In turning to nature as the source of inspiration for self-improvement, Holmes is in tune with the Romantics. In his poem "Nautilus," Holmes writes an extended metaphor in which the growth of the nautilus is compared to the development of the human soul. From nature, thus, the individual learns the importance of building a nobler, loftier, more spiritual existence.
In the first stanza, the nautilus, a mollusk, is described as a "ship." Then, in the second stanza it is compared to a human dwelling--"the frail tenant" is inside--that is changed in the third stanza for "the new." In reaction to this knowledge, the fourth stanza has the speaker expressing an outburst of feeling, an intuitive understanding:
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,/Child of the wandering sea,/Cast from her lap, forlorn!
In contrast to his Calvinist background, Holmes expresses the Romantic idea that the soul can achieve virtue and salvation:
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