Nature Vs. Society: Wordsworth’s Romantic Poetry
Over time, poetry has changed and evolved in its sense of the word nature. In its beginnings the idea of nature or natural was seen as negative and evil. However, in more recent times due to the era of Romanticism, nature in poetry is viewed in a positive and even beautiful light. William Wordsworth was a poet who wrote his poetry with a romantic attitude. Furthermore Wordsworth wrote specifically the poems “We Are Seven” (WAS) and “Three Years She Grew” (TYSG) in a style that showcased the superiority of nature over society. “We Are Seven” and “Three Years She Grew” portray a romantic attitude in their works, additionally the values placed on the natural world over the societal world are viewed as more significant in the period of Romanticism.
Beginning with “We Are Seven”, it is a lyrical ballad that is essentially a story of a modern, city man who comes across a young, eight year old cottage girl. The poem begins with the first stanza in which was not written by Wordsworth, but by Samuel Coleridge. It starts of with the narrator speaking and in order to foreshadow the poems theme he describes a youthful, innocent child and then ends by stating “[w]hat should it know of death?”. (Wordsworth, WAS, 4) This gives the audience the impression that the poem has to do with the idea of death and who may know more it, the young and innocent or old and supposedly wise. In the second and third stanza the man describes the young girl in vivid terms to paint the picture for the audience of that she is very natural. The narrator describes: She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad. (Wordsworth, WAS, 9-12)
With the use of words such as rustic, wildly clad and fair, the reader has an image a young, beautiful and natural untamed looking girl. The girl is used as a device to symbolize nature. Also when reading how the man describes the young girl, the audience gets the sense that he is very contrasting compared to her since he describes her in such colorful terms. Moreover, that her beauty made him happy, the audience is shown that this girl of nature is shown to be very beautiful, perhaps especially in this certain day and age. The conversation begins in the fourth stanza with the man asking the little cottage girl what he probably feels is a simple question that any innocent child could answer: “[s]isters and brothers, little Maid, / How many may you be?” (Wordsworth, WAS, 13-14) In which the young girl replies that there are seven altogether, further explaining that two are living in Conway, two are gone to sea, and lastly “[t]wo of us in the church-yard lie” (Wordsworth, WAS, 21) The man is found confused by her response and ultimately is dissatisfied with the young girls answer for he believes that if two of them are dead they should be non existent and thus, “…ye are only five.” (Wordsworth, WAS, 36) In this discussion the audience begins to see the contrast in opinions between the young girl and the man. Each feel strongly that his and her answer is correct, however it is the man who seems ignorant to understand the everlasting connection the young girl maintains with her dead siblings. Further into the poem the girl describes the relationship and activities she shares with her deceased brother and sister, stating: My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them. (Wordsworth, WAS, 41-44)
Contrast is then again explored as although the young girl’s siblings have passed on, she still spends time with them and connects with them as if they were still with her then, which illustrates the natural side. The man who represents society however, is still eager to prove her wrong and thus results in his attempt to break her down mentally and blatantly exclaims “[b]ut they are dead; those two are dead!” (Wordsworth, WAS, 65) In...
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