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The Dimensions of Love: Comparison and Contrast of Bradstreets To My Dear Loving Husband and Brownings How Do I Love Thee

Submitted by: Hannah Riesa Abangan III-14 AB/BSE Literature Though these two people have a 230 year gap, it is observed that Bradstreet and Browning share a lot of commonalities in various areas. For one, they both are prolific writers of their time and profess the same Puritan faith. Both of them also came from well-off families yet suffer from poor health. There are a lot more similarities but the most evident among these is that both of them share a happy and a passionate marriage. In their poems To My Dear Loving Husband and How Do I Love Thee, the readers are presented a clear imagery of a lover who is madly and deeply in love with her partner. For one, Anne Bradstreet takes pride that no woman could match the love she feels for her husband. If ever wife was happy in a man, Compare with me, ye women, if you can. In the same way, Browning starts her poem by counting her love as though she has forgotten how exactly big it is due to its enormity. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. What is interesting with these two women and their poems is that both of them are trying to grasp the scope of their love. However, as both women share the similarity in their poems of gauging love, they also differ with the measure they use in determining how really great their love is for their spouses. Bradstreet measured hers in terms to its size whereas Browning weighed hers in regards to its ways. In her poem, Bradstreet wrote how much she loves her spouse and how greater her love is compared to the things she has enumerated in her poem. The first thing she has made into comparison is between her love and the wealth of the world. I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold Or all the riches that the East doth hold. In here, she said that the love of her husband is more important to her than the unimaginable size of wealth that the East (Asia) probably has. Other than a reflection of her Puritan beliefs that simplicity should be prized higher than vanity, Anne tells that she values her husband (and his love) more than any

physical matter that the world can offer her. This is a great claim considering the fact that this is written during a period where the early immigrants are still coping with the conditions of the land and resources are valued because they are scarce. In the same way, Bradstreet measured her love with the power of nature. She argues that the size of her love is greater and more powerful than nature. My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,

She tells that her love for her husband is big and strong as if a raging river cannot just simply wash it away. She also means that her feelings are enormous enough that nothing can satisfy her nor stop her from loving. Now it may seem to the readers that Bradstreet implies that the scope of her love is generally boundless. But Bradstreet knows where her limitations lie. And as she is measuring the size of her adoration, she comes to a halt that her love- though gigantic- will always seem small compared to the love that her husband lavishes on her. Nor ought but love from thee give recompense Thy love is such I can no way repay. The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray

Again, this is another reflection of her Puritan belief of simplicity: Bradstreet isnt exaggerating nor adding bigger comparisons than the necessary. She acknowledges that the extent of her love is grand but she also accepts that her husbands love is grander. The fact that she drew a limit to her love tells that her measurement of her affections is honest. The above lines also reflect another Puritan belief of a wifes submission to her husband. For Bradstreet, her husband will still be greater than her in all things- including the size of her affections. Browning, on the other hand, measures her love not by how much but by how. She then proceeds with the list of the ways of how she shows her love for her husband. 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.

Browning tells that she loves three-dimensionally. This may seem like Bradstreets since the first descriptions pertain to the scope of Brownings love. However, Browning views this three-dimensional

love as one of the many ways of expressing her love. It is as if she is telling I love you greatly as opposed to Bradstreets I love you this great. However, like Bradstreet, Browning shows her Puritan-ness by keeping her description honest and simple as possible. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach

Browning caps the how of her love only as far as she perceives it to be. But unlike Bradstreet, there is no comparison of the greatness of her love to her husbands. She then continues with her list, this time describing her love as steady and unchanging. I love thee to the level of everyday's Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! If Bradstreet measures in quantity, Browning measures hers in quality. She is basically telling her spouse that no matter what happen, her love for him remains always the same. She likens her love to the sun or candle-light that has a steady shine or flicker. She gauges her love to the extent that even if she is sad or happy, she will still continue to love her husband. But again like Bradstreets image of unquenchable love, she also tells that her feelings like how a man needs light- also make her needing for her husbands love.

In the further lines, Browning supports her previous claim of unconditional love not by evaluating her affections on how much her husband loves her or on her obligation as a wife to love her husband. She measures it based on how freely she gives it- showing that the extent of her love goes beyond rewards and obligations. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise

Ironically, the idea of an unconditional sense of love that Browning is giving to her husband gets the same feel as Bradstreets short conditional statement: If ever man were loved by wife, then thee

And in the same way as Bradstreets, Browning maintains the Puritan ideal of a wifes submission by having faith in her husband in the same way a child would believe in his heroes. She measures her love for him in a way that even if a child gets disappointed with his heroes when he grows up, she will still retain her belief on her husband.

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 to lose With my lost saints By comparing and contrasting the two poems, one arrives at two conclusions: First is that there is no definite measure of how and how much these two poets love their husbands. The readers are only given abstract limits of their love. Thus, the concept of love remains immeasurable by human standards. Second is that Browning and Bradstreet may have different ways of measuring their love but that doesn't mean that one's love is greater than the other. It only reflects that these writers- though both Puritan in belief and nature- still retain their own individuality and that their love is equally strong and genuine to the point that both of them wish to be with their partners even after death. Then while we live, in love let's so persevere That when we live no more, we may live ever. and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.

References: Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (Sonnet 43). (n.d.). Shmoop: Homework Help, Teacher Resources, Test Prep. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from http://www.shmoop.com/how-do-i-lovethee-sonnet-43/ Lowell, R. (n.d.). Anne Bradstreet : The Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/anne-bradstreet

To My Dear and Loving Husband. (n.d.). Shmoop: Homework Help, Teacher Resources, Test Prep. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from http://www.shmoop.com/to-my-dear-loving-husband/ works, r. B., & audience, r. h. (n.d.). Anne Bradstreet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Bradstreet