What is the moral of the poem "The Silken Tent"?

The moral of the poem "The Silken Tent" is that while it is best to acknowledge the positive aspects of a love relationship, such as having a lover who is both strong and supple, it is also a good idea to recognize that even the best love relationship involves "bondage" or obligation.

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In this sonnet, the speaker compares the woman he loves to a silk tent erected in a field. She is like a tent because she has a strong central core, which is similar to the pole that holds a tent up. Yet like a tent, she is also made of soft, pliable material that billows and stretches: she "gently sways." The speaker admires her strength, which is pointed towards the heavens, implying that it is spiritual. But he also admires her expansiveness, which puts her at the center of a community. She is

loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round.

The speaker praises his lover for being both stiff and supple, but the sonnet ends with a hint of ambiguity:

And only by one’s [silken thread] going slightly taut,
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.

The word bondage in this context is ambiguous. The speaker both appreciates the beloved and feels, if even slightly, a sense of love's imprisonment.

The poem's moral is twofold: it states that the best form of love is both strong and supportive but at the same time supple and expansive. No love relationship is entirely free: however gently, one is bound to the beloved. The speaker implies that while it is best to focus on the positives in his relationship, including the breathing room he is given, it is also a good idea to acknowledge the obligation the relationship engenders.

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