Many people have different views about whether nature is a friend or an enemy. This is usually determined by how nature has treated them and what nature symbolises to that person. The following will discuss how different poets have used their poems to express their views about nature and find out whether nature is seen as friend or enemy.
“Dover Beach” by Arnold is a poem about religious belief. Arnold used the coast at Dover to describe how a person’s faith can be strong yet easily tested, shaken and even disappear.
Nature appears to be a friend at the beginning of the poem, the sea is calm symbolising solidarity in his faith and how the spirit of God is full in his soul, “The sea is calm tonight, the tide is full.” The sea is a friend to people as it is still and gentle. However, this changes through the poem as the sea becomes dark and the tide appears empty as it washes away.
As faith is lost and people become unhappy the sea grows restless, “the turbid ebb and flow of human misery.” Gradually the sea is no longer any kind of friend; it is turbulent and destructive, “now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar.”
The change is apparent from friend to foe as the same word is used in different ways to describe how the ocean is. In the first verse the poem reads, “Glimmering and vast out in the tranquil bay.” The vastness seems beautiful and safe as it is used in conjunction with words like “tranquil”.
In the third verse the poem reads, “Retreating…down the vast edges drear.” The vastness of the ocean is used with the word “drear”. The sea is now dark, dreary and cold. The “retreating” shows how the tide moves slowly but steadily away from the land; this is symbolic of how faith can move away slowly but steadily from a person until it is out of reach. In reality the tide always comes back yet in the poem it ends with the tide gone perhaps never to return as Arnold feels his faith will never return.
The poem “I Am” by John Clare is about how he wants to escape all people and emotion and find solitude, he believed he would find this in nature, “I long for scenes where man hath never trod.” The poem was written was written just before he escaped his insane asylum, he felt confined there and needed wide open spaces which he managed to find. To Clare, nature is a friend as it offers what he needs and wants the most; solitude and simplicity similar to that which he experienced in childhood, “sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept, untroubling and untroubled as I lie.” Clare also wanted to be with God and nature would connect him to God as nature is God’s creation as are people, “To abide with my Creator God.” Nature is a friend here as it was the only way that Clare was able to escape and be at peace.
“Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” by William Wordsworth is another example of how nature is a friend to people. This poem is about the city of London and its beauty. Wordsworth sees nature as working together with the buildings to add to the view from the bridge. “The city now doth, like a garment, wear the beauty of the morning.” There is also a sense of freedom as the river is allowed to go where it chooses, “The river doth glideth at his own sweet will. This poem is all about the positive things London city has to offer which are made more spectacular its combination with nature, “Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie open unto the fields, and to the sky.” Nature is a friend as it has worked with what humans have made and not been destroyed by it.
Nature is not always seen as a friend, as in the poem “A Red Red Rose” by Robert Burns. Burns used the imagery of a red rose to symbolise his love, “O my luve’s like a red, red rose.” The rose appears to be initially a very good way to describe love as it is beautiful and natural; however, a rose has thorns which can hurt and is short lived. This suggests the love will not last and has hidden agendas as the rose hides its thorns until a person finds them by hurting themselves on them. Nature is an enemy here as it hurts people by deceiving them to think it is beautiful and harmless.
In conclusion, nature can be seen as good or bad depending on the viewpoint of the poet. If nature has been influential in a good way, for example, Clare found safety and freedom in nature; they will have only positive views of nature. However, those who have had bad experiences, such as Arnold will not see nature as a friend. If nature is allowed to be free and is not completely confined nature will be a friend, when people try to go against it bad things occur and nature becomes the enemy.