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Every Monday morning at 6:49 and 8:49, IPR News Radio looks into the night sky with Mary Stewart Adams, former Program Director and founder of the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, who has been telling stories of the night sky on IPR since 2013.

How Do I Love Thee?: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Venus Mars 7.2021.jpeg
Sky & Telescope
Venus and Mars make their once-every-two-years conjunction this month, granting grace and eternity to all the best love stories.

There’s an eternal love story playing out in the sky this week and month, as the planets Venus and Mars make their once-every-two years close approach to one another, looking west into the evening twilight.

This week, they can be seen courting one another just beyond the star Pollux, who grants immortality from the region of Gemini stars, and when they fall fully into one another’s arms next week, they’ll be close to the heart star Regulus, in Leo.

It seems no coincidence that this week also marks the anniversary of the death in 1861 of English romantic poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, who wrote to her beloved: “I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life!~and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.”

These closing lines mark the passionate crescendo of her sonnet number 43 from the collection “Love Sonnets from the Portuguese,” which she wrote for the man that would eventually become her husband, Robert Browning. She didn’t intend to publish the sonnets, because they were so intimate, but Robert insisted, saying they were perhaps the best-written sequence of English sonnets since Shakespeare’s time.

By saying the sonnets were “From the Portuguese,” Elizabeth hoped to disguise their origin, but it seems that “the Portuguese” was actually Robert’s nick-name for her.

Their courtship began in 1844, when Robert Browning wrote to Elizabeth, inspired by a collection of her poems. He wrote: “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett for their fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and true new brave thought.”

After 20 months of correspondence that included 600 love letters, they eloped, into the halls of a romance that is granted eternity by the grace of the stars.