Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet XIV:

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently,--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day" -
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,--and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry, -
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

I recall discussing this poem in AP British Literature. The other students thought it was a euphemism for "beauty's only skin deep." I knew it was deeper than that, that real love cannot respond to the question "Why do you love me?" except with the answer "I love you." I remember wanting to love in the way Browning described, even before I thought it might be possible.

It is Lent and I am feeling honest.

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