The Role of Nature

Topics: Reason, England, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Pages: 14 (4808 words) Published: July 9, 2005
Considering the history of literature, the conception of Nature seems to be a quite complex question. 'Nature' is not a concept that can be grasped easily and it often requires discussing some great philosophical conceptions like 'Pantheism' or 'Deism'. However, my paper will not deal in detail with such vast enquiries. I rather want to focus more accurately on how 'Nature' is used by Pope and Coleridge, respectively. With other words, I would like to analyse the function of the concept of 'Nature'. The fact is, that even if these poets do not exhaustively characterise ‘Nature' itself, they employ it in a lot of different analogies and metaphors to articulate and embody for example ideas about 'morality' (Pope) or the intimate 'self' (Coleridge). My argument would be to show that in both cases, nature has a sort of epistemological function. The apprehension of nature, its perception or its examination leads to knowledge of something that is not directly obvious; one can name it God or the divine. Thus, to mention of nature is a kind of disclosure that guides us to be aware of some reality that is meta-physical.

As a matter of fact, the ways Nature is described by Pope and by Coleridge are very different: Pope uses a sort of analogical technique, whereas Coleridge exploits the more suggestive power of metaphors. That point shows that, even though Nature has the same overall function, that is reveal something that is beyond the mere material world, the way it can and should be perceived is not the same. I would like to argue that Coleridge considers a sort of intuitive faculty, whereas Pope thinks that a reasonable examination of Nature unveils the divine order of the universe.

The present analysis will spotlight Pope's Essay On Man and Coleridge's Rime of an Ancient Mariner. First, I want to show that Coleridge and Pope advocate a pantheistic and a deistic conception of Nature, respectively. This should be the general framework through which I will try to show some other differences. Then, in a second time, the use of a concept like "reason" will be analysed in regard to Pope's Essay on Man. This step shows that even if Pope is a writer of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, he deeply condemns the arrogance that results of a pretentious use of reason. In fact, reason should therefore be seen as an important but limited resource, for one cannot pretend to grasp through reason the whole system of the universe. In a third time, I will try to proceed to the same analysis in Coleridge's Rime of an Ancient Mariner. In contrast to Pope's text, Coleridge emphasises the role of emotion and experience and he doesn't seem to really accord great importance to reason. In this sense we will see that unsurprisingly Coleridge's poetry raises typical Romantic topics. Nature in Pope's Essay on Man

An Essay on Man is a didactic and quasi-philosophical poem. Etalons for that genre can be found in antiquity, especially in Lucretius's De Rerum Natura (Nuttall Pope's ‘Essay on Man' 44). Lucretius's poem is an exposition of Epicurean philosophy and a vast speculation about natural phenomena and more fundamentally about the whole universe. Pope's poem seems to have fairly the same far-reaching scope in its subject matter, but unlike Lucretius's one, it is guided by a Christian faith. In addition, in the vein of Augustan poets, Pope's ambition is to define some "general truths"; he wants to show the orderly and logical structure of the universe and the place of "Man" and "Nature" within it. The first Epistle on which I would like to focus is titled "The Nature and State of Man with respect to the universe". Nature is thus a topic, but the question is: what exactly is the function of Nature in Pope's work?

Epistle I is deliberately ordered, growing out of Pope's central premise that the world man inhabits might appear to be a "mighty maze" (I, 7), but it is not without "plan" (I, 7). As he declares "frame", "bearings" and...

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