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'Poetry is the image of man and nature' (Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads). Critically evaluate the importance of nature in Romantic poetry.

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Introduction

'Poetry is the image of man and nature' (Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads). Critically evaluate the importance of nature in Romantic poetry. Nature is a prevalent and vital motif in Romantic poetry, providing an essential polarity in the face of an increasingly industrialised society. The notion of nature, the great outdoors, for example, offers the poet both literal and metaphorical escape from the 'fever of the world'1. In Lines Composed a few Miles above Tintern Abbey2, William Wordsworth celebrates man finding solace in nature, seeking its 'serene and blessed mood', far away from the 'din Of towns and cities'3. Indeed, there is a sense in which Wordsworth is both physically and mentally retreating to the natural world and the beauty of its 'deep seclusion', this idea of psychologically or perhaps spiritually attuning oneself to nature, the catharsis of its 'tranquil restoration'. Catharsis is perhaps the key word here. The poet's escape to nature rejects society's citified 'din' in favour of finding a 'purer mind' amongst nature. Nature becomes a refuge where the: heavy and weary weight Of all this unintelligible world, Is lightened. Wordsworth ostensibly underlines a sense of emotional articulation that comes with man's reunification with nature. Nature has a restorative power. It speaks to the unconscious, the poet's 'feelings... Of unremembered pleasure'. Nature is able to evoke these 'gleams of half-extinguished thought', 'the recognitions dim and faint'. 'The mind', as Wordsworth affirms, 'revives again'. The cathartic power of nature introduces a similarly prominent theme in Romantic poetry: youth and the poet's desire to regress to a state of innocence. This theme lies at the heart of Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey. Wordsworth's poem is a poignant evocation of the 'dim and faint' recollection of childhood pleasure. In returning to this bucolic paradise, the poet is reminded of the 'coarser pleasures of [his] boyish days'4, the 'dizzy raptures' of his postadolescence. Nature becomes an aide-m�moire of the carefree bliss of youth. ...read more.

Middle

She argues, that without the prejudice and guidance of a tutor: 'Who is to recommend books to [the child]? Who is to give him the previous information necessary to comprehend the question? Who is to tell him whether or not it is important?'31 Barbauld stresses that such influence is inevitable, that 'a very small part only of the opinions of the coolest philosopher are the result of fair reasoning; the rest are formed by his education, his temperament, by the age in which he lives, by trains of thought directed to a particular track through some accidental association - in short, by prejudice'32. The implication being that education is necessary, but that it does not have to be dogmatic, that the tutor should 'gently... guide his pupil'33. In this, the child in his development will formulate his own philosophy, his own 'radical and primary truths which are essential to his happiness'34. Vitally, Barbauld argues that 'a child may be allowed to find out for himself that boiling water will scald his fingers, and mustard bite his tongue; but he must be prejudiced against rats-bane, because the experiment would be too costly'35. Barbauld concludes that 'to reject the influence of prejudice in education, is itself one of the most unreasonable of prejudices'36. The implication of Barbauld's theory would ostensibly oppose the view of Blake and Wordsworth who value youthful freedom in nature. Barbauld's arguments assert the necessity of education for children. However, while Barbauld suggests that for children to develop they have to be under the guidance and influence of a parent or tutor who will shape their vision of the world, she does not argue that the 'bird' must 'sit in a cage and sing'. Indeed, Barbauld's philosophy of education is actually Romantic in its ideal of creating and developing the individual. For Wordsworth's attuning to nature in Tintern Abbey represents what some critics have referred to as the "myth of nature"37. ...read more.

Conclusion

Abrams, et al, W.W. Norton, 2001, p765 27 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, To a Sky-Lark, from 'The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 2, ed. Abrams, et al, W.W. Norton, 2001, p765, l. 3 28 Ibid 26 29 Blake, William, The School-Boy, from 'Songs of Experience', 1794, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Oxford University Press, 1970, l.16, 17 30 Wordsworth, William, Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood, 1807, from 'The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 2, ed. Abrams, et al, W.W. Norton, 2001, p287, l.67, 68 31 Barbauld, Anna Letitia, On Prejudice, from Selected Poetry and Prose, ed. McCarthy, W., Kraft, E., Broadview Press, 2001, p337 32 Ibid, p338 33 Ibid, p340 34 Ibid, p343 35 Ibid, p344 36 Ibid, p345 37 biography of Wordsworth, from 'The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 2, ed. Abrams, et al, W.W. Norton, 2001, p220 38 Ibid 39 Blake, William, London, from 'Songs of Experience', 1794, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Oxford University Press, 1970, l.9 40 Ibid, l.11 41 Blake, William, Garden of Love, from 'Songs of Experience', 1794, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Oxford University Press, 1970, l.3, 4 42 Wordsworth, William, Lines Composed a few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798, from 'The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 2, ed. Abrams, et al, W.W. Norton, 2001, p235, l.122, 123 43 Wordsworth, William, I wandered lonely as a cloud, from 'The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 2, ed. Abrams, et al, W.W. Norton, 2001, p285, l.21-24 44 Keats, John, Ode On a Grecian Urn, from 'The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 2, ed. Abrams, et al, W.W. Norton, 2001, p851, l.3 45 Ibid, p853, l.47 46 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Work without Hope, 1825, from 'The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 2, ed. Abrams, et al, W.W. Norton, 2001, p467, l.7 Problems with Philosophy & Literature Christopher Teevan 1 ...read more.

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