In Fellowship of the Ring, when Frodo offers Galadriel the Ring, she loses control of herself and exclaims:
And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!
- The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 7: "The Mirror of Galadriel"
The last line is especially powerful, and intriguing, but I have never been able to make sense of it. This problem was exacerbated after I read, in an answer on this board, the following quote from the draft of a letter by Tolkien:
Gandalf as Ring-Lord would have been far worse than Sauron. He would have remained'righteous', but self-righteous. He would have continued to rule and order things for 'good', and the benefit of his subjects according to his wisdom (which was and would have remained great).
[The draft ends here. In the margin Tolkien wrote: 'Thus while Sauron multiplied [illegible word] evil, he left "good" clearly distinguishable from it. Gandalf would have made good detestable and seem evil.']
- JRR Tolkien, Letter 246
Compare the line "All shall love me and despair" with "Gandalf would have made good detestable and seem evil."
The contrast seems stark. While Tolkien's letter doesn't explicitly say that Gandalf himself would have become detestable - or detested - it seems likely that people would detest someone who 'made good detestable', especially if he was "far worse than Sauron" and had taken the place of the very entity he was sent to destroy. So it seems likely that, if Gandalf were Ring-Lord, "all would hate him", to paraphrase Galadriel.
Yet Galadriel says that, were she to become Ring-Lord, "all would love her". Granted, she is, by all accounts, incomparably beautiful (and WAY hotter than Gandalf, at any rate). But much like Gandalf would have "made good detestable", Galadriel would have made everyone "despair". It is hard to imagine loving a tyrant who causes all her subjects to despair, and who is by her own admission "Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning!" Despair and love are almost (but as anyone who has felt the torment of deep, unrequited love knows, not entirely) incompatible and mutually exclusive quantities. And incredibly dreadful people are hard (though, again, not impossible) to love.
One might suggest that Ring-Lord Galadriel's subjects would despair because she was a tyrant, and as she would be "stronger than the foundations of the earth", overthrowing her would be all but impossible; but this begs the question of why anyone would wish to overthrow a ruler whom they - and everyone else - loved. If you love someone, you delight in their presence and revel in even the slightest display of affection or attention. Nothing grieves you more than being parted from them, and permanent separation would be unthinkably painful.
How do we reconcile these apparently contradictory ideas - love vs. despair and detestation? What does Galadriel mean? How can someone who causes universal despair be universally loved? Or if you prefer, what reason would her subjects - who love her - have for feeling despair?