“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions”• a new idea permanently reshapes our thinking; you can’t “unknow”• Think of an idea that has affected you or society in such a way.
• Sometimes people have to chose between cherishing the past and looking toward the future. For example, when you move out of your parents’ house, will you expect them to keep your room exactly as it is or to convert it to a home office? Change can produce a sense of well being as well as a sense of loss. List situations or occasions in life when one must decide between holding on to the past and making a change. What are the benefits of each choice in the cases listed?
Stanza 1:• Imagination - “unshadowed main,” the poet’s imagination, a “venturous” bark with wings, “gulfs enchanted,” (ocean is magical, myserious)• Siren song, sea mermaids sunning their hair. “The ship of pearl” is the shell of the nautilus, that has sailed in these places of depth and imagination.
Stanza 2:• The shell is damaged. No more wings unfurled, “wrecked is the ship of pearl.”• The frail creature inside, that worked so hard to expand its shell, lived a dim, dreaming life; now lies broken for you to see, “rent, revealed.”• The shell experienced many changes in life (and grew to accomodate them), in death, it has also changed.
Stanza 3:• Yearly toil to expand the “lustrous coil.”• The nautilus leaves last year’s dwelling, which no longer fits him, for the new one he has built.
Stanza 4: • The nautilus washed up on shore, though dead and discarded, teaches the speaker a “heavenly message.” • The silent, small creature’s message is louder than any Triton ever exclaimed. Reaches to the deep caverns of the speaker’s thought.
Stanza 5:• The speaker urges his soul to grow and build each year a larger dwelling - expand the mind, learn new things, reach toward heaven.• Forget the ignorance of the past.• “Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea” - death, leaving the body behind (which the soul has outgrown), the soul is free to reach heaven.
Theme 1: Growth and Beauty • “lustrous coil” - beauty • “shinning archway” – beauty, art • “year after year beheld the silent toil” - long labor, perhaps unappreciated before • “as the spiral grew,” “built up” - natural growth
• Change is a natural part of life; not fearsome (stanza 3)
Speaker• a person strolling along the beach• comes across a washed up shell of the nautilus and contemplates the life of the little creature
Reread lines 29-35.• the soul escapes its shell• afterlife and happiness if we lived to be better people every day
Theme 2: Change• building “more stately mansions” (line 29)• The speaker is referring to a change to greater or nobler thoughts or endeavors.• improving themselves, experiencing new challenges, and becoming better human beings
Tone• romantic, a tone of reverence and inspiration
Analyze the visuals.• As the nautilus grows, it adds a new chamber to its spiral shell, abandoning the old chamber for the new one.• This process of growth might suggests that change has a necessary role in life and that people should strive to achieve changes that enlarge them instead of just accepting the changes that come.