As a girl, then a woman, I have always admired and desired the love story between one of my favorite poets- Elizabeth Barrett Browning- and her husband Robert Browning. Elizabeth had been the more prolific poet at the time of their “meeting” through letters in 1845. Browning had read EBB’s poetry and fell in love. He began writing a series of letters to EBB to express his thoughts and feelings for her. Sadly, she was reluctant, if not outright distant, about the relationship in the beginning. She knew love is great, but also can wind up hurting her.
In the end, EBB and Robert exchanged letters, met, and ended up married within a year. Their love story has always been one my students love to hear about and read their poems to feel the love they had for each other.
Here is my favorite from EBB:
From SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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 may’st love on, through love’s eternity.