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A Short Analysis of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways’

A summary of a famous Victorian poem

‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.’ One of the most famous opening lines in all of English love poetry. Yet how much do we really know about this poem? Who can quote the second line, for instance? The poet who wrote this sonnet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is now overshadowed by the work of her husband, Robert Browning, so it’s worth delving a little deeper into this love poem, by way of close textual analysis.

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 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. Read the rest of this entry

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Five Fascinating Facts about Wilkie Collins

Fun facts about the Victorian novelist

1. A novel written by Victorian author Wilkie Collins when he was 20, titled Iolani and set in Tahiti, was eventually published in 1999. Written in 1844 but not published until 110 years after his death, Iolani: Or, Tahiti as It Was was Collins’s first ever attempt at writing a novel. Collins knew next to nothing about Tahiti, but that didn’t stop him from having a go at writing about it.

2. Wilkie Collins’s 1860 novel The Woman in White was so popular it spawned stage-plays, perfumes, hats, cloaks, and even a waltz. The Woman in White was the novel that made Collins a famous name and helped to establish the vogue for sensation fiction, a genre that would enjoy its heyday in the 1860s. Collins would be able to demand substantial sums for his subsequent novels as he became hot literary property: he received £5,000 for his novel Armadale in 1866, a huge sum for the time. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Tennyson’s ‘Tithonus’

A summary of a classic poem

‘Tithonus’ is not as famous as some of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s other dramatic monologues – ‘Ulysses’ enjoys considerably more popularity – but it is worth analysing because it offers something different from much other poetry. As the poet-critic William Empson put it, ‘Tithonus’ is ‘a poem in favour of the human practice of dying’, because the poem exposes the horrific reality of what it would be like to live forever.

Tithonus

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair’d shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.

Alas! for this gray shadow, once a man—
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem’d
To his great heart none other than a God!
I ask’d thee, ‘Give me immortality.’
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men, who care not how they give.
But thy strong Hours indignant work’d their wills,
And beat me down and marr’d and wasted me, Read the rest of this entry