How Do I Love Thee – Elizabeth Barrett Browning


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.
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.

51 Responses

  1. I dont understand the poem pls kinly expalian to me

  2. This is a wonderfully written poem describing with great passion her love for her significant other.

    Someone did an analysis on the poem which I find to be quite apt.

    Here it goes :-

    01. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
    The number of ways she loves are numerous. She would need to count them.

    02. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
    Her love is three dimensional and therefore real, in the sense that all real physical things in the universe are three dimensional. Breadth is width, a measurement of how far across her love is. Height and depth represent how far down (deep) and how far up (high) her love is, in relation to her position in the universe.

    03. My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
    These measurements, though physical are also spiritual, as they pertain to her soul, which is body and spirit infused.

    04. For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
    This physical and spiritual measurement is of her soul and the very essence of her being to the ends of her existence.. Ideal Grace is capitalized and probably refers to God, and His most perfect gift–Salvation, and the opportunity to experience eternal love and bliss in His presence. She likens her love for her husband to that love of God.

    05. I love thee to the level of every day’s
    06. Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
    Her love is on the same level as our most basic needs–air, water, food, shelter, kinship and love–that need our attention day and night.

    07. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
    She loves him of her own free will, and not out of obligation. This is the kind of love that is freely given without any coercion by guilt or force or the threat of force. Men strive for Right freely, for it is necessary to their happiness.

    08. I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
    Modesty turns from praise because it needs it not. She loves him for the sake of love itself, and not to receive any praise.

    09. I love with a passion put to use
    10. In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
    Passion put to use in her old griefs, is passion that hurts, that reminds one through pain that she is still alive. The same passion exists in the faith of a child, who believes without doubt because of a lack of life experience that would go contrary to it.

    11. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
    12. With my lost saints,
    She loves him with the intensity one feels love during their innocence of youth, which she lost with her innocence, and feels it again for him.

    — I love thee with the breath,
    13. Smiles, tears, of all my life!
    She loves him with the breath of her life, with the happiness and sadness of her life.

    — and, if God choose,
    14. I shall but love thee better after death.
    Her love for him will not end at the grave, but, God willing, will continue on eternally.

    Cheers :)

    • it’s really a great analyzing to the poem….i love it and it helped me alot…

      • Glad to be of service :wink:

    • When I was on business in Montgomery, Alabama, a couple of years ago, I visited the State Capital Building and it was there that I read this sonnet in its entirety. (It is engraved on a beautiful statue of Sonny Wallace.) As I stood there reading the sonnet, I was overcome with emotion. So, as part of my Will, I am including this sonnet as a way of saying goodbye to my children. This sonnet represents the purest love. It matters not that it was written from a woman to a man… love is love and this sonnet expresses the depth of the love I have for my family. Thank you for your analysis. I found it to be truthful and revealing.

      • Thanks for taking the time to share that with us Deb.

        God bless,
        Jules

    • Thank you man this helped me understand this poem to a much greater extent. :)

      • Glad to be of service… :)

    • This is a really great analysis. I’ve looked everywhere for a decent one. It defiantly helped me understand some of the lines I was unsure about the meaning of. Great post! =]

      • Thanks Maggie…cheers ;)

    • Your analysis of this poem is absolutely beautiful…
      Certainly one of the best I’ve come across as I’ve read some that didn’t even make sense. Thank you!

      • I fully agree that it is one of the best if not the Best but again I did not do the work, I managed to find this gem myself.

        cheers

    • You are a legend, thanks so much

      • I am anything but….thanks nonetheless! :)

    • very good explanation. thank you so much for the insight!

      • Cheers mate! :)

    • I have always liked this poem. And the way you explained it and explored the deeper levels of meaning in the lines made me appreciate the poem even more.Thank you :)

  3. thanks…this is really a great help for my research…
    i really like the poem..^-^

  4. You’re most welcome and I love this poem…. ;)

  5. weeeeeeee… thx 2 d info…. i understand it very much and it helps me a lot with my project in english hahaha

  6. Welcome mate! ;)

  7. the analysis really is a great help…. tnx!

    • You’re most welcome though I cannot claim credit for it as I found this gem while doing research on it.

      cheers ;)

  8. Is the division organized in a particular way? or is there a sence of progression or movement in the ways in which Barret loves? Pleeease help!!

  9. No one can truly answer this question but Barret herself.

    However for the love of poetry and exploring the hidden beauty in the language and meaning one can derive that the Author a great one I might add has done both.

    It is organized in perfect form with progression and movement!
    And yet not constricted in any way by which to suffocate the essence of it’s beauty.

    You will have to expand on this on your own for your paper but I hope my personal understanding of this poem has helped you.

    cheers

  10. why is everyone thanking “juleslife?” all he did was copy and paste someone elses analysis of the poem.
    the poem is absolute crap. the main basic idea is – “love never ends” << skeen.

    • Well they are thanking me is because I’ve made a great analysis easy to find, secondly if you cannot enjoy the beauty of this poem then you never will. Shallow remarks are tell tale signs of an inferiority complex.

  11. thaaaaaaanks sooooooo mch

    YOUR A LIFE SAVER

    • Are they still using this poem in schools? Anyhow you’re most welcome…cheers! ;)

  12. thanks !! this really helped to make my understanding of the poem better.

    • You’re most welcome….cheers

  13. Thanks man, i have loved this poem for 12 years and now thanks to you i understand the interpretation, again thank you very much.

    • You’re most welcome! ;)

  14. wow! thank you for your analysis with this poem of Elizabeth. this will be a great help to our assignment in English.

    • Good luck! ;)

  15. thanks, this helps me with my english project so much

    • You’re most welcome…

  16. The first line, ‘how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!-’ presents an absurdity in its attempt to define an abstract concept, love by mathematically adding up the instances. Dealing in lofty and abstract ideas the speaker provides no image to make love concrete or easy to grasp.

    ‘I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
    ‘My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight’ the speaker says. Ironically though, there are no limits to the soul; it is limitless, rendering it’s dimensions limitless too. The speaker thus convinces the reader of the largeness of her love while dealing largely with abstract and philosophical ideas. It may be noted that the poet has used internal rhyme, ‘depth’ ‘breadth’ in the second line of the poem.

    Elizabeth is telling us that her love is never ending and will not cease to exist even after death, ‘ends of being and ideal grace’. Going by the quote, ‘longetivity is the true test of love’, Elizabeth truly loves her husband. Elizabeth has chosen religious words, ‘ideal grace’ (relates to judgment day) in the line. It reveals her religious background and that she relates love to religion.

    ‘I love thee to the level of everyday’s most quiet need by sun and candlelight-’ the above line conveys the Victorian side of her love, and the Elizabethan (pun intended) devotion that comes with it. The speaker is telling us that she will go to any lengths at any time of the day or night, ‘sun and candlelight’ to cater to her husbands smallest wish ‘most quiet need’. The line not only conveys her love for her husband, but also tells us about the mindset of the people of the Victorian era i.e. their belief that service was an important component of love.

    ‘I love thee freely, as men strive for right-’ unashamed love; the kind patriots have for their country. Love with single minded focus. Elizabeth Browning wants to convey that her love had even these qualities too it. Elizabeth loved of her own free will, this was one decision she took herself; not her tyrannical father.

    Elizabeth Browning suggests that she loves him with the same intensity she felt when she lost her brother. Only in that case it was grief she felt; now it is love. Elizabeth Browning is thought to have gone through severe depression after the death of her brother. ‘with my old griefs’

    • Thoughtful analysis.Thanks.

  17. wow, this is amazing! great job :)

  18. tnx very much!

    • Welcome…cheers!

  19. For sure, one of the most romantic poems ever written … September 12, 1846 (~ 165 years ago from today) is when Elizabeth Barrett & Robert Browning eloped, this led to ‘Sonnets of the Portuguese #43′ and her expression of her love!

  20. Beautiful poem..Timeless.

    • I agree wholeheartedly! :)

  21. ANALYSIS by ANGELIQUE KATE T. D.
    The poem “How do I love thee?” is all about how the speaker feels, it’s about how she expresses her love or feelings to her love ones. This poem focuses on love.
    “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” This statement wants to tell us that there are many ways on how to show or express our love to someone.
    “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height.” This means that the speaker’s love to the person can’t be measured exactly because she loves the person so greatly and more than her own life.
    “Most quiet need, by sun or candlelight.” The speaker will keep on expressing or showing her love to someone every minute of her life, even at day time or at night time.
    “I love thee freely, as men strive for Right.” Means that her love for the person is true and real, it’s not that she love that person because she was force but because she really feels that she have a special feeling for that person and she thinks that her love is right and real.
    “I love thee with the breaths, smiles, tears, of all my life.” This means that she will keep on loving him, for better or for worst, in good time or bad times, and with all her heart and soul.
    “I shall but love thee better after death.” This statement means that the speaker will love him forever. Even if she is dead, she will keep on loving him. This words declare the true and unending love of the speaker, even after death.”

  22. Here’s my analysis I had to do for school, hopefully this helps someone =]

    I read “How do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and enjoyed it very much. The author uses imagery to explain the depth of her love Jesus. It was not the easiest poem to understand, but along with the analysis I found online, I was able to determine the poem’s persona, tone, and audience. Browning expresses the way a she feels for the Lord and to the Lord by the use of metaphors, which when understood can be very powerful. Honestly, I feel as if she was to say those words to a man today, he would not know one thing this woman was talking about because of the style of writing she used. The poem’s mention of God leads me to believe that the author has a religious background, and I found it very interesting that this woman’s writing style resembled the style used in Psalms in the King James Version of the Bible. Another reason that leads me to believe Browning has a religious background is by looking at the last two lines of the poem. It seems that Browning believes in an afterlife because she says “and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death” meaning if she makes it to heaven she will love him even more, actually in his presence. I admire her because she is being real in her poetry, letting us know that she is a “born again” Christian, despite her hardships and her loss of faith as a child.

  23. I ABSOLUTELY love this sonnet. Every since i discovered it scimming through a book of poems it seems to taunt me , and make me just want to tell everyone about it and recite it to my lover even. It just makes you really adhere to the passion that Browning has and wish for many days like the one when you first met “the one” and just remind them of your love. This is truly a classic. Good And timeless piece.

  24. can someone analyze this poem of Elizabeth Browning please.

    We cannot live, except thus mutually
    We alternate, aware or unaware,
    The reflex act of life: and when we bear
    Our virtue onward most impulsively,
    Most full of invocation, and to be
    Most instantly compellant, certes, there
    We live most life, whoever breathes most air
    And counts his dying years by sun and sea.
    But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
    Throw out her full force on another soul,
    The conscience and the concentration both
    Make mere life, Love. For Life in perfect whole
    And aim consummated, is Love in sooth,
    As nature’s magnet-heat rounds pole with pole

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