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Solve this argument
Posted by: Craig Van Arem (
Date: October 28, 2003 08:02PM

During a peom reading, i got in a heavy discussion with someone about the last three lines of, Elizabeth Barret Browning's, poem, "How Do I Love Thee?". The last two lines are:

With my lost saints, - I love thee with the dreath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! - and, if God Choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Basically it began over talk of contradiction within the poem, the this particular person believed that one contradiction was that Elizabeth said she had the choice to love and so on, then when the line about God came up, they argued that it was now God who had the choice whether she loved, even after death. The person meant that Elizabeth wrote about having the choice to love and now Elizabeth says God makes that choice, contradicting herself.

In dispute, i said that Elizabeth didn't mean that God had the choice of whether or not she loved after death, but that she used God to recognize the fact that it was His choice when she would die, not to love and that when she did die her love for her significant other would not hinder but strengthen. As prove i said that the part about God and death came directly after the line about smiles where, "life" is followed by an exclamation mark. Her strong emphasis regarding love during life was obvious so i believe that she wanted to project onto us that her love would not impede even after death and that she only mentioned God as a symbol of her religious conduct, as she most-likely believes only God has that choice, of when you die, but not the choice of who you love.

Not sure if i got the idea across properly but please respond as i am curious to see what others think regarding this topic, thankyou (sorry for any spelling mistakes)

Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: October 29, 2003 05:05AM

I see what you mean, but I don't think there's necessarily a contradiction. Of course, I don't know what was in the poet's mind but I think that the basic Christian religious concept she's using is that God provides the opportunities in life and mankind has the free will to decide which ones to accept or decline. She wants to keep this love, but she can't know if she'll get the opportunity to, in this life or the next. He may die, she may die, either may change because of (to her) God-given circumstances. But all other things being equal, he's her priority, what matters above all else, and she'd do anything in her power to keep him and his love. However, she accepts she doesn't have unlimited power, so may not be able to keep her love, despite her committment to it.

Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: October 29, 2003 10:00AM

I see what you mean

I don't, but I thought she meant that, if God should choose for her to die (now), she will continue to love him even more after death.

Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: joseph torelli (
Date: October 29, 2003 10:17AM

I'm not sure that a contradiction actually exists, as I don't see choice mentioned, or implied, anywhere before the last two lines. Consequently, I'm inclined to take the poem literally; that is, it is up to God whether or not the speaker shall love after death.

Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: Talia (216.117.98.---)
Date: October 29, 2003 11:22AM

I agree with Jospeh. I am sure that in Elizabeth's day in which christianity was afforded to modern ideas, heaven is not like earth, therefore who is to know what the meaning of love will be, and that is what I think she meant exactly.

Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: annette (
Date: November 05, 2003 09:29PM

I take it that to mean that if God chooses for her to die, she will love even more after death.

I believe because of her faith that she emphasis that she will love better after death because she will be with God.

This is a woman who has been sick most of her life, so it would not be unreasonable for her to think that God may choose for her to die.

Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: November 05, 2003 09:31PM

Perhaps it's 'if God chooses for us to be together.....'


Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: November 06, 2003 05:32PM

Perhaps it's even less than that. Suppose she wrote:

. ... I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! - and when I die,
I shall but love thee better after death.

And suppose someone asked her: "Are you sure that in the afterlife you will be you, and Robert will be Robert, and love will be love? What if you are both merged into the general Spirit? What if there ain't no afterlife? What if you are reincarnated in England and he is reincarnated in Japan?"

And suppose she said, "You're right. But I will love him better after death, GOD PERMITTING."

That's just my take on it. It always struck me as a very mild sort of "we'll see" remark, not a heavy-duty statement of faith.

Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: November 06, 2003 08:38PM

And maybe she was just stuck for a rhyme for 'lose.'


Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: November 06, 2003 11:52PM

Robert Browning
Was sullenly frowning
When Elizabeth Barrett
Was unable to share it.

Re: Solve this argument
Posted by: Jean-Paul (
Date: November 28, 2003 11:16AM

We are grossly imperfect in this life and that imperfection SEVERELY affects our emotions; therefore, our relationships with others are profoundly affected (as is evidenced by all the discord in the world)
If we are ALLOWED to live after we die, it will be with not only a perfect body, but also a perfect mind.
Love is a wonderful state now. Can you imagine how good it will be under perfect conditions?

Jean-Paul Bonhomme

"I "Love Summer more than I hate Winter"

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