Mitchell Hahn-Branson's Reviews > Sonnets From The Portuguese

Sonnets From The Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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Jan 19, 2012

really liked it
Read from January 19 to 28, 2012

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote these forty-four beautiful, somewhat exhausting poems for her husband, fellow Victorian poet Robert Browning. (The title alludes to his nickname for her, "my little Portuguese.") To my modern ears, some of the sonnets sound a bit repetitive and overwrought, particularly the first six or eight, in which the poet enumerates the ways in which she finds herself unworthy to be loved by someone as extraordinary as her husband. But the images used by Barrett Browning seem to increase in variety and cumulative power as one goes along (she compares herself, for example, to an out-of-tune violin, making Robert the master musician who can play the most worn-out and tuneless instrument), and the last few sonnets include some of the most elegant lines I've ever read, including what must be the most famous words Barrett Browning ever wrote: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."
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