A Significant Role in the Poetry of Nature, Creativity, and Imagination in the Eighteenth Century

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In the eighteenth century, nature played a significant role in poetry. The term ‘nature’ has been interpreted by some of our greatest poets in different ways and meanings. Alexander Pope believed in reason and balance, while William Wordsworth acknowledged strong emotion and creativity. The eighteenth century was known as the Age of Reason, where people focused on looking for truth and clarity in a world of chaos. Poets of this era believed that a relationship with God or the universe was of more importance than a mutual political or religious one.

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They also believed that one could gain that personal relationship through the natural world. Literature became more personal in the eighteenth century than it had been in the past. William Wordsworth and Percy Shelley understood nature differently, but both expressed their sentimental ideas of individuality (Moore). The eighteenth century was a time of creativity and imagination in which Wordsworth and Shelley used nature to express themselves.

Wordsworth and Shelley’s poems both drift further from the traditional neoclassical poems that preceded them. Alexander Pope, a neoclassical writer, prioritized reason over passion and creativity. Although Pope was a highly intelligent and respected poet, he unfortunately fell out of favor during the Romantic Era. Wordsworth and Shelley prioritized imagination and emotion over reason, which is why they were popular in the eighteenth century (Aubrey).

William Wordsworth cherished nature and lived in the remote parts of England for most of his life. He had a connection with the natural world, and this is clear in his poems. His writings explain how he discovers more about himself and his connection with God by becoming more aware of nature. Wordsworth believed in using nature to bring to life a person’s likeness to the features of nature. Throughout Wordsworth’s poems, the meaning of nature evolves through each poem he writes. The strong emotion and creativity shown during this period is, without a doubt, indicative of the Romantic Era. Wordsworth compares the material world to the pure beauty of nature that is often effortlessly overlooked or forgotten because of our material world.

Most of Wordsworth’s poems center around the death of a child. It seems as though Wordsworth is haunted by the death of his son and daughter; therefore, his poems are imbued with darkness and death. Throughout Wordsworth’s poetry, the name Lucy is repeatedly referred to as someone Wordsworth loved and lost. In some instances, Lucy represents a lover, while at other times, she signifies the innocent love a father has for his little girl.

“Numerous critics have disagreed over the identity of Lucy; yet, most have come to the conclusion that she does not represent just one person. Instead, she is a character that consists of all the people that Wordsworth has ever loved or lost. ‘Lucy Gray’ by William Wordsworth was published in 1799. Wordsworth uses nature to describe the haunting death of a young girl named Lucy Gray. The following stanza is a great example of how Wordsworth uses nature to describe Lucy.”

“You may yet spy the fawn at play,

The Hare upon the Green.

But the sweet face of Lucy Gray.

“Will never more be seen.” (Wordsworth, 9-12).

The visible features of nature in this stanza reveal that something has happened to Lucy. The reader may see “the fawn at play” and “the hare upon the green,” but Lucy “will nevermore be seen.”

Furthermore, throughout the poem, Lucy is portrayed as an object of nature that is “seen, heard, felt, touched, or tasted” (Razaq). Wordsworth succeeded in connecting Lucy, a young girl who died, to nature.

Similarly, Percy Shelley utilizes the natural world in his writing, but in a slightly different way than Wordsworth. “Mont Blanc” by Percy Shelley, published in 1817, is viewed as a complex and reflective poem. A reflective poem typically mirrors the poet’s state of mind. This 144-line natural ode is separated into five stanzas and is written in irregular rhyme, meaning there are no imposed limitations on rhyming. “Mont Blanc” translates to “white mountain” in French. Shelley wrote this poem inspired by the imposing Mont Blanc, the highest peak of the Swiss Alps (Keats).

“In Mont Blanc, Shelley uses the mountain and the surrounding land to suggest that one’s individual experience is profoundly influenced by nature and imagination. Indeed, he almost conveys the idea that the creator of nature is one’s mind (Hitt). Here is a passage from Mont Blanc where Shelley says…”

“The everlasting universe of things.”

Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves.

Now dark, now glittering, now reflecting gloom…

Now lending splendor, where from secret springs.

The source of human thought brings its tribute.

Of waters–with a sound but half its own.

Such as a feeble brook will oft assume
In the wild woods, among the lone mountains,

Where waterfalls around it leap forever,

Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river.

“Over its rocks ceaselessly burst and raves.” (Shelley, 1-11).

This passage demonstrates Shelley’s perspective of nature and the mind. Shelley discusses how nature flows through the mind, later giving intimidating illustrative imagery of woods, waterfalls, and mountains. This imagery implies that the mind, or imagination, is the creator of these overwhelming natural scenes. These lines showcase Shelley’s concept of nature (Hall). What humans think is brought into the world through nature, according to Shelley’s use of the phrase, “the source of human thought its tribute brings.” Shelley’s inspiration derives from nature. His imagination is stimulated by the natural objects he observes (Hitt).

Furthermore, Shelley’s inspiration from nature is evident in another excerpt from “Mont Blanc.”

“The secret strength of things.”

Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome.

The law of heaven inhabits thee!

And what were you, and earth, and stars, and sea?

If the human mind’s imaginings,

“Silence and solitude were vacancy.” (Shelley, 139-145).

This passage stresses the difference between Wordsworth’s and Shelley’s views of the human mind in regard to nature. Shelley strongly believes that the natural world is born from imagination, as is evident in “Mont Blanc”. George Bernstein interprets line 144, “human mind’s imaginings,” as saying, “all poetry is an act of the mind” (Panoptic). Bernstein also makes a good point that Shelley creates both a poem and a “world… by imaginatively perceiving it” (Panoptic). He feels he has the power and duty to translate these truths of imagination into poetry.

For Shelley, Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, represents the endless potential of nature. Shelley explores the idea that Mont Blanc has always existed and will exist forever. The mountain fills Shelley with motivation; however, Shelley is frightened by its coldness and its unreachable height. Eventually, Shelley speculates whether the mountain’s power may be insignificant (Hall).

Shelley personifies the mountain to help readers, and himself, understand this enormous wonder of nature. He pretends the mountain is a person and gives it human attributes so it does not seem as big and intimidating as it really is. Shelley presents all his doubts and questions through imagery. Imagery was used when describing Mont Blanc’s presence, beauty, and greatness. Mont Blanc has turned into a cultural symbol and a site of religious revelation. (Hitt)

The power given to an individual’s mind to think, accept, and comprehend one’s self was represented through aspects of nature in the works of William Wordsworth and Percy Shelley. Alexander Pope, an earlier eighteenth-century poet, used reason, culture, and balance in his poems. Wordsworth and Shelley believed they were chosen to guide people through the emotional period of change using imaginative poetry. Wordsworth and Shelley didn’t agree on everything, but they highlighted the healing power of one’s imagination. Wordsworth proposed that an individual’s mind gains power and understanding from the influence of nature. Shelley proposed that a person’s mind and creativity give nature its power. Despite the different approaches they used to form one’s identity through nature, both their works demonstrated that nature played a very important role in the eighteen hundreds.

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A Significant Role In The Poetry Of Nature, Creativity, And Imagination In The Eighteenth Century. (2022, Aug 19). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-significant-role-in-the-poetry-of-nature-creativity-and-imagination-in-the-eighteenth-century/