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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Charles Baudelaire’s “Correspondences” discusses nature and the events that prolonged contact with the natural realm have on mortal viewers. The opening stanza establishes the poem’s mystical and almost religious mood to introduce the divine, spiritually-charged effects that nature’s conversation with man incites: 

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 appears to be divinity. Not simply a scenic background, natural scenes are instead called temples, and their verdant trees are supporting columns, maintaining its integrity and holding it aloft, above the heads of man. This living temple is a place of worship that speaks to any man who “wanders” through, conversing in a language unintelligible to human ears. However, this communication is not lost entirely: 

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.

Sensations collide, melding into a united whole, an amalgam of symbols to be interpreted and translated. These images extend beyond simple encounters and span the breadth of sensory experience. Smells become colors and sounds become coded messages as nature speaks its complex truths through:

Perfumes there are as sweet as the oboe’s sound,

Green as the prairies, fresh as a child’s caress,

—And there are others, rich, corrupt, profound

These encounters—sight, sound, smell, feel, taste—act as a secondary means of speech, allowing nature to commune nonverbally. These sensory experiences, respond to natural perfumes “like myrrh, or musk, or amber” to “excite / The ecstasies of sense, the soul’s delight.” These overlapping echoes combine, building to a crescendo of complex beauty born of nature’s purity and corruption. This profound experience excites both body and soul and, as the reference to myrrh implies, recalls Christian themes to further the linkage of the divine to the seemingly mundane sights of the natural world. 

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