with all my heart and want to spend the rest of my life with you. I hope when you read this journal entry that I’ll be by your side. Forever J"

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I cannot express how lovely I find this collection of poems. Well constructed and beautifully written, it is among my favorite books of all time, probably my favorite collection of poetry. I'm partial to the sonnets as I find them traditionally romantic. I guess the conservative poet in me likes the meter and rhyme. When I first read this collection I was a third-year at UVA and was in major seduction with Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf and glossed by this treasure. Years later, I see what I I cannot express how lovely I find this collection of poems. Well constructed and beautifully written, it is among my favorite books of all time, probably my favorite collection of poetry. I'm partial to the sonnets as I find them traditionally romantic. I guess the conservative poet in me likes the meter and rhyme. When I first read this collection I was a third-year at UVA and was in major seduction with Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf and glossed by this treasure. Years later, I see what I couldn't see before. The beautiful restraint of her love poetry as well as the hurranical blasts of some of her others qualifies EBB, in my opinion, as a master of the sonnet. Favorites XX, XXII, XXXVIII, and, of course, XIV.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Beautiful. These fill my heart to the brim. I love her. I love these poems. Jan. 2019: I highly recommend reading all 44 in one sitting. I know it's a lot, but if you can manage it, it's worthwhile. These poems tell the story of her relationship with RB, and each one flows seamlessly into the next. It's incredible.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Doua AlJber

    How do I love thee let me count the ways, these sonnets played a major part of my transformation as person and I absolutely love it, highly recommend it to the people I love and if i ever fall in love I'm going to give the person I love this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    What a pair of romantics. It was a delightful book for my hopeless romantic self. Definitely deserves another read, at a different time, because I found the language barrier made it difficult to comprehend some of what I read (especially the poetry).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mounica

    4.5 to be precise.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeana

    She has written some beautiful Sonnets!

  26. 4 out of 5

    James

    What can anyone say about Elizabeth Barrett Brownings beautiful poems that hasnt already been said? Theyre exquisite. Her 43rd sonnet is truly sublime and, despite its familiarity, has never lost its power to move me. What can anyone say about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s beautiful poems that hasn’t already been said? They’re exquisite. Her 43rd sonnet is truly sublime and, despite its familiarity, has never lost its power to move me.

  27. 5 out of 5

    C.

    Elizabeth Barrett Browning published prolifically, including for social causes like child labour and slavery, prior to 1850s Sonnets From The Portuguese but this became an important contribution to the world of poetry. Admittedly nearer the bottom of literary genres I turn to for personal reading, my ratings are probably lower than each poetess merits and my knowledge of this medium, low. My feedback can thus solely derive from my enjoyment of the foray. Without a doubt, the sonnets in this Elizabeth Barrett Browning published prolifically, including for social causes like child labour and slavery, prior to 1850’s “Sonnets From The Portuguese” but this became an important contribution to the world of poetry. Admittedly nearer the bottom of literary genres I turn to for personal reading, my ratings are probably lower than each poetess merits and my knowledge of this medium, low. My feedback can thus solely derive from my enjoyment of the foray. Without a doubt, the sonnets in this beautiful little booklet were lovely to read. The greatest treat was to at last, wholly see the poem so very famous that even I know of it: “How Do I Love Thee?”! There was highly personal delight in learning the contents of this book when I spotted it, which has nothing to do with poetry. You see, I had heard the phrase “Sonnets From The Portuguese” from Canadian music in 1992: the closing song on the “Attitude And Virtue” album by Corey Hart! Known as an educated person, I’m not surprised he referenced a title and sang an ode to a famous body of work, which by coincidence contains that infamous poem of which I knew. Curiosity about my favourite music artist and a charity book sale, led to educating myself about Elizabeth Barrett Browning. These sonnets were composed for her fellow poet husband, Robert, which tribute their love as much as triumph over meeting and marrying him; after two harsh illnesses in her life and a Father disowning her for her choice. His behaviour demonstrates a judgemental family and a lot of her writing evidences her religious upbringing. It is pleasing that she spoke up for love and social change and that this physically weakened lady succeeded at bringing about both! Make someone a splendid gift of this suite.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    This book, unfortunately, has not stood up well to the test of time. And, frankly, there are a lot of things I do not much like about Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I do not much like the fact that she was a dog person (or the fact that her dog was a prissy-looking cocker spaniel rather than a fierce bull mastiff like Emily Bronte's pet dog, Keeper). I do not much like the sentimental bent of her Victorian religiosity. I do not much like the fact that she needed a man's help to escape from her This book, unfortunately, has not stood up well to the test of time. And, frankly, there are a lot of things I do not much like about Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I do not much like the fact that she was a dog person (or the fact that her dog was a prissy-looking cocker spaniel rather than a fierce bull mastiff like Emily Bronte's pet dog, Keeper). I do not much like the sentimental bent of her Victorian religiosity. I do not much like the fact that she needed a man's help to escape from her controlling father's home. I do much not like the fact that she wrote a verse novel that blatantly rips off Jane Eyre and in which the characters have ridiculously romantic names like "Aurora Leigh," "Romney Leigh," and "Marian Erle." Still, there is something to be said for the idealistic, outspoken reformist E.B.B., who, it is instructive to remember, achieved literary fame before her husband Robert Browning did, despite the fact that his fame eventually outshone hers, just as Bob Dylan's eventually outshone Joan Baez's. And Sonnets From the Portuguese will always have personal meaning for me. This book, together with Christina Rossetti's sonnet sequence "Monna Innominata" and Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet sequence "Fatal Interview," taught me two very important lessons when I first read it as a teen: firstly, that women can write sonnets, too, and, secondly, that the female point-of-view is a valid point-of-view from which to write a sonnet sequence. The role that these two lessons played in my personal development cannot be overstated, and so I thank you, E.B.B.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Umnia

    well , i HATE. the language actually , it's kinda Old , like real vintage !! but yeah it's since the Victorian period so i'm gonna feel it not read it , and it's so deep ❤ here is my fav :)) "The face of all the world is changed , I think , since first i heard the footsteps of thy soul Move still , oh , still , beside me , as they stole Betwixt and the dreadful outer brink Of obvious death, where I , who thought to sink , Was caught up into love , and taught the whole Of life in a new rhythm , the cup well , i HATE. the language actually , it's kinda Old , like real vintage !! but yeah it's since the Victorian period so i'm gonna feel it not read it , and it's so deep ❤ here is my fav :)) "The face of all the world is changed , I think , since first i heard the footsteps of thy soul Move still , oh , still , beside me , as they stole Betwixt and the dreadful outer brink Of obvious death, where I , who thought to sink , Was caught up into love , and taught the whole Of life in a new rhythm , the cup of dole God gave for baptism , I am fain to drink , and praise its sweetness , sweet , with the anear , The names of country , heaven , are changed away for where thou art or shalt be , there or here; And this .. this lute and song .. loved yesterday, (the singing angels know) are only dear Because thy name moves right in what they say."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda Rae Baker

    Beautiful poetry...love Elizabeth Barrett Browning. How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways... Robert Browning was so impressed with his wife's love sonnets that he urged her to make them public. He convinced her to share them with the world. To conceil the fact that they were love poems written for him, they came up with the nickname of "my Little Portuguese" which he called her, Sonnets from the Portuguese became the title. These poems are beautiful beyond measure and one of my most favorite Beautiful poetry...love Elizabeth Barrett Browning. How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways... Robert Browning was so impressed with his wife's love sonnets that he urged her to make them public. He convinced her to share them with the world. To conceil the fact that they were love poems written for him, they came up with the nickname of "my Little Portuguese" which he called her, Sonnets from the Portuguese became the title. These poems are beautiful beyond measure and one of my most favorite collections. I recently picked up a collectors edition that I will be presenting to my husband for Valentine's Day this year...shhhh...don't tell him. Do yourself a favor and the one you love a favor by checking these out. The entire collection is extremely moving...(-:

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