“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.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Sonnet XLII from Sonnets from the Portuguese”:
What to make of this oft-ridiculed poem? It is deceptively simple, on its face a simple list of the types of love, although that feature in itself is both moving and powerful. Perhaps the aspect most frequently missed by the satirists is the sophistication of the prosody, with its complex shift of rhyme scheme for the final sesto and its stirring transition of the terminal rhymes from “faith” to “breath” to the final word “death”. As is often the case, there is one internal line (oft overlooked) which I think is timeless. “I love thee to the level of every day’s/ Most quiet need.”
Beware what you parody. It is often the parodist who comes off looking the worst.