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Evaluate "How Do I Love Thee" as a love poem.

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chinmoy | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 8, 2009 at 9:49 AM via web

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Evaluate "How Do I Love Thee" as a love poem.

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 8, 2009 at 11:07 AM (Answer #1)

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Elizabeth Barett Browning's Sonnet XXIX is a powerful statement about love and the expression of it in the absence of another.  The opening lines of the poem establish that the speaker is addressing the topic of loving someone who is not physically present at that moment.  Such a conception is challenging because it takes the present moment and recasts it in light of past experiences and future hopes.  Barrett Browning does a superior job of stating qualities of love in a context that defies temporality.  The images of a love that exhibits qualities of great "breadth" and "depth" immediately establishes the character of this love as something that is similar to the organic growth of a tree or some type of plant that has both deep roots and a strong presence above ground.  Another effective articulation of love is the comparison of Browning's devotion and the striving for justice.  In this one image, she has managed to connect and link both the articulation of soulful connection with another and the soulful connection with one's government.  The devotion and search for truth in both matters of the heart and matters of state, in love and politics, creates a realm where one sees the conceptualization of love in a new and compelling light.  The closing line is also very unique and distinctive in that it does not indicate that the love that Barrett Browning feels will die, even when the other dies, but rather shall grow stronger in death.  This creates the notion of a love eternal, or an "immortal beloved," once again allowing love to capture a quality that lies outside the cruel grasp of temporality.

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