Nature’s Guide

Wordsworth continually focuses on the idea of nature being its own, its permanent, free, growing, and moving, on its own. At the beginning of The Prelude Book First Wordsworth describes the nature of nature, and the nature of himself as a child, and choosing a guide.

The earth is before me- with a heart

Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,

I look about, and should the guide I chuse

Be nothing better than a wandering cloud

I cannot miss my way. I breathe again- …

Long months of ease and undisturbed delight

Are mine is prospect. Whither shall I turn

By road or pathway, or through open field,

Or shall a twig or any floating thing

Upon the river point me out my course? (Wordsworth, 356)

This passage contains an ironic mixture of simplicity and complexity within not only the changing lives of humans, but also through the revelation of the Romantic Period.

First off this passage shows the beauty and simplicity in nature, with the statement of “a wandering cloud” brings to mind the serenity of a day out in nature, no boundary’s for containment. The idea of nature as free, and choosing no path represents the ideas of the Romantic period; simply connecting with nature and not focusing on the time or your personal being within societies crazy construct.

The idea also that children are less a part of societies construct also stands out in this passage. Wordsworth reflects continually on his childhood and how the only guide he needed in life was the “road or pathway”, walking through “open field”, or using a “twig or any floating thing upon the river” to guide him. The childlike innocence and absence from society seems to allow a stronger connection with nature.

Back in the Romantic Period, what was the difference between a child’s connection and an adults connection to nature?

How about now-a-days?

Is using nature a smart guide for life and choices?

Wordsworth, William. The 1805 Prelude Book First. Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume D The Romantic Period 9th ed. 6 vols. New York: NY, 2012. Print.

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3 Responses to Nature’s Guide

  1. jenniferbist says:

    Hello,
    I liked your analysis of this passage, on WW’s childhood, and the connections to nature as a guiding tool–I think all this is important in understanding what sort of a person WW was, which gives more insights into his poems words and truth.

    I tended to notice, while reading the “Prelude”, all his connections to nature come when he is alone; like you say too, an absence from society is what gives him the abilities to live/connect with nature. When he goes off in the boat at night, or how he watches the crowd of people leave just to wonder at the things around him, all this is important in realizing WW is a very self-conscious person, aware of his time and existence even as a child, and prefers to go out alone to see things others tend to forget about. He purposefully separates himself, it seems to me, which allows him to connect with the world in many personal ways by self-consciously watching it all go by. He is very ‘self-aware’, and it’s obvious by the way he describes certain things.
    I also liked how you mentioned the fact that he describes nature as it ‘guides’ him; it has nurtured him from the very beginning, which he frequently talks about, and that nature is a living, breathing thing which has specifically ‘chosen him’–Nature has singled him out to grow his mind to higher levels, and to push him onward in all areas of life. I suppose all this is very Romantic ideas, and you mention this is like a childhood innocence and being free. I think this is true, but I also don’t think this means he is necessarily like a ‘child’ in his thoughts of nature, but rather, even as an adult he is a spiritual type-of-person who is very aware of the world, and just wanted to jot it all down in his mind.
    Anyways, good post and topic

  2. npelletier says:

    Hi,
    I think you did a very good job of pointing out the simplicity of nature that is represented in The Prelude. The lines that you quoted offer a look into a child’s mind as he wanders through the landscape on his own. I feel that he uses this kind of simple language because it not only offers the readers an inside look to a child’s mind but also because it makes it easy for anyone to read and relate to the image of nature that Wordsworth is presenting. I also feel that you are correct in your observation of children’s relationship with nature at the time due to their status in society.
    I also feel that you posed some very intriguing questions at the end of your blog post. I feel that during the Romantic Period, an adult would be far more detached from nature. At this point most people were concerned with trying to make a comfortable living for themselves and their families, so I doubt that many would have had the time to stroll around outside like Wordsworth did when he was a child. Now I feel like both children and adults have lost most of their connection with nature because we have lost our natural connections with most things due to technology. As for using nature as a guide for life choices, I don’t believe that it would have been a practical thing to do at anytime. I feel that people should make choices based on their circumstances, feelings, and the situations around them.

  3. cljones says:

    I am not commenting on bkmilne’s post in particular but on the Wordsworth posts as a group. While there are many wonderful lines in Wordsworth’s poems I find that they don’t contain the ‘little gems’, the wonderful metaphors that other Romantic poets, like William Blake created. Blake’s poem ‘And Did Those Feet’, which is in the anthology on page 161, is one example (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKaJ4b0XYmI). I love the last two stanzas in particular. Blake also wrote eight of my favorite lines of poetry.

    To see the world in a grain of sand

    And heaven in a wildflower

    To hold eternity in the palm of your hand

    And infinity in an hour

    He who binds to himself a joy

    Does the winged life destroy;

    But he who kisses the joy as it flies

    Lives in eternity’s sun rise

    These are from two different poems ‘Auguries of Innocence’ and ‘Eternity’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4FOz3T-qBc). Blake also wrote the poem which begins ‘Tyger! Tyger! burning bright/In the forests of the night’. The language of these poems is, indeed, more florid and poetic than Wordsworth’s but for me the best poets have always been those who can capture in a few words the essence of the extraordinary in the ordinary experience. It is prose distilled to its most concentrated form.

    Coleridge also does this in his poems. One such example is in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ where he writes, ‘Like one who on that lonesome road/Doth walk in fear and dread,/And having once turned round walks on,/And turns no more his head;/Because he knows a frightful fiend/Doth close behind him tread.’ In these six lines of poetry Coleridge has captured that moment we all experience when on an empty street we get that chill feeling that we are not alone. His ‘Kubla Khan’ is rendered in exotic language that perfectly mirrors the fantastic nature of the Khan’s pleasure palace.

    I contrast this with Wordsworth’s ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tinturn Abbey’. The poem could just have easily been written a few meters from the local pub looking out across the village green. For all that Wordsworth describes lofty cliffs and wild secluded scenes we don’t get a sense of the place itself only of Wordsworth’s reactions to revisiting it. If you have been in an abbey ruin, and have any appreciation of architecture and history, there is a definite atmosphere of the supernatural, you can sense the weight of the past profoundly. I do not get this sense of place from the ‘Tinturn Abbey’.

    Wordsworth has always been my least favorite of the Romantic Poets. I grasp the importance of what he and Coleridge were doing when they first published ‘Lyrical Ballads’ and his style is infinitely preferable to that of say, Dryden, whose poetry probably represents what Wordsworth was writing against. I think that he was surpassed by the poets that he inspired much as Salieri was surpassed by Mozart who was, in turn, surpassed by Beethoven.

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