Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 210
The poem's opening lines begin to establish its mystical mood and introduce the subject of nature's effect on humankind:
Nature is a temple whose living colonnades
Breathe forth a mystic speech in fitful sighs:
Man wanders among the symbols in those glades [...].
Nature, then, is imbued with what seems like the divine—it is called a temple—and the trees are like the columns of this temple, except that they are alive rather than stone. They speak to us in a language that we must translate, symbols that we must interpret if we want to understand.
Like dwindling echoes gathered far away
Into a deep and thronging unison
Huge as the night or as the light of day,
All scents and sounds and colors meet as one.
All sensory information seems to merge into a kind of huge unison, when odors and sounds and sights all seem to come to us at once so that we cannot tell them each apart, like overlapping distant echoes. Some of these impressions seem pure and others corrupt, but all are profound, and they all excite the body as well as the soul. Finally, references to frankincense and myrrh may recall for us the birth of Christ, further linking the natural to the divine and mystical.
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