Elizabeth Barrett Browning opens this sonnet with an allusion (reference) to Ephesians 3:18 in the New Testament, in which the apostle Paul discusses God's love and says he hopes the Ephesians
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height [of God's love]. And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Browning, addressing her lover directly, writes,
How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach . . .
By using familiar words from a Bible verse, Browning likens her love for her earthly lover to God's love for humankind. Hers is therefore an immense love that encompasses the spiritual, as the words "my soul" indicate. It is deeper and more ideal than she can perceive or articulate.
Browning continues by saying she loves her lover every day, both quietly, like a softly glowing candle, and more strongly, like the sun. She loves...
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