Summary of If Thou Must Love Me by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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.

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 pleasant 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 cheeks 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 mayst love on, through love’s eternity

In this sonnet, If Thou Must Love Me, the poet expresses her earnest desire about how she wants her lover, Robert Browning to love her. This also shows that Barrett Browning was of demanding nature and she expected a lot from her lover.

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  1. Iys very halpful to me as I dont came to know what is the poem saying, but afte reading this summary I came to know it very perfectly

    THANKYOU once again

  2. Trisha, you are doing a great job. you won’t believe how helpful it was for a mom like me who has a son writing board exam and my son comes to me asking me to help him understand this poem.

    bless you and keep writing 🙂

  3. The analysis of the poem if thou must love me was great. I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much for publishing this article. Thank you

  4. Its really a great summary it help me a lot to understand the poem thoroughly.Thank u so much.

  5. Thank u trisha . It helped my daughter a lot .its really understandable

  6. in the starting line you have said ‘The poem begins with the poet asking her lover not to love her love’s sake’ but dosen’t she want her lover to love her for loves sake only?
    that confused me otherwise the poem is beautifully explained

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