Here is the third stanza of "Thrushes" by Ted Hughes:
With a man it is otherwise. Heroisms on horseback,
Outstripping his desk-diary at a broad desk,
Carving at a tiny ivory ornament
For years: his act worships itself - while for him,
Though he bends to be blent in the prayer, how loud and
Furious spaces of fire do the distracting devils
Orgy and hosannah, under what wilderness
Of black silent waters weep.
I'm having trouble with this, especially the part "his act worships itself" and the final three lines.
What I've gathered (I may be entirely wrong) is this: The three kinds of acts listed here - "heroisms on horseback," "outstripping his desk-diary" (clerical work), and "carving at a tiny ivory ornament" - all seem to have an aim less urgent than survival, which is what drives the thrushes and gives them their razor-sharp focus.
Heroism seeks glory. Desk work is often performed half-heartedly for a regular pay at the end of the month. A carving project can go on for years, and is perhaps not something you can fully concentrate on every day.
What I understand by "his act worships itself" is that humans perform these acts for the sake of the act; they aren't personally involved in it, aren't 'in the moment,' as much as they would like to be. They are thwarted by the "distracting devils" from hell that orgy and hosannah - it looks to me like these two words are used as verbs in the poem. I don't understand the rest.
Please let me know where I'm going wrong with my interpretation and what you make of the third stanza.