Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Maybe you’ve read one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s Sonnets from the Portuguese. If you’ve ever said something like “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” you’re quoting Sonnet #43, which is far sweeter and more poignant than its clichéd reputation would have you believe. Here is Sonnet 22. As you might remember (or not) from high school English, the first two quatrains of this type of sonnet (Petrarchan, or Italian) present a problem, followed by a proposed resolution in the following six lines. Typically, there is a “turn” near the ninth line, indicating a thematic movement from problem to resolution.

Not that you need to know any of that to enjoy this poem. In fact, you might get confused looking for a strict problem and solution. (I did.) And if you enjoy it, or if you enjoy lots of poems about love and being loved, you might check out the whole Sonnets. And can I just say in passing that this poem shares a lot of sentiment with Twilight. No offense to Ms. Browning.

Question: Do you have any favorite love poems?

Sonnet 22

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 curvèd 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, Belovèd,–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.


9 thoughts on “Sonnets

  1. I can see the problem of their too perfect love interfereing with the angel so it’s just better to stay on earth where people will avoid them for it. It is very twilight fans at least. 😉

    A favorite poet of mine is Frost, but that’s a holdover from high school that I don’t know has any real meaning when I haven’t looked at poems much since then. A favorite poem is a half remembered riddle with the answer being an egg. I’ll go look for it and share if it exists anywhere but my mind.

    1. Oh, I love that one! “A box without hinges, key, or lid, Yet inside golden treasure is hid.” That was in _The Hobbit_, though I don’t know that JRR Tolkien invented it. Here’s another one from that book: “It cannot be seen, cannot be felt/Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt./It lies behind stars and under hills,/And empty holes it fills./ It comes first and follows after,/ Ends life, kills laughter.” Can you guess it?

  2. One of my favorite love poems — it hangs in our bedroom — is this one by Ann Bradstreet:

    “To My Dear and Loving Husband”

    If ever two were one, then surely we.
    If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee.
    If ever wife was happy in a man,
    Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
    I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold
    Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
    My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
    Nor ought but love from thee give recompetence.
    Thy love is such I can no way repay.
    The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
    Then while we live, in love let’s so persever
    That when we live no more, we may live ever.

    I love the last couplet best.

  3. Oh it’s not the hobbit one, it’s longer. I found the poem but not an author. Here is the poem:

    In marble walls as white as milk,
    Lined with skin as soft as silk,
    In a fountain crystal clear,
    A golden treasure does appear.
    There are no doors to this stronghold,
    Yet thieves break in and steal the gold.

  4. Okay, I don’t have a real love “poem” that I like (although this one is nice, as is the one your friend shared in the comments) but I do have a Love song that I love because of the words. And songs are their own kind of poetry (especially older ones). “The Way You Look Tonight” is one of the most beautiful declarations of love that I can think of. Telling someone that you love them, exactly the way that they are, every bit of them. I love it. So… it might not be what you are looking for, but here are the words. 🙂

    “The Way You Look Tonight”
    Written by: Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields

    Someday, when I’m awfully low,
    When the world is cold,
    I will feel a glow just thinking of you
    And the way you look tonight.

    Yes you’re lovely, with your smile so warm
    And your cheeks so soft,
    There is nothing for me but to love you,
    And the way you look tonight.

    With each word your tenderness grows,
    Tearing my fear apart
    And that laugh that wrinkles your nose,
    It touches my foolish heart.

    Lovely, never, ever change.
    Keep that breathless charm.
    Won’t you please arrange it ?
    Cause I love you, just the way you look tonight.

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