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How Do I love thee?

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English Assignment How Do I love thee? This poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of many she penned for her husband Robert Browning. Using the basic form of an Italian sonnet with its fourteen lines and strict rhyme scheme - she manages to produce a surprisingly passionate poem. The poet begins with the question, "How do I love thee?"-and it is this which sets the mood of the sonnet, as she tries to quantify, and articulate the depth of her feelings towards her husband. She uses biblical references and religious similes throughout the verse, comparing and equating her love to be as unconditional and pure -as like unto God's. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height, In these few lines, the poet succeeds in conveying the purest, most unconditional love possible, within the boundaries of man; even going as far as to declare her love as the sole reason for her existence in the last line of this stanza. ...read more.


Although you could argue that it is written from a selfish perspective, in that she only speaks of her love, her feelings-you have to bear in mind that in Victorian society, women lived their lives solely through their husbands. The middle-class ladies didn't work, and didn't have a life outside their homes. They dedicated all of their time, energies and passions into keeping their men happy and contented; and in return, were loved, pampered and protected from the harsh realities of life. Even though this idea of total subjection and passivity, wouldn't have a hope of success in today's society, the level of trust and commitment these two "Romantic Poets" apparently share, could be the ideal that all couples should aspire to. In sharp contrast to Browning idealistic and spiritual love poetry of the 1800s, Seamus Heaney's Twice Shy uses an altogether more contemporary and realistic style of prose too describe love in the 20th century. ...read more.


Or because of Heaney's exquisite mastery of the English language, can be taken as an emotive analogy, describing the emotional cost of failed love; with all the fears and doubts felt by those attempting to find love second time around laid bare. Because the title chosen by the author was Twice Shy, and not, for example First Date. I believe that the poet deliberately worked this piece so the audience would question and find its inner depths, and maybe recognize themselves within it. This work thrills me, as it is the first time I have ever read poetry and have been moved, excited and inspired to discover the unspoken meaning behind another persons speech. Whilst Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem is recognized as a classic, Seamus Heaney's sublime use of word, phrase and analogy, has enabled me to realize that poetry is an art form - one that I will no longer be afraid to immerse myself in, as I now realize I'm intelligent enough to understand it. Jacqueline Ewing 07 April 2003 ...read more.

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