Sonnets from the Portuguese

The poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways” is a list of love. It is possible the most famous of her poems and is part of the collection from Sonnets from the Portuguese. These poems are all based from rhyming schemes from Portuguese poems (Holloway 2008). The poem itself is like a list, describing the extent of that love by comparing it to other emotions and settings. The use of sound is extremely important as the poem is not a rhyming poem but similar sounds are used.
It is these sounds and words that create a mood, atmosphere or picture to display love as more than an abstract felling but into a vision. Words paint a picture of love. It manages to paint a picture of love and compare it to other feats of strength, such as “as men strive for right”. “Striving for right” is a very powerful concept as the struggle to do right is challenging and fraught with perils. Many times the person will not succeed in that “right” on the first try but will succeed with hard work and perseverance.
This can be just like a form of love, a lasting love that grows with hard work. Other very strong images are used to portray love. Imagine all of your smiles and tears and condense all of the feelings that caused those smiles and tears from a lifetime into one felling, love. It is almost overwhelming to imagine. The sounds used in the poem also paint a picture as a lot of fricative consonants are utilized. Fricative consonant, f, v, the th in the, the th in length, s, z, the ch in check, the g in beige, and h are formed by having a slight air flow restriction in your throat.
These consonants use air in the sound and are much softer sounding or muffled compared to other consonants like stop plosives or hard consonants (Wall, J. , et al. 1990). The key words in the text, love, thee, depth, breadth, height, soul, reach, sight, sun, candle-light, freely, strive, right, passion, faith, smiles, life, death all use fricative consonants. The use of similar vowels in these words, like light, height, sight, candle-light etc also help to produce a natural flow to the lines.
It does not produce a rhythm such that is used with iambic pentameter but it does create a style unto itself. The sounds, such as fricative consonants as well as the repetitive vowel use produce a gentle sounds that are also mirrored in some of the presented text. Yes the poem itself portrays a very intense and consuming love, a love to last lifetimes, but the words and sounds also produce a gentle love, one that you can wrap around yourself almost like a favorite childhood blanket.
The words, quiet, candle-light, Grace, and faith produce a softer picture, almost like looking at a photo that might be slightly out of focus. The form of this poem and rhyming used, which result sin the same vowel comb9inations is most likely due to Portuguese poems as it was found that most of the poems in Sonnets from the Portuguese were based off of Portuguese rhyming schemes (Holloway 2008). It would be most interesting to see which scheme this poem was based off of and how close the vowel sounds are related.
It is quite clear that the author thought very closely about the language and words used in the poem. The use of words with softer sounds as well as repetitive vowels make the poem lovely to speak as well as painting a beautiful feeling of love, using sounds and descriptions of intense emotions. It is a beautiful intense poem. If it was written for a specific person than I hope that individual was able to appreciate this love as the poem very clearly explains the intensity of that love.
This love can be romantic, for your family or friend. No matter what the love it is clear that it is very powerful as love always is. References: Holloway, J. B. , Aureo Annello association, The Elizabeth Barrett Browning Website, 1997-2008, http://www. florin. ms/ebbwebsite. html, accessed June 10, 2008 Wall, J. , Caldwell, R. , Gavilanes, T. , and Allen, S. , Diction for Singers, A Concise Reference for English, Italian, Latin, German, French and Spanish Pronunciation, PSt, 1990

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