How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

by 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 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.

Summary of How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

  • Popularity of “How Do I Love Thee”: Also known as ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: How do I love thee?’ was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a great poet of the Victorian era. ‘How Do I Love Thee’ is a famous love poem and was first published in a collection, Sonnets from the Portuguese in 1850. The poem deals with the speaker’s passionate adoration of her beloved with vivid pictures of her eternal bond that will keep her connected to her beloved even after death.
  • “How Do I Love Thee” As a Representative of Love: As this poem is about love, the speaker counts how she adores her beloved. To her, love is a powerful force that can conquer everything in the universe. As an epitome of her expression of love, she details the ways how her love will get stronger with every passing phase of life. At the outset, she attempts to discuss the depth of her passion by drawing analogies between her love and religious and political ideals. Later, she expresses the unique quality of her enduring love when she says that her love will get better after death.
  • Major Themes in “How Do I Love Thee”: Love and faith are the major themes filling this poem. The poem is primarily concerned with the love of the speaker with her significant other. She expresses her deep and innocent love in captivating ways. Also, to show the intensity of love she feels, she details how her love will eventually get stronger with time.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “How Do I Love Thee?”

Literary devices are tools that writers use to convey their emotions, ideas, and themes to make their text more convincing and appealing to the reader. Elizabeth Barrett Browning has also employed some literary devices to bring uniqueness in this poem. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been discussed below

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /ee/ and /i/ in “I love thee freely, as men strive for right;” and the sound of /e/ in “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. For example, the poet compares her love and her soul to a physical three- dimensional object.

“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.”

  1. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, the word “love” is repeated to emphasize her feelings of true love.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break rather continues in the next line. For example,

“I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height”, “Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light” and “In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.”
  2. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate any statement for the sake of emphasis. For example,

“I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “How Do I Love Thee?”

Poetic Devices refer to those techniques a poet uses to bring uniqueness in his text. The analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem is given below.

  1. Sonnet: A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem in with one idea flow throughout the text. This is Petrarchan sonnet, meaning it has an octave and sestet.
  2. Octave: An octave is a verse form consisting of eight lines, which usually appear with iambic pentameter.
  3. Sestet: A sestet is the six-lined stanza of poetry. The term refers to the final six lines of a sonnet.
  4. Rhyme Scheme: The rhyme scheme used in Octet is ABBAABBA, and the Sestet follows CDCDCD rhyme scheme.
  5. Iambic Pentameter: It is a type of meter consisting of five iambs. The poem comprises iambic pentameter such as, “I love thee to the depth and breadth and

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used to express a deep, passionate and profound love. The choice of words suggests the purity and intensity of one’s love. You may also use these lines on Valentine’s Day card.

“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.”