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The paper looks at the way William Wordsworth, the great English romantic poet, portrays nature in his poems as a source of inspiration, wisdom, and tranquility. Wordsworth's approach to nature is based on a deistic, pantheistic worldview. The poet develops a philosophy which envisions nature as a spiritual teacher which can help human beings focus their introspective gaze on the spirituality of the profound and divine connection of the natural and the human. Wordsworth realizes his vision of this connection through three major strategies. The first one is accentuating solitude as the necessary prerequisite for the beginning of the spiritual quest. Serene, quiet and contemplative state of consciousness, when the human mind calms down in nature's lap, is needed to help the soul open to the intense and profound spiritual experience that nature has to offer. The second strategy is the introduction of musical tropes. Among other arts, music is the most emotional and intuitive one, so, for Wordsworth, it becomes the gateway to perceiving and understanding nature. Wordsworth uses the image of music to convey the unfathomable, mysterious connection of the human soul with nature as opposed to the dryness and sterile austerity of rational cognition. Finally, Wordsworth widely employs personification of natural objects which helps him find an expression for his unity and oneness with nature. These three strategies endow natural phenomena with philosophical and religious meanings. In Wordsworth's poetry, nature becomes a spiritual guide which helps both the poet and the reader experience religious ecstasy, philosophical enlightenment and achieve inner peace.
William Wordsworth is one of the most famous poets who glorified the beauty of Nature in their works. His poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is one of the most celebrated nature hymns. Critical acclaim and amazing popularity with the readers pertain to the fact that Wordsworth's poetry is not simply admiring and laudatory, it is also contemplative, thoughtful, meditative, reflexive, philosophical. In his poems, Wordsworth, "a deist, a pantheist, a mystic, in the sense that his view of nature was incomprehensibly ecstatic" (Burton 300), develops a nature philosophy which discusses the profound and divine connection of the natural and the human. This philosophy stands behind the stylistic and semantic coherence and synergy in his poems which share such major attributes as focus on solitude and tranquility, the introduction of musical tropes, and personification of natural objects, that endow natural phenomena with philosophical and religious meanings.
Communication with nature is a profound spiritual experience which Wordsworth prefers to face alone, in a serene and contemplative mood. In many of his poems, he stresses that solitude is a preliminary condition which allows the human soul to connect with nature on a higher spiritual level. In the poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," solitude is not a sad, lonesome state, but rather a state of openness to the new encounter with nature and its enlightening power. Wordsworth sees beauty in the stillness and silence of nature, as shown, for example, in his poem "It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free":
It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration (Wordsworth 1-3);
In his poem "Composed upon Westminster Bridge" the poet shows that stillness and quietness can help even the city of London, "that mighty heart," unite with nature and become a "sight so touching in its majesty:"
... silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky (Wordsworth 5-7).
Serene, quiet and contemplative state of mind, in the words of Wordsworth from his poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", "that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude" (Wordsworth 21-22), is the necessary prerequisite that will help a human mind to calm down and open itself to the intense profound experience that nature has to offer. Therefore, joyful solitude becomes one of the key motives of William Wordsworth's nature poetry.
Another major quality of Wordsworth's hymns to nature is their musicality not only in terms of their melodic sound but also in terms of the poet's wide use of tropes related to music. Among other arts, music is the most emotional and intuitive one. Music is the gateway to perceiving and understanding nature. The poet begins his poem "Lines Written in Early Spring" by saying "I heard a thousand blended notes, / While in a grove I sate reclined" (Wordsworth 1-2). Music and dance embody the irrational, free, divine essence of natural phenomena. His daffodils dance in the breeze, "tossing their heads in sprightly dance" (Wordsworth 12) and "the waves beside them danced; but they / Out-did the sparkling waves in glee" (Wordsworth 13-14). This joy of music and movement is transmitted to the poet: "And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances with the daffodils" (Wordsworth 23-24). Wordsworth uses the image of music to convey the unfathomable, mysterious and wonderful connection of the human soul with nature, as can be seen in his poem "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey":
For I have learned
To look on nature,
... hearing oftentimes
The still sad music of humanity (Wordsworth 71-74)
The musicality of Wordsworth's reception of nature is his way of opposing the dryness and sterile austerity of rational cognition.
The deep spiritual connection of the human and the natural is realized by Wordsworth also through the personification of natural objects and phenomena which turn into living humanlike creatures. His daffodils and waves come alive and dance in "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", the river acts "at his own sweet will" (Wordsworth 12) in "Composed upon Westminster Bridge," the sea is explicitly personified in "It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free:"
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea;
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder - everlastingly (Wordsworth 5-8).
Personification helps Wordsworth find an expression for his unity and oneness with nature, his striving to see it as a friend and a spiritual teacher.
All these means help the poet convey his understanding of nature as a source of wisdom, tranquility, and spirituality that cannot be attained in rational, analytical ways. In this context, his nature hymns become profoundly religious. This quality of Wordsworth's poetry is emphasized by B. Cerf, when he writes, "there is only one conspicuous poet of the romantic school whose religious profundity does not seem to be purely illusory. That is Wordsworth" (Cerf 618). This holistic, philosophical, religious vision of nature is one of the most distinct features of his poems.
Burton, Mary E. "Wordsworth's Nature Philosophy as Revealed by His Revision of The Prelude." College English, vol. 1, no. 4, 1940, pp. 300-309. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/370653.
Cerf, Barry. "Wordsworth's Gospel of Nature." PMLA, vol. 37, no. 4, 1922, pp. 615-638. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/457163.
Wordsworth, William. "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802." Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45514/composed-upon-westminster-bridge-september-3-1802.
Wordsworth, William. "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth." Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45521/i-wandered-lonely-as-a-cloud.
Wordsworth, William. "It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free." Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45524/it-is-a-beauteous-evening-calm-and-free.
Wordsworth, William. "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798." Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45527/lines-composed-a-few-miles-above-tintern-abbey-on-revisiting-the-banks-of-the-wye-during-a-tour-july-13-1798.
Wordsworth, William. "Lines Written in Early Spring." Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/51001/lines-written-in-early-spring.
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