English Literature 18th Century to the Present
January 15, 2012
“The symbolic use of nature in the Romantic Period”
The Romantic period has very little to do with its actual name. Rather, the authors of this period used descriptive imagery and extensively referenced nature because the use of nature is symbolic. There are many authors of the Romantic period that illustrate this point.
Instead of embracing the political lifestyle of the period like other era authors did, the Romantics turned to nature for inspiration. “Romantics turned to nature for self fulfillment. They were turning away from the values and ideas of the previous era, embracing new ways of expressing their imagination and feelings. Instead of a concentration on ‘head,’ the intellectual focus of reason, they preferred to rely on the self, in the radical idea of individual freedom. Instead of striving for perfection, the Romantics preferred ‘the glory of the imperfect.’” (Lombardi 2012.) The Romantic author’s stressed the importance of the individual and boldness over the ideals of the coming Victorian age’s ideals of loyalty and fraternity.
The onset of the Romantic period is said to have begun with the writings of William Wordsworth with such works as “Lines written in early spring” and “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” In Wordsworth’s ‘Lines Written In Early Spring’ he states
“To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.” (Wordsworth Line 5-8.)
Here you can clearly see Wordsworth’s use of nature and how it affects the human soul. In this poem the speaker is sitting in a very lush meadow that is graphically described with such words like “sweet” and “budding twigs.” Wordsworth is very elaborate in his
description of the meadow in which he is sitting in. Wordsworth looks at Nature and through his views sad thoughts come to his mind. Here he expresses his conviction in that knowledge of reality is reached through emotions and intuitions that Nature generates at being observed by man. Being Nature the real representation of reality and godliness as well.
“Through primrose tufts, in that green bower
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths
And ‘tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breaths.” (Wordsworth Line 9-12)
In lines nine through twelve, he observes nature at its peak, in all its splendor and beauty. He tells about its dynamic development when he describes how the periwinkle trains its branches through the grass. He also displays his implication in this development of natural events expressing his desire for the flowers to rejoice at their existence.
Wordsworth’s poems initiated the Romantic era by emphasizing feeling, instinct, and pleasure above formality and mannerism.
Lombardi, Esther (2012). Ask.com: Romantic Period: Where did it all begin? Retrieved on January 12, 2012 from http://classiclit.about.com/od/britishromantics/a/aa_britromantic.htm
Wordsworth, William. Editor Bartleby Bookstore. “Lines Written In Early Spring” Retrieved on January 13, 2012 from http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww130.html