Mid Term Essay Exam
Section I: Literature through 1700
In both the poem "Contemplations" by Anne Bradstreet and William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, nature is a main subject. Both poems are interested in nature's role in people's (especially Christian's) lives, whether it be negative or positive. The question that comes to mind is nature a chaotic wilderness, the physical evidence of Satan's meddling, or is it the marvelous examples of the works of God? Bradford believed very firmly that is the former. "The traditional Puritan view of nature (which the Separatists shared as well) was very negative. Bradford did not view nature through a romantic lens, but rather he saw it as evidence of Satan at work in the world." He believed that as Satan would "sow errours, heresies and wonderful dissensions amongst the professors themselves," he was in fact the creator of confusion and disorder in the natural world. Bradford saw America as a forbidden wasteland, a direct reflection of the spiritual chaos. In the poem "Of Plymouth Planation", he wrote that the Pilgrims, after reaching the New World, found a "hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men." Bradford compared the arrival of the Pilgrims in the New World to Moses and the Israelites, but America, in being untamed, was not the Promise Land they had pictured. Instead it was a place of chaos and danger, "full of woods and thickets, [representing] a wild and savage hue." In Bradford's mind, this new land became the wilderness the Israelites wandered in for forty years, but unlike Moses, the Pilgrims had no consolation, and neither could they, as it were, view this as a more goodly country. According to Bradford, this made nature a kind of spiritual trial at best, and a very hostile and demon like land. From Bradford's point of view nature was a fallen world. The lack of order and stability was both threatening and representative of the contamination of sin to all Creation. The "civil parts of the world" where nature had been conquered and tamed, paved over into cities or manicured gardens was the ideal. This is because both the Puritans and Pilgrims saw order as reflective of reason and a spiritual understanding. The Puritans had a great thought to control and understand. Even though both Bradford and Bradstreet looked at nature and saw something else beyond it, the spiritual world in her poem "Contemplations," Bradstreet saw nature as being a pale reflection. Instead of nature being evidence of Satan's presence in a fallen world, it is an example of the power and glory of the God who created it. It is one of the few ways that humans can catch a glimpse of the Creator's omnipotence. Nature, from Bradstreet's view, is a beautiful, impressive, and while it remained a part of a larger, spiritual picture, it is a positive figure and representative of God. Bradstreet devoted much of "Contemplations" to nature's awareness of aesthetic properties. She begins the poem by describing the trees in autumn, describing them as having an air of humble majesty, "Their leaves and fruits seemed painted, but was true of green, of red, of yellow mixed hue." She admired the sun as it had control over night and day as well as the seasons. She also sees nature that praises God. She referred to grasshoppers and crickets, describing their seemingly harmonized song as "they kept one tune and played on the same string." Bradstreet makes it very clear that even though nature is beautiful, it cannot compare to the glories of God. She illustrated this with the long life of the oak tree, asking "hath hundred winters past since thou was born?/ Or thousand since though breakest thy shell of horn?" before continuing to say that those numerous years mean nothing in the face of eternity. She continued to point this out later by describing the continual re-birth of the world as the seasons come and go, how "the earth (though old) still clad in...
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