On Wordsworth and Emerson¡¯S Conceptions of Nature

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Abstract: By comparing and analyzing their two poems, I will try to define Wordsworth and Emerson¡¯s respective conception of nature. The reason why they formed such conceptions of nature is, to the former, lies in his passiveness; and to the latter, in German philosophy and bold individualism.

Key Words: conception of nature£»NATURE£»philosophical conception of nature£»common conception of nature£»passiveness£»individualism

I. Introduction
II. Wordsworth¡¯s conception of nature
III. Emerson¡¯s double conceptions of nature
IV. Conclusion

¢ñ. Introduction
In the 19th century, romanticism prevailed as the literary mainstream throughout the European continent. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was one of the pioneers in the romanticist movement. As a great poet of nature, he wrote many famous poems to express his love for nature, one of which is ¡°I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud¡±. In the narrative poem, the poet successfully compared his loneliness with the happy and vital daffodils. The daffodils, the symbol of the nature, bring great joy and relief to the speaker. So Wordsworth¡¯s conception of nature is that nature has a lot to do with man, it can not only refresh one¡¯s soul and fill one with happiness, but it can also be reduced into a beautiful memory which will comfort one¡¯s heart when in solitude. In 1832 Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an American Unitarian minister, left the ministry for Europe to pursue a career in writing and public speaking. There he acquainted Wordsworth and got influenced by him. When he returned to New England, he accomplished his masterpiece Nature, in which he speaks loud his love for nature and explicates his philosophical ideas that earned him the reputation as Transcendentalism¡¯s most seminal force. However, Emerson did not just imitate Wordsworth or any other European romanticist¡¯s minds, rather, his conception of nature is a different and more complex one, which we can see from his poem Rhodora. Emerson holds that man and nature all come from the same power. So philosophically, this poem shows Emerson¡¯s transcendentalism is a kind of idealist monism. And his NATURE not only includes the common nature, but also includes man¡¯s body. So Emerson¡¯s conception of nature has double meaning, one is philosophical, the other common. After further exploration, we can find that Wordsworth¡¯s conception of nature originates from his passive attitude toward life, while Emerson¡¯s owes to German philosophy and his strong individualism.

¢ò.Wordsworth¡¯s conception of nature
On July 14,1789, the Parisian people stormed the Bastille, which marked the outbreak of the French Revolution. Before long its great influence swept the whole European continent. In England all social contradictions sharpened in the meantime. Workers, peasants, and indeed all people of the lower classes as well as the progressive intellectuals hailed the French Revolution and its principle ¡° liberty, equality and fraternity¡±. In company with the political movement in progress, a new trend also arose in the literary world, namely, romanticism. It prevailed in England during the period 1798-1832. In 1798, ¡°Lyrical Ballads¡±, with only about ten thousand words, came out as the manifesto to the English Romanticism, marking a new era in English literature. And its authors, William Wordsworth and his confidant Samuel T. Coleridge (1772-1834) became widely known as the ¡°Lake Poets¡±. In the Preface to the ¡°Lyrical Ballads¡±, Wordsworth set forth his principles of poetry, which reads ¡° all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling.¡± This forms a contrast to the classicism that made reason, order and the old, classical traditions the criteria in its poetical creations. Wordsworth holds that firstly the contents of a poem should focus on common country life and the beauty of nature, while the diction of a poem should be plain and vivid with the application of lower-class persons¡¯...
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