Poetry Friday: Sonnets from the Portuguese

I'm not a poetry reader, but I wanted to get out of my reading box this year. So when Becky decided to host 19th Century Women Writers Challenge I chose Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Love Poems as one of my picks.

When I was in high school, I was fascinated by the Browning's story. Elizabeth Barrett, sickly and sheltered, runs away with Robert Browning at the age of 40 against her father's wishes. Ah, how romantic, I sighed. Now I'm in my 30's and either my heart turned to a hunk of coal or I've lived with an engineer too long (How do I love thee? Let me draw up a schematic) but I didn't find these poems romantic. In fact, they reek of desperation:

If I lay here dead,
Wouldst thou miss any life in losing mine? (XXIII)

Yikes. Death comes up a lot in these poems, by the way.

I could see why my high school self would enjoy them- breathy, dramatic, and sentimental. Maybe this isn't the poetry for me now; the thees, thous, beloveds and exclamation points drove me nuts.

I'll leave you with one of the poems that I did enjoy (no thous):

Question and Answer

Love you seek for, presupposes
Summer heat and sunny glow.
Tell me, do you find moss roses
Budding, blooming in the snow?
Snow might kill the rose tree's root-
Shake it quickly from your foot,
Lest it harm you as you go.

From the ivy where it dapples
A gray ruin, stone by stone,-
Do you look for grapes or apples,
Or for sad green leaves alone?
Pluck the leaves off, two or three-
Keep them for morality
When you shall be safe and gone.


  1. I love her meter--I've never read E.B. Browning but you've got me tempted to get a copy now.

  2. She wasn't the first (or last) to confuse love with desperation (dependence).

    "How do I love thee? Let me draw up a schematic." --Too funny.

  3. I enjoy poetry but love poems I think can be a bit too much sometimes - I guess I'm thinking of a lot of the anthologies you see this time of the year and of course they always go to the classics. They are beautiful but they don't move me. Now Pablo Neruda's poetry is my kind of love poetry :)

  4. Scribbit- Hope you enjoy it.

    John- True enough.

    Iliana- Yep, they seem unrealistic.

  5. this is a beautiful masterpiece of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. love it.

  6. I'm a romantic, so I love cheesy poems. My husband is not an engineer, but definitely not romantic, lol. But yeah, that emphasis on being dead is a bit sad to say the least.


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