Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Correspondences” is a poem about the unity of nature, human perceptions of interdependence in sense perceptions, and the multiple worlds those analogies reveal. One becomes aware of this unity only at rare moments. When one loses one’s ordinary state of mind, when one no longer separates oneself from one’s surroundings and objects from one another, one may be able to perceive the equivalence of one sense impression to another—perfume to sight, sound to color.

The word “ecstasy” means a state of “standing outside” oneself—a trancelike state. Such an altered state of consciousness may be induced by hallucinogenic drugs. Baudelaire admired Thomas De Quincey, the English writer of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821), and Edgar Allan Poe, whose dreamlike poems and stories were extremely influential in France—thanks largely to Baudelaire’s writings about Poe’s aesthetics. Baudelaire himself took opium and hashish. Another inducement to a unitary state of mind, a traditional and universal way, is the practice of meditation in many forms: quieting the analytical mind by dancing, chanting, repeating a mantra, or putting the service of others before one’s own ego demands. Most religious sects enable devotees to attain “oneness” with God by such practices. For centuries, “out of body” experiences have been recorded by mystics. Baudelaire’s Roman Catholic upbringing, in conjunction with the Romantic idealism of...

(The entire section is 448 words.)