“To the Holy Spirit” is written in rhyming trimeter divided into four stanzas of varying lengths. The expansion of the stanzas—from ten lines in the first, to twelve lines in the second and third, to fourteen in the fourth—reflects the development of the subject of the poem. The title suggests a prayer or a petition to the Holy Spirit. This part of the Holy Trinity traditionally is a source of hope, inspiration, forgiveness, and consolation for humans. The Holy Spirit is the mediator between God and humans. The poem is written in the first person, and the speaker is calling on the Holy Spirit to come to his aid as he tries to believe in God.
The poem’s epigraph, “from a deserted graveyard in the Salinas Valley,” sets the poem in California. It also allows the speaker the opportunity to meditate on life and death in a serene environment. The graveyard is abandoned, and the speaker of the poem has arrived there in late morning. Once there, the speaker observes how nature and death possess powers that humans cannot easily comprehend. The graveyard setting lends itself to contemplations of the limits of reason and ultimately of human mortality. While the speaker does not seek immortality, he does appeal to the Holy Spirit to guide him in understanding how God and he can coexist in the world.
In the first stanza, the speaker arrives in the graveyard on a hazy, not too warm summer day. He seems to be surprised to have encountered the...
(The entire section is 428 words.)