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Humanities Libertexts

2.2: Sonnets from the Portuguese

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

XXI

Say over again, and yet once over again,

That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated

Should seem a “cuckoo-song,[1]” 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.

Beloved, 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 curved 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, Beloved,—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.

 

XXXII

The first time that the sun rose on thine oath

To love me, I looked forward to the moon

To slacken all those bonds which seemed too soon

And quickly tied to make a lasting troth.

Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe;

And, looking on myself, I seemed not one

For such man’s love!—more like an out-of-tune

Worn viol, a good singer would be wroth

To spoil his song with, and which, snatched in haste,

Is laid down at the first ill-sounding note.

I did not wrong myself so, but I placed

A wrong on thee. For perfect strains may float

‘Neath master-hands, from instruments defaced,—

And great souls, at one stroke, may do and doat.

 

XLIII

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.

—1845-47, 1850

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