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Nature in Wordsworthian Poetry
William Wordsworth was an English poet who became renowned for his Romanticist type of poetry during the 18th- early 19th centuries. Through this time period, Wordsworth have became known for formulating his own theory on poetry, referred to as the "Unconventional Theory of Poetry," wherein he stated that "poetic truth is the direct experience of the senses." Along with this principle, Wordsworth believed that poetry is also an "emotion recollected in tranquility," did not subsist to the rational and intellectual approach that 19th century poets subsisted to, as a result of the emergence of the Enlightenment period during the latter part of the 18th century and early 19th century. He is also known to introduce the lyrical ballad, a form of poetry that became prevalent during the Romanticism period of English literature, a movement wherein "reliance on imagination and subjectivity of approach, freedom of thought and expression, and an idealization of nature" are the dominant styles used in composing a lyrical ballad (Microsoft Encarta 2002).
One prevailing theme that recurs in Wordsworthian poetry is the Romantic concept of Nature, which allows for the use of Nature as animate elements in the poem and as constantly interacting with Man. In this paper two poems will be analyzed to determine how Wordsworth utilizes the theme of Nature and its personification and interaction with Man. The poems "Perfect Woman" and "The World Is Too Much With Us" illustrate the theme of Nature within the Romantic concept. The discussion will include an analysis of the lines that illustrate the prevailing theme of the Romantic concept of Nature.
The first poem "Perfect Woman," discusses the use of Romanticism to depict the beauty of one of Nature's most important element -- that is, the beauty of women. The poem illustrates the Woman's attributes romantically through associations with Nature and the joyous tone of the poem. Wordsworth starts his poem with the lines, "She was a phantom of delight / When first she gleam'd upon my sight / A lovely apparition, sent / To be a moment's ornament," in his attempt to illustrate thy physical beauty of the Woman. The poem makes use of Romanticism the beauty of the woman the poet describes in his poem in the second and third lines, comparing her beauty to a "lovely apparition" that "gleam'd upon my sight." After the first four lines, Wordsworth uses Nature to compare the Woman's beauty: "Her eyes as stars of twilight fair / Like twilight's, too, her dusky hair." Wordsworth clearly romanticizes Nature by comparing it to the mysterious and gallant beauty of the Woman.
The second stanza of the poem establishes the poet's fusion of the Woman and Nature. This 'fusion' of Woman and Nature is illustrated through the unity of the "spirit" of Woman with Nature in lines 11-14. Line 12 shows that apart from being an element of beauty (which was first established in the first stanza), the Woman is also a "Spirit," a free agent that can be likened to Nature's independence. The line, "And steps of virgin liberty" shows how the Woman is likened to the image of Nature: uncorrupted and pure. More than an element of Nature, the character of the Woman in Wordsworth's poem is also presented by a humane side by showing humanity's emotions as experienced by the Woman: "For transient sorrows, simple wiles / Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles." The second stanza of the poem effectively shows how the Woman is illustrated as an element of Nature and humanity. By portraying her free and purse spirit, the Woman attains the stature of being one with Nature, while her humanistic qualities show her humane side as a Human.
The last stanza of the poem further reiterates Wordsworth's message in the second stanza, where the Woman becomes one with Nature without losing her sense of humanity. The last stanza reflects Wordsworth's stance about how Nature dominates over Humanity and in this part of the poem, the poet offers a criticism of how humanity makes the Woman a "machine," as illustrated in the following lines: "And now I see with eyes serene / The very pulse of the machine / A perfect Woman, nobly plann'd..." These lines show how the Woman is a living being that is 'perfectly crafted' by Humanity because of the extraordinary qualities that she possess. He also criticizes the role women are relegated to in the society, wherein women are basically created "To warn, to comfort, and command." Wordsworth sides with Nature as he once again illustrate the Woman as a "Spirit," using once again the use of Romanticism to further reflect her importance in the world of Nature: "And yet a Spirit still, and bright / With something of angelic light." These last lines from the poem shows how Nature perpetuates the character of Woman by bringing her image close to the image of heaven, a sign of eternal happiness, peace, and beauty.
It is evident that "Perfect Woman" is a poem wherein the image of Woman receives perfection and acknowledgment not in the world of humans, but in the world of Nature. Wordsworth's ability to perpetuate humanistic qualities of Man through the use of Nature is one of the qualities that makes William Wordsworth one of the best poets in the literary world. Matthew Arnold, a renowned critic of literature, stated in his "Essays in Criticism" that Wordsworth's "superiority arises from his powerful use, in his best pieces, his powerful application to his subject, of ideas 'on man, on nature, and on human life'" (705). Like in "Perfect Woman," Wordsworth discusses his ideas on man, nature, and human life by portraying the role of Woman as one with Nature and Humanity. Although he maintains a balanced treatment of how Woman is an element of Nature and Humanity, Wordsworth's affinity to nature shows how Nature reflects the best of Humanity's humane characteristics than Man himself. He also achieves to portray the Woman as a significant element in human society by enumerating her beautiful and heaven-like qualities to his readers, as well as attributing natural characteristics, making the subject Natural and un-artificial, like what was stated in line 22 of the poem.
The second poem entitled, "The World Is Too Much With Us," is a poem that tackles the issue of how Man is in conflict with Nature because of His constant abuse of the environment. The poem's title extends the message of how Nature will be well-off without us. Indeed, the first four lines of the poem illustrate how humanity took for granted Nature's bounty and resources. Wordsworth discusses the issue of industrialization and consumerism that has become prevalent in the human society as a result of technological advancement. The second and third lines show how Man has become preoccupied with satisfying their needs that it resulted to the deterioration of Nature. Furthermore, as we become immersed with the artificiality of things in the world, we are gradually taking for granted the benefits that we gain from Nature, such as food, the physical space and environment, and all things that make life vital: "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers / Little we see in Nature that is ours / We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"
In the second part of the poem, Wordsworth enumerates the benefits that humanity gets from Nature: This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon / The winds that will be howling at all hours... For this, for everything, we are out of tune." This passage shows how Man remains insensitive to the wonders of Nature. Wordsworth's use of Romantic imagery in illustrating Nature's beauty further reiterates Man's insensitivity by saying, "we are out of tune." Also, the poet's use of nature's elements as proper nouns show how…[continue]
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