Sonnets from the Portuguese
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Sonnets from the Portuguese, written ca. 1845–1846 and published first in 1850, is a collection of 44 love sonnets written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The collection was acclaimed and popular during the poet's lifetime and it remains so.
Barrett Browning was initially hesitant to publish the poems, believing they were too personal. However, her husband Robert Browning insisted they were the best sequence of English-language sonnets since Shakespeare's time and urged her to publish them. To offer the couple some privacy, she decided to publish them as if they were translations of foreign sonnets. She initially planned to title the collection "Sonnets translated from the Bosnian", but Browning proposed that she claim their source was Portuguese, probably because of her admiration for Camões and Robert's nickname for her: "my little Portuguese". The title is also a reference to Les Lettres Portugaises (1669).
Numbers 33 and 43
The most famous poems from this collection are numbers 33 and 43:
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 cow-slips piled,
To glance up in some face that proved me dear
With the look of its eyes. I miss the clear
Fond voices which, being drawn and reconciled
Into the music of Heaven's undefiled,
Call me no longer. Silence on the bier,
While I call God—call God!— So let thy mouth
be heir to those who are now exanimate.
Gather the north flowers to complete the south,
And catch the early love up in the late.
Yes, call me by that name,—and I, in truth,
With the same heart, will answer and not wait.
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 candlelight.
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.
- Thomas James Wise, who authenticated a forged edition.
- Gosse, Edmund (1896). Critical Kit-kats. William Heinemann.
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- Works by Browning, Elizabeth Barrett at Project Gutenberg
- Sonnets from the Portuguese at Project Gutenberg
- Sonnets from the Portuguese public domain audiobook at LibriVox
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning profile and sonnets at Poets.org
- Reely's Poetry Pages Hear Sonnets 43 and 33
- A Different Slant of Light: The Art and Life of Adelaide Hanscom Leeson: The Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a photo-illustration of The Sonnets from the Portuguese, includes select photo-illustrations.