Much of the Gita Govinda's power arises from the endowment of Nature with romantic ardour, the forest itself being presented as a highly sensitive and symbolic setting for the behaviour of lovers. The following passage from Tess of the D'Urbervilles is perhaps the nearest approach in English to this kind of treatment.
In its detail it derives the characteristics of resemblance upon which it is founded, from the form, the supports, the ornaments, and general construction and internal organization of a lodge, in all of which the symbolic reference to the world is beautifully and consistently sustained.
What was this sight they looked upon this poor, distorted, mangled thing that grovelled in the earth that figure towering there in the sunlight with venerable white beard and hair, erect, symbolic of some strange, mystic power that awed them, his head turned slightly in a curious listening attitude, the sightless eyes closed, upon the face a great calm like a solemn benediction.
Symbolic perceptions are better than those which reflect outer objects or events, because the latter are related to the outer world, and the soul has to depend less on itself than in the case of symbolic perceptions, formed by its own inner energy. The chief object at which to aim is the intensity of the force to be exercised by the soul.
In the third degree the symbolic allusions to the temple of Solomon, and the implements of Masonry employed in its construction, are extended and fully completed. At the building of that edifice, we have already seen that one class of the workmen was employed in the preparation of the materials, while another was engaged in placing those materials in their proper position.
How powerful the pleading of such a mother may become with her son, to give his future wife the same perfect trust and unclouded happiness in her husband's love! I remember in a series of allegorical pictures by an old master in the Baptistery at Florence, how, with the divine instinct of poets and artists, in the beautiful symbolic figure of Hope, the painter has placed a lily in her hands.
Symbolic images, or signs, of secondary acquirement, being representations of lesser power, having only indirect and mediate relations with things. Let us make the differences between the two clear by a few simple examples.
Assuming endlessly varied modes of prejudice and of prepossession, of liking and disliking, it tends always to reconstruct and dominate every mode of association and every social grouping." This description by Professor Giddings is so near to a description of worship, that it is startling. Of all human acts of the conscientious man worship is the most highly symbolic.
The oldest of which we have any record dates from 1800 B.C. Egyptian art is symbolic, that is to say, the forms were chosen not so much on account of their beauty as for the purpose of conveying some meaning. The government of Egypt being almost entirely in the hands of the priests, these symbols were generally of a religious character, signifying power and protection.
But better than worldliness, it is on the Shield to-day what it essentially has been through many an age to many people the symbolic Earth Festival of the Evergreen; setting forth man's pathetic love of youth of his own youth that will not stay with him; and renewing his faith in a destiny that winds its ancient way upward out of dark and damp toward Eternal Light.