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Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Love Poems

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Excerpt from Sonnets From the Portuguese, and Other Poems
In the very heart and center of our modern world of the nineteenth century there was enacted and immortally sung one of the most exquisite love-histories of which the world has knowledge. The marriage of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett has been well named "the most perfect example of wedded happiness in the history of literature - perfect in the inner life and perfect in its poetical expression."

107 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1954

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About the author

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

615 books618 followers
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most respected poets of the Victorian era.

Born in County Durham, the eldest of 12 children, Browning was educated at home. She wrote poetry from around the age of six and this was compiled by her mother, comprising what is now one of the largest collections extant of juvenilia by any English writer. At 15 Browning became ill, suffering from intense head and spinal pain for the rest of her life, rendering her frail. She took laudanum for the pain, which may have led to a lifelong addiction and contributed to her weak health.

In the 1830s Barrett's cousin John Kenyon introduced her to prominent literary figures of the day such as William Wordsworth, Mary Russell Mitford, Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Thomas Carlyle. Browning's first adult collection The Seraphim and Other Poems was published in 1838. During this time she contracted a disease, possibly tuberculosis, which weakened her further. Living at Wimpole Street, in London, Browning wrote prolifically between 1841 and 1844, producing poetry, translation and prose. She campaigned for the abolition of slavery and her work helped influence reform in child labour legislation. Her prolific output made her a rival to Tennyson as a candidate for poet laureate on the death of Wordsworth.

Browning's volume Poems (1844) brought her great success. During this time she met and corresponded with the writer Robert Browning, who admired her work. The courtship and marriage between the two were carried out in secret, for fear of her father's disapproval. Following the wedding she was disinherited by her father and rejected by her brothers. The couple moved to Italy in 1846, where she would live for the rest of her life. They had one son, Robert Barrett Browning, whom they called Pen. Towards the end of her life, her lung function worsened, and she died in Florence in 1861. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband shortly after her death.

Browning was brought up in a strongly religious household, and much of her work carries a Christian theme. Her work had a major influence on prominent writers of the day, including the American poets Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. She is remembered for such poems as "How Do I Love Thee?" (Sonnet 43, 1845) and Aurora Leigh (1856).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 93 reviews
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book489 followers
September 20, 2016
I love poetry, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet XLIII is a favorite:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Think about these lines

I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

This sonnet alone makes the volume worthwhile, but there is more, of course.

Much of her writing is in bewilderment at having found love at all, of having been rescued from what she viewed as certain death, and at having that death turned into a life worth the living. All of it is in praise and wonderment of her husband, and a bit of it is in sorrow at the loss of her father. He objected to her marriage and refused ever to speak to her again. If you listen closely, you can hear her threads of regret sprinkled into her elation and thankfulness.

Thou’lt sigh, very like, on thy part,
“Of all I have known or can know,
I wish I had only that heart
I trod upon ages ago!”

It seems to me that she wishes to know that there is regret in her father’s heart as well. Some missing of her; some loving of her residual in his soul that he cannot shed.

There was a huge burden put upon the love between Robert Browning and his wife.

If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange
And be all to me? Shall I never miss
Home-talk and blessing and the common kiss
That comes to each in turn, nor count it strange
When I look up, to drop on a new range
Of walls and floors, another home than this?

By all accounts he did not disappoint her in his love and care. They remained married until her death in 1861 at the age of 55. He encouraged her in her writing and in claiming her authorship, and one need only look at her portrait to know that he loved her for her soul and her intelligence as much as for any outward beauty.

Poetry is difficult to critique in the best situations, in this case, when it is so fraught with personal love, it is impossible. I will simply say that to write such poetry, Elizabeth Barrett Browning must surely have felt her love “to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach.”

Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,398 followers
December 5, 2016
Some works of literature are so vital, so beautiful, that they scarcely seem dated no matter how many years have gone by. Unfortunately, that was not the case with Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Poems, at least not for me. The language, and, frankly, some of the sentiments felt so antiquated that it was impossible for me to get much from them. Eventually the sonnets did begin to flow a little better and a few of them impressed and even moved me, but it wasn’t quite enough to redeem my reading experience.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
722 reviews1,401 followers
February 21, 2020
Really enjoyed the sonnets, but the "other love poems" in this collection didn't work for me at all. A lot of the sentiments and imagery seemed very old fashioned. And love poems in general are not my thing.
Profile Image for eve.
158 reviews347 followers
May 1, 2020
lesbian vibes

delicate, beautiful in its rhythm and sounds, intimate in its depiction of love
Profile Image for Erik Kalm.
41 reviews
March 15, 2008
What can I add to:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints!---I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!---and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Feeling captured in words. Astonishing.
Profile Image for Rae Diaz.
17 reviews1 follower
November 2, 2017
To some degree this book redefined the way in which I address the passion in my heart through the english language. There's passages with jovial phrases that are addictively repeatable through the power of meter and content. for example phrases like,

"Roses gathered for a vase."
"When I sue god for myself, he hears that name of thine, and sees within my ears the tears of two."
"fling thy purple round me, till my heart will grow too close against that heart henceforth to know how it shook when alone."
and my personal favorite from this volume, "That's hardest. If to conquer love, has tried, to conquer grief, tries more, as all things prove; for grief is love and grief beside. Alas, i have grieved so i am hard to love."

every secondary line is worthy of a double take because the care that is required to invent lines like these is entirely beyond me. And so Elizabeth's lead me to a state of endearment. Because how could anyone possibly read this compilation of love poems (etc.) and be left feeling bitter or unsatisfied? these sonnets make the idea of love feel like the end of every road in which love essentially encompasses all actions, all pain, and all purpose. This was a fucking delight.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,201 reviews
February 1, 2021
I don’t usually pick up poems, it’s a genre I don’t normally read because most times than not I find them confusing. However, I discovered this little book through my library. They were talking about it and reading some selected poems and a few sounded so lovely that I gave a try.
There’s a brief introduction about Elizabeth Browning, reeling you about her life and her lover. She had a rather tragic infancy, dead mother, strict father, and an illness that left her on a wheelchair. And apparently it was hard for her to get married as his father did not wish her to do so.
All of these difficulties can be read plain and clear in her poetry. Sometimes there’s so much despair and sadness in her words, and others there’s so much hope at love found. You can see she loved her beloved, who would eventually become her husband, and on the instances they get separated, her heartbreak and longing imprint on her words.
I liked discovering her poetry, it was interesting, but still not enough to get me that invested in poetry. It took me a while to get through some, because they are rather old so the language is not particularly easy to follow.
Profile Image for Andria Potter.
Author 2 books52 followers
April 30, 2022
Read for Poetry month in April, barely squeezing this in at the last second. It was okay but the writing made me miss the novels of this era. It's a bit of an abrupt shift reading epic fantasies then transferring to flowery poetry.

3 ⭐ and I'm picky in what poetry I like so take this as you will.
Profile Image for G. Lawrence.
Author 27 books216 followers
January 2, 2020
Lovely. Not my favourite poet, but some stirring sonnets
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book150 followers
July 5, 2017
Except for “How do I love thee …” (which I never particularly liked), I didn’t know much about Elizabeth Barrett Browning until I recently read Virginia Woolf’s little novel/biography Flush about EBB’s cocker spaniel. It softened my heart toward her, and made me want to give these a try.

Maybe it is common to have extreme reactions when reading poetry. I certainly did with these. Each poem either did nothing for me or took my breath away—nothing in between. Below are some of the breathtaking bits. In poor health from an early age, she understood sorrow, and I think that might be why I preferred the sad lines.

From my favorite of the Sonnet’s, Number V
… And, looking in thine eyes, I overturn
The ashes at thy feet. Behold and see
What a great heap of grief lay hid in me …

“A Denial”
Stanza I
We have met late—it is too late to meet,
O friend, not more than friend!
Death’s forecome shroud is tangled round my feet,
And if I step or stir, I touch the end.

“Proof and Disproof”
Stanza V
I have known how sickness bends,
I have known how sorrow breaks,--
How quick hopes have sudden ends,
How the heart thinks till it aches
Of the smile of buried friends.

I’ve heard that Emily Dickinson was influenced by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and I’m looking forward to reading Emily’s poetry soon.
Profile Image for Ryan.
63 reviews21 followers
June 8, 2021
"For Mrs. Browning was a great poet, and not, as is idly and vulgarly supposed, only a great poetess. The word poetess is bad English, and it conveys a particularly bad compliment. Nothing is more remarkable about Mrs. Browning’s work than the absence of that trite and namby-pamby elegance which the last two centuries demanded from lady writers."
- G.K. Chesterton

Reputation – 3/5
In 1850, Elizabeth Barrett Browning almost became England’s first female Poet Laureate, but the spot went to Tennyson instead. Writing in the 1850s, John Ruskin called her long poem Aurora Leigh the greatest poem of the 19th Century. The century, I remind you, of Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Tennyson. But no, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was better.
Sickly from her early youth, Barrett Browning passed away in 1861 at the age of 55. Her reputation did not survive much longer than she did. It has been steadily declining since her death and today her most famous sonnet ”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” is usually confused for either Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson. While it is not necessarily a bad thing to be confused with either of those two, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s posthumous reputation has unfortunately been reduced to “the wife of Robert Browning” and a few lines of love poetry.

Point – 4/5
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote much more than love poetry, but love poetry is what she is most famous for today. That is not simply because she was a woman or because of her poetic relationship with her husband, but rather because she wrote much of what is the best love poetry in English.

For all the richness of the English poetic tradition, passionate love poetry has always been lacking when compared to Italian, French, or Spanish. One could make the case that the English are a less passionate people than their southern neighbors, and that may be true. But it seems there is also a stylistic reason for the lack of English love poetry.
Most of the 17th and 18th Century was concerned with establishing a poetic tradition based on classical models. In this the English distinguished themselves admirably. Dryden, Pope, and their school created something that we might almost call an Institution of English Poetry. It was stately, dignified, unassailable. There was little room for love poetry within such a fortress of order.
But the fortress was finally assailed. The whole old order was torn down by the Romantics. But, despite their name, they were little more successful in love poetry than the two previous centuries had been. Where the old poets had put love in a stranglehold of rules and forms, the new Romantics went too far in the other direction. Most Romantic love poetry is overblown in a quite unreal way. When it is not overly sentimental, much of it has the same faults as the previous centuries. I doubt Shelley or Keats would like to admit it, but their love poetry is littered with shammy allusions to mythology as much as Milton’s or Dryden’s is, the only difference is their inflated feelings.

For really good love poetry in English, we have to go back to the Elizabethans. In that dawn of English verse poets wrote about love in a way we recognize as sincere. When Shakespeare wrote that his mistress’ eyes were nothing like the sun, or that love was the star to every wandering bark it was something that we felt and knew to be true. Elizabethan love poetry did not hide from the mundanities of love, nor did it try to dignify it with classical allusions; it simply described what it was like to be in love.

When we compare all the love poetry in English, we see that there is much more Elizabethan about Barrett Browning than her name. When she writes:

”Yes, call me by my pet-name! let me hear
The name I used to run at, when a child,
From innocent play, and leave the cowslips piled,
To glance up in some face that proved me dear
With the look of its eyes.”

We know immediately that we are in the presence of someone who is really in love. There is nothing false, and all the classical allusions and suffering of unrequited affections are worthless beside it.
Here’s another from her Sonnets from the Portuguese which clearly has no comparison outside of the Elizabethans:

“If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
‘I love her for her smile — her look — her way
Of speaking gently, —for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day’—
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee, — and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry, —
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.”

There is another sense in which Elizabeth Barrett Browning is much more like the Elizabethan poets than like anything of her own time. It was first pointed out by G.K. Chesterton, and he summarizes the idea so perfectly that it is worth quoting in full:

”Mrs. Browning was Elizabethan in her luxuriance and her audacity, and the gigantic scale of her wit. We often feel with her as we feel with Shakespeare, that she would have done better with half as much talent. The great curse of the Elizabethans is upon her, that she cannot leave anything alone, she cannot write a single line without a conceit:

‘And the eyes of the peacock fans
Winked at the alien glory,’

she said of the Papal fans in the presence of the Italian tricolour:

‘And a royal blood sends glances up her princely eye to trouble,
And the shadow of a monarch’s crown is softened in her hair,’

is her description of a beautiful and aristocratic lady. The notion of peacock feathers winking like so many London urchins is perhaps one of her rather aggressive and outrageous figures of speech. The image of a woman’s hair as the softened shadow of a crown is a singularly vivid and perfect one. But both have the same quality of intellectual fancy and intellectual concentration. They are both instances of a sort of ethereal epigram. This is the great and dominant characteristic of Mrs. Browning, that she was significant alike in failure and success.”

Chesterton describes her artistry perfectly when he calls her “far more a great poet than she is a good one.”

Recommendation – 5/5
There is no question that when Elizabeth Barrett Browning is writing about love she is a very great poet. In my opinion, Sonnets from the Portuguese is the greatest cycle of love poetry in English, and it takes up about a third of this (very) slim 50-page volume.
In the “and other poems” we see Barrett Browning’s rebellious side that she shows with a fierceness not unlike Shelley. Hiram Powers’ ‘Greek Slave’ is an indictment of injustice that long outlives the marble statue of its subject, and To George Sand – A Recognition is nothing if not feminist in the same sense as Virginia Woolf.

Personal – 4/5
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s love poetry is magical. It does exactly what poetry is supposed to do: express a common sentiment in memorable language that elevates the fleeting feeling into something immutable. It is a much-needed breath of fresh air in English poetry, which is so dispassionate when compared with other languages’ traditions.
I love the Elizabethans, especially for their natural energy for verse and the risks they take in their figures of speech. They have a sort of abandon that is absent from English poetry for about a quarter of a millennium until Elizabeth Barrett Browning revives it. Not without faults of course. But the important thing is with feeling:

“First time he kissed me, he but only kissed
The fingers of this hand wherewith I write;
And ever since, it grew more clean and white,
Slow to world-greetings, quick with its ‘Oh, list,’
When the angels speak. A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here, plainer to my sight,
Than that first kiss. The second passed in height
The first, and sought the forehead, and half missed,
Half falling on the hair. O beyond meed!
That was the chrism of love, which love’s own crown,
With sanctifying sweetness, did precede.
The third upon my lips was folded down
In perfect, purple state; since when, indeed,
I have been proud and said, ‘My love, my own.’”
Profile Image for Venus Blancia.
277 reviews104 followers
February 4, 2017
But before maybe the social attraction of Lang Leav and Michael Faudet, we had long surviving extraordinary love of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Poems is an anthology of all Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems, the poems of her little depressed life and great love to Robert Browning that only to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach. This work I believe is entirely out of love, and I only imagine what there in the world if love reigns.

My heart swells over how moving and loving Elizabeth's words and if only I could write and speak them for myself....(sighs) This proves that poetry is as always as beautiful as complicated to understand just like LOVE.

I know everyone who reads Elizabeth, know pretty well the Sonnet 43,The How I Love Thee, Let me Count the Ways. But here is the Sonnet 21 that is worth the mainstream of love.

Sonnet 21

Say over again, and yet once again,
That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated
Should seem' a cuckoo-song,' as thou dost treat it,
Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Belove, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt's pain
Cry, Speak once more---thou lovest! Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me--toll
The silver iterance!---only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.
Profile Image for Mary.
171 reviews
August 20, 2022
My copy is illustrated by Adolf Hallman and is quite beautiful. In the introduction I learned that “the Portuguese” was a nickname Robert had for Elizabeth. I also learned that Elizabeth’s life was not all love; she was often ill, and was disowned by her father upon her marriage with Robert.

Two favorites:

Sonnet XIV: If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only.

From “Love”:
….But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
Throw out her full force on another soul,
The conscience and the concentration both
Make mere life, Love…..
Profile Image for kay.
17 reviews
April 6, 2023
nothing humans have ever felt is unique hm
Profile Image for Isabel Rebelo.
121 reviews26 followers
October 14, 2020
Elizabeth Barret Browning was born in the XIX century and grew up with 11 siblings, under the thumb of her very strict father, who didn't allow any of his children to marry. "Like most young girls of the time, she had no formal schooling, she shared a tutor with the brother closest to her in age, studying Latin and Greek. Elizabeth Barrett furthered her education by extensive readings in history, philosophy, and literature. She also began to compose poetry at an early age". She was chronically ill since adolescence and she became increasingly reclusive as an adult, what pleased her father. Somehow her path crossed the path of another poet, Robert Browning, and a secret romance began between the two of them. These poems are a compilation of the love poems she made for him, from the time they met through their secret marriage. They moved to Italy, in 1846. Through her poems one can feel the deep love, affection and admiration she felt for her husband, six years younger than her.
Profile Image for J.M. Hushour.
Author 8 books200 followers
December 7, 2014
I realize I'm in a stark minority here and am opening myself up to livid excoriation if not simple, outright literary exile and castration, but these poems are just terrible. They are bad. Even for the time, they are bad. I read a lot of poetry, especially from this time period, and these are just, well, I'll say it again, bad.
Contrite and cold, there is little original here. Browning seems to strike out on several different opposing paths, juggling faith and some sort of odd romantic trajectory that comes across as insincere, with her forced rhyming and poor subject choices.
Contrast to Rossetti, writing around the same time period, and also a "liberated" woman speaking her mind in verse, and you'll see what I mean. I wonder if this is just another case of we-have-to-love-it-simply-because-it-is-and-we-can't-admit-it's-terrible-actually...
Profile Image for Erin.
30 reviews3 followers
March 10, 2010
I found this book on the streets of San Francisco, Fishermans Warf in September of 2006. Funny enough, I've never sat to read it. Now I will. Oh my, beautiful, simply that, beautiful. Some struck me so deeply that I read them over and over, gleaning new emotions each and every time. Her life was bleak before love, it became bright and everlasting in love. Even as I write this I'm smiling, a playful, saucy smile that I can't seen to whipe from my lips. A beautiful collection of poems that we all should read.
Profile Image for William.
435 reviews11 followers
May 17, 2015
Not bad. I especially liked the "other poems". Sonnets were cool, but they weren't quite as Portuguese as I'd hoped. In saying Portuguese, I mean that I wanted to be transported back to Lisboa in a very deep personal way. I probably should have saved the 75 cents and not bought the second hand copy. All the same, the poems were nice to read at the beach. I liked walking through the water with my friends a distance off not paying any attention. I liked it.
Profile Image for Andi H.
94 reviews4 followers
October 16, 2015
I simply cannot say enough great things about Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Profile Image for Cornerofmadness.
1,647 reviews10 followers
February 28, 2023
This is another classic that was a 2 star for me but I rated up one because it does deserve some recognition for what it is, one of the largest collections of poems by a woman of the Victorian era and boy howdy does that reflect in these love poems. Her life was an odd one. She was frail from what might have been multiple chronic illnesses and her father was an odd duck. He didn't allow any of his kids to marry and if they did they were disinherited. He did just that to her when she married Robert.

These poems were written to Robert in secret. That does add up to an extra star in my book (and that they survive to this day). However I feel my literary professors did me a disservice back in the day. I know I read How do I love thee? Let me count the ways part of the Sonnets. I doubt I read them all but honestly many of them are SO forgettable that maybe I did. That isn't the disservice. No that comes in where I was told by so many that these are great love poems and just compare them to the melancholy sadness of Emily Dickinson (which I now see was a bunch of patriarchial pressure to see happy love poems, happy one, no man and you live secluded and depressed. Ha, no).

These are NOT happy love poems. Most of them seem death obsessed (not surprising given her health) and highly religious (not surprising given the time period). But honestly other than the above mentioned one which was beaten into me in high school lit classes and then in college, none of these are sticking with me even though I only closed the book a few hours ago. They are very melancholic for the most part (so unfavorably comparing Dickinson and Poe to her really was a disservice)

I'm glad I read them mind you and glad the library had this volume It's good to stretch and learn (even if it's the negatives in my own education). I'm not sure how she'd have fared writing today but she darned near was made poet laureate in her day and that is reason enough to give her work some attention.
Profile Image for Syaa R..
22 reviews
December 31, 2021
excuse me for i am gonna be all mushy with this one right here. i think i know where to place this one— my heart. reading the first few pages weren’t easy because it’s old English but after a while i could catch up the pace. i saw myself repeating some lines because i really wanted to get into it and my god wasn’t the experience fulfilling. Browning wrote this beautifully, and i feel that these were personal. i looked it up online and saw that she showed the poems to her husband only after three years of marriage hence he insisted her to publish this collection.

maybe after reading about Browning and her life very briefly that i managed to enjoy this collection wholeheartedly. she suffered an illness since she was little therefore only expected death to come knocking on her door. instead, she was filled with love and only love while anticipating the worst thus taking that chance to write it all exquisitely.

im glad i finished this today, just in time to welcome the new year. oh and i think this should also mark my interest towards poetry, especially ancient ones, because i was not at all fascinated with them since forever. but hey, here i am, finding what i love to read and appreciate and hoping that the journey never stops.
Profile Image for Tiffanie22.
122 reviews1 follower
April 20, 2021
For bookclub this month, we decided to read poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Admittedly, poetry is difficult for me, especially older poetry - I get lost in the language, I have a hard time figuring out how to read it (do I read until I hit punctuation? do I pause at the end of each line?), and because of that, I usually struggle to understand what it is about. That said, this little book had some poems that I “got” then looked up some analysis online to check my understanding, and I surprised myself! For the title poem, there were sections that were immediately understandable and resonated, and some that were not. I did not do the homework to figure it all out and I must say this was the longest 54 pages I have read. I will keep trying poetry though, as I have two friends who are poets, and I want to experience a bit of their world.
Profile Image for Tanti.
82 reviews
August 11, 2020
I love poetry, and I love journals. So... why not combine the two in a beautiful, collectible book? That's the idea I had in mind when I started this project. Thus, this hardback edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems. Part poetry book, part journal, with lovely image of a flower on each blank page for your personal quotes/writing/doodling, etc. I must say that I'm truly happy that this book went to print right before Covid 19 put almost everything on hold, so I got to see and have it in its physical form. As much as I love (and prefer) digital books than paper books these days, this one (and other upcoming titles in this series) is an exception.
Profile Image for Aria.
482 reviews41 followers
November 28, 2020
My second attempt (after a couple decades distance) & I still didn't finish these. I found the introduction more interesting than the actual work. I thought maybe it was because love poems aren't really my jam. However, I then recalled something I once read by a Latin poet whose name escapes me now, & I knew it wasn't the topic putting me off. My cold black heart aside, I just don't like these poems. They're not so great as they are hyped to be. While trying to get through these my eyes kept glazing over so that again & again I'd have to re-start, making it so that I just stopped caring if I ever read them. So I'm done.
994 reviews5 followers
September 18, 2018
I don't read much poetry, but this collection makes me want to find everything Elizabeth Barrett Browning ever wrote. I loved this book. I recognized "How do I love thee" but didn't know any more of it or who wrote it. The first poem (The Sleep) grabbed me so completely that I intend to memorize it. I also loved her poem To Flush (her dog). Many times I find poetry too esoteric, but EBB's work is beautiful and easily understood.

If you need some joy in your life, pick up a copy of this book. It will make your soul smile.
Profile Image for Kerri Anne.
471 reviews37 followers
March 29, 2020
I unearthed this collection today while reorganizing one of our bookshelves. The cover looks like a calico curtain my grandmother used to have in her bathroom.

When I read old books of poetry I like to think about how, once upon a time, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was someone's favorite poet, even if she'll never be mine.

[Three stars for a collection that features a poem EBB wrote about her dog + a poem about what it feels to be wounded by a female friend + a poem about writing a curse.]
Profile Image for Mary.
115 reviews11 followers
April 22, 2020
My favorite poem was the last one -- "The Forced Recruit."

Also, I want to remember these lines from "A Musical Instrument":

Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan !
Piercing sweet by the river !
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan !
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.

Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man :
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain, —
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds in the river.
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books6 followers
June 4, 2017
The book and the sonnets both begin slowly. Frankly, I was bored through much of the book. But as the book and sonnets build they become much more intriguing, the language richer or truer--less of what now seems archaic to us--and more passionate. Personally, I believe I should rate this at 2 stars but I do hover between 2 and 3 and I dislike discouraging a reader with potential interest in this work.
Profile Image for McKenzie Richardson.
Author 68 books57 followers
September 19, 2019
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

I really enjoyed this lovely collection of poems. Despite its age, so many of the emotions expressed still resonate today. The language used is phenomenal and the descriptions overall have the power to inspire the reader. I especially enjoyed Browning's pacing and rhyme schemes. A wonderful book of poetry.
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