The Comforts of Nature in Poetry
According to poet Reginald Vincent Holmes, “The earth has music for those who listen. ” (Wander the Wild). Holmes and countless other poets have been inspired by the earth’s music to compose exquisite poetry for generations. Through sensory and vivid depictions, these writers have created a literary environment that allows readers to experience nature in the way that inspired them. Not only have authors portrayed nature as a confidant for emotional alleviation, but it has also been a focal point to encourage the end of environmental issues.
In poems, including “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth, the poet uses poetic devices, such as similes, personification, and imagery, to show the speaker’s attitude toward nature as an animate, benevolent, and comforting force. Poets also use similes in order to convey how the speaker feelings toward nature and themselves through comparison. Along with personification, similes allow the speaker to reveal their emotions toward the benevolence of nature to the reader by covertly implying rather than overtly stating. For example, Wordsworth writes, “I wandered lonely as a cloud / That floats on high o’er vales and hills, ” (Poetry Foundation). By comparing him/herself to an aimlessly drifting cloud, the speaker speaks volumes of his inner thoughts and emotions. Rather than simply stating “I wandered lonely”, the speaker shows the depth of his insufficient will and substance because in nature, clouds float without purpose or direction. Not only does this set the tone for how the speaker finds his/her peace later in the poem, but it introduces the reader to the speaker and his/her state of mind. Another example, is when the speaker compares the daffodils to stars. Wordsworth writes, “Continuous as the stars that shine / And twinkle on the milky way / They stretched in never-ending line” (Poetry Foundation).
By comparing the flowers to stars in the sky, the speaker brings forth the notion that nature is pure and everlasting. Many poets use personification in poetry about nature to convey the idea that nature is alive and, therefore, comforting. Nature itself is composed of biotic as well as abiotic parts, so poets writing about nature often personify different objects to suggest that all nature is animate. For example, in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, the poet personifies daffodils as lovely energetic dancers in order to portray the consolation nature can provide:When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils, Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze … Ten thousand I saw at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. (Poetry Foundation)The lyrical ballad form along with the continuous usage of personification creates a live, vivid picture of nature in the reader’s mind.
The speaker’s depiction of the dancing daffodils creates a playful mood while portraying the environment as pure and exuberant. The speaker goes on to describe other aspects of nature surrounding the flowers; however, he/she emphasizes the point that the daffodils are the focal point. In the text, “The waves beside them danced; but they / Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:” ( Wordsworth 1). Through these lines, the speaker furthers the idea that nature is alive due to the fact that the waves danced and daffodils have the emotion of glee. At the end of the poem, when the speaker “dances with the daffodils”, it establishes contrasting character development (Poetry Foundation). In the beginning, the speaker is lonely and requires guidance, so through nature, he/she is able to find comfort and happiness. In many poems, the poet uses imagery the speaker to persuade the reader of the belief that nature needs to be cherished, rather than destroyed. In today’s society, with issues including global warming and deforestation, much of the world’s natural environments are at risk for gradual obliteration.
Therefore, many poets have used poetry as a way to warn people of mistreating nature. For example, in “Where the Sidewalk Ends”, Silverstein beautifully describes the close proximity of nature; in backyards, by the road, in the park, etc:There is a place where the sidewalk endsAnd before the street begins, And there the grass grows soft and white, And there the sun burns crimson bright, And there the moon-bird rests from his flightTo cool in the peppermint wind. (“Where the Sidewalk Ends”)In this stanza, the speaker uses imagery to provide the reader with a vivid picture of nature as well as depict it as a pure entity that is always within reach. Throughout the poem, the speaker tries to persuade the reader to visit nature rather than simply pass it by in everyday life. In order to further the idea of being in to, the speaker refers to a global environmental issue; air pollution. Silverstein writes, “Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black” (“Where the Sidewalk Ends”). By making this connection to a real-life matter, the poet brings awareness and convinces the reader of its reality. Some critics argue that poets use various poetic devices in poetry about nature in order to portray mankind as destructive. As the world continues to foster industrialization and urbanization, the fate of nature is at constant risk. Environmental issues like global warming, deforestation, and climate change threaten the survival of natural habitats that have existed since the beginning of time.
Due to the vitality of these global issues, many poets have used poetry to address the devastation humankind has brought on nature. For example, Silverstein references air pollution in a whimsical poem about nature, portraying a metropolis as the “place where the smoke blows black” (“Where the Sidewalk Ends”). By referring to man-made cities as a common source of environmental contamination, the speaker emphasizes the role humans play in the impetuous and gradual demolition of nature. However, although the harshness of mankind towards nature is often mentioned in poetry, many poets use different literary techniques to warn about the destruction of nature rather than berate society. Not only that, but poems about nature also portray the longevity and endurance of nature, despite the threat of human destruction. For example, Silverstein writes, “Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow” (“Where the Sidewalk Ends”). Due to the fact that the flowers survive the building of man-made structures, the speaker is able to convey the idea that nature is not completely destroyed. Furthermore, by illustrating nature as an escape from reality, the poem instills the fact that humanity cannot completely divert the peace and comfort of a natural environment. The speaker in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” joyfully describes his/her elation, saying, “A poet could not but be gay, / In such a jocund company:” (Poetry Foundation). By revealing the speaker as a poet, Wordsworth is able to solidify the idea that is a driving inspiration for poetry.
Contrary to common belief, nature is a poetic subject that has been used in countless works not because of its broadness, but due to its sheer importance. Many famous poets, such as Robert Smith, have written their best works on nature. Through poetic devices, including personification, similes, and imagery, these poets have been able to portray nature in the eyes of the speaker, in such a way that it becomes animate, comforting, and kind.
Throughout time, poetry has been used in a collective effort to delineate nature and its spirit. John Keats once wrote, “The poetry of the earth is never dead. ” (“John Keats Quotes”). In a day and age where environmental issues plague the world, poems depicting nature as a benevolent, living force instill a sense of obligation in reader’s of all likes; the appreciation of the nature.
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