What is a clear summarization of the short poem "Work and Contemplation" by Elizabeth Browning?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The entire poem is a metaphor for how Elizabeth thinks that while we are here on earth, we can be strong, work hard, do good things, and yet pursue something that we truly enjoy, to live for some pleasures also, and that living for those pleasures does not in any way detract from our goodness, the quality of our lives, or our integrity.

She starts the poem by describing a woman who is weaving at her loom, and while she weaves, she sings, and "thinketh of her song, upon the whole, far more than of her flax".  So the woman is weaving and singing, and thinking of her song more than the cloth she weaves.  Yet, even though she is thinking of her song-not her work-the cloth is strong, good, and well-done.  Elizabeth then goes on to "appeal to the dear Christian church" saying that we too on earth can "pursue some high, calm, spheric tune and prove our work better for the sweetness of our song".  In other words, to church members who are judgmental towards anyone who does anything other than pious acts of Christian work, lay off, because as we pursue things that make us happy, the quality of our Christian service improves because of it.

I hope that helps; it's an interesting poem, and an interesting metaphor for how if we are  happy, we work better.

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