Wordsworth’s Use Of Nature William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770, in Cockermouth, West Cumberland, located in the northern part of Englands Lake District. This area of England is famous for its splendid array of natural landscape. After losing his mother when he was just eight years old, Wordsworth was sent to live with Ann Tyson, who allowed Wordsworth to freely roam the beautiful countryside near Esthwaite Lake. The freedom Ann Tyson gave young Wordsworth allowed him to experience nature, and led him to a deep affinity and love for it. As critic Matthew Arnold says in his essay on Wordsworth, It is Wordsworths relationship with nature that regards him as one of the most important poets of the Romantic period, allowing him to create great poetry because of the extraordinary power in which he feels joy is offered in natureand because of the power in which he shows us this joy and renders it (Encarta Encyclopedia online criticism).
In 1798, the fist edition of Lyrical Ballads was published. Although the work incorporates some of Samuel Taylor Coleridges poetry, the majority of the pomes belong to Wordsworth. With the publication of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth was able to publicly proclaim his belief of the importance of nature. The following paragraphs discuss some of Wordsworths poems, as found in the 1802 edition of Lyrical Ballads, and how they reflect Wordsworths use of nature. The first poem I will discuss is Wordsworths Ode: Intimations of Immortality.
The theme of the poem deals with childhood memories of nature incorporating into the adult mind. The poem focuses on Wordsworth’s belief that life on earth is a faint silhouette of an untainted existence recollected in childhood, yet it is forgotten through Rierson 2 the process of becoming an adult. In the first stanza, the speaker reflectively says there was a time when all of nature seemed dreamlike, yet that time has past. In the second stanza, the speaker says he still sees the rainbow, and the rose is still lovely. He says the moon looks across the sky with pleasure, and the sunshine is a glorious birth (1.16). In the third stanza, while listening to birds sing and watching lambs play, the speaker is wounded with a painful thought, but the sound of a nearby waterfall and the music of the gusting wind brings back his strength.
He announces his sadness will no longer ruin his experience. In the fourth stanza, the speaker announces to nature that his heart takes part in the blissful celebration surrounding him, and he is wrong to feel sullen on such a sweet May morning. However, a field in the distance and a pansy at his feet makes him think of something that is gone (4.53). He asks what has happened to the visionary gleam, and wonders, Where is it now, the glory and the dream? (4.56-57). The speaker of the poem is at odds with nature, yet Wordsworth consciously constructed the poem in this fashion to make the speaker an example of how unhappy a man can be if he is not connected with nature.
Understanding that his grief comes from his inability to experience the May morning, as he would have as a child, the speaker attempts to be joyful. However, he is only able to experience happiness when he realizes he does possess the ability to understand nature. My next example of Wordsworths use of nature is found in his poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. The speaker of the poem relates himself to a cloud. He says he is wandering like a cloud floating above hills and valleys when he sees a host of daffodils beside a lake.
The dancing flowers flutter along the lakes shore, while the waves of the Rierson 3 lake dance beside them. The speaker says, A poet could not but be gay,(15) in such a joyful company of flowers. The speaker goes on to say that he gazed and gazed, but thought little of the wealth the scene would bring him. But now, whenever he feels vacant or pensive, (20) the memory of the dancing daffodils flashes upon that inward eye / That is the bliss of solitude, (21) his heart fills with pleasure, and dances with the daffodils (24). Literary critic Donald Davidson says This simple poem, one of the loveliest and most famous in the Wordsworth canon, revisits the familiar subject of nature with a particularly simple musical eloquence (great poets.com).
The poem depicts the speaker as a wanderer who discovers a field of daffodils, which he calls upon in memory to comfort him when he is lonely. Wordsworths brilliant use of reverse personification in the first few stanzas of the poem metaphorically compares the speaker to an object of nature. While the cloud represents the speaker, the daffodils personify human beings. Again, Wordsworth uses an image of nature to bring happiness to the speaker. According to critic Lance McKeon, This technique implies an inherent unity between man and nature, making it one of Wordsworths most basic and effective methods for instilling in the reader the feeling the poet so often describes himself as experiencing. (litcrit.com) Another example of Wordsworths use of nature comes from his sonnet It is a Beauteous Evening.
The sonnet is about a young girl who teaches the speaker a lesson about the relationship between nature and childhood. It begins with the speaker describing the scenery around him. The speaker reveals in the first few lines of the Rierson 4 sonnet that it is a beautiful evening, the sun is sinking down in its tranquility and The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the sea (5). The speaker relates the ocean to the mighty Being, (6) and the sound of the ocean is compared to thunder. The speaker addresses the young girl who walks with him and tells her, though she seems untouched by solemn thought, (10) he himself is absorbed by her divine nature.
He says the young girl worships in the Temple’s inner shrine (13) merely by being, and that God is with thee when we know it not (14). As critic Dorothy Lang stated in her essay on Wordsworth, This sonnet is one of the many excellent sonnets Wordsworth wrote in the early 1800s. It is one of the most personal and intimate in all of Wordsworth’s writings, and its aura of heartfelt serenity is genuine as anything in the Wordsworth canon (IPL online criticism). Shortly before Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson, he returned to France to see his former mistress Annette Vallon, and their child, Caroline, who was now a ten-year-old girl. Dorothy Lang also states in her essay, This sonnet is thought to have originated from a real moment in Wordsworth’s life, when he walked on the beach with the daughter he had not known for a decade (IPL online criticism).
Critic Matthew Arnold states in his essay that It is a Beauteous Evening is, Unlike many of the other sonnets of 1802, it is not charged with either moral or political outrage; instead it is as tranquil as its theme (Encarta Encyclopedia online criticism). The main technique of a sonnet is to combine imagery of natural scenes with religious imagery. The first two lines of the sonnet make the first metaphorical comparisons, stating the evening is a holy time, (2) and quiet as a nun (2). In the last few lines, as Rierson 5 the speaker observes the purity of the young girl, he says her wholesomeness does not make her less divine (11). The message Wordsworth is relaying is that in childhood, one is innately connected to nature and united with its present moment and natural surroundings.
Furthering my example of Wordsworths use of nature, I present his sonnet, The World is Too Much With Us. In the sonnet, the speaker angrily accuses modern society of having lost its connection with nature and with everything thats meaningful. He says the sea bares her bosom to the moon, (5) and the winds howl, and humanity is still out of tune. The speaker looks coldly at the world. The speaker yearns for a world more connected with nature, so that, standing on this pleasant lea, (11) he might see images of ancient gods rising from the waves, a sight that would give him great pleasure.
He imagines Proteus rising from the sea, (13) and Triton blowing his wreathed horn (14). According to critic Maxwell Hoskins, in his essay analyzing The World is Too Much With Us, This sonnet falls in line with a number of sonnets written by Wordsworth in the early 1800s that criticize or admonish what Wordsworth saw as the decadent material cynicism of the time (cliffnotes.com). Although the sonnet is relatively simple, it angrily states that human beings are lost in materialism and are out of touch with nature. In the last line of the sonnet, the speaker radically suggest that he should have been raised as a pagan, so he could still see ancient gods in the actions of nature, thus gaining spiritual comfort. Rierson 6 The familiar Wordsworthian theme of communion with nature is angrily stressed in this sonnet. Critic Maxwell Hoskins also stated in his essay, The sonnet is important for its rhetorical force (it shows Wordsworth’s increasing confidence with language as an implement of dramatic power, sweeping the wind and the sea up like flowers in a bouquet), and for being representative of other poems in the Wordsworth canonnotably London, 1802, in which the s …