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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (Sonnet 43)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (Sonnet 43)


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Grief and Loss

Symbol Analysis

By including references to her feelings of grief, bitterness, and the loss of innocence, the speaker of this poem gives her love a more realistic edge. The love she feels for "thee" is beautiful and intense, but it's also the follow-up to a series of less warm and fuzzy feelings. She's felt disillusionment, loneliness, and anger in the past, and all of these affect the way she feels love in the present.

  • Lines 9-10: These are the first lines in which the speaker mentions her past "griefs." To emphasize the difficult nature of the grief the speaker has felt, these lines use a subtle chiasmus of sounds, using an "f" and an "s" sound and then repeating them in the reverse order: "griefs [...] childhood's faith." In both places, it's actually difficult to read the lines clearly, forcing you to over-enunciate and stress this line more than you naturally would.
  • Lines 11-12: In these lines, the speaker's loss of her "saints" is counterbalanced by the over-the-top alliteration of four initial "l" sounds and the sibilance of five "s" sounds: "I love thee with a love I seemed to lose / With my lost saints" (11-12).

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