Sonnets from the Portuguese is essentially a collection of 44 sonnets that describe the author, Elizabeth Browning's, love for her husband. In Sonnet I Browning uses the stanza structure of sonnets to draw obvious distinctions between two extreme emotions; happiness and sadness. In the first four lines she depicts the past as a good memory, but in the next four lines completely changes her position on the past, continuing this emotion for four more lines before switching again happy in the couplet. These changes are highlighted by the structural format.
In the first four lines Browning personifies the years, saying "...Who each one [years] in a gracious hand appears", painting a picture of an old friend. This friend comes to people of all ages in order to reminisce and remind them of how good the past has been, and rejuvenate their memories. There is an abba pattern, enclosing this stanza and making it completely separate from the next stanza.
In stanza 2 Browning brings in specific diction to show the complete change from happy reminiscing to depression. She "muses" on the past while crying, and describes them as "sad" and "melancholy" years. Again, there is personification of the years, tying this stanza to the first but now the reader has a different opinion of the author. Instead of someone who is happy with their current life and just nostalgic, now the author is seen as someone who has wasted her life away and is generally unsatisfied. There is a cddc structure, enveloping this stanza within itself just like the first one. The reader realizes that the first stanza was simply a generalization of how the past is for people, but the author herself does not feel the same way about hers. The separation of the stanzas in this manner and obvious juxtaposition because of the structure enhances the feeling of pity for the author and the emotion she is feeling.
In stanza 3 the sadness continues in the first two lines, with diction such as "weeping" and "shadow", but it begins to change in lines three and four with the words 'mastery" and "strove". Here, the author has begun to pick herself up and is moving forward.
In the couplet, the author guesses that death still has its grip on her, like in stanza 2 and the beginning of 3 painting a grim picture. However, it is in actuality love. The author began to move forward without even realizing it at the end of stanza 3 and the specific use of "death" and "love" in the last couplet shows how the author has moved from a depressed state about her past, to hope in the future