The soul descends once more in bitter love (26)
The soul has to make sacrifices for the human, and it's a little resentful of this. But as we read on we see that the soul becomes less upset about it.
To accept the waking body, saying now (27)
Here the soul accepts the body out of love and forgives the body for its human weakness, which is good because otherwise we'd probably be stuck in bed all day.
Bring them down from their ruddy gallows; (29)
The soul loves the humans enough to want them saved, even though loving them means dealing with more than a little dirty laundry.
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and clean to be undone, (30-31)
See, here's the thing. Why else would the soul possibly return to the body for if not love? There's really no other reason. The soul loves thieves, despite their thievery. If the soul didn't love those thieves, then we bet the soul would go on hanging out with the angels. Only love can bring it back.
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating (32)
The soul wants the burden of the nuns to be lifted so they can feel the joy the floating angels feel in the beginning of the poem.
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul (2)
This second line establishes the existence of a soul right way. Sounds spiritual to Shmoop.
The morning air is all awash with angels. (6)
There are angels among us. And we're not talking about Nicholas Cage. In this poem, the spiritual world is a part of the everyday world, even laundry drying on the line. Sure, it seems like an unlikely place to find an angel, but hey, isn't that precisely the point?
Some are in smocks; but truly there they are. (8)
Sure, a clothesline seems like an unlikely place to find an angel, but hey, isn't that precisely the point? Angels are all around, if we look hard enough (or let our souls float freely before we wake up).
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing; (9-11)
Impersonal breathing? How can breathing be impersonal? Isn't a person doing the breathing? Not here, no siree. These angels are breathing, and it's impersonal because they're not people—they're from heaven. They're of the spiritual world.
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving (13)
In this line, Wilbur reminds us that the spiritual world is everywhere; it's not confined to a specific place.
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven. (23)
Here's the start of the soul's wish for the human world to converge with the spiritual. And remember, it wishes that out of love.
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating (32)
Spiritual double-duty here. Nuns are spiritual humans; they're supposed to be the go-betweens between humans and God. But also, "a pure floating" brings us back to the floating angels at the poem's beginning.
The eyes open to a cry of pulleys, (1)
Right away we're snapped into wakefulness, like being shocked from a lightning bolt. This poem could just have easily started with the soul gazing at the angels outside the window, but instead it brings our attention to consciousness right away.
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there. (15-16)
As the human world comes alive, we forget the presence of angels a little bit. But our speaker reminds us that though they're quiet, they're still there.
From the punctual rape of every blessed day, (19)
Here's the moment when we lose awareness of our spiritual existence. When the soul rejoins the body, all the spiritual stuff is tossed out the window in favor of, you know, actually folding that laundry—and all the other tasks that need doing.
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises, (27-28)
Some hope at last. The soul isn't abandoning the body, and the human might have a chance at awareness. "Waking" in these lines is key; it reminds us of "awakening," which packs in a lot more meaning.
keeping their difficult balance. (34)
The "difficult balance" could be the struggle between consciousness and obliviousness. We can never fully understand our role in existence, but hopefully we have some clue as to what's going on around and beyond us.
And spirited from sleep the astounded soul (2)
The soul is already amazed. We don't know about what yet, but immediately Wilbur introduces us to a feeling of awe. And if you can impress a soul, which is pretty impressive in and of itself, you must be pretty amazing.
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are. (8)
Wilbur conveys the feeling of awe in restating that they are present. He already described what they looked like, but felt the need to drive it home, as if it's not quite believable to begin with.
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet (15)
Here Wilbur uses "rapt" as synonymous with awe and fascination.
Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors (24-25)
Even the sun is fond of the world. Wilbur personifies the sun here by attributing to it the human capacity for amazement, looking down on all the beautiful stuff we've got on this lump of spinning rock.