Love's Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Start Free Trial

What are some of the literary devices used in this poem?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Overall, Percy Bysshe Shelley uses persuasion in “Love’s Philosophy.” He humorously bases this persuasion, the attempt to influence the reader, in logos, or reason, as he gives multiple examples of a supposedly true and irrefutable statement.

Another literary device that Shelley uses constantly is personification: assigning human qualities to ideas or inanimate things. Shelley employs this device consistently through the entire poem. The poet not only attributes agency to natural phenomena or inanimate objects, but he also identifies human emotions with them. Among the things thus characterized are “fountains,” “rivers,” “winds,” and “waves.”

In contrast, he shows the reversed effects of this usage of personification through metaphor:the comparison of unlike things for effect. This culminates in “What is all this sweet work worth/ If thou kiss not me?” The sustained use of such metaphor is the device called a conceit.

Shelley also uses hyperbole in stating that everything in nature is paired and that it is God’s will that nothing is left alone. Hyperbole is the exaggeration of an idea in order to emphasize it.

Nothing in the world is single;

All things by a law divine

In one spirit meet and mingle.

Another device he uses frequently is assonance: the repetition of vowel sounds in words that begin with different consonants. The most common sound that he repeats is the short “I” of “mingle” and “river” in Line 1; this sound occurs in the majority of the lines. He does this especially in the verbs: “mingle,” “mix,” “kiss.” He emphasizes the sound through combining them with and repeating the preposition “with”: “mingle with the river” and “mix forever with.”

Similarly, he uses alliteration in combination with consonance. Alliteration is the repetition of consonants at the beginning of a word. Although the initial consonants are sometimes not very close, as they are in alliteration, he inserts them occasionally to emphasize the sound. For example, in Lines 1 and 3, he has only one word each beginning with “M” in the verbs “mingle” and “mix.” Then, in Line 7, he introduces “meet” and repeats “mingle”; that use is alliteration.

Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds within a word: for example the “N’ sound in “fountains” and “mingle” (Line 1) and in “winds” and “heaven” (Line 3), which also connect with the rhyming “ocean” and “emotion” that end Lines 2 and 4.

Shelley ends both stanzas with a rhetorical question, one to which the answer is presumed to be known: “Why not I with thine?”

In the poem’s structure, Shelly uses rhyme: the repetition of similar-sounding words at the end of the line. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GHGH.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team