Nature and 19th Century Poetry

Nature and 19th Century Poetry

At times, nature remains a rather harsh overlord of humanity - Nature and 19th Century Poetry introduction. While humans rely on the earth for their very existence, it is not uncommon that nature and the earth turn on humanity and unleash great destruction. Therein lies the great paradox of nature as it can be both a source of great beauty but, at the same time, it can be a source of great danger and destruction. In the 19th century poems “Tintern Abbey” by Wordsworth and “In Memoriam LVI” by Tennyson, the fickle and cruel abilities of nature are examined and a subtle warning presented.

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In “Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth acknowledges the beauty of nature and sees nature as a source of great good. This is visible in the following passage:

In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

            In other words, these concluding statements essentially present nature as the source of all that is good and that much of the goodness found in humans derives from the wonders of the natural world. This is a significant departure from Tennyson’s more ominous attitude towards nature as a potentially destructive force:

Who trusted God was love indeed

And love Creation’s final law-

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravine, shriek’d against his creed

            That is to say, while nature is a source of good it can also be a wicked and dangerous creature (red referring to dripping blood) that can do great harm despite that its origins come from the goodness of God.

            This brings the question as to which poet provides an accurate representation of nature. The answer is both and neither. Nature has powers for good and powers for destruction. Each poet simply pick one side of the coin to examine while seemingly ignoring the other.

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