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Love's Philosophy

By Percy Bysshe Shelley


The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion:

Nothing in the world is single;
All things by law divine
In one another's being 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 sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;
What are all these kissings worth
If thou kiss not me?


Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was born near Horsham in Sussex, England, the son of a member of parliament. He was educated at Eton and later Oxford University, where he began to form his own political and religious ideas, writing a pamphlet called The Necessity of Atheism that attacked the the idea of compulsory Christianity. When the University discovered what he had written, he was expelled. His reaction was to elope to Ireland with the 16 year old daughter of a nearby coffee-house owner, and make revolutionary speeches on religion and politics along a similar unconventional vein. He later had poetry published on the subjects of republicanism, atheism, vegetarianism and free love. In 1814, he fell in love with and married the 16 year old daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of the Vindication of the Rights of Women, and for the next few years travelled around Europe with her. Mary Shelley would herself go on to write Frankenstein. In 1822, Shelley moved to Italy where he was free to begin publishing a Journal called The Liberal; but unfortunately was lost at sea the same year. When his body floated to shore a volume of Keats' poetry was found open in Shelley's coat pocket. The remains were reduced to ashes and deposited in the Protestant burial ground at Rome, near those of a child he had lost in that city. Mary Shelley never remarried.

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