It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Love is a very subjective term. For some, it happens once in a while but for others, it could just be once in a lifetime. Considering the fact that love is not always successful, and that there are so many broken people around us, love has become quite complicated. Many people purposely abstain themselves from catching any kind of feelings for others just because they think they might get hurt. However, for such people, Alfred Lord Tennyson said a line “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all”.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Who was Alfred Lord Tennyson?

Alfred Tennyson was an English Poet who lived during the reign of Queen Victoria. For his works, he has remained a popular poet in British Literature for a long time and is still considered quite influential. Alfred Tennyson has received several honorary and academic awards as well for his works in poetry. His first collection of poems was released in 1830 is named “Poems Chiefly Lyrical”. One of the main aspects regarding Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poetry was that he was always going with the emotional and overly sensitive tone making it all quite sentimental. 

In 1884, Queen Victoria made him Aldworth in the County of Sussex. This is also the time when he took his seat in the House of Lords, thereby changing his name as well. 

Tennyson has also been popular for short lyric poems which include “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, “Tears, Idle Tears”, “In Memoriam” and “Crossing the Bar”. He has also been a part of several dramas but is mostly known for his excelling works in the field of poetry. With his words, he has captured the hearts of many. Multiple such phrases have been taken from his poems and got popular as the quotes said by him. Among these is also the famous quote “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all”.

Alfred Lord Tennyson was a famous poet in the Victorian Era

The Origin of this Quote

The quote “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” has been taken from the poem In Memoriam written by Alfred Lord Tennyson. This poem was written in 1850. The poem was directed towards the loss of the poet’s friend Arthur Hallam. He adopted a passionate yet sad tone to show his emotions while towards the end of this poem, he shows a strong belief in the religious faith as well as improvements in human nature. 

In this poem, the 27th line goes like this

“I hold it true, whate’er befall;

I feel it, when I sorrow most;

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.”

The last two verses have been used to write down the quote. This quote is nowadays used to describe various aspects concerning love. 

The Detailed Meaning of This Quote

The big question is: What message is Alfred Lord Tennyson trying to give away with this quote. There are several messages which can be derived from this quote. 

The main message given from this quote is to “give it a try”. People these days are quite delusional and confused when it comes to love. They do not give it a try with the feat of heartbreak or fear of the relationship not working well. Tennyson takes a different approach and explains that giving it a try is still way better than never trying because the outcomes are unknown unless something is tried in the desired manner. 

To have never loved, one does not know what love feels like and there can’t be a bigger misery than this. This is yet another message conveyed from the quote by Alfred Tennyson. Love is an important aspect of life and even if there is a chance of failing at it, this is a risk everyone should be taking to experience the true meaning of love in every way possible. Even if it fails, it would be better than not having to experience the feeling of love. 

a vector portrait of Alfred Lord Tennyson

This quote also explains the meaning and importance of love by comparing heartbreak with the element of not falling in love in the first place. An important point raised is “what you never had, you will never miss either”. Taking the example of someone who was born deaf will never be missing out on the gift of hearing, mainly because he has never felt what it is like to hear. For him, this is the norm that has to be followed even if everybody else is hearing. He has not felt the concept of missing it because he never had it. On the other hand, someone who once had the hearing sense and now lost it will be feeling very upset and miserable about it, mainly because he knows what it is like to hear. 

From this concept, we can explain love too. People who experience it prefer to have it more while people who never give it a chance are not even knowing what life with love is. They are missing out on a major chunk which is not ideal in any way. Lord Tennyson tries to explain that those who go along with this beautiful feeling win way more than what they lose after they fail. 

Another analogy of this quote could be the aspect of selflessness. Even knowing that love could cause harm and damage to one’s mental condition, many people go along with it. Why? Because love is selfless and this is what the quote explains too. Even if one has to lose in the end, it does not mean that you shouldn’t love. Love isn’t conditional, rather it is selfless. It does not see the true sense and is usually not in control of itself. This is one of the most important meanings of the quote by Lord Tennyson. 

Lastly, commitment and dedication are also two of the most important aspects which are being conveyed with the help of this quote. Lord Tennyson tries to explain that some people don’t love because they fear failure. They have a fear of committing as well. Those who have this fear will never be able to succeed in love. This is because they will never give even a chance to commit themselves fully. 

We can also evaluate the meaning of growth from this quote. A soul that has loved someone has gone through major ups and downs as well. This leads to improvement in personality and self-growth. These two are quite important aspects when dealing with different circumstances in life. Therefore, “to love” is to improve and grow yourself internally while to never love is to just leave yourself in a small cage. 

Lincoln Cathedral has a statue of Lord Tennyson

In a nutshell, loving someone has a chance of failing as well as succeeding. However, abstaining from love right from the beginning gives a full assurity that one will not be able to achieve it. The chances of succeeding are somewhere if you go for it while the chances are nil if you decide to never give it all a try. In addition to that, we can also infer that giving up is not an option because one who loves does not give up and keeps trying until he either fully fails or succeeds. 


Lord Tennyson was one of the most famous poets of all time and different parts of his poetry have been used as quotes as well. The above-mentioned quote “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” is one of the best ones which explains his perspective on love as well as the grief that he experienced on the loss of a dear friend. There are several other famous philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche who have also said a number of quotes on life’s perspective.