Three Sonnets from the Portuguese

Song Cycle by Lynn Steele (1951 - 2002)

Word count: 360

1. Sonnet XXI [sung text checked 1 time]

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.

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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?)

Researcher for this text: Lynn Steele

2. Sonnet XXXVIII [sung text checked 1 time]

First time he kissed me, he but only kissed
The fingers of this hand wherewith I write,
And ever since it grew more clean and white, --
Slow to world greetings, quick with its "Oh, list,"
When the angels speak.  A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here plainer to my sight
Than that first kiss.  The second passed in height
The first, and sought the forehead, and half missed,
Half falling on the hair.  O beyond meed!
That was the chrism of love which love's own crown,
With sanctifying sweetness, did precede.
The third upon my lips was folded down
In perfect, purple state; since when, indeed,
I have been proud and said:  "My Love, my own."

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Researcher for this text: Lynn Steele

3. Sonnet XLIII [sung text checked 1 time]

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.

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CHI Chinese (中文) (M.W. Wang) , "我有多麽愛你?", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

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See also Karl Shapiro's parody How do I love you?
1 Steele: "men"
2 Steele: "seem"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]