Sonnets from the Portuguese
Sonnet Definition -
a poem of fourteen lines using any of a number of formal rhyme schemes, in English typically having ten syllables per line.
Sonnets from the Portuguese was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning between 1845 and 1846 and was published in 1850. It is a collection of forty-four love sonnets written for her, then, future husband Robert Browning. The content and tone of the sonnets change as her relationship with Browning relationship progressed. In the earlier sonnets she expresses her doubt and fear about beginning a relationship with Browning. As the relationship progressed Barrett Browning was able to overcome her anxieties, and eventually, they took a more accepting and passionate tone. Originally, she did not plan to publish the collection due to their extremely personal content, but changed her mind after Robert Browning insisted, saying they were perhaps the best sequence of English-written sonnets since Shakespeare’s time. In order to maintain some privacy, Browning disguised the title in hopes people would believe they were translations from foreign sonnets. According to Wikipedia, the collection was originally called Sonnets from the Bosnian, but was changed to Portuguese after Robert’s suggestion, perhaps stemming from his nick-name for Elizabeth: “my little Portuguese.”
The sonnets are some of the some of the most famous love poems of the Victorian Age, or any other. The opening line of “Sonnet 43” has become so deeply embedded in our culture that even people who have never read the poem know it. However, Barret Browning’s sonnets are so much more than just this one line. They are a work of passion, doubt, fear, and most importantly, love.
Robert and Elizabeth Browning
Dragonfly in Amber