A Gentleman and a Rogue

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Romantic Poetry

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
One of the best ways to express our romantic feelings is through poetry, and one of the most romantic poems of all times was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

In the mid to late 18th Century (1700's) a literary movement known as Romanticism came about. Romanticism favors more natural, emotional, and artistic themes. Indeed, good romantic poetry captures a spontaneous flow of powerful feelings. Romantic poets of the time, Wordsworth, Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley captured the dominate romantic theme in much of their poetry: taking natural emotion and turning it into written art.

For me, no poet was as successful as Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She was born in England in 1806 to a wealthy family. At an early age she was reading and writing. Her father encouraged her poetry.

At 15, Elizabeth grew sick from an illness the doctors at the time weren't able to identify. To deal with the pain, she began taking opiates (laudanum and morphine). These medicines were commonly used at the time.

Elizabeth met talented contemporaries including William Wordsworth, Lord Tennyson and Thomas Carlye. In 1837, she grew sick again, this time possibly from tuberculosis. During these years, Elizabeth published her poetry and became very successful. Her published work up to this time, generally did not have a romantic theme, focusing more on social issues of the day.

In 1845 she met Robert Browning. Their courtship was heartbreakingly romantic. When Elizabeth married Robert, her father disinherited her, but by then she had saved up a little of her own money. Elizabeth and Robert went to live in Italy. Their romance inspired her most romantic work: Sonnets from the Portuguese.

My favorite Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem is "How Do I Love Thee?" It embodied the dominant theme of romantic poetry by capturing strong natural emotion and making it art. I thought I'd share it with you today.

How Do I Love Thee
By: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breath and height
my soul can reach when feeling out of sight.
for the ends of the being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day's most quiet need,
by sun and candle light.
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.

I'd love to hear who some of your favorite romantic poets are.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romantic_poetry


15 comments:

  1. Lovely post and lovely poem. I love her, too.

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    1. Jillian, she has such an inspirtional story, doesn't she? Sigh...

      Smiles
      Steph

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  2. Very nice. She is one of my favorite poets as well.

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    1. :) Thanks for visiting. I'm such a sucker for that poem.

      Smiles
      Steph

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  3. Very sweet! I'm not sure if I have a favorite poet. I have a small book on female troubadours in the middle ages - yes, it's true, there were some! It's a little nugget for me to write about sometime. :)

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    1. Lacey, female tourbadours, really? That's something that's very interesting to me. I hope you explore it.

      Smiles
      Steph

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  4. Well given her picture, I can see why she wrote poetry. Kind of a female Cyrano De Berserac. LOL Sorry. She does have some lovely poetry. I give her that.

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    1. Tina, lol. Yeah, I admit Elizabeth isn't an "Angelina Jolie,' but hey, you know it had to be true love with her and Robert Downing.

      Smiles
      Steph

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  5. Oh, I love Elibeth Barrett Browning. I have a book with all her poetry, and I use some of Ms Browning's stuff at the beginnings of some of my books. She was a gem. Wish I could have known her personally.
    Thanks for the post!

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  6. Shirley, I confuess I don't have a copy of "Sonnets from the Porteguese" but I would LOVE to! I can see where you would would reference her - she has such a lovely way with words.

    You know who else I love to quote? Eleanor Roosevelt. That woman was remarkable. My favorite Eleanor quote is:

    "A woman is like a teabag, you don't know what she's made of until you put her in hot water." I do a weekly "Words of Wisdom" with Eleanor on my Twitter feed but maybe I'll expand it to my blog. She how you've inspired me.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  7. I have never been a big fan of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She seemed a bit of a whimp to me. I know someone is going to shoot me for saying that. For romantic poetry, my number one is Edna St Vincent Millay. Her heart rending poem The Buck in the Snow is so powerful, sensitive and insightful. I could weep every time I read it. Her life was as intense and interesting as her work.

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    1. Sarah, you've got me interested! I haven't heard of Edna, but I'd love to learn more!

      Smiles
      Steph

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  8. Sarah--I always thought Dickinson the wimp. Knowing Browning's story makes her love songs so heartwrenching.Perhaps you & Steph would prefer this: "I'm sorry, ,Love,I bring so small a bone/To put here as a tribute at your feet./'Twas buried by that collie down the street;/I marked the sot and dug it up, alone./He might have fought me for it, had he known/But thought of you made e'en that danger sweet./You'll note it still retains a shred of meat/Which I had thought of keeping for my own... (Sonnets from the Pekinese).M. S. Spencer

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    1. Oh, how cute. Describes my dog Amelia to a tee! hehe
      Smiles
      Steph

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  9. I just think the Elizabeth Barrett and Browning romance is one of the greats. I was thinking the poem that at once came into my head was one of hers, but actually it's Christina Rosetti:

    Remember me when I am gone away,
    Gone far away into the silent land;
    When you can no more hold me by the hand,
    Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
    Remember me when no more day by day
    You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
    Only remember me; you understand
    It will be late to counsel then or pray.
    Yet if you should forget me for a while
    And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
    For if the darkness and corruption leave
    A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
    Better by far you should forget and smile
    Than that you should remember and be sad.

    I just love that poem!

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