William Wordsworth was one of the most influential romantic poets in the early 18th century. Born on the 7th of April 1770, Wordsworth was a man with a profound love and admiration for nature that developed through the course of his life. From the 6 poems I have studied as part of my course, each and every one of them features the bond that Wordsworth has with nature. Through the course of Wordsworth’s life his understanding of nature changed and his bond with nature grew stronger.
Over the years Wordsworth had many experiences with nature that helped flourish this relationship. As a child, Wordsworth had a strange encounter with nature, and encounter that ultimately formed a new opinion of nature in his mind. The poem “The Stolen Boat”, an extract from the Prelude, describes an occasion in his youth when he impulsively borrowed a boat without permission in order to go rowing on a lake. It’s clear that Wordsworth had a strong appreciation for nature even as a child and that there is an evident bond between him and nature.
As he begins to row out on the water the beauty of the scene around him unfolds , the sparkling circles of the moon tmelt into one track behind the boat, like a swan heaving in the water, nothing but a grey sky full of stars. Yet out of nowhere as he rows further back, a huge peak “up-reared its head “from behind the horizon’s boundary he had fixed his eyes on. This huge peak seemed to be, to Wordsworth, a living thing. A living thing with “purpose of its own” he felt as if it was striding after him with powerful, towering movement and so Wordsworth fled and returned the boat. After this encounter young Wordsworth was beyond confused.
The sight he has seen caused him to become tormented by dreams , casting a temporary darkness over his love for nature ,”No familiar shapes remained, no pleasant images of trees, of sea or sky , no colours of green fields;” The temporary darkness in his mind was something Wordsworth could not understand . The pleasant images were replaced by “huge and mighty forms” that pestered him day and night. The previous bond he had with nature was gone and replaced by a domineering force that perhaps was trying to teach him a lesson. I feel personally this encounter was more than likely the beginning of nature being a moral guide for Wordsworth.
The bond between him and nature may have hit a bump in this poem however it was something that Wordsworth grew to respect and understand in later life. This respect and understanding of nature was ultimately the core of his attraction to the mysterious Lucy figure who he dedicates several of his poems to. During the course of his stay in Germany, Wordsworth wrote a series of poems named, “The Lucy Poems”, about a girl called Lucy who to this day remains unknown. Some say that Lucy was simply a figure of his imagination while others like Coleridge, his trusted friend and co-writer, strongly think its Dorothy, Wordsworth’s sister.
Both Lucy poems that I have studied ,”A slumber did my spirit steal”, and,” She dwelt amongst the untrodden ways” , feature the bond between nature and poet. In,” She dwelt amongst the untrodden ways “, the bond that Wordsworth himself has with nature causes him to fall for Lucy because she herself has a bond with nature. In the first stanza Lucy is described as living in this isolated area in very close proximity with nature and Wordsworth admires this. Wordsworth’s bond with nature is exactly what draws him so much to Lucy, describing her, in the second stanza as,”a violet by a mossy stone “, and the only star in the sky.
Lucy’s qualities remind him of these aspects in nature and this inevitably shows once again the bond between poet and nature. ”A slumber did my spirit steal”, is a slightly harder poem to interpret with regards proving the bond between poet and nature because of the fact that nobody is quite sure yet if it really is a Lucy poem or not. In my opinion however I strongly feel that it is. In the previous poem, “She dwelt amongst the untrodden ways “, we witness Lucy’s death in the last stanza. “A slumber did my spirit seal “, is a follow up of this poem.
In the first two lines he describes his bond with nature by saying how a “slumber” has kept him from realising reality, it has devoid him of “human fears”. He then describes Lucy as this spiritual entity, “she seemed a thing I could not feel “, she lies still and can no longer see or hear. She has become a part of the day-to-day course of the earth, “rolled around in earth’s diurnal course. ” In this poem I feel Wordsworth uses his binding relationship with nature to connect, visualize and grasp Lucy as a spiritual being living in the earth. It seems as if this is his only way of re-connecting or remembering her.
She has become a part of the world and Wordsworth’s bond with nature allows him to set himself apart from reality and remember this young woman whom he loved so dearly. The next poem I have studied which features the bond between poet and nature was also written to a girl, Wordsworth’s daughter Caroline whom he had not seen in 9 years. “It is a Beauteous Evening”, was written in 1802 after a visit to a beach near Calais with his daughter. It is a Petrarchan sonnet with the first 8 lines focusing primarily on the beauty of the scene around him and the last 6 on Caroline and her relationship with nature.
It is in the first 8 lines that the true bond between poet and nature really stands out. “It is a Beauteous Evening”, is one of those poems that really show Wordsworth’s complete admiration for nature. He describes the scene as beautiful yet free evening that is as quiet “As a nun”, a nun “breathless with adoration. ” The scene is a picture of a tranquil sunset setting into a gentle sea. Wordsworth’s bond with nature is so clear in his description of nature itself and it’s obvious how much Wordsworth is connected with his surroundings.
However in the following lines he implies that things are not as calm and quiet as they first appear. Listen! The Mighty Being is awake, /and doth with his eternal motion make/A sound like thunder – everlastingly. ” Here the beautiful peace is disturbed by a mighty force, perhaps referencing to God as a metaphor for the waves crashing against the shore. Here the bond between Wordsworth and nature is shown in a way that represents respect and probably fear. The sense of devotion to nature is evident in these lines with the comparison of god to the waves. It also shows the depth of his bond with nature with the reference to God, revealing that he sees religion and nature as being interconnected.
Another poem that displays this belief of nature being intertwined with something is,”Lines Composed on Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802 “ Although this poem suffers a time laps in when it was written, it was composed after a journey through London one early morning and was inspired from a view Wordsworth saw from Westminster Bridge. Wordsworth was always a nature man and resented the industrialisation of the world and how nature was so simply strewn aside. However in this poem Wordsworth’s bond with nature is allowing him to see that nature still exists among the hustle and bustle of the city.
The early morning allows Wordsworth to experience this interconnectedness between both ,” Ships, towers , domes , theatres and temples lie /, Open unto the fields and to the sky;” During the hustle of the day Wordsworth would never have noticed how the city is really at peace with nature, he would have just seen the shouting and talking , the smoke, the carriages and the disregard that people everywhere had for the nature around them. The early, fresh, smokeless morning however, when the city still sleeps opens up a sight where buildings lie in harmony among the land .
Wordsworth has learned something new , similar to ,” The Stolen Boat”, he experiences new bond with nature and this time , it’s the understanding that even though towns are growing larger , behind it all , away from the rush of life , nature still flows and moves around within this industrialised world. “The river glideth at his own sweet will. ” This poem shows a clear step in maturity for Wordsworth , a step in which he embraces nature and industry as one and discovers that together, they make the most beautiful picture Wordsworth has ever seen.
Another sight that had a permanent effect on him was a scene in Tintern Abbey on the banks of the river Wye. “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of Wye During a Tour July 13, 1798” , is a fantastic poem written by Wordsworth on his return to Tintern Abbey with his sister Dorothy after already visiting this place 5 years previous. “ Tintern Abbey”, comes at the end of Lyrical Ballads and reflects on the importance of the natural world to the poet and the way in which his relationship with nature has changed since boyhood.
It is intensely personal and the bond between poet and nature is truly at the heart of this poem. The bond between them features more or less throughout the entire piece. The poem opens to a very secluded area , once again beautifully described by Wordsworth. The landscape is an emblem of the unity he perceives in nature as everything merges seamlessly ,”clad in one green hue”. The poet then goes on to describe how this sight of “lofty cliffs” and “orchard-tufts” has had certain effects on him.
These “beauteous forms” have helped him through times of solitude and sadness ,“ But oft ,in lonely rooms and ‘mid the din /,Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,” lifting his spirits and picking him up in times of darkness . Thinking of this sight has not only cleared his mind but also made him a better man , aswell as affecting him spiritually. These effects are possibly the most important aspect of his bond with nature. He is telling us that nature serves a restorative power and as a mentor,“ The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, the guide , the guardian of my heart and soul of all my moral being. Throughout this poem we discover the journey that Wordsworth has experienced with nature over the years. He describes that in the space of 5 years , his attitude towards nature has mellowed completely, his love for nature still exists but it exists on a much more spiritual level. He addresses how he was 5 years previously,” I came among these hills; when like a roe ,I bounded o’er the mountains ,”he felt no need to understand nature on a deeper level, he was just so enraptured by the sights around him, yet now , Wordsworth is not as captivated by it in the same visceral way , he is older now and he has a much deeper understanding of nature.
The debt of this relationship with his surroundings sanctions him to see and feel the presence of nature in all things. He is aware of a force that unifies man with nature and religion with nature. The complexity of this bond at this point in his life , gives Wordsworth the highest level of understanding he could possibly have imagined. Nature was undoubtedly a huge part of Wordsworth’s life. It guided him through times of his youth as in “ The Stolen Boat ,” it served as an outlet for love and despair in times of mourning in “A Slumber did my Spirit Seal”, and “ She Dwelt amongst the untrodden ways” .
Nature showed Wordsworth the harmony that exists in the world , man and nature and religion and nature , as indicated in “Lines Composed on Westminster Bridge,” and “ It is a Beauteous Evening,” until he finally gained the ultimate understanding of nature that evidently defined him, as described in “Tintern Abbey”. Wordsworth was unmistakeably one of the greatest poets of his time, the themes that run through Wordsworth’s poetry, and the language and imagery he uses to embody those themes, remain remarkably consistent .
The way in which a man can be so fascinated with nature is inspiring and admiring for me. Honestly I felt that Wordsworth was some mellow-dramatic ,tree hugger and to a certain extent that’s probably true , but his bond between nature is refreshing and moving . His poems are simple and unfussy, and what I like about them is that he is almost always inspired by the people closest to him and the surroundings that really mean something. The bond between poet and nature lies at the heart of Wordsworth’s poetry.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 26 September 2016
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