When the Lamp is Shattered Poem Summary and Analysis


The poem When the Lamp is Shattered written by Percy B. Shelley is a love poem that describes desolation and gloom suffered by a lover after being separated from his/her beloved.

The poem has been divided into four stanzas having eight lines each. The poet has used ample images to express the profound sorrow and grief of the lover.

Stanza 1

In the first stanza, the poet compares the loss (illumination and cheerfulness) suffered by the heart of the lover with a broken lamp and lute and vanishing rainbow.

According to the poet, the lamp after breaking into pieces cannot illuminate, dispersion of clouds makes the rainbow to vanish and lute cannot play sound after breaking. Similarly, the beloved forgets everything after a breakup from the lover making the later to suffer in grief.

Stanza 2

In the second stanza, the poet elaborates the images used in the first stanza in order to explain the suffering of the lover. Like broken lamp (which cannot illuminate) and lute (which cannot produce sound), the spirit also loses its creative power making the heart joyless and gloomy.

The heart is left with mournful songs that are like the winds that blow through abandoned monasteries or like the sea-waves that signal the death of the sailor. The poet thus signifies the intensity of sorrow of the songs of heart by comparing it with the unpleasant things.

Stanza 3

In the third stanza, the poet talks about the injustice done by the love of the lover. According to the poet, two hearts are attracted to each other and their relationship is as strong as the ‘well-built nest‘ of the eagle or raven (these birds build their nests on the tall trees which are quite durable). However, the wind of the separation is so strong that it destroys this strong relationship.

When the love is lost the weaker of the two (hearts) is left alone to suffer the dire consequences of the separation and lament over it. Poet wonders why love makes the weaker heart its place of birth, maturity, and death but not the stronger one (i.e. the beloved).

Stanza 4

In the fourth stanza, the word “its” refers to ‘love’ and “thee” refers to the ‘weaker heart’. Poet says that fierce wind of the separation ruins the weaker heart which is like the ‘well-built nest of the eagle or raven (as in stanza 2).

The reason thus criticizes the passionate love like the warmth of the sun is mocked by winter (because sunlight in the winters has not much warmth).

According to the poet, the heart of the lover which was quite bold rots after separation as the ‘well-built nest of the eagle or raven is ruined by the fierce winds of the winters.

The lover, as well as the eagle or raven, are left disillusioned after suffering the loss of winter. Hence the poem ends in grief and sorrow.