Saturday, October 9, 2010

How Do I Love Thee?

Two sources of inspiration for today's sonnet. First, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's classic sonnet #43 ("How do I love thee, let me count the ways..."). I've copied it farther down. It is a tour de force. Look at how Browning makes you breathless as you careen from "depth and breadth and height" into those next lines, then pulls you into the aching of religious longing. Sweet. But as I began to write the imitation, Browning's sonnet got bumped as I began thinking of my own love. Today we spent time together, and life was very good.

How Do I Love Thee?

by Gideon Burton
after Elizabeth Barrett Browning (below)

Oh, I could start to count the many ways:
make breathy lists that spill into the ache
and awe of elemental longing; wake
my master metaphors whose spangled rays
I have reserved for rousing purest praise;
arrest all eating, sleeping, working, break
the beat of daily business for your sake--
Oh, I could start to count so many ways.
But as I pause my pen to gather strength
I hear you humming, as you often do,
and I remember how you love to sing.
and I forget the width and height and length
of all the counting I might do for you,
if words could summon what your singing brings.

Sonnet 43
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 everyday'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.


  1. It was a good day, only spoiled by a small temper tantrum or two from me. Sorry about the grumpiness. You are da bomb. :)

  2. You do realize, Gideon, that these poems to Karen are the reason husbands like Brett wind up sleeping on the couch. You make 'em look bad, dude.