Homework Help

Can someone offer a summary of the poem, "Love's Philosophy"?

user profile pic

accst11 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 8, 2009 at 2:32 PM via web

dislike 3 like

Can someone offer a summary of the poem, "Love's Philosophy"?

3 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

jseligmann | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted November 8, 2009 at 3:27 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 3 like

In the briefest terms, the poem is saying that everything is connected; everything mingles with everything else. Nothing stands alone without a relation to something else. Like "no man is an island" and no flower is not dependent on a bee, and no bee is not dependent on a hive, and no hive is not dependent on a queen, and no queen is not dependent on her workers and on and on and on. And the same goes for non-living things: the spray from the sea mixes and mingles with air and on and on again.

And the poem makes this point in many ways and then ends in a sort of coy little plea to the poet's loved one:

And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;--
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

So, he is saying: if all these things in the natural world are connected to all these other things... like moonlight kisses the sea, then surely the two of them should do the same, and she should kiss he :-)

user profile pic

chicagorilke23 | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted November 8, 2009 at 3:25 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 2 like

"Love's Philosophy" written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, is about a love that is unrequited. Upon reading the poem, the impression is given that it is he who is unsatisfied by love. The object of his love is not returning the sentiment. Throughout the poem Shelley expresses the fact that nature finds a way to be in perfect union, the rivers meet the ocean and the mountains meet the heavens. After several lines which express how the elements of nature are bound by divine force, he concludes with, "Why not I with thine?" and "If thou kiss not me?"

Another way to read this poem is to imagine Shelley, again writing on a more personal level, but with the idea that he is parted from his beloved. He then would bring in nature to illustrate how elements of nature manage to find and be with its counterpart. This situation would explain why he offers forlorn statements at the end of each stanza such as, "Why not I with thine?" and "If thou kiss not me?"

user profile pic

lit24 | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted November 8, 2009 at 11:05 PM (Answer #3)

dislike 2 like

The word "philosophy" could be interpreted to mean 'the main  principle of logical thought underlying any field of knowledge.'

So, according to Shelley the "philosophy" of 'love' as revealed by him in this poem is that 'just like how everything in Nature is organically united two persons in love must also be organically united.' The following four lines express succinctly the central idea of the poem and "love's philosophy' itself:

Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In another's being mingle--
Why not I with thine?

According to Shelley love is love only when it is physically consummated and hence he asks his lover to kiss him:

What are all these kissings worth, 
If thou kiss not me?

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes