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 candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a 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.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) penned these words in what is now known as Sonnet 43 of one collection of her poems. Born in County Durham in North East England, she began writing at young age. Once published, her poems attracted the writer Robert Barrett. They courted and married in secrecy out of fear of her father’s disapproval. When the marriage was discovered, she was disinherited. So they moved to Italy and she died in Florence at the age of 55 in 1861. Yet this poem has endured as one of her most famous. It speaks of a depth of love that goes beyond the simple “I love you” statements. She references her faith and one writer notes that her work carries a religious theme. She read and studied Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno. She says in her writing, “We want the sense of the saturation of Christ’s blood upon the souls of our poets that it may cry through them in answer to the ceaseless wail of the Sphinx of our humanity.” She believed Christ’s religion is essentially poetry – poetry glorified.”
Perhaps that’s why Sonnet 43 has endured with its description of numerous ways in which she loved her beloved.
It’s a great blessing to be on the receiving end of someone else’s love. Today we think of love on Valentine’s Day. It is name for a priest named Valentinus. The story goes that a Roman Emperor forbid soldiers to marry until they had completed their military service. The Emperor did not want them distracted from their duty. But Valentinus would secretly perform for soldiers while they were still in the service. Somehow word got out that these secret ceremonies took place. So the Emperor had Valentinus arrested. He was apparently executed on February 14. So this day became Valentine’s Day remembering the priest who offered this service for young lovers.
Now it is has morphed into an opportunity to express love to those we cherish. I think it can serve as a good reminder of the importance of expressing and showing love to those around us. But there’s some of us here today that don’t have a romantic love in our lives. Or the loved one we once shared life with is gone.
But whether you are together with someone or alone, there is still one who loves you in multiple ways. If you’re a Christian, you have received the greatest love anyone could ever receive. God loves us. God showed His love for us through the cross. The Bible even tells us that God IS love. But what does it mean when we say “God loves you?” God cares about you? God affirms you just as you are and will be your eternal cheerleader? God has romantic feelings towards you? God will give Himself up for you? God will always be there for you? God wants to kiss you? God thinks you’re hot?