In the opening stanza, the speaker describes the human craving and longing for material objects. From the very first word of "Meditation 42," a sense of longing and desire infuses the poem as "apples" (ll. 1) often symbolize both temptation and desire. Because Eve allowed the lure of attaining the God's knowledge to overtake her in the book of Genesis, she bites from a fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which is commonly depicted as an apple. In addition, because the "apples" allude to man's fall from paradise they thereby represent man's imperfection and sinful nature. Furthermore, the fact that "apples of gold in silver pictures shrined" (ll. 1) emphasizes the desire or lust for physical, material items of beauty and wealth. These items "enchant" (ll. 2) as the "gold" and "silver" appeal to mankind's covetous nature and tendency to value superficial items. Thus, the speaker conveys his longing and desire for physical riches which "enchant" him. Yet his want for treasures exist as strictly human desire, causing physical consequences as they "make mouths to water" (ll. 2).
However, despite the monetary value of precious metals, attaining such superficial items does not allow man to gain any true fulfillment. For example, in the opening stanza, all the treasures "In jasper cask, when tapped, doth briskly vapor" (ll. 4). The material items mean nothing in the larger scheme of the world and therefore "briskly vapor" and disapp...
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..., but still pleads for God to "take me in" (ll. 41), and promises to "pay...in happiness" for mercy. Once again, the speaker demonstrates the same desires for physical treasures that he expresses in the first stanza as he asks God to "give mine eye / A peephole there to see bright glory's chases" (ll. 39-40). Even in the God's kingdom, the speaker reveals his humanity as he focuses on ornamentation which starkly contrasts with God's divinity as He has the ability to show love even for sinners.
Thus, while man shows his human nature, desiring and coveting physical riches and treasures, God demonstrates his truly divine nature as he possesses true spiritual riches, in the form of love, mercy, and forgiveness.
Taylor, Edward. “Meditation 42.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lautier. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004
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