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How do I love thee? -- 5 songs for soprano and piano on sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Word count: 571

Song Cycle by Juliana Hall

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1. Unlike


Unlike are we, unlike, O princely Heart!
Unlike our uses and our destinies.
Our ministering two angels look surprise
On one another, as they strike athwart
Their wings in passing. Thou, bethink thee, art
A guest for queens to social pageantries,
With gages from a hundred brighter eyes
Than tears [even]1 can make mine, to ply thy part
Of chief musician. What hast thou to do
With looking from the lattice-lights at me,
A poor, tired, wandering singer, … singing through
The dark, and leaning up a cypress tree?
The chrism is on thine head, — on mine, the dew, —
And Death must dig the level where these agree.


View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with A Book of Women’s Verse, ed. by J. C. Squire. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921; Bartleby.com, 2011. www.bartleby.com/291/104.html

1 Morawetz: "ever"

2. How do I love Thee?


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]1 turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I [seemed]2 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.


View original text (without footnotes)
See also Karl Shapiro's parody How do I love you?
1 Steele: "men"
2 Steele: "seem"

3. Pardon


Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make
Of all that strong divineness which I know
For thine and thee, an image only so
Formed of the sand, and fit to shift and break.
It is that distant years which did not take
Thy sovranty, recoiling with a blow,
Have forced my swimming brain to undergo
Their doubt and dread, and blindly to forsake
Thy purity of likeness and distort
Thy worthiest love to a worthless counterfeit.
As if a shipwrecked Pagan, safe in port,
His guardian sea-god to commemorate,
Should set a sculptured porpoise, gills a-snort
And vibrant tail, within the temple-gate.


4. Say over


Say over again, and yet once over again,
That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated
Should seem “a cuckoo-song,” as thou dost treat it,
Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Belovèd, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain
Cry, “Speak once more—thou lovest!” Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou [dost]1 love me, love me, love me — toll
The silver iterance! — only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.


View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald, Vol. XLI. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14; Bartleby.com, 2001. www.bartleby.com/41/598.htm

1 Steele: "does" (typo?)

5. Thank you


I thank all who have loved me in their hearts,
With thanks and love from mine. Deep thanks to all
Who paused a little near the prison-wall
To hear my music in its louder parts
Ere they went onward, each one to the mart's
Or temple's occupation, beyond call.
But thou, who, in my voice's sink and fall
When the sob took it, thy divinest Art's
Own instrument didst drop down at thy foot
To hearken what I said between my tears, . . .
Instruct me how to thank thee! Oh, to shoot
My soul's full meaning into future years,
That they should lend it utterance, and salute
Love that endures, from Life that disappears!


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