William Wordsworth’s frequent references to nature in his poetry shows that he paid close attention to the details of the physical environment around him. His poetry relates to nature by focusing primarily on the relationship between inner life with the outer world. William Wordsworth uses literary devices such as personification, similes, and the impressions nature makes on him to show the importance of the relationship that man should have with nature. Personification is used to make it easier for his readers to relate themselves to nature.
The use of similes demonstrates the importance of experiencing nature as if it were oneself because it allows one to experience nature on a different level. His impressions of nature are used to show the impact nature can have when one takes time to note the beauty in the world. All the devices are used to demonstrate the importance of a relationship with and a reliance on nature.
Personification, giving inanimate objects humanlike characteristics, is one device Wordsworth uses throughout his works. He personifies nature by describing it with human characteristics. This helps his poetry develop a relationship between man and nature by demonstrating how alike the two are. Wordsworth establishes a foundation between man and nature through highlighting the parallels and similarities of action that are shared. In his poem, The World Is Too Much With Us, Wordsworth writes: The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little do we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The Winds that will be howling at all hours (Major Works 270)
Wordsworth gives human characteristics to the sea and winds to convey a more personal relationship to people. He indicates that aspects of everyday living numb one to the emotions of nature. We focus on “getting and spending” resulting in us seeing little in nature. Only through filtering out the trivial everyday details that are unimportant can we truly gain an appreciation for nature. Similar to the sea, he encourages people to open up to passions around them and to “bare [their] bosom[s] to the moon.”
Through personification, Wordsworth not only demonstrates the importance of focusing on nature, he is able to simply outline how to gain a relationship with nature like he himself has done. Simile, a literary device that directly compares two unlike things, is used throughout Wordsworth’s poetry. He relates himself to nature to demonstrate the deep relationship he has with the world that surrounds him. Wordsworth shows us how to become one with nature. This shows the different levels he views nature on. Not only does he focus on nature in his daily life, he focuses on nature in his imagination. In “I wandered lonely as a Cloud,” Wordsworth writes: I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils. (Selected Poems 164)
Wordsworth uses a simile in this poem by indicating that he wanders through the world like a cloud. When in “pensive moods” he imagines himself floating above the beauties of nature allowing him to have a different perspective which brings him to life. When he is lonely and relies on the solitude of the cloud, it is possible for Wordsworth to gain a new perspective because he is given time to debrief and clear his mind. Wordsworth demonstrates that one must take time to reflect upon the world around us because it can bring much joy.
His statement, “And then my heart with pleasure fills” asserts that people can be greatly affected by the deep passions of nature. In “The World Is Too Much With Us” Wordsworth asserted that many times people rush through the motions of life and focus primarily on materialistic pleasures which can only bring temporary joy. In this poem, he extends that idea to show peaceful reflections on nature enable one to enjoy the “bliss of solitude” and experience true happiness. Another example of simile used by Wordsworth comes from “Tintern Abbey”: I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led;
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love. (The Poems 359)
In this poem, Wordsworth uses a simile by indicate he is “like a roe”. He imagines himself wandering through the mountains experiencing nature on a different level—like a deer would—without a goal but rather, wandering wherever nature leads, This demonstrates how nature can have different effects through the use of imagination if we are willing to pause our actions from day to day and take time to contemplate on our surroundings. Deep contemplation clears the mind and allows one to imagine a journey through nature—not just through nature, but as a living part of nature. Through this experience nature became “An appetite; a feeling and a love” for him. His total immersion in nature leads to him becoming one with nature, thus showing the value of an intimate relationship between man and nature.
Impression, the personal effect of some experience, real or imagined, is a third literary device Wordsworth frequently employs in his poetry. Wordsworth expresses the impressions nature makes on him throughout his poetry. He indicates the passions he has for the beauty that he sees. He expresses the beauty and the love he has for nature. He notes the profound feeling that it brings to him which allows him to connect with the world around him. The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong (Major Works 297)
Wordsworth indicates that he relies on nature for his personal strength. When overcome by “a thought of grief,” it is “his surroundings” in nature “beautiful and fair” that offer him relief and restore his strength. Clearly, the impressions of nature upon Wordsworth are both powerful and moving. Through his words of passion about nature, readers are encouraged to interconnect with the world around them and find similar strength. It leaves one wanting to see the world of nature through the same lens as Wordsworth. In the next example, Wordsworth states the magnitude of the impression of nature through a simultaneous double comparison: These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!” (The Poems 358-359)
Wordsworth demonstrates the long-lasting impression nature has made on him by indicating that despite “long absence” he still turns to nature frequently and simultaneously compares the powerful effect it has had on him to a blind man being made to see a landscape. He notes the deep relationship he has with nature by indicating how often he has turned to and relied on nature—even when it was not physically present. He uses the phrase “wanderer through the woods” symbolically of him wandering through the path of his life. He depends on nature to get him through the highs and lows of life in which he finds himself. His relationship with nature is an ever-growing process.
Wordsworth’s uses numerous literary devices including personification, simile, and impression to convey his poetic ideas. Through the use of personification, Wordsworth demonstrates how alike man and nature are. His similes show the importance of imagination and what one can discover when experiencing nature as if it were alive or as if the reader were a part of nature itself. Wordsworth’s powerful details of the impressions nature has on him show why he relies on nature as a source of inspiration and power. Through his use of personification, similes, and noting his impressions of nature, William Wordsworth expresses the importance of developing a relationship between inner man and the outer world and leads the reader to desire a closer relationship with nature himself.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 January 2017
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