AQA Poetry Anthology


Sonnet 29- ‘I think of thee!’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Context: Written in 1845-6. Robert Browning was her future husband. Repressed Victorian society.

Content: The narrator tells her lover how much she thinks about him when they’re not together. She’s worried that her thoughts will obscure the reality of what he’s actually like. However, she reassures him that her thoughts do not compare to the reality of him. She wants him to be a strong presence in her life and to be with him rather than just thinking about him.

Form/ Structure-

·       Sonnet form is traditionally used for love poetry. This sonnet is loosely written in the Petrarchan form, with eight lines (an octave) followed by six lines (a sestet)- the octave usually presents a problem and the sestet provides a solution. However, in this poem, the solution arrives in the middle of line 7- having it come early and in the middle of a line reflects the narrator's impatience to see her lover. 

·       The transition from the problem to the solution reflects the difference between the narrator thinking about her lover and being with him. This is emphasised by the reversal of the first and last lines- in the first line, the narrator says, (‘I think of thee’), but by the end of the poem she imagines that when she’s with her lover, she’ll no longer think of him because she’ll be (‘too near’).


·       About nature- The narrator an extended metaphor throughout the poem, the narrator’s lover is a tree and her thoughts are (‘wild vines’) which cover him. This displays how her thoughts are constantly growing and unrestrained. The image of the tree casting off the vines reflects how she wants her lover to be a strong, permanent part of her life.

·       The metaphor (‘wild vines’) displays how the narrator is the wild vine and the lover is the tree. This is emphasized by the internal rhyme of (‘thee’) and (‘tree’). This suggests her love for him is extensive.

·       (‘twine and bud’) natural imagery shows how her thoughts focus on him like a vine wraps around a tree. This displays how her thoughts are constantly growing and developing.

·        (‘Heavily’) The weight of her thoughts emphasize how much she thinks of him.

·       Exited language- (‘burst, shattered everywhere!’)- The use of the exclamation marks shows how the narrator takes joy in thinking about er lover and feels excitement at the thought of being with him. The use of three different words to describe the way his presence replaces her thoughts emphasis her excitement. The caesura contributes to the dramatic effect.

·       (‘Because’)- Plosive sound marks the conclusion of her argument- she wants him to understand how much she enjoys being with him.

Attitudes in the poem

1.     Longing- The narrator longs to be with her lover instead of just thinking about him


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