Free «Nature and the Romantics» Essay Sample

The Romantic literature discusses and portrays the beauty of nature and its relation to the human and its problems. In poetry, authors use naturalistic episodes and settings as an indicator of inner feelings and emotional sufferings of a character. The demand is for justice, and in defense of human integrity, or for the reestablishment of a changed unity. In both poems, the position of the natural environment is circumscribed, the perspective limited, the formulation of the requirements of unity incomplete. Desired is a concrete unity experienced by the living being. Thesis In both poets, Wordsworth and Keats use similar themes and ideas to portray the society and natural beauty. Still, the main difference is that Keats concentrates on the theme of death and dying while Wordsworth portrays natural beauty of the environment and relates it to societal values.

In the poem Tintern Abbey William Wordsworth portrays the vitality, the force for renewal, that is the offering of a body at grips with the beauties o nature, which he feels is emerging on the margins of civilization. As his exile is double--forced both by natural and social events out of a union with the world, and by the movement of history out of the ultimate meaningfulness that had been its promise, so his need for the resurrection of the kingdom was more poignant and deeply felt. Wordsworth writes:

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“These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!” (Wordsworth).

The challenge of his life is to find a path out of this desert of alienation, desiccation, and dehumanization toward a renaissance in human living--and to give preliminary form to such a renaissance.

In contrast to Wordsworth, Keats in Ode to a Nightingale concentrates on the theme of death and revelation. The body, a creature of time and place, ever renewed by the cycles of nature, desiring, feeling, moving, growing, aging, and ultimately dying; the body, animated by activity, exhausted by effort, and cleansed by the sea; the body, exalted by beauty and ravaged by time, continually consecrating our sensual union with the earth in a present devoid of any transcendent future. The harmony of this theme with the cycles of nature is the locus of the pagan sensitivity with which Keats feels that profound accord he wishes to celebrate.  Keats writes: “the grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild / White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine / Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves” (Keats). No dichotomy between sensual wants and spiritual needs; no guilt or shame about nudity; and no mystified hope for another life. No mystification of reason, only the demand for a lucid perception of the body's place in nature. Time is the matrix of action, marking the passage of days by which life exhausts itself, not a transcendent symbol of a redemptive suffering. “Though the dull brain perplexes and retards / Already with thee! tender is the night” (Keats). Time is cyclical, not linear: It takes us nowhere but to death while taking Keats to eternal renewal. This nature of seasonal cycles is not a place for progress as far as human destiny is concerned.

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In both poems, the main character is portrayed as sensitive individual and the recognition of eventual death may be only the most common and most definitive. Some perhaps never do. There is certainly no necessity, either factual or ethical, for this encounter, which tends to occasion a break in our habitual patterns of activity and assumed meaningfulness, forcing us to stop, reflect, and struggle to come to terms with the awareness of no longer being at one with our world. Readers are propelled forth in the search for an intellectual reconstruction of meaning that will return some peace to our conscious life. Those to whom such a project is alien may continue to live their lives on essentially the same qualitative level of felt experience with which they began--though occasionally they kill people unintentionally. With others, it is different. This excessively optimistic statement of the emergence of rebellion no doubt suggests a simplified conception of human nature requiring further development. This initial articulation of political rebellion, emerging out of an insistence on collective dignity, hardly offers a political strategy.

Both poems focus on concern of natural inquiry and divine power, still it is not primarily the passing of judgment on particular actions or the deduction of values from first principles. Its focus ought rather to be on establishing values through an open and experimental inquiry--ideally, through dialogue: an open inquiry between persons. Wordsworth writes:

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“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: more like a man” (Wordsworth).

Values emerge from human experience, and intellectual formulations should be taken as claims whose justification must be sought by appeal to such subjectively grounded experiences. Justifications are not so much proved as established; only the inner self-contradiction of claims may be proven. The task of ethical thought then is to spell out the boundary conditions of any ethical inquiry, to establish the essential constants in human action and conjoint living with which conduct must come to terms. Within this framework readers do not deduce rules of action; ethics is not mathematics or even law. Rather, readers grasp limits to humane action and recognize that certain commitments cannot go together with others.  Keats writes:

“ow more than ever seems it rich to die,

To cease upon the midnight with no pain,

While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad

In such an ecstasy!” (Keats)

This approach reveals limitations intrinsic to the realm of values, establishing binding, constants of action within particular frameworks. The need to act in accordance with any specific ethical or human framework--with the if-clause of the hypothetical --can never be deduced. That is the force of freedom to which all deductive ethical theories seek in vain to give the lie.

In sum, the concern, in both poems, is with those natural conditions that must be taken into consideration if the ethical resolution is to be consistent with humane values: to reveal those constants of the human condition a consideration of which seems essential to the resolution of human conflict. It is further to reveal the values to which human living bears witness, values that provide the framework and guidelines for the further expansion of human action. It is to attempt to reveal how totalizing definitions of the value to which revolt bears witness can distort that value and thus be self-defeating. All this calls into question the value of natural environmental and the world in which the notion of humane takes on its normative force. The human beings share certain traits and face a common destiny so it is not possible that making this communality explicit and raising it to the level of common perception could establish at least a minimal framework for the appreciation of shared values. If dialogue is to be possible and concrete unity established--if, in short, people are to be able to come together communally in any sense--they require a shared conceptual frame for such interaction.

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