In line six, the speaker makes two references to light: the sun and candlelight. The speaker is describing the way in which her love sustains her on a daily basis. The passage of time is indicated—the sun marks daylight, while candlelight represents nighttime. On a deeper level, the symbol of light suggests vitality and energy. Just as sunlight is essential for living creatures to survive, the speaker’s love is critical to her survival. Her husband may also be thought of as the “light” of her life: a source of joy and energy that enables her to live. In addition, light symbolism suggests divinity. Her love is divine and energizing, like God’s love for His creatures.
Life and death (motif)
The sonnet makes several references to life and death. Line six states the way in which the speaker’s love sustains her in her daily life. Lines 12 and 13 make more direct references to life, as the speaker mentions how she loves her husband with every breath she takes throughout her life. At the same time, the speaker is aware of her own mortality and wishes for her love to survive her own physical existence. Line four insinuates that her love is so great that it can extend beyond her present life, when her “being” has come to an end. More concretely, the speaker acknowledges her own mortality in the concluding line of the poem. She hopes that God will allow her to love even after she is gone. In all circumstances, the speaker makes it clear that she believes her love to be timeless and immortal, and she hopes that God will allow it to persist.
Religion and spirituality (motif)
Throughout the sonnet, the speaker makes references to spirituality and religion. In the first four lines, she insinuates that her love has a spiritual power that can possibly extend into the afterlife. Her love is compared to another abstract subject: the soul. Even when she is no longer guided by the “grace” of God in the present life, her love can extend past the boundaries of earthly love. The mention of “faith” in line ten further highlights the speaker’s pious background. She loves her husband with the same passion she once felt as a child who had faith in powerful figures. Her love has similarly outweighed the pain she felt when losing the “saints” she once revered in the past, whether they be people she admired or religious teachings she once followed. Lastly, she puts the fate of her love in God’s hands by stating, in lines 13-14, that only God can decide if she will be able to love after she is gone. Her love is both divine in nature and subject to the laws of divinity.
Sonnet 43 (How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.) Questions and Answers
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Study Guide for Sonnet 43 (How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.)
Sonnet 43 (How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.) study guide contains a biography of Elizabeth Browning, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.