If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only.
Do not say “I love her for her smile–her look–her way
Of speaking gently,–for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of ease on such a day–“
For these things in themselves,
Beloved, may Be changed, or change for thee,–and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheek dry,–
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou may’st love on, through love’s eternity.
Emily Barrett Browning is a poet I enjoy, but always in moderation. She writes a lot about love and while that’s not a bad thing, it’s not something I’m always in the mood for. This one, however, is one of my favorites.
What I like most about this is what she’s saying. I’d never thought of it before reading this, but I guess when you look at it the way she does, it makes sense why you wouldn’t want to be loved for your eyes or smile or how you talk. It’s almost like saying, I love you for parts of you, but not the whole. I suppose one could argue that you’re nitpicking if you say that, but think about what her reasoning is. Those parts of you are subject to change. Your voice can change with age, your features certainly will, and if these are the parts that you’re loved for, does that mean the love fades as those things change? I honestly wouldn’t like to find out. More than anything I always saw this poem as being about not needing a reason to love someone. People are always asking why when it comes to love, but this is just saying, don’t look for a why to explain you loving me. I don’t want you to have a reason, or reasons. i just want you to love me because you love me, no qualifiers necessary. I’m not saying Browning has the right idea, I’m just saying it’s one to at least think about.