HOW DO I LOVE THEE?
(From Sonnets from the Portuguese)
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- 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 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.
A brief intro
Elizabeth Barrett Moulton-Barrett was born on Thursday, March 6, 1806, the eldest child of Edward Moulton-Barrett (1785–1857) and Mary Graham-Clarke (1781–1828), at Coxhoe Hall, County Durham, England. Both come from families with extensive plantations in Jamaica, where Edward was born and lived until the age of seven.
EBB’s beloved brother Edward Moulton-Barrett (‘Bro’, 1807–40) is born 26 June 1807. The other siblings most important to EBB (there are twelve children altogether, eleven of whom survive infancy) are Henrietta (1809–60), born March 1809, Arabella (Arabel, 1813–68), born 4 July 1813, and George (1816–95) born 15 July 1816.
The Barretts left Coxhoe in the Autumn of 1808 and, after a period spent mainly in London and at Mickleham in Surrey, move at the end of 1809 to Hope End, near Ledbury, Herefordshire (purchased for £24 000). This would be their home until August 1832. The original house is converted into stables and a new mansion in exotic Turkish style is constructed.
Her mother died from rheumatoid arthritis on July 7th, there has been a lot of conjecture that is what EBB had as it is a hereditary disease; here is one view.
The Neptunian Sprite
Mrs. Browning is not esteemed in literary circles to be a great poet, except for Sonnets from the Portuguese which thankfully her husband Robert Browning encouraged to her publish. Prior to that most of her poems were sweet but lacked depth. but her chart tells us that Neptune’s discovery during her lifetime and she married four years later, had a monumental effect on this lovely lady and its conjunction in her chart exactly to the then Galactic Center (24.14 in Sagittarius that fell in her Third House of short communications (unlike her husband she wrote no long poems) was just about to change everything.
So, if anyone epitomizes Neptune in the Arts and the Spirit of this planet, it is this delicate lady, who wrote extremely popular, well-paid and well-loved verse all from the confines of her couch.
That Neptune centered in the part of her bowl emphasizing Personal Expression is square her Sixth House that owns a flurry of planets working busily to make her, during her lifetime, the most Popular and Well-Paid Writer in Victorian Britain — and for a woman no less.
Elizabeth and Emily
Often it is said that Emily Bronte, who shares much in common with Mrs. Browning is the Neptunian Definition, but the problem with that is that while well-loved this was all because of the movie on Wuthering Heights with Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier and not on its own merits. Mrs. Browning, on the other hand, needs no movie, no Hollywood send-up, her Sonnets are one of the most well-loved, highly regarded and memorized set of poems in modern times.
An invalid, Saturn in the Second House, may have had HPKK but it also resembles what was called then “neurasthenia” or what is now referred to a fibromyalgia — sensitive neural pathways that overreact to stress, exercise, and fatigue. As the disease typically overwhelms the victims, it is hard for them to manage daily existence and as stress is a strong contributor, and her father’s overbearing manner (Saturn in the Second sextile the North Node exact to Jupiter in the Fourth House of the Home and father) did not help there.
She found great comfort (Jupiter in the Fourth House sextile the stellium in the Sixth) in her work. Mercury and Mars show her vigour for writing and self-expression. Pluto separates that pair — and was yet to be discovered for another 70 years — from the Sun conjunct Venus just sitting proud and regal on the Seventh House of Relationships cusp — they met through her work.
It was the relationship that fueled gossip rags, angered people and gave hope to the love lorn: infirm and quite wealthy Elizabeth left all to be with her great love, the nascent poet Robert Browning, in Italy. They hoped that the warm of the Mediterranean rays would help her health. She lived another fifteen years, so who knows if it did, but it was Browning that disciplined her mind, broke her from her father and made her create great passionate verse that made Shakespeare’s sonnets look pale in comparison.
Her ascendant at 30 Virgo, Dr. Henry J. Gordon (he was a medical doctor who took up astrology after World War I) writes that this degree gives one an “eccentric nature” that is in tune with mysticism, and will tend towards mental work. He cites that this is a tragic degree because they are too attuned to their own body.
For Mrs. Barrett, the Mercury trine to Saturn conjunct Uranus (the individual breaks out from structure and demands through sorrow) semi-sextile Neptune/the Galactic Center (extreme sensitivity to a new mode of expression) was just that extra push that she needed. But let us not think that her father was her only impression; her mother’s death (Saturn inconjunct Venus and just missing a conjunction to the Moon) started her poetic career with Aurora Leigh, telling us how sorrow, love, and partings were all melded into one beautiful whole in her writings.
Her part of Fortune is at 25 Aries in the Seventh, suggesting that Marriage would allow the potential within to be unlocked….and we most definitely agree. Go to Gutenberg.org and download the Sonnets, or go to Poemhunter read them. Either way, you will not be denied.
You can read a little more about her from this essay here.
“First time he kissed me he but only kissed
The fingers of this hand wherewith I write,
And ever since, it grew more clean and white,
Slow to world-greetings, quick with its ‘Oh, list,’
When the angels speak. A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here, plainer to my sight,
Than that first kiss. The second passed in height
The first, and sought the forehead, and half-missed
Half falling on the hair. O beyond meed!
That was the chrism of love, which love’s own crown
With sanctifying sweetness, did precede.
The third upon my lips was folded down
In perfect, purple state; since when, indeed,
I have been proud and said, ‘My love, my own!’
Download the chart for Elizabeth Barrett Browning