The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In the six-stanza poem “Give All to Love,” Ralph Waldo Emerson connects the finite cycles of natural order with the infinite eternal order through individual feelings and experiences that are governed by love. The persona of the poem advises the audience to withhold nothing and to “Give all to love.”

The first stanza explains what “all” entails in the context of this poem. It encompasses the entire reality of an individual’s experiences: relationships with friends and relatives, the turn of events, ownership of property, recognition and renown, plans for the future, and encouraging sources of inspiration. When love guides one’s actions and interactions, human relations and transactions define the very existence and identity of an individual—enfolding both the material and spiritual aspects of reality. In this stanza, the “Muse” suggests a harmonious link between memories of the past and the promising dreams of the future through the poetic language of love.

Love is decribed as a brave “master” and “a god” in the second stanza, connoting a powerful force in the individual’s struggles in life. Love functions as the supreme authority, “utterly” controlling the choices of an individual; as a result, this individual’s life expands in “scope.” Because love “Knows its own path,” it offers new possibilities that unfold new heights, which reach out to the “outlets of the sky,” displaying hope beyond...

(The entire section is 452 words.)

Give All to Love Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In this poem, Emerson uses six strophes of varied lengths with no uniform rhyme scheme to contextualize the theme of love in its varying patterns. He addresses love from a transcendentalist perspective and goes beyond cultural barriers by using the image of an Arab. The poem begins with the personification of love as a leader and a master who guides the individual on an ascending course in all relationships. The “path” represents both the natural and the spiritual journey of an individual enriched by wise choices and rewarding experiences. The last line of the poem evokes a contrast between “half-gods” and “gods” to highlight the varying levels of ascent that progress from demigods to the real gods. Love is “a god” that guides the individual’s heart to discover a unique path and new knowledge. Consequently, horizons widen and the person’s experience has an expanding “scope” of personal fulfillment. The ascent symbolizes a unique individual experience because it involves spontaneity and “untold intent” of love. At the same time, love adds a heroic dimension and determination to the individual’s pursuit in rising “high and more high,” aiming for the sky. Thus, the ascent also symbolizes various levels of knowledge that are inspired by love and refined through experience.

The allusion to an Arab empowers Emerson to defy the conventional attitude toward love as a strictly romantic experience that seeks a union of lovers,...

(The entire section is 519 words.)

Give All to Love Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Allen, Gay Wilson. Waldo Emerson: A Biography. New York: Viking Press, 1981.

Bosco, Ronald A., and Joel Myerson, eds. Emerson in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2003.

Buell, Lawrence. Emerson. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003.

Goodman, Russell B. American Philosophy and the Romantic Tradition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Jacobson, David. Emerson’s Pragmatic Vision: The Dance of the Eye. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

Lopez, Michael. Emerson and Power: Creative Antagonism in the Nineteenth Century. De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996.

Myerson, Joel, ed. A Historical Guide to Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Porte, Joel, and Saundra Morris, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Richardson, Robert D. Emerson: The Mind on Fire. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Robinson, David M. Emerson and the Conduct of Life: Pragmatism and Ethical Purpose in the Later Work. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Sacks, Kenneth S. Understanding Emerson: “The American Scholar” and His Struggle for Self-Reliance. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Yanella, Donald. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Boston: Twayne, 1982.