Friday, June 25, 2010

Sonnet XIV - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Another poet that needs little introduction, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 - 1861), became one of the most popular English poets of the Victorian Era, to the point of being considered for the Poet Laureate post (which went to Tennyson...).  Self-schooled in the classics and from a family that fell from wealth into genteel middle-class after financial set-backs, she also had a medical afflictions that made her an invalid and recluse for a time.  Death by drowning of a beloved brother did not help her emotional state.  Almost 40 when she met Robert Browning, he was the love of her life and the inspiration for "Sonnets from the Portuguese", which cemented her fame and popularity.  Her poems on the themes of social injustice and women's roles were also well-received, though her popularity declined after her death.  Her reputation is now mostly based on the love sonnets.  Compare and contrast this one to the one from Shakespeare (yesterday's post).  His is on "eternal love"; hers on what makes it eternalTo me, it's the best answer for those who keep asking "Why do you love me?" Or "What do you love about me?".  It's always a mystery that defies dissection, a dissection that shouldn't be attempted in the first place!
Sonnet 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 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.

                                                                                   Elizabeth Barrett Browning - English

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