Love’s Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley
performed by Alan Cox
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 it's 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?
Interpretation by Aviva Dautch
A poem that shows a different side of Shelley who was a great Romantic, as immersed in the personal as he was in the political. This is a light, sweet, seductive poem, the male narrator requesting a kiss from his female muse. Composed of two sections, each with eight lines alternately rhymed ababcdcd, form echoes content as linebreaks sometimes fall on light, feminine endings such as ‘river’ / ‘single’, and sometimes on stressed, masculine endings – ‘ocean’ / ‘earth’ – mingling as the poet intends man and woman to ‘mingle’. A mostly Latinate vocabulary, full of fountains, moonbeams and sunlight, does exactly what it says on the tin. If I find it a little sugary well, that’s probably my twenty-first century cynicism speaking: any contemporary poet worth their salt would only use these clichés with a heavy dose of irony! Who knows… maybe our poetry’s the poorer for that?
Aviva Dautch is an emerging poet whose work has been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK and USA, including Poetry Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, Agenda: Broadsheet 10, The Long Poem and Poetica. She also works as a freelance museum educator and teaches creative writing and English Language and Literature workshops at the British Library.