XIV. If thou must love me, let it be for nought – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

by richibi

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XIV. If thou must love me, let it be for nought

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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


with this poem Elizabeth has written her way, I think,
along with “love’s”, into her own immortality, not only
has she acknowledged her lover’s love, taken a practical
stance about it – straightforward, no circumlocutions –
but touches also upon a truth of love, one of its
inextricable conditions, love is, she affirms, as an
article of very faith, forever

compare Shakespeare on the subject, an interesting
juxtaposition I picked up from another astute observer
on the Internet

Sonnet CXVl

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare

the implicit debt to Shakespeare in Barrett Browning
is worth noting, they sound very much alike, unlike
alone, it would at first appear, in gender