The ‘love’ factor of a poet’s presentation

We read further how poets present themselves. In this sonnet, If Thou Must Love Me, the poet expresses her earnest desire about how she wants her lover, to love her. Indeed, this episode in history displayed one of the best regarded love and marriage relationship between two known poets who were brave and faithful to each other as shown in their commitment to the marriage vow, “Until death do we part” (on earth).

If Thou Must Love Me by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
‘I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day’—
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity

Notes summarily quoted from various public sources: (mostly from Wikipedia)

Born in County Durham, the eldest of 12 children, Browning was educated at home. She wrote poetry from around the age of six and this was compiled by her mother, comprising what is now one of the largest collections extant of juvenilia by any English writer. At 15 Browning became ill, suffering from intense head and spinal pain for the rest of her life, rendering her frail. She took laudanum for the pain, which may have led to a lifelong addiction and contributed to her weak health.

Elizabeth Barrett came from a prominent and wealthy family and she was already a well established poet before she met fellow poet Robert Browning. Robert had been an admirer of Elizabeth’s work for some time, and with the help of a friend, John Kenyon, met Elizabeth in 1845. The two quickly fell in love and thus, began one of the most famous courtships in literature. Her father disapproved of Robert, who believed he was an unreliable fortune hunter, so the couple kept their relationship a secret. Together, they exchanged hundreds of love letters, and by 1846, the couple eloped. Her father disowned her and she faced disgust from her brothers, who believed she had married a low-class gold digger. However, Elizabeth stood by her husband, and shortly after their wedding, they fled to Italy. Two of Barrett’s most famous pieces were produced after she met Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese and Aurora Leigh.

Six years his elder and an invalid, she could not believe that the vigorous and worldly Robert Browning really loved her as much as he professed. At her husband’s insistence, Elizabeth’s second edition of Poems included her love sonnets; as a result, her popularity increased (as well as critical regard), and her artistic position was confirmed.

Much of Barrett Browning’s work carries a religious theme. She had read and studied such famous literary works as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno. She says in her writing, “We want the sense of the saturation of Christ’s blood upon the souls of our poets, that it may cry through them in answer to the ceaseless wail of the Sphinx of our humanity, expounding agony into renovation. Something of this has been perceived in art when its glory was at the fullest. Something of a yearning after this may be seen among the Greek Christian poets, something which would have been much with a stronger faculty”.[

She died on 29 June 1861(aged 55) in her husband’s arms. Browning said that she died “smilingly, happily, and with a face like a girl’s. … Her last word was … ‘Beautiful'”.[3] She was buried in the Protestant English Cemetery of Florence.[1

Quote from Robert Browning’s first letter to Elizabeth: (click the link to full letter)

“I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett…and part of me has it become, this great living poetry of yours,,, I do, as I say, love these Books with all my heart-and I love you too”…

Elizabeth and Robert Browning

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