Analyze the religious and didactic elements in Henry Vaughan's "The World."

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In Henry Vaughan's "The World," the religious and didactic elements are really one and the same. The speaker suggests that an afterlife with Christ is available to those who are able to renounce the material temptations of mortal life.

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The religious and didactic (instructing) elements are one in "The World," for in this poem, the speaker is teaching us to avoid the snares of the earthly in order to attain what is far superior, the heavenly and eternal realm of God's salvation.

Vaughn contrasts the two worlds by using imagery that exalts the heavenly while denigrating the worldly. For example, the eternal is pictured as "pure," "calm," "bright," and filled with an everlasting light. These simple words describe a place of perfect harmony and evoke a sense of peace.

The imagery, however, that describes earthly pursuits—such as lust, politics, power, and hoarding wealth—is uneasy, ugly, and unharmonious. Vaughn uses words such as "hurled" and "complain" about the earth and images such as "sour delights," "prey," "gnats and flies," and "blood and tears" to describe what seem to many to be earthly prizes. He teaches us to despise ambition and the material goods of the world as sordid.

In the final stanza, the speaker refers to the scramble for the worldly as a form of "madness" but explains that the bridegroom (Christ) shares his peace and light with those who come and join him as his bride. Salvation is available, but only to those who turn from the world and accept God's gifts.

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Vaughan uses religious imagery throughout the poem to suggest that there is a heaven waiting for all of us if we can give up the material temptations of our mortal, corporeal lives. This heaven is the "Eternity" mentioned in the opening line of the poem, and it is described as "a great ring of pure and endless light." The light here is symbolic of holiness and purity, and is contrasted with the "vast shadow" of life on Earth. The implication here is that our mortal lives are, like shadows, insubstantial and inconsequential. In the final stanza of the poem the poet returns to this motif of light and dark, and refers to life on Earth as the "dark night" that precedes the "true light" of the heavenly afterlife.

The didactic lesson of the poem is that we can only escape the figurative darkness of our mortal lives, and ascend to the "endless light" of heaven, if we renounce the base, material pleasures of our mortal, corporeal lives. In the first stanza, the speaker denounces the materialistic pleasures of corporeal life as "the silly snares of pleasure." In the second stanza, the speaker criticizes the politicians who become so obsessed with the problems of mankind that they forget to attend to the word of God. The speaker compares these politicians to moles who "work … under ground" and dig deeper and deeper into the darkness of Earth. In the third stanza, the speaker denounces the "fearful miser on a heap of rust." The "rust" here symbolizes the earthly riches which so many people obsess over, but which are, relative to the light of God, worthless and transitory.

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