Everyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE history. And, nothing says romance more than the Victorian era of history. It was a time of love for innovation, craftsmanship, and the arts. Arguably, one of the most respected poets of the Victorian era was Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her works are just full of tender and delicate – but also strong and deep – thought. Apparently she drew from her own sufferings – the untimely death of her brother, her life-long problem with illness, and her estrangement from her father made her the champion of the suffering and oppressed wherever she found them. So you have a little perspective in relation to time, she lived from 1806 to 1861. Her most famous work is Sonnets from the Portuguese, which is a collection of love sonnets. It is thought that the title was meant to shroud some of the personal nature of the poems by implying they were a translation of an older work– but they were really a thinly disguised history of her own love story with poet Robert Browning.
I have a heart-shaped, silver locket, which Ted bought for me from an antique store in England some years ago, and it has the most famous line from this sonnet engraved on the back. On the inside of the locket is a picture of a man wearing a military uniform, and it looks like it was taken around 1900 or so. On the opposite side of the locket from the picture is a lock of his hair.
Now let me just tell you, the energy of love in this locket has transcended the years. When I wear it, it becomes so warm, you could use it to warm your hands. I know that sounds weird, and it is.
So today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ll put a little romance into your heart by remembering the words of 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 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.