Cover image for Love's philosophy by P.B Shelley

Love’s Philosophy by P.B Shelley: Complete Analysis and Meaning

Philosophy is the study of general fundamental questions about reality, existence, knowledge, etc. But have you ever read about the philosophy of love? What is it looking for, and what’s it going to answer? Is there any logical reasoning behind love? Love’s Philosophy by P.B Shelley tries to answer that.

“Love’s Philosophy” is a poem written by the British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and it was published in the year 1819. The poem tells us about the “divine law” of the world and explains to us the complexity of love using nature as an example. Shelley tells us about the interconnectedness of nature, how everything mixes with each other and nothing stays as a single, separate entity.

Love’s Philosophy by P.B Shelley

The fountains mingle with the river 
   And the rivers with the ocean, 
The winds of heaven mix for ever 
   With a sweet emotion; 
Nothing in the world is single; 
   All things by a law divine 
In one spirit meet and mingle. 
   Why not I with thine?— 

See the mountains kiss high heaven 
   And the waves clasp one another; 
No sister-flower would be forgiven 
   If it disdained its brother; 
And the sunlight clasps the earth 
   And the moonbeams kiss the sea: 
What is all this sweet work worth 
   If thou kiss not me?
- P.B Shelley

Meaning and Summary

In the poem “Love’s Philosophy”, the poet has tried to give reasons and logic to his beloved that two things that love each other are always tied with a knot of physical union. In the poem, the word “philosophy” basically stands for logical reasons or facts that are meant to be followed and understood when in someone is in love.

The poet starts by saying that the water from the fountain “mingles” with the river water and then it together joins the ocean. And then he explains that the winds of heaven are mixing forever and they feel a sweet and beautiful emotion.

Then he tells his beloved that nothing in the world is single and everything meets and “mingle” with something or the other by “divine” law. And then he proposes the question of why he should not mingle with his beloved?. He should also mix with her, just as the winds of heaven mix with each other.

In the second stanza, the poet continues by saying that mountains are reaching up and kissing the sky, and the waves “clasp” into one another. A female flower who has ignored the love of a male flower will never be forgiven. The sunlight “clasps” the earth, and the “moonlight” kisses the sea. But the poet asks what is this all worth if his beloved won’t kiss him. 

The poet is trying to convince his beloved, that if nature is symbolic of the physical union then what is it that stops them? Everything around them is mixing because of love, so why should the speaker not connect with his beloved?

Analysis of the poem

The fountains mingle with the river

   And the rivers with the ocean,

The winds of heaven mix for ever

   With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;

   All things by a law divine

In one spirit meet and mingle.

   Why not I with thine?—

The poet starts the poem by telling us that the fountain water mingles with the river, i.e, it mixes with the river water. Then the river water which was already mixed with fountain water mixes with the ocean water.

The poet has tried to show the union between all these water bodies and explained how everything is connected. Then the poet tells us that the windows of heaven mix forever and feel a sweet and beautiful emotion.

Nothing in the world is a single entity, according to the “divine” law, everything and everyone must meet and mingle, so why should not the poet mingle with his beloved? Shelley is trying to convince the one he loves and tells her to look around and see everything is mixed up together, then what is stopping them from doing so?

See the mountains kiss high heaven

   And the waves clasp one another;

No sister-flower would be forgiven

   If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth

   And the moonbeams kiss the sea:

What is all this sweet work worth

   If thou kiss not me?

Then the poet tells the beloved to look at the mountains and how they are kissing the sky, and he reminds her of the waves that clasp into one another. Any female flower that has rejected the love of a male flower would not be forgiven. He is goes on to name things that mixes with each other to become one to convince his beloved why they should mingle as well.

So, he says that the sunlight clasps the earth, and the moonlight kisses the sea at night. What is the use of telling everything to the beloved when he/she does not kiss him? Shelley has created this poem to express his desire to be with his beloved, with a sly sense of intimacy mixed in the poetic lines.

After reading this poem, we understand how intense feelings he held for his beloved and maybe he was trying to explain to her that all these things come naturally with love. He explains the love that we see in nature every day, yet somehow we ignore it. It is through the poem that we understand that Nature should be our biggest reminder of love and union.

Themes in the Poem

The theme of the poem includes the interconnectedness of nature, love, and physical union. Firstly, the speaker starts the poem by explaining how nature is interconnected, the bodies of the water mix up together to become one, the wind of heaven is mixing, and nothing is a single entity anymore.

One has to connect with the other, by a “law divine”. All the spirits should meet and mingle, then why should not he mingle with his beloved? Then he gives other examples like the mountain kissing the sky and the moonlight kissing the sea, then saying all these things are worth nothing if his beloved does not kiss him.

Love is another theme that we infer after reading the poem. The poet has tried to show love in everything that he has said, somehow he believes that love is seen in nature too if we try to notice. It is a divine law to be in love and connect, and the beauty of love can be seen all around us.

The poet’s love for his partner is quite visible in the poem, but the fact that his beloved does not reply to anything makes us believe that maybe it is unrequited love or his partner is far away from him and he writes the poem in his partner’s memory.

The poet wants to unite with his partner in a physical union, but whether he just desires something casual or something that connects them emotionally and spiritually is left unanswered.

Literary Devices

The literary devices used in the poem include:

Alliteration: The poet has used alliteration in the following lines:

In one spirit meet and mingle.

   Why not I with thine?—

What is all this sweet work worth

Enjambment – A few examples of enjambment in the poem are:

The winds of heaven mix for ever

   With a sweet emotion;

No sister-flower would be forgiven

   If it disdained its brother;

Anadiplosis – Anadiplosis is a literary device in which the last word of a sentence is repeated in the next line. For example:

The fountains mingle with the river

   And the rivers with the ocean,

Personification – The poet has personified nature, by explaining its interconnectedness with each other. For example:

The winds of heaven mix for ever

   With a sweet emotion;

See the mountains kiss high heaven

   And the waves clasp one another;

Conceit – A conceit is a figure of speech in which two unrelated objects are linked together with the help of similes and metaphors. For example:

And the moonbeams kiss the sea:

What is all this sweet work worth

   If thou kiss not me?

In one spirit meet and mingle.

   Why not I with thine?—

Rhyming Scheme: The rhyming scheme of Love’s Philosophy is ABAB

Conclusion

“Love’s Philosophy”, after reading this title we understand that it tries to tell us something about the philosophy of love. But what actually is the philosophy of love? In this poem, the poet has constantly tried to persuade his partner by giving examples of how everything is connected and that is how everything works, but the poet does not simply want a physical union with his beloved, he wants to unite mentally and spiritually as well.

The poet tries to make so many efforts, yet his partner is not satisfied. But he does not give up. What happens after is a mystery for the readers, whether his beloved did kiss him or not, we can just wonder.

Love, something easy to spell but something so complex to understand and feel. And the poet found out the best way to explain it, i.e, through nature. Nature should be our reminder of not just love, but the connection you should feel with your partner, the intense feeling of being in love should be experienced by everyone. That is the divine law.

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