Poetry Poetry Friday

[Poetry Friday]: If you must love me…

poetry friday

Iphigene here!

Poetry, they say, is a necessity in the language of love. Many of us have found  verse in the midst of love or in its aftermath. I, however, avoided  love poems, as I dread to sound trite or cliche. But many poets, if not all poets, have written a love poem; and in their capable hands nothing is cliche.

Today, I share with you a sonnet from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I know only one of her poems: the well loved sonnet “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.”  And so, when I found myself staring at a collection of sonnets written by her, I bought it and began to read it.

The poems in the collection “Sonnets from the Portuguese” were written from the year 1845 -1846. They were sonnets she wrote to Robert Browning during the length of their engagement leading to their marriage in 1846. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was hesitant to have these poems published as they were personal, but with her husband’s encouragement, she finally agreed. There was, however, a compromise and that was these poems were to be published as if they were translated from another language by her. She originally thought to call it Sonnets from the Bosnian, but her husband suggested she used “Portuguese” as this was his pet name for her.

While all the sonnets are wonderful and impressive, I chose one particular sonnet to share today because of its beauty and insistent voice. Thanks Cathy of Merely Day by Day for hosting today’s Poetry Friday. Happy Valentine’s!



19 comments on “[Poetry Friday]: If you must love me…

  1. I love love poems. Love to read them, love to write them. I also tend toward sentimentality and earnestness — which means some of my love poems are extremely heartfelt but not necessarily surprising and fresh. I think that may be what Elizabeth was frightened of when she was reluctant to publish. Thank you for sharing… thinking of you with love today! xo


    • Hi Irene,
      I think you are right. Love poems, for the most part are personal to the writer. I do have a couple myself under my belt, but they are, i fear, less personal to me.
      I however, felt like, reading through the whole collection of sonnets, my heart was going to burst. Its a beautiful collection and worth savoring.


  2. To “love on through love’s eternity” is something to think about. Interesting to think about how she considered all that might change along the journey together.



    • Hi Cathy,
      I think you bring up a good point, about Elizabeth considering all that might change. I think that’s what made this poem stand out. The anxiety and worry, at the same time the hope to be love through love’s eternity


  3. I enjoy her sonnets — you’ve picked a lovely one here. You’re right — it’s really hard to write a love poem without resorting to cliche.


    • Hi Jama,
      I think, the older poets have set the standards for love poems waaaaay up there and its hard to write one without sounding cliche. But I’m quite sure there is something to be said about love if only we could string out words and make it our own.


  4. This is one of my favorite of her sonnets. I did not know that about the origin of the title of the collection. That is fascinating! Thanks for sharing it and the poem today.


    • You’re welcome.
      It’s such a beautiful sonnet. I read the whole collection and this stood out for me. While reading, I wondered why this wasn’t as popular as her “how do i love thee.”


  5. Iphigene,
    The love story between Elizabeth Barret and Robert Browning is a deeply moving tale. Their home Casa Guidi in Florence is open for visitors and poets may request to stay in the guest room if they want to use the library.
    They met in January 1845 when Robert wrote a letter to Elizabeth. They got married 20 moths later Sept. 1846 in St. Marlebone Parrish Church. They exchanged over 600 letters in that time. A week after the wedding they left for Italy with Elizabeth’s maid Wilson and her spaniel Flush. (Great name for a spaniel. This is how the dogs hunt by flushing the birds up in the sky.) Her father never spoke to her again.
    Elizabeth thrived in the warmer climate of Italy. There is a lovely park less than a block from their flat that looks out over the domes of the city and Elizabeth would often write here. Being out in the sun, Elizabeth lost her pale English completion and Robert started calling her, My little Portuguese.
    Elizabeth was 6 years older than Robert, so you might say she was the original cougar. The reason the house is still available for viewing today is through the great efforts of their son Pen and lovers of the poetry of Elizabeth Barret Browning and Robert Browning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi!
      Thank you for sharing the details of their story. Now, the nickname makes more sense. I suppose one can say, their’s was quite a love story—quite rare.


  6. One of my favorites – even if it’s not Valentines Day.


  7. maryleehahn

    I never knew where the title of the collection came from, and thank you, Joy, for more of their story!


  8. I didn’t know the “backstory” of these sonnets either (or learned a long time ago and forgot!) – Thanks for sharing. You chose such a timeless poem here – beautiful and true.


    • Hi Robyn,
      I’m glad that people are enjoying this poem. It was a toss between a Neruda poem or this. But I felt Browning’s other sonnets (outside of How Do I Love Thee) deserved some space.
      The backstory is amazing. Joy added so much more to the story in her comment.


  9. I love the backstory. EBB was great at putting our fears into loving poetry, the fear that once our youth fades, so will love. This poem seems like an insurance policy against that happening, told in the most beautiful language. 🙂


    • Yes, Brenda, it does seem like an insurance policy. There’s an earnestness to it and when I read this poem I was imagining a scene between her and Robert Browning.
      I think, this struck me, because while the whole collection seem caught in the sweetness of love it still is aware of the possibility of it fading.


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