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In comparing and contrasting “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset” with at least one other poem, compare and contrast how the awesome aspect of nature is depicted in your collection. The poems “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset” by Emily Dickinson and “Beeny Cliff” by Thomas Hardy both present nature as intensely beautiful with the critic Blackmur claiming that: “those poems where [Emily Dickinson] describes the effect of nature upon a sensitive observer are … most effective… truly beautiful”. The awesome aspect of nature is depicted in a number of different ways but most importantly through structure, sound and repetition, natural imagery, and colour.
There are a number of structural similarities and differences within these poems.
The exclamations of “how” within “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset” introduce a note of amazement into the poem. Similarly, “o” in “Beeny Cliff” is suggestive as an address, but also as a lament. This can be inferred to reflect that the beauty of nature is so overwhelming that the poetic voice cannot help but sigh over the memories that were captured in the landscape of “Beeny Cliff”.
In “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset”, the idiosyncratic capitalisations personify the sunset, but also control the emphasis on the significance of the details within the landscape.
The dashes are suggestive of punctuating the poem with emotional thoughts and excitement. As every new idea strikes the poetic voice, a dash is used to separate each one. The interjection “-Sapphire-” in the line “with a departing –Sapphire- feature” suggests the sudden registration of the vivid brilliant colour in nature.
In the last line “Paralyzed, with Gold-”, the dash suggests the continuation of excitement, and the expectant waiting for the next detail of beauty nature will provide next. In contrast to this, the dashes in “-elsewhere-” in “Beeny Cliff” set the word in isolation, suggesting the separation of Hardy and his wife by death. This emphasises the strength of emotion and acute pain Hardy experiences due to nature and death, and so expresses the overwhelming beauty of nature through nature’s power. In “Beeny Cliff” the use of polysyndeton in the repetition of “and” suggests a chain of events. This reflects the continuity of nature and human life, but also serves to slow down the pace of the poem, until the third and fourth stanzas of “Beeny Cliff” are simply a description of the beauty of Beeny Cliff, with connotations of the death of Hardy’s wife.
This could imply that the beauty of nature demands to be described and perhaps even associated with emotions and memories. Similarly, in “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset” the anaphora of “how” is suggestive of the intensity of wonder at the sunset. With each repetition, the poetic voice expresses her admiration of each new marvel she observes, as well as the sheer variety and number of visual splendours in the landscape. The shift in description of the sea in “Beeny Cliff” from a “wandering western sea” into a “wild weird western shore” suggests the beauty of nature changes into an overwhelmingly alien and strange, and almost evil and foreboding landscape once death occurs. The AAA rhyme scheme of “Beeny Cliff” strengthens the idea of the unchangeable ability and permanence of nature, while the plosive sounds of “still in chasmal beauty bulks old Beeny” evoke a sense of bitterness in the fact that the beauty of nature remains even after the death of Hardy’s wife. In “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset”, the half rhymes focuses and concentrates the admiration and emotional energy of the reader and the poetic voice on the sense that the scene is continually evolving.
Furthermore, the half rhymes may also suggest that every sunset is unique in its beauty. The beauty of nature is also expressed in its comparison to humanity. In “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset”, Dickinson references the artists Titian, Domenichino and Guido who were all famous for their rich colours, in particular Titian’s vivid golden red hair in his paintings. However these artists cannot capture the magnificence of the red and gold sunset, thus creating a sense of irony. This suggests the beauty of nature as human artists are confounded by the brilliance of the sunset, and are so overwhelmed by its impossibility to paint that they cannot capture it. Domenichino “dropped his pencil-/Paralyzed, with Gold”, in which the image of a dropped pencil reflects the artist’s shock at the radiance of the sunset and is almost comical, thus alluding to how the attempts to paint the sunset must seem comical and pale in significance to the real thing.
This suggests that the beauty of nature is so overwhelming that it is able to surprise even great artists and even overpower them. In “Beeny Cliff”, Beeny Cliff itself is used as a contrast to mankind. Its “chasmal beauty” is juxtaposed with “the woman”, who “now is -elsewhere”, is reflective of the contrast between the constancy of nature against the mortality of human life. This is further illuminated in the opposition of “still”, which highlights the eternal nature of the cliff and therefore nature, with “now”, which implies the mutability of human life. This is suggestive of the awesome aspect of nature in its ability to stay forever unchanging, especially when juxtaposed with the fleeting transient nature of humanity. In “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset” humanity also appears insignificant when compared to nature.
The “small dusk” “blots” the houses, which suggests that even with such a tiny aspect of nature, humanity offers little resistance. This suggests the overwhelming aspect of nature as even with everything humanity has achieves, it is easily smothered by the power of nature. The rich imagery in “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset” is suggestive of the power of the sunset. The word “drip” emphasises the sunbeams overflowing with light, and therefore implies the intensity and brightness of colour. The image of the dun brake “draped in Cinder” reflects the lavishness of the landscape, and therefore the abundant beauty of nature. In “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset”; the slow verbs also suggest that the sunset has been frozen in a moment of time.
The onomatopoeic “drip” captures the gradual nature of the sunset, whereas “crawls” is suggestive of the slowing of time. However, nature continues, thus suggesting the fragile beauty of the sunset, in that it only lasts for a few moments even if time seems to stand still for the poetic voice, who is absorbed in the describing of the sunset. The variety of description, from “the old Mountains”, to the “Dun Brake”, to the “old Steeples” echoes the varied process of the sun setting, and its changing splendour. In comparison to this, the chasmal beauty in “Beeny Cliff” reveals depth of emotion Hardy experiences, as well as the depth of beauty and darkness present within the landscape.
Within these two poems, there is a prevalent sense of colours and light. In “Beeny Cliff”, the sea is described as “opal and … sapphire”. The usage of precious gems suggests valuable memories and rarity in nature. This is echoed in “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset”, in which a duchess is described as “sapphire”. The duchess could be taken to mean the afternoon sky, therefore suggesting that the sky is so beautiful that it is comparable to jewels.
The adjective of “sapphire” in both these images is suggestive of clarity and purity, suggesting the beautiful ideal of hope within the sky and the sea. The images of “the old Steeples” handing the scarlet back to the sun reflect the sheer magnitude of bright colours in
“How the old Mountains drip with Sunset”, in that the steeples have already been tinted with so much colour that if feels the need to reflect it back. The word play on the word “steeples” and “steeped” suggest that the steeples have been saturated with the scarlet of the sun. The darkness of “a little cloud” cloaking Hardy in his wife is reflective of the overwhelming darkness of grief which is associated with Emma’s death, and therefore, the beauty of Beeny Cliff. The “sun [bursts] out again” after Emma’s death, which too represents the constancy of nature, and the overwhelming beauty of a new day.
However, the violent image of a “burst” could also be inferred as the clumsy overflow of emotion that the beauty of nature exposes within human nature. In conclusion, structure, sound and repetition are used in “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset” to convey the poet’s excitement, whereas in “Beeny Cliff”, it expresses Hardy’s grief. However, the usage of rich and lavish imagery is the most effective method of depicting the beauty of nature “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset” whereas the colours in “Beeny Cliff” brilliantly highlight the beauty in the landscape of Beeny Cliff.
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