How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (Sonnet 43)
How we cite our quotes:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (1)
The important question in this poem is not whether the speaker loves her beloved or how much – it's how the love itself actually works. This is a poem that will try to dissect love by identifying all the different types of it, charting and listing them. It's almost a scientific taxonomy of love!
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach (2-3)
It's interesting that the speaker's love for her beloved is almost exactly the same thing as her own soul. In these lines, the speaker almost creates a diagram showing how her love and her soul interact. If her soul were represented by a circle and her love by another circle, how would the two circles interact? That's right – they'd be the same. Whoa.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need (5-6)
We often think of love as an off-the-charts wild passion, but in these lines Barrett Browning reminds us that it can also be "level." You can think of a thermometer taking the temperature of the speaker's love. It's not that she has a high fever, representing passion; she has a perfect 98.6 degree temperature, representing a healthy affection.