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Nature is a fascinating mystery that immerses the one in it in a similar way as a book does, and if a writer can fully capture the beauty, power, and mystery of nature in their work then it just depends on how well it is used that will be the reason if the reader would want to continue on or stop. This kind of writing was used by romanticists, most commonly British, and by the time Romanticism sprouted in the U.
S., Americans began to feel a certain rivalry with Britain and wanted to prove that they could create works that reflected the uniqueness of the American character so American Romanticists had to capture nature in their own kind of light by looking at what the American landscape offered them through activities that were unfolding throughout America such as industrialization and urbanization.
By the time American Romanticism became a thing, Romanticism itself was already big in Britain. Because of this, America had begun to feel a certain rivalry with Britain and wanted to prove their worth so for this to happen they had to make British Romanticism into a kind of their own, but this would only be possible if Americans used what America offered them, “In addition… and spirituality” (Romanticism pg.
714). To American romantics, nature was a better place to find inspiration than in a city, and they believed this to the point where many of them changed their ways of life to further fit their views “American romantics… frontier dweller” (Romanticism).
American romantics especially did not like the city because around that time industrialization and urbanization hit, and they were not pleased with what came, “The regimented hours… and renewal” (Romanticism) and comparing that to how pure and peaceful nature was they found the wilderness as a refuge from these new activities that were unbalancing their way of life.
Once urbanization and industrialization became larger threats these romantics became aware of the destructive human impact on nature, and that people could only appreciate it once they became aware of how fragile its natural beauty was and how it could easily be destroyed and lost forever. They noticed how humans can only be temporary visitors in the wilderness but can gain from experiencing nature in its purest state and that is what American romanticists did. With these writers finding a safe haven within nature it allowed for a spark in their ingenuity to grow in whichever direction they wished, and with this brought different views of nature between light and dark romantics, “While light… all pleasurable”. Nature was now able to be used to represent the good or the bad depending on whether the writer thought wild nature was sacred or associated with insanity and death. In the end of it though, nature became a huge deal for American romanticists and their form of writing that bent towards the thought of how they could relate their writings to nature.
One of these romantic writers was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was able to captivate nature’s true mystery and power through some works such as “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” and “Nature” where his use of symbolism was really able to help the reader understand what his point in the poem was. It is seen in “The Tides Rises, The Tide Falls” in lines 1-5 “The tide rises… the tide falls.” (The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls pg. 510) and in these lines the author is comparing the continuous rising and falling of the tide to a nameless traveler but makes it clear there are differences between them. Symbolically, the tide is representing the continuous cycle of life that goes on while the traveler represents every human in the world. The use of repetition in the lines “The tide rises, The tides falls” at the end of each stanza is emphasized to show that no matter what happens in someone’s life, whether it is great or horrific, will not affect the movement of the tides.
Also, throughout the poem the traveler is never given an identity and is only labeled as “The traveler” and because of this it is further shown how unimportant this singular person is in the bigger picture. Towards the end of the poem in lines 7-9 Longfellow begins to alter the setting, “But the sea… in the sands” (The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls) and with this he talks about how the travelers footprints in the sand are now being removed by the tide. This shows that the travelers presence is only just a fading memory that will forever be forgotten on the beach. At the end it also makes it seem as though it is now impossible for the traveler to retrace his steps since he is now gone and the tide already fulfilled its duty by washing away his steps without a care for them at all. Similarly, Longfellow makes the connection between life and light. For example, after the tide has erased the travelers’ footsteps, “The morning… hostler calls” (The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls 11-12) the sun rises and it is morning again, and the symbolism from this is that life will continue on and be thrown another nameless traveler who will start the same cycle as the last while the tide will continue its duty of washing away their footprints that were left behind. Through knowing this one can come to the conclusion that the main point made by Longfellow in this poem is that death is inevitable and that one must accept it because the world will not stop just because of the loss of a person.
Next, in Longfellow’s next poem, “Nature”, he compares nature and humans to the relationship between a mother and her child. The poem starts off by stating that the mother is attempting to get her child to go to bed but is having a difficult time trying to do so, “Half willing… on the floor” (Nature 4-6) and from these lines, one can come to tell that the child is conflicted whether to stay with his materialistic comforts or be led by his mother to the bed where he does not wish to go just yet. The bed can be compared to the death and the mother can be thought of as nature itself guiding us to death while we are still unsure if we want to face what is to come. It is coherent to say that humans are hesitant when it comes to thinking about what is to come in the afterlife but in this poem, Longfellow deals with this in a calming way by comparing us to a small child “our playthings… so gently” (Nature 10-11). From these lines, Longfellow is stating that for humans to be convinced to take the risk of leaving what they know behind, nature must gradually take us away from them. Through this poem, Longfellow is able to successfully bend society’s outlook on death as something scary, to a process that is steady and has a mother’s tenderly touch to it.
For the romantics, the vast, uncontrollable nature was a holy place where people could retreat from the falsity of civilization and could be viewed as wiser than humans because it existed since before they did and no matter who or what comes along, nature will always flourish and come out on top. Longfellow was able to portray this in his writings greatly by symbolizing that nature can act as a guide for our life by knowing that no matter what happens, it will always be there and for this it should be cherished.
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