‘How do I love Thee’ by Elizabeth Barret Browing and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvel
‘How do I love Thee’ by Elizabeth Barret Browing and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvel

‘How do I love Thee’ by Elizabeth Barret Browing and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvel

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  • Pages: 5 (2192 words)
  • Published: October 24, 2017
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Latin used different words for different types of love, for example when talking about sex, and love between a partner, the word they used was eros. They also have words for friendship, love of a family member and even a word for love of pleasure. However English only has one word for all types of affection, this word being ‘love’. This simple fact already displays how our one word, love, has many facets.Love has always been a favourite topic for poets, regardless of their age, sex and the period they wrote it in.

This is because there are many facets of love and there are many ways of expressing different types of love through poetry.’There are many facets of love’; this can be proven by focusing on pre 1914 poetry. ‘How do I love Thee’ by Elizabeth Barret Browing and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvel are two well contrasting poems that easily prove this fact.E. B. Browning was born in 1806.

She married a poet known as Robert Browning, against her father’s approval. She married at a secret wedding and fled to Italy. Here she lived out the rest of her life, dying at the age of fifty-five.Marvel was born in 1621, the son of a vicar. He spent five years travelling and touring Holland, France, Italy and Spain.

He was employed as the assistant Latin secretary to the council of state in 1657; four years after being recommended by his good friend John Milton. He died in the year 1916.’How Do I Love Thee’ and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ are two very contrasting poems. Both were written to express love and passion for a bel

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oved, but this may be the only similarity that they share.’How Do I Love Thee’ is a poem that explores the eternal, undying love that Browning holds for her husband, Robert.

..”I love thee purely, as they turn from praise”…

This quote shows that Browning’s love is pure and sincere. Browning strengthens how honest her emotions are by constantly using religious imagery throughout the sonnet. Words and phrases written such as “Praise”, “ideal Grace” and “if God choose” are sometimes written using irregular capital letters to not only stress their importance, but to also help portray a theme of righteousness and purity in the poem by incorporating religion and faith, again stressing Browning’s sincerity.Her father was a vicar; this is probably the reason why the poem contains so much religious imagery throughout. Phrases and words such as “saint” and “if god chose” again express the purity and sincerity of her love.

These ideas of ‘pure love’ from “How Do I Love Thee” could be compared to the poem ‘Shall I compare thee’ as both are answering questions; and both are expressing a true, selfless love, a love that does not revolve around lust unlike Marvell’s poem.’How do I love thee’ was published in 1850, the sonnet’s choice of words and language style express and emphasize the love that the poet has for her partner. Browning, being the speaker of the poem, begins asking the question of her lover “How do I love thee?” and answers by

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saying “Let me count the ways”.’She then goes into depth stating how she loves her beloved how her soul can reach to the “depth and breadth and height”; here she is expressing how her soul has no limits to which it can love, she is painting a picture of the never-ending vastness of her love. The adjectives state all the dimensions possible that she is able to love; again emphasizing her limitless love is not built around the physical aspects of her beloved.

The main theme of the poem is the fact that Browning loves with all her life…”I love thee with the breath,Smiles, tears, of all my life”Here she describes her true love as every human emotion. The word ‘breath’ expresses that she loves with her whole life, the word ‘Smiles’ expresses she will love her beloved through the good times, and ‘tears’ expresses how Browning’s love is strong enough for her to stand by him in times of sorrow.Showing the different forms of love she holds for her beloved helps strengthen the fact that there are many facets of love.

Browning then continues by saying,”I shall but love thee better after death”Here the poet powerfully states how her already limitless love will grow even after death. This impressive statement, written using religious imagery, shows how the poet believes in an afterlife or heaven, but more importantly it shows how she will love him more in heaven as they both are closer to God, and that they will have an eternity to love one another. This line would help express and justify her undying love that will never stop growing.However this passionate love when contrasted to that of the poem, ‘To His Coy Mistress’, is very different. This already outlines how there are many facets of love. ‘To his Coy Mistress’ writes of a love that a man has towards his mistress, a love or desire that appears to be quite shallow and one sided,”An hundred years should grow to praise.

..Two hundred to adore each breast…

“Lines like this show how the speaker, Marvell, is focused on one thing and one thing only, a lust for sex. Marvell writes that if he had the time, he would adore her, and praise her for a hundred years, as if his beloved were a God or Queen as the word ‘praise’ suggests. By using the image of time, Marvell is trying to explain to his beloved that his love for her is undying, and that he would adore here for hundreds of years if he could. This sounds very noble but we then realise this supposed ‘noble’ expression is nothing more that pure flattery.”How Do I Love Thee” contrasts this love expressed in “To his Coy Mistress”, as Browning expresses a love not based around lust and passion alone, Browning writes of a love that takes many forms,”I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise”This quote shows Browning’s love is good and pure.

It expresses what facet of love she is trying to put across. Browning implies that her emotions are similar to the feeling of love a person has after they

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