This week’s poem brings us back to the Victorian poets with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s If thou must love me.
Published in Sonnets from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem If thou must love me is a call for love “for love’s sake”. Browning’s appeal seems to rail against the trappings of romantic poetry, asking her lover to disregard the beauty of her smile or gentle speech and to love only for loves sake. The poet contends that love should not fade as beauty does with age, or change with the moods, it should be for ‘eternity’.
If thou must love me… (Sonnet 14)
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, Belovèd, 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 mayst love on, through love’s eternity.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning