My Last Duches by Robert Browning

Among the many poems that are found in Booth, Hunter and Mayes’ The Norton Introduction to Literature, it is without controversy that Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s How I Love Thee makes one of the most interesting reads to many. It is against this backdrop that the poem has been chosen for analysis and reflection. Personal Reaction to the Poem The poem How Do I Love Thee by is by far one of the richest poems in terms of both the internal qualities of the poem such as the theme and external qualities such as stylistic devices are considered.

For instance, as far as extrinsic or aesthetic richness of the poem is concerned, the use of rhymes is heavily extant, not only for the aesthetic purposes, but to also help bolster the theme. Some of the rhymes found in words such as Height and Sight, Grace and Days, Candlelight and Right, Praise and Faith, Use, Lose and Choose, Depth and Breadth, Needy and Purely, Death and Breath (Booth, 125). That the rhymes are used to expound on the simile that the author uses to divulge on the manner of her feelings to her love still underscores the theme and extent of love in the poem.

Some of the subordinate clauses that are colored by these similes are: as men strive for right; and as they turn from praise. [Personal] Explication of the Poem The gravity of the poem in this case, is not hinged upon the heaviness of the theme or topic in itself, but the manner in which artistic and linguistic devices are harnessed to bring out the beauty and weightiness of the topic or theme being discussed. Particularly, it is through the use of language aesthetically that Browning expresses what love is.
For instance, readers get the impression that love should remain constant, at the mentioning of a love that remains extant throughout the author’s life [breath] in the 12th stanza. That love should be based on free will in lieu of compulsion is also underscored in the 7th stanza as the author mentions her love as being premised on free will as men strive for that which is right. Among a host of other virtues, love is expressed as being backed up by [responsible] actions by the referring of “Love with a passion being to use” in the 9th stanza (Browning, 75).
[Personal] Feelings Evoked By the Poem The feelings evoke feelings of genuine love: that love that commits itself to and through responsible action, as opposed to fickle feelings [stanza 9]. This love is expressed as being free [stanza 7], pure [stanza 8], and constant through the vagaries of life and present at the point of death [stanzas 11-14]. What the Poem Says About Life and the Human Condition It is against the backdrop of the above feelings and standpoints adduced by the poem that matters regarding life and human condition come to the fore.
Particularly, it is this love that is needed in marriage with the high spates of divorce the world over attesting about its absence. The importance of this love transcends the marriage spectrum to permeate all facets of life and human existence. It is this kind of love that, upon existing, would see man given to philanthropy to better fellow man’s welfare instead of building nuclear arsenals and indulging in the snares of avarice, folly and prejudice. Works Cited Booth, Alison. The Norton Introduction to Literature. WW Norton & Co. Inc. , 2004. Browning, B. Elizabeth. The Wondering Minstrels: How Do I Love Thee? New York: SAGE, 2005.

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New York University
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