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Defying the traditional structure of a Petrarchan sonnet that introduces a question in the octave with the sestet answering this question, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet 43 employs both octave and sestet in the answer to "How do I love thee?" And, with this all-encompassing response, Browning intensifies the power of the emotional effect. Added to this, Miss Browning employs language that evokes much feeling with its sensual and spiritual imagery.
Much like a person who is in love, the poet employs anaphora with "I love thee," thus emphasizing this feeling; and, with each repetition the passion and extension of emotion increases, moving from the idealistic "Right" and "Praise" to the spiritual, "my childhood faith" and "lost saints." In a crescendo of emotion, the poet expresses the intensity of her emotions: "Smiles, tear, of all my life!" Her love is life itself, a life that then transcends the worldly into the spiritual, "I shall but love thee better after death."
Further, the strong use of alliteration creates a repetition of initial cosonants that resonate of a heart beating strongly as in one who is passionately in love. Sensuous imagery exists in such phrases as "every day's most quiet need, by sun and candlelight" with the intense warmth of the sun and the romantic glow of candlelight. Of course, the sentence," I love thee with the breath,/Smiles, tears, of all my life!" connotes the entire realm of human emotion. Her final line, "I shall but love thee better after death" repeats and underscores all that has been said in response to the question of "How do I love thee?" with the response to all the ways that the love affects the lover--her entire being.
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