- If Thou Must Love Me, Let It Be For Nought
- 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.
-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning is best known for her "Sonnets from the Portuguese" which, I have just found out, are are only pretending to be translations. I've already posted the most famous of these sonnets, How Do I Love Thee?
I like this particular sonnet for a couple of reasons. For instance, I really admire the skill it takes to write a poem with sentences that end midline without ruining the rhythm. The most important reason however, is that the sentiment behind it is so much more practical than many love poems. People change over time, and so loving any one quality or attribute exclusively could get you in trouble. At the same time, the sentiment is as sweetly romantic as a poet could wish -- Love me for love's sake alone, and we can be in love forever. It's an interesting paradox that you can't change the person that you're in love with, but that everybody is changing all the time. The only way love can survive is to be able to change and grow with the couple.
Compare this poem with Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 which says, " Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark." This implies that true love stays the same forever. I've always had trouble with this poem, because all around us we see people moving on after a broken heart. If true love never changes, then what they felt for their first love was not true love at all which means that the broken heart shouldn't hurt like it does. Love, like everything else in life worth having, changes and grows all the time, and it's that quality that lets it endure.