Nature and Human Life in William Wordsworth Poetry

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      Introduction: It is a widely accepted fact that Wordsworth was a great poet of Nature. However, his uniqueness lies in the fact that he has presented in his poetry an impressive and emotionally satisfying account of man’s relation to Nature. All created things are part of a unified whole in his concept.

      Relationship between Man and Nature: Man, in Wordsworth’s conception, is not to be seen apart from Nature, but is the very “life of her life”. Indeed, Wordsworth’s love of Nature led him to the love of man. Scarcely a poem of his is solely concerned with Nature description. Nature, of course, may dominate, but the “still sad music of humanity” is never ignored.

      Wordsworth’s Democratic Impulse, influenced by the French Revolution, led him to become a poet of man, or rather common man. The men and women of his poems are not kings, queens, princes or aristocratic men. They are ordinary simple folk like the Cumberland beggar, the leech-gatherer, or the forsaken village girl.

      Primal Qualities of Humanity became Wordsworth’s concern. He is not a poet of man in the sense of individual men, but a poet concerned with certain qualities common to mankind—the primal qualities where man and Nature touch and blend. Of course, he ignores the pettiness, and concentrates on the qualities of strength, endurance, simplicity, courage, and hope. The leech-gatherer in Resolution and Independence is deliberately compared to a stone, sea-beast and motionless cloud. The natural objects suggest the human qualities of steadfast strength of mind, imperviousness, independence of spirit, and endurance. In The Thom, the thorn-tree and the muddy pond exposed to the elements and still enduring, suggest the patiently suffering Martha Ray, while the fresh mossy green mound suggest the innocent liveliness of a child as yet free of worldly experience. The spacious beauty of the earth, the landscape and cloudscape against which the human beings are placed, ennoble and dignify these men and women.

      Depiction of Rustic Life: Wordsworth believed that “by stripping our own heart naked, and by looking out of ourselves towards men who lead the simplest lives, and those most according to Nature, men who have never know false refinements, wayward and artificial desires, effeminate ways of thinking and feeling,” men could develop into greatness. And the strength, intensity of feeling in its purity, “the essential passion of the heart, the elementary feelings” he felt were best to be found in the humble classes, who lived simply and in close contact with Nature. He explains his belief elaborately in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. These powers in human nature are like the primal energies of Nature; through them, Man and Nature are one. Thus he chooses a leech-gatherer for a hero in one of his poems, and this old man teaches the poet the quality of endurance and patience for forbearance. And he comes to us with some of the immobility of natural objects which suggests endurance.

      Bond between Nature and Man: Wordsworth felt that Man could fit amidst the inter-playing forces of Nature. In Three Years She Grew in Sun and. Shower, Lucy is taken up and incorporated into the life of nature. The same is true of the leech-gatherer in Resolution and Independence. He has the mystic’s consciousness of a primal spirit running through all the objects of the Universe—Nature as well as Man. In Tintern Abbey, he observes his awareness of a “motion and a spirit” that rolls through all things, a “Presence” whose dwelling is the natural objects as well as “the mind of man”. In The Simplon Pass the towering rocks, decaying woods and the open sky, the tumult and the quiet, all signify the presence of an eternal spirit unifying every element in the universe, including the mind of man.

      The individual mind and the external world are exquisitely fitted to each other.. In childhood, the bond is instinctively realized, when the eye sees a divine radiance in Nature. The “celestial light” fades as we become engrossed in worldly affairs. “Man and Nature, Mind and external world, are geared together and in unison complete the motive principle of the universe. They act and react upon each other, so as to produce an infinite complexity of pain and pleasure”. The functioning of this interlocked universe of Mind and Nature is for Wordsworth the highest theme of poetry.

      Nature Soothes Man: When the individual mind and external nature are in harmony, it is natural that there is a communion between Nature and Man. In The Thorn, a beautiful passage brings home to us the union of the tragic figure to the elements:

And she is known to every star
And every wind that blows.

       Nature has the power to console mankind. It is when man’s mind is in harmony with the natural objects that, a sudden flash of revelation comes upon him and he becomes aware of the unifying spirit behind everything. In Tintern Abbey, he tells us how the best part of human life is shown to be the result of natural influences. Nature’s healing power was a rapturous experience for Wordsworth and he conveys it in Tintern Abbey; the recollection of the scene soothes him in tormented moments.

      Incidents of Human Life occupy a main place in Wordsworth’s poems. Love’s power to inflict the deepest wounds and to heal the most irreparable is a common theme, as in The Thorn. Most of the poems are developed out of incidents which befell the poet personally. His stories are simple, forming a setting for his meditations on some aspect of ordinary human nature.

      The Still Sad Music of Humanity: It is easy to associate Wordsworth only with the “joy” and “happiness” of human destiny. But, in fact, he was fully conscious of the “cloud of human destiny” and presents it in his poems. In Tintern Abbey, he speaks of the “still sad music of humanity” which colors the mature mind and makes Nature all the more significant. In the Immortality Ode again we read of the “soothing thoughts that spring out of human suffering.” Indeed, it is suffering that leads to the philosophic mind which finds meaning in the “meanest flower that blows”. In the Elegiac Stanzas, he welcomes the humanizing of his soul through distress; it is suffering that gives fortitude and patient cheer. In The Thorn, the anguish of the forsaken woman is presented vividly.

      Poetry of Human Growth: We can call some of Wordsworth’s poems as poems of human growth. In the Immortality Ode, Tintern Abbey, and Elegiac Stanzas we have a clear depiction of development of the human mind in its attitude to Nature. If earlier he had seen in Nature only joy and peace and calm, now he was even more conscious of Nature’s significance after the experience of human suffering.

      Limitations in Wordsworth’s View of Nature and Man: Wordsworth’s poetry does not give the description of Nature in its cruel aspects. As for his concern with Man, large areas of human experience are ignored by him. Me contents himself with a few broad and simple issues.

      Conclusion: Man and Nature to Wordsworth are part of a whole, and should live in harmony. His men are spirits of the Earth, wrought upon by the elements from which they are compounded. The influences of earth and sky are everywhere felt inhuman features and character. Many of the men and women in his poems can be called incarnations of the moods of Nature, as in Resolution and Independence. His wife, whose praise he sings in She was a phantom of delight, has the beauty of Nature—dusky hair and starry eyes of twilight, and cheerfulness from dawn. She also embodies qualities seen in nature and human nature’s beauty—all the endurance, strength and skill. She is woman and spirit at the same time. Lucy embodies the spirit of joy in Nature; the leech-gatherer embodies the graver aspects. Apart from Nature, men and women are poor creatures to Wordsworth. The farther we travel from Nature, the more paltry do men become. Nature was the means, not an end. Wordsworth was primarily concerned with the emotional, imaginative and spiritual forces within the mind of man. After saying all that has been said above, it is obvious that Wordsworth is, indeed, a poet of humanity, though of a different order than Shelley.

University Questions

“Nature and human life are indissolubly interrelated in the poetry of Wordsworth.” Illustrate from the poems prescribed for your study.
It has been said that Wordsworth can scarcely be called, as Shelley might be, the poet of humanity. What is your opinion? Illustrate from the poems you have read.
“Wordsworth was as much, if not more, the poet of Man as of Nature”. Justify from the poems you have studied.
Wordsworth “dwells on those primal qualities of humanity where Man and Nature touch and blend”. Elucidate with reference to the poems prescribed for study.

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