'Give All To Love' by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit, and the muse;
Nothing refuse.'Tis a brave master,
Let it have scope,
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope;
High and more high,
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent;
But 'tis a god,
Knows its own path,
And the outlets of the sky.
'Tis not for the mean,
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending;
Such 'twill reward,
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.Leave all for love;-
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,
Keep thee to-day,
To-morrow, for ever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
Vague shadow of surmise,
Flits across her bosom young
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free,
Do not thou detain a hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Tho' her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive,
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Give All To Love: A Critical Analysis

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good-fame,
Plans, credit and the Muse—
Nothing refuse.

These lines from Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem, "Give All To Love," are a powerful call to action for anyone who wants to experience true love. Written in 1841, this poem is a beautiful exploration of what it means to give oneself fully to another person, and how doing so can transform one's life.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the deeper meanings behind Emerson's words, exploring the themes of love, freedom, and self-discovery that are central to this poem.


Before we begin our analysis, it's important to understand some of the context behind this poem. Emerson was a leading figure in the transcendentalist movement, a philosophical and literary movement that emerged in the mid-19th century in the United States.

Transcendentalism was a reaction against the emphasis on reason and logic in Enlightenment-era thinking. Instead, it celebrated intuition, individualism, and a deep connection to nature. Transcendentalists believed that humans had the potential to access a higher spiritual plane, and that this could be achieved through personal development and self-discovery.

Emerson's poetry and essays are some of the most famous expressions of transcendentalist thought. "Give All To Love" is a perfect example of his ideas, exploring the power of the heart and the transformative potential of love.


"Give All To Love" is a short but powerful poem that is made up of four quatrains, or four-line stanzas. Each stanza builds on the one before it, creating a sense of momentum and urgency that drives the poem forward.

Stanza 1

The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, with its bold call to action: "Give all to love." This line is repeated twice in the stanza, emphasizing its importance.

Emerson goes on to suggest that we should follow our hearts, even if doing so means giving up friends, family, and other cherished aspects of our lives. The use of the word "obey" suggests that this is not an easy choice, but one that requires courage and commitment.

Stanza 2

The second stanza explores the potential consequences of giving all to love. Emerson suggests that doing so can lead to a loss of reputation, plans, and even one's financial stability.

This is a radical statement, especially in a society that places so much value on material possessions and social status. Emerson is suggesting that true love is worth more than any of these things, and that we should be willing to sacrifice them in order to experience it.

Stanza 3

The third stanza takes this idea even further, suggesting that giving all to love can lead to a loss of the self. Emerson writes that we should be willing to "lose our wit, and freedom, / And manners liberal and attractive."

This is a powerful statement, suggesting that love can be so transformative that it can change who we are at our core. It's also a statement that may be somewhat controversial, as it suggests that love requires giving up some of our individuality in order to fully connect with another person.

Stanza 4

The final stanza brings the poem to a close, with Emerson exhorting the reader to "Give all to love." This time, however, he adds an important caveat: "But love and I / Will never die."

This line suggests that even if we do give all to love and experience loss or heartbreak, the love itself will never truly die. This is a comforting thought, and one that suggests that even in the face of pain and sorrow, love is still worth pursuing.


So, what does all of this mean? What is Emerson trying to tell us with "Give All To Love"?

At its core, this poem is a celebration of love in all its forms. It's a call to action, encouraging us to follow our hearts and be willing to take risks in order to experience deep connection and intimacy.

But "Give All To Love" is also about freedom. Emerson believed that true freedom could only be achieved through personal development and self-discovery. By giving all to love, we are freeing ourselves from the constraints of society and allowing ourselves to become more fully who we are meant to be.

At the same time, however, Emerson acknowledges that giving all to love can be a difficult and painful process. It requires us to be vulnerable, to open ourselves up to the possibility of rejection and heartbreak. But he also suggests that the rewards are worth it, that the love itself is eternal and transformative.

Overall, "Give All To Love" is a powerful and inspiring poem that encourages us to follow our hearts and be willing to take risks in order to experience true love and freedom. It's a message that is as relevant today as it was when Emerson first wrote these words nearly two centuries ago.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Give All To Love: An Analysis of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Classic

Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most celebrated American poets and essayists of the 19th century, is known for his transcendentalist philosophy and his unique style of writing. His poem "Give All To Love" is a classic example of his work, and it has been analyzed and admired by scholars and poetry enthusiasts for decades.

In this 14-line poem, Emerson urges his readers to give everything they have to love. He argues that love is the most important thing in life, and that it is worth sacrificing everything else for. The poem is divided into two stanzas, each with its own distinct message.

The first stanza sets the tone for the poem, and it is a call to action. Emerson writes, "Give all to love; / Obey thy heart; / Friends, kindred, days, / Estate, good-fame, / Plans, credit, and the muse;-- / Nothing refuse."

Here, Emerson is telling his readers to give up everything they have for love. He lists a number of things that people might be hesitant to give up, such as their friends, family, and reputation. But he argues that these things are not as important as love, and that they should be sacrificed if necessary.

Emerson also mentions the "muse" in this stanza, which is a reference to the creative inspiration that poets and artists often seek. He is saying that even this should be given up for love, which shows just how important he believes love to be.

The second stanza of the poem is more reflective, and it explores the consequences of giving everything to love. Emerson writes, "This is the day which down the void abysm / Attracts the souls of men, / Pitiless, exacting, / And perfect, pure."

Here, Emerson is saying that giving everything to love is not easy. It requires a great deal of sacrifice and commitment, and it can be a difficult and painful journey. But he also argues that it is worth it, because it is the only way to achieve true happiness and fulfillment.

Emerson goes on to say, "To-day, thy planet / My guide, afar / May lead or drag thee / But not distract thee / from thy love's stern law."

This is a powerful statement, because it suggests that love is a force that can guide us through life. It is something that we should always be striving towards, even if it leads us down difficult paths. And even if we are led astray at times, we should always come back to the "stern law" of love.

Finally, Emerson concludes the poem with the lines, "The heart / Which overflowed with kindness / And courage, / And sacrificed itself / To its holy aim, / The Godhead would inhabit."

These lines are a beautiful expression of Emerson's belief in the power of love. He is saying that when we give everything to love, we become vessels for something greater than ourselves. We become channels for the divine, and we are able to achieve a level of spiritual fulfillment that is impossible to attain through any other means.

Overall, "Give All To Love" is a powerful and inspiring poem that urges us to embrace love as the most important thing in life. It is a call to action, a reminder that we should be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of love. And it is a reflection on the consequences of such a choice, and the incredible rewards that await those who make it.

Emerson's use of language in this poem is also worth noting. He employs a number of poetic devices, such as alliteration, repetition, and metaphor, to create a sense of urgency and passion. His words are carefully chosen and arranged, and they have a musical quality that adds to the poem's emotional impact.

In conclusion, "Give All To Love" is a classic poem that continues to resonate with readers today. It is a testament to Emerson's skill as a poet and his belief in the power of love. And it is a reminder that, no matter what challenges we may face in life, love is always worth pursuing.

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