How Do I Love Thee Summary
The speaker begins the poem by asking the question, “How do I really like thee?” and responding with, “Let me count the ways.” One may assume that the speaker is either musing out loud—as one might do when writing a letter—or responding to a devotee who may have posed such an issue. the whole sonnet addresses this lover, “thee,” who can also be considered the listener. because it is understood that Elizabeth Barrett Browning dedicated this poem to her husband, she is assumed to be the speaker addressing her husband.
The speaker describes all the ways during which she loves her husband. Her love is multifaceted because it is often compared to several aspects of life. Initially, she describes her love as a strong force of her soul so great to the extent that she attempts to live it in three-dimensional terms. Next, she illustrates a quieter love that sustains her in her lifestyle, even as the sunshine of the sun illuminates her days. She then compares her like to the experiences of mankind as an entire , portraying her love as free, pure, and humble even as decent people strive to try to good within the world without expectation of reward or praise. She then compares her like to the passionate intensity with which she once tried to beat her past pains also because of the way during which she believed in goodies as a toddler. Lastly, she compares her like to what she once felt for people she wont to revere but has somehow fallen out of her favor. Near the poem’s conclusion, she states that her every breath, smile, and tear may be a reflection of her love for her husband. The speaker concludes the sonnet by telling her husband that if God will allow her, she is going to love him even more after she is gone.
The sonnet’s most prominent theme is love. The speaker’s love is multifaceted and is compared to her various experiences from life. Her love is initially described as an otherworldly force that comes from deep within her soul. The speaker then contrasts this image with the outline of a calmer, more mundane love that sustains her on a day today. Her love is then compared to the standard efforts of mankind in wishing to try to good for the planet without a requirement to be praised. Love then takes on a fanatical tone another time, because the speaker proceeds to match her feelings to the intensity that arises from spirituality and therefore the childlike innocence of believing in goodness. The sonnet as an entire describes how the love the speaker feels for her husband consumes her body and soul, and it relays the hope that she will still love him even more once she is gone.
The speaker’s identity seems to be defined by her love for her husband. Her love manifests itself physically, spiritually, and morally—essentially, in every aspect of her being. The speaker’s love is so intense that it’s described as contained within her breath, smiles, and tears. Her love appears to physically sustain her in life. Her love is additionally exalted to the purpose of spirituality, as she cares for her husband the way she once cared for “saints”—people or religious figures she once fervently admired. She further elaborates that she hopes God will allow her to like her husband within the afterlife, giving her affection a spiritual power. Her conscience of self is additionally highlighted, as she describes her feelings as natural, pure, and just—as one might describe people striving to assist each other through humble, selfless acts. Her love may be a pure and righteous act, even as one person might selflessly help another.
The speaker makes references to her spirituality and belief in God. She equates her feelings for her husband to the intensity with which she once revered the “lost saints” of her life. These saints may ask people—or even religious figures—whom she once believed in deeply. The mention of God at the sonnet’s conclusion illustrates that the speaker remains a spiritual person. She believes that God has the facility to make a decision whether or not she is going to be ready to love her husband from beyond the grave.
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