Spirituality in John Greenleaf Whittier's The Worship of Nature

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Spirituality in John Greenleaf Whittier's The Worship of Nature

If man ever said that he could not experience God outside of the walls of a church, it is evident that he never read John Greenleaf Whittier. John Greenleaf Whittier was a Quaker who, like all Quakers, placed an emphasis on a simple life. Quakers believe in leading a life without artificial things. Because of his Quaker beliefs, he had a deep understanding of the spirituality of the natural world. In his poem, The Worship of Nature Whittier takes his readers on a spiritual journey through a world untouched by man.

The title of the poem is an indication that the reader should prepare himself or herself for some sort of spiritual experience. Whittier uses the word "worship" to title his poem because by the end of the poem the reader will learn that there is much more to the natural world than water, land, and sky. The poem starts with the birth or creation of nature. Whittier explains to his readers that the natural world has existed since God created it. He compares the creation of nature to music. This stanza is very appealing to the senses because nature is musical. The insects, winds, and birds are all a part of this "song" that "has never died away". The poet reminds readers of this very important idea because we as humans have a tendency to forget the value and importance of nature. The second stanza takes readers beyond the initial creation and introduces readers to the many purposes that nature serves. Whittier explains that "prayer is made and praise is given." Personification is an important tool used in this poem. Obviously nature cannot really pray or give praise, but the various functions of nature in this world give the illusion that it does pay homage to a higher being. For instance the lines in the second stanza, "The ocean looketh up to heaven, /And mirrors every star" says that the ocean is a mirror for heaven. If we look into the deep sea, we are in essence looking into a reflected image of heaven. Other instances when Whittier uses personification in this way are the first and second lines in the third stanza, "Its waves are kneeling on the strand/As kneels the human knee". Whittier tells his readers that just as man bends his knee to show respect to God so the ocean waves bend when they reach the shore as a sign of respect.
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