Written by: Jay Gilbert
Love poems have long been a way for men and women to express their feelings for one another in a unique and romantic way. They range from structured, formal works such as those by William Shakespeare to free verse works by modern greats such as e.e. cummings. But of all the love poems ever written, who wrote the best love poem ever?
Of course this question may have a different answer depending on who you ask. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that the poet who created the poem that is most often quoted and most recognizable is the one who wrote the best love poem of all time. If these are the criteria, then the poem How Do I Love Thee? by the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning would win hands down.
Browning wrote this poem to her husband. She and Robert Browning, also a poet, wrote countless love letters to one another over the period of several years. Today, these love letters and the poems that accompany them are treasured parts of American literature. Here is Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s finest and most recognizable work:
How Do I Love Thee?
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.
When people think of love poems, they usually think of this one, especially of the first line. It has inspired many other poems in its time and is a great source of imitation. As the best love poem ever written, it has all the elements of a great work: elegant structure, classic rhyme scheme, and beautiful imagery.
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