Sonnets from Portuguese is a collection of 44 sonnets written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning during the years 1845-1846 and published in 1850. The sonnets have been very popular since their publication.
Elizabeth Browning was a Victorian poet whose poetry was very popular in England as well as in the United States. All her sonnets revolve around her intense love for her would-to-be husband Robert Browning.
If Thou Must Love Me is one of the sonnets from Elizabeth Browning collection of sonnets, Sonnets from Portuguese.
(Lines 1-9) The poem begins with the poet asking her lover not to love her love’s sake but love her honestly and unconditionally. She tells him not to love her superficially but genuinely. Moreover, she tells her lover not to love her for her looks or smile which will fade with time (line 3). She then tells him not to love her the way she talks or because she has a soothing voice. She doesn’t want him to love her for her qualities which would give him satisfaction just for a day. She is referring out here that there is much more to love than just what appears at face value. She believes that if her lover loves her for her qualities, someday his love would vanish when her superficial qualities would fade away.
(Lines 10-14) The next succeeding lines are about the poet telling her lover not to love her out of sympathy of pity. She says this because she knows that she ‘might forget to weep’ and therefore there won’t be any tears on her cheeks to be wiped off by her man. Then her man would stop loving her. The poet has used ‘creature’ instead of using ‘herself’ to compare herself with a pitiful animal.
In the last two lines of the poem, she replicates how she wants to be loved for love’s sake so that she is being loved all throughout, no matter what qualities of her fade in time. She wants a love that should last for an eternity.