Romantic lines now just a click or tap away

Published 10:11 am Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Elizabeth Barrett Browning could simply text the ways she loved Robert if the literary couple could express that sentiment today.

That thought came to mind as I found out this morning love has gone digital with another move in the tech world to affect the way the human eye must operate in order to read.

Audible Inc., whom you might have known was the world’s largest seller of downloadable audiobooks, said over the weekend its service is offering free half-hour segments of the world’s best-known love poems. That includes Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?” Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 16,” Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” and others. Actor Richard Armitage, who, for all those fans of “The Hobbit,” was Thorin Oakenshield in that adaptation, narrates the series.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve built a bridge to the 19th century, as the late media critic Neil Postman pointed out in one of his last books. Imagine the literary gold mine of words that could have resulted in 1844 from a then-unattached Barrett to her lover, Robert, had she owned a smartphone. I’m certain the “exquisite pathos” he spoke of in a letter to his beloved Elizabeth could have been shortened to “I luv u” or “ur hot” or something similar. Can’t you just envision James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell warming up for their next Sprint promo by quoting these?

I’ll be interested to hear Armitage fluff up Sonnet 16, which essentially encourages young (but perhaps not too young) men to hurry up and have kids before it’s too late. As it took two classically-trained vets of the stage to make teen-speak sound regal, it’ll take Armitage, a product of Britain’s institutions of higher acting, to make references of maiden gardens and living flowers sound more botanical than ribald.

It’s assumed in my family, when the subject arises, that we’re related to the lady in Wimpole Street’s most famed literary couple. There’s a British link with the surname, but no firm confirmation. One thing’s assured, though. I won’t have to text, download or sync a message of love to my loved ones this Saturday.

I’ll tell them with my in-person voice — like I do each time I see them.

Danny Barrett Jr. is a reporter and can be reached by email at or by phone at 601-636-4545.