Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning Poems

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a well-known Victorian poet who published Poems in 1844, to great reviews. She married fellow writer, Robert Browning, and moved with him to Italy. Her work was incredibly influential and can be found in Emily Dickinson’s and Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry. Read more about Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Sonnet 43: How do I love thee?

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In ‘Sonnet 43’, or ‘How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways’ the speaker is proclaiming her unending passion for her beloved.

This sonnet is one of Barrett Browning's finest and most famous poems. The poet was well known for her use of the sonnet form but the depth of the devotion evoked in these lines surpasses anything else the poet produced and, arguably, than any poet produced in this form aside from Shakespeare. The lines are regularly quoted in marriage services and the poem remains a powerful declaration of romantic love.

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.

Hiram Powers’ Greek Slave

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Hiram Powers’ Greek Slave’ is a deeply powerful account of seeing a sculpture which evokes feelings of both beauty and suffering.

'Hiram Powers' Greek Slave' is, like many of Barrett Browning's poems, a sonnet but it also demonstrates one of her most enduring political beliefs: her commitment to abolitionism. The poem also serves to situate Barrett Browning in her historical context as the titular statue was displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

They say Ideal beauty cannot enter

The house of anguish. On the threshold stands

An alien Image with enshackled hands,

Called the Greek Slave! as if the artist meant her

Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,’ is a translation of a Greek lyric poem in which the speaker explains that love constantly (and annoyingly) inhabits their heart.

Since 'Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow' is a translation of an Ancient Greek poem, we cannot give Browning all the credit for this poem. However, her masterful translation, which uses English Anacreontic meter, has won her much praise in the scholarly community, as it is as close to the original Greek as it can be without becoming too confusing.

Thou indeed, little Swallow,

A sweet yearly comer.

Art building a hollow

New nest every summer.

A Dead Rose

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘A Dead Rose’ mourns the short-lived nature of beauty, with vivid imagery and poignant emotions.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's ‘A Dead Rose’ shares similarities with her other poems as well as with other poems from England in the 19th century. Like her other works, ‘A Dead Rose’ exhibits her skilled use of vivid imagery and introspective tone. The poem also reflects the Romantic era's emphasis on nature and the exploration of human emotions. In comparison to other English poems of the time, Browning's poem stands out for its poignant portrayal of the transience of beauty and its ability to elicit a range of emotions through concise and impactful language.

O Rose! who dares to name thee?

No longer roseate now, nor soft, nor sweet;

But pale, and hard, and dry, as stubble-wheat,—-

Kept seven years in a drawer—-thy titles shame thee.

My Kate

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘My Kate’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a sorrowful elegy dedicated to a morally righteous and important woman who has passed away. 

This is not one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's better-known poems, but it is still well worth reading. It feels inspired by a real-life friendship between Browning and a woman named "Kate," but specific details are lacking.

She was not as pretty as women I know,

And yet all your best made of sunshine and snow

Drop to shade, melt to nought in the long-trodden ways,

While she's still remembered on warm and cold days--


A Child Asleep

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem celebrates the ethereal beauty of a sleeping child and his profound connection to the divine.

This poem is a good representation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems. It encompasses many themes and elements commonly found in her works, such as the exploration of love, spirituality, and the inner world of emotions. Browning's poems often exhibit a lyrical and contemplative quality, as well as a keen sense of observation and sensitivity to human experiences. 'A Child Asleep' exemplifies these characteristics through its evocative imagery, introspective reflections, and the portrayal of profound connections between the physical and spiritual realms.

How he sleepeth! having drunken

Weary childhood's mandragore,

From his pretty eyes have sunken

Pleasures, to make room for more---

“If thou must love me…” (Sonnet 14)

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘If thou must love me’ (Sonnet 14) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning declares the speaker’s intentions for how she is to be loved.

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

“Let the world’s sharpness…” Sonnets from the Portuguese (XXIV)

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Let the world’s sharpness’ (Sonnet 24) is a poem that proposes a resolution to the world’s strife — all turn to, and accept, Love. 

Let the world's sharpness, like a clasping knife,

Shut in upon itself and do no harm

In this close hand of Love, now soft and warm,

And let us hear no sound of human strife

A False Step

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘A False Step’ written by Elizabeth Barret Browning explores how a woman regrets her heartless action taken during her youth.

Sweet, thou hast trod on a heart.

Pass! there's a world full of men;

And women as fair as thou art

Must do such things now and then.

Explore more poems from Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Change Upon Change by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Change Upon Change’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a poem about lost love and change. The poet depicts her internal changes through images of the changing seasons.

Five months ago the stream did flow,

The lilies bloomed within the sedge,

And we were lingering to and fro,

Where none will track thee in this snow,


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Died..’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning explores the impact of a man’s death while also exploring the immorality of passing judgements, good or bad.

What shall we add now? He is dead.

And I who praise and you who blame,

With wash of words across his name,

Find suddenly declared instead--

First News from Villafranca

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘First News from Villafranca’ is a protest poem written in reaction to the Villafranca Armistice (11 July 1859) between Emperors Napoleon III of France and Francis Joseph I of Austria.

Peace, peace, peace, do you say?

  What! — with the enemy's guns in our ears?

  With the country's wrong not rendered back?

What! — while Austria stands at bay

George Sand: A Desire

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘George Sand: A Desire’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a poem dedicated to the French writer Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin.

Thou large-brained woman and large-hearted man,

Self-called George Sand! whose soul, amid the lions

Of thy tumultuous senses, moans defiance

And answers roar for roar, as spirits can:


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Grief’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning tells of the necessary conditions for feeling true grief and the way it transforms one’s body and soul. 

I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;

That only men incredulous of despair,

Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air

Beat upward to God’s throne in loud access

Mother and Poet

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Dead ! One of them shot by the sea in the east,

And one of them shot in the west by the sea.

Dead ! both my boys ! When you sit at the feast

And are wanting a great song for Italy free,

Patience Taught By Nature

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Patience Taught By Nature’ reminds readers that there is a whole world beyond one’s own that is uninfluenced by the problems of human life.

‘O DREARY life,’ we cry, ‘O dreary life!’

And still the generations of the birds

Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds

Serenely live while we are keeping strife

Sabbath Morning at Sea

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sabbath Morning at Sea’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning describes the experiences of a speaker trapped on board a ship at sea. 

The ship went on with solemn face;

To meet the darkness on the deep,

The solemn ship went onward.

I bowed down weary in the place;

Sonnet 16

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 16’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, also known as ‘And yet, because thou overcomest so,’ speaks to the poet’s intention to live happily from now on.

And yet, because thou overcomest so,

Because thou art more noble and like a king,

Thou canst prevail against my fears and fling

Thy purple round me, till my heart shall grow

Sonnet 20 (Beloved, my Beloved, when I think)

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 20’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, also known as ‘Beloved, my Beloved, when I think’ explores the ways that a new love changed a speaker’s life.

Beloved, my Beloved, when I think 

That thou wast in the world a year ago, 

What time I sate alone here in the snow 

And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink 

Sonnet 29 – ‘I think of thee!’

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 29’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of Browning’s best-loved sonnets. It is a moving love poem dedicated to the poet’s husband that expresses her devotion to him.

I think of thee!—my thoughts do twine and bud

About thee, as wild vines, about a tree,

Put out broad leaves, and soon there 's nought to see

Except the straggling green which hides the wood.

Sonnet 35

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 35’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning expresses the speaker’s worries about the changes in her life. She embarks on a new life with her beloved and hopes he’s ready to accept her in the same way she’s accepting him.

If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange

And be all to me? Shall I never miss

Home-talk and blessing and the common kiss

That comes to each in turn, nor count it strange,

Sonnet 7

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 7’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a love sonnet that is dedicated to the poet’s husband, Robert Browning. It expresses her happiness that he came into her life and changed her outlook as he did.  

The face of all the world is changed, I think,

Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul

Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole

Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink

Sonnet 8

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 8’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, also known as ‘What can I give thee back, O liberal,’ is a Petrarchan sonnet. It explores the poet’s relationship with her new lover, Robert Browning. 

What can I give thee back, O liberal

And princely giver, who hast brought the gold

And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold,

And laid them on the outside of the-wall

The Cry of the Children

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,

      Ere the sorrow comes with years ?

They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, —

      And that cannot stop their tears.

The Forced Recruit

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘The Forced Recruit’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning tells the very real story of a brave Italian man who was forced to fight against his country. 

In the ranks of the Austrian you found him,

He died with his face to you all;

Yet bury him here where around him

You honor your bravest that fall.