How Do I Love Thee?
In 1846, at the age of 40, the British poet Elizabeth Barrett first met Robert Browning, a renowned man of letters. At the time, Barrett was an unmarried, drug addicted (morphine), semi-invalid (she had injured her spine in a fall from a pony in 1821), who was living with her father, a neurotic, autocratic man who had forbidden his children to ever marry.
Barrett and Browning, however, fell in love so, in order to avoid the dictates of her father, they courted in secrecy. Within a short time, they eloped to Italy, where they were soon married.
Barrett, an accomplished poet, wrote a large number of beautiful love poems to her husband. In 1850, she published 44 of these poems as a collection entitled Sonnets from the Portuguese. The title comes from the fact that Browning often called his wife "my little Portuguese", because of her dark complexion. Of all the sonnets, the most famous is #43, which begins "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways?"
Here is the entire sonnet, which I am sure you will agree is one of the most romantic poems you have ever read:
Sonnets from the Portuguese, #43
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
As you can see, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning was a superb, highly skilled poet. However, if she had one fault, it was that she was a tad old-fashioned. As a public service, then, here is a more up-to-date version of the sonnet, suitably improved for a modern audience.
As you might imagine, rewriting the sonnet was not an easy task, but I have never been one to shirk from my duty as a writer.
Truly, in the service of romance, we are all slaves.
Sonnets from the Internet, #43
How do I access thee? Let me count the ways.
© All contents Copyright 2014, Harley Hahn