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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 247

“Correspondences” is an 1857 short poem by Charles Baudelaire. It is a part of his popular volume Flowers of Evil, and it is written in the form of a sonnet. The poem consists of fourteen lines, which are divided in four stanzas—two quatrains and two tercets—and follow the rhyme pattern of abba, cddc, efe, fgg. Baudelaire named the poem “Correspondences” in order to show the connection, or the correspondence, between humans and nature. This poem also symbolizes the clash between the spiritual world and the physical one.

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“Correspondences” is written with a unique and symbolic rhetoric, which presents various sensory experiences and combines colors, scents, and sounds in one captivating synesthesia.

Like long echoes that intermingle from afar
In a dark and profound unity,
Vast like the night and like the light,
The perfumes, the colors and the sounds respond.

Baudelaire suggests that we, as humans, tend to forget that we are a part of nature. We often lose ourselves in the physical world and neglect the spiritual one. Essentially, we pay more attention to our bodies and our physical forms than to our souls, thus losing our connection to nature. Baudelaire argues that if we try to understand nature, we will also understand ourselves, as knowing nature means knowing who you really are. Furthermore, Baudelaire explains the correspondence between our souls and the divine forces and describes this experience as something cathartic—some sort of a spiritual awakening in which we become one with the universe.

The Poem

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 419

“Correspondences” is a sonnet, its fourteen lines divided into two quatrains and two tercets, in the rhyme pattern abba, cddc, efe, fgg. One of the most influential poems in modern literature, it has been translated into English in many forms: un-rhymed free verse, sonnet rhyme patterns, and prose. The American poet George Dillon, for example, kept the original French twelve-syllable line but changed the rhyme pattern to abba, cddc, efg, efg.

The title names the topic of the poem—the discovery that one makes during certain states of mind that one’s sense perceptions blend. Sound becomes a symbol of color; perfumes evoke sights; color reveals emotion. The senses not only correspond with each other but also bear a moral influence in the direction of either purity or corruption.

The importance of this poem comes from its suggestion that the physical world—nature—is imbued with symbols of moral meaning. Later poets such as Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud, called Symbolists, used the correspondence theory to evoke emotional states by describing objects: A dry mineral field might symbolize boredom or emotional sterility. Since nature’s “messages” are presented in words by the poet, the subject of language, specifically poetry, pervades such a poem. This rich poem speaks of communication and reception of truth. Stanza 1 makes the bold generality that all of nature is a single, holy meeting place (“a temple”) where one hears confusing messages and feels that one is known and watched. It is a “forest of symbols,” full of meanings one cannot quite grasp.

Stanza 2 compares these messages to echoes coming from far away that blend into one sound, as vast as the light of day and the dark of night; the senses of smell, sound, and sight correspond to one another in their meanings. The third stanza illustrates the working of the principle of correspondence with the sense of smell. Some soft, sweet perfumes remind one of musical sounds, children’s skin, or green fields. Other perfumes are the opposite: They evoke messages of corruption or oppression.

The final stanza continues the description of odors that speak of dark forces. These are...

(The entire section contains 1238 words.)

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