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In Sonnet 43, Elizabeth Barrett shows all the ways in which she is capable of loving someone and how great and strong love truly is. She presents all the possible ways in which she can love someone and also she presents the strength of the love she feels.
She begins by asking a question “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!” This is a powerful opening because she uses an exclamation point which gives this part more emphasis and makes the theme of the poem (which is the way in which she can love someone) stand out. The use of monosyllables makes it eve stronger and more powerful. The fact that she uses the phrase “Let me count the ways!” implies that there are many ways and reasons why she loves the person.
Secondly, by saying “I love thee to the depth & breadth & height my soul can reach.” This tells us that her love was immense and immeasurable. By using the words “depth & breadth & height” she is trying to give the dimensions of her love so it can be understood. On the other hand, she uses “soul” to specify that her love is eternal and has no ends because her “soul” has no end either; so her love will be as deep, as wide and high as her “soul” can reach.
Thirdly, she says “I love thee to the level of everyday’s most quiet need”. With this phrase, the poet is saying that she loves him like she loves everyday’s small yet meaningful things. Her love for him was necessary just like those little things that happen every day but as small as they may seem they make people happy and she felt happy by loving him. She also says “by sun &candlelight”, these words say that her love was there through the day, through the night and nothing was going to change it. Also, that even though her love for him was passionate and strong she still loved him in a day-to-day basis but this didn’t make love any less significant, instead it made it more worthy.
The poet continues by saying “I love thee freely, as men strive for right.” She uses “freely” to say that her love to him is. Also, by using “as men strive for right” we can understand that “striving for rights” isn’t something that should be done instead is something that you have the desire to do and this is exactly the love she feels for him. Its not the kind of love that is forced instead is the kind of love that comes from inside.
In the following line, she says “I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.” This tells us that firstly, her love is pure and honest; it doesn’t need anyone’s admiration. It’s just the kind of love that doesn’t need any recognition to exist; therefore her love is pure and doesn’t seek any rewards at all. With her love being “pure” she doesn’t expect to be admired or praised for saying all the reasons why she loves him.
Barrow continues listing the way she loves him by saying “l love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs,… and with my childhood’s faith”. “Old griefs” represent the strength and the intensity of her love, because when thinking about things that went wrong in the past, most of the time there is passionate anger in it; this “passionate”, bitter feeling is what the poet turns in to passionate and strong love. Also, she says she loves him with “my childhood’s faith”. This is a very powerful metaphor which suggests how honest, strong and unbreakable this love truly is. A child is innocent, nave and simple; their faith is strong, they believe everything and have no doubts so her love for him is exactly like that.
Barrett lists another way of how she loves by saying “I love thee with a love I seemed to lose with my lost saints – “. In this particular metaphor, again, she talks about love and faith and their relationship. The “lost saints” are the people she once loved but either lost them or lost faith in them. By using this metaphor she is trying to explain that the love and feelings she once had for them are exactly the one’s she has right now for him.
The poet also says she loves him with everything that happens in her life. By saying “I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life!” She loves him with all the happiness she has ever known, the “smiles” are proof of her happiness and they are also an expression in which she says she loves him. By saying she loves him with the “tears” the poet adds that not only the joyful moments make her love him, the sad one’s are proof of her love too because true love lasts through good and bad times. She also loves him “with the breath” this symbolizes the normal, daily moments which aren’t very emotive. The simple action of breathing is a way of loving because it’s constantly done and without breathing she cant live nor she can without loving him.
Lastly, she ends by saying “and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.” Before the poet had claimed true love with every “breath” she took but now she is saying that even after she is no longer breathing she will love him. “I shall love thee better after death” is not only saying she will continue loving him but it is saying she will love him even more after she’s dead. Life on earth doesn’t last long but in heaven there is forever to love someone, so that’s exactly why she will never stop loving him. She will be eternal, so will her soul therefore her magnitude of love will only increase and she will never cease loving.
In addition, for all mentioned and explained before this poem is the perfection representation of true, strong and pure love. The poet, which is the persona in this particular poem, is madly in love and is clearly trying to explain her love by saying its simple like the little things that make life complete, its magnitude is as wide, deep and high as it can be and it will never stop because it comes from the soul and the soul is eternal. This poem says that there is no end to love; it just never stops.
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