World Literature-Romanticism

Explain how these two writers seek to bring us in touch with our true human nature by experiencing our natural environment. Identify the patterns of description and imagery that reveal each poet’s sense of nature, and explain what each poet shows us we gain from being close to nature and natural feelings. Does either poet sense anything negative or dangerous about nature and “being natural”?For the English Romantic poets of the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth centuries, Nature provided not only the them, but the psychological and spiritual inspiration for many of their most profound and enduring works. Two key poets of the Romantic movement, William Blake and Samuel Taylor Coleridge provide a rich example of how Romantic poets perceived a duality in nature, one which consisted of the ideal and also of the “lost” or “fallen” ideal. Although William Blake was not, technically, a part of the Romantic movement and preceded the Romantic movement by a few years, his poetry exemplifies many of the attributes which are associated with English Romanticism, foremost among them, his visionary experience of nature and his attempt to articulate this vision through poetry which referred to nature in symbolic terms.Blake’s poems present a simplistic surface; they are often short poems with readily identifiable subjects: flowers, animals, city-scapes or landscapes. The poems usually rely upon a “sing-song” rhythm and upon a repetition of imagery. A good illustration of this technique is Blake’s poem “The Ecchoing Green” which presents a seemingly ideal bucolic surface and shows very little overt tension: “The Sun does arise,/ And make happy the skies./The merry bells ring,/To welcome the Spring.” (Blake) and within these opening lines there is only  the faintest hint that ideal nature contains potential peril or negativity. The hint lies within the words “does” and “make” which imply that Divine force must be present in order to create paradisal reality. In other words, the inference by suggestion here is that without the sun, there would be no nature at all. This seemingly obvious and simple fact means little in logical or scientific terms, but when the poem is read symbolically, the connotations are clear.The poem’s closing lines clarify Blake’s symbolic intent even more fully, remembering that the sun in this poem stands as a symbol for Divine power:No more can be merryThe sun does descend,And our sports have an end:Round the laps of their mothers,Many sisters and brothers,Like birds in their nest,Are ready for rest:And sport no more seen,On the darkening Green.(Blake)Without the presence of the sun, the “Green” becomes dark and foreboding. Though Blake’s poem presents a simple, child-like surface, its symbolic connotations do, indeed, stipulate a duality in nature and that duality is dependent upon a Divine (sun) power in order to create an ideal.This aspect of symbolism in nature is pronounced even moreso in Blake’s poem “The Tyger.” In this poem, Blake imagines the duality of nature personified in the symbol of a tiger: “Blake’s symbolism is directly related to his imaginative development, and the very nature of his poetry is the conflict of symbol with symbol, and the dramatic qualification of the symbolism as we shift from Innocence to Experience;” (Gardner 10) this means that, for Blake, nature is not only good but contains the latency of evil or destructiveness in it as well.Instead of positing the sun as a symbol for absolute, Divine power, in thsi poem, Blake imagines the force of the sun as fire as a more ambivalent reality, a portent of nature’s ambiguity and latent danger: “In what distant deeps or skies/Burnt the fire of thine eyes?/On what wings dare he aspire?/What the hand dare sieze the fire?” (Blake). The lines are interrogative  rather than affirmative. Nature, as the tyger, is viewed as a puzzle, a fearsome unknown.   However, Blake’s complex symbolism allows for the tyger to also symbolize nature’s essential goodness and ideal aspects: “the symbolism of night implicit in The tyger is itself used to express the triumph of Innocence over Experience (Gardner 129) and the poem’s deep resonance relies upon the reconciliation of the lamb as a symbol of innocence and the tyger as a symbol of experience. Throughout all of these aspects, nature is viewed as a unifying force, one which contains but does not obliterate good or evil.Like Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge saw a duality in nature, but he also recognized the innate capacity for natural symbols to represent the human psyche and the human imagination. For Coleridge, as for Blake, the human soul and nature were one. This means that the ideal projection of nature is an ideal projection of the human soul in the poetry of a romantic poet, but so — also — is the projection of the human capacity for destruction, waste, and ignorance — what might be loosely termed as “evil” or the fallen ideal. Coleridge’s famous poem “Kubla Kahn” deals with this dichotomy in nature and in the human psyche. Like Blake, Coleridge relies on symbolism; however, Coleridge’s symbolism is much more elusive and complex than Blake’s and verges on what many consider to be hermeticism, or a type of poetic secrecy. Because Kubla Kahn is widely regarded by critics as a fragment, that is an unfinished poem, it symbolically represents nature in both form and symbolism, particularly with the preservation of essential mystery.The poem concerns a vision that the poet had while in a dream. The poem’s vision is inspired by nature and, in aft, posits the dual aspects of nature: ideal and perverse as represented by the domes in the poem. The contrast in visions is Coleridge’s division of his experiences of nature: “The vision of Xanadu (1-36) consists of an antithesis and a third term. Kubla’s garden, described in a lofty, commanding, but matter-of-fact tone, is landscaped according to geometrical principles abstracted from the natural phenomena which are their ultimate source. Kubla imposes his forms (dome, rills, towers, walls: parabola, curve, cylinder, rectangle) upon naturally occurring materials whose own properties are thereby modified, appropriated, or eliminated:” (Levinson 105)  in other words, one aspect of the poem is to show the disjointed idealism, the perversion of reality which takes place when man (represented by Kubla Kahn) attempts to impose his will or vision nature. The ideal aspects of nature flourish within harmony and imagination: “The garden’s physical beauty and its carefully constructed harmonies conceal the violence of its underlying natural–we might say, libidinal–energies. Kubla’s empire, a product of will and reason, is fanciful rather than organic, its internal necessity an artifact, its beauty an anti-truth.” (Levinson 105)The symbolism employed by Blake and Coleridge allowed these poets to represent a complex and nuanced vision of nature, one which contained not only their ideal projections and visions, but their apprehension of a fallen ideal, of the “experrience” which harms nature wand allows man to fall out of balance. For both poets, it is the frightening and inspiring aspects of nature which drive poetry andWorks CitedGardner, Stanley. Infinity on the Anvil: A Critical Study of Blake’s Poetry. Oxford: Basil           Blackwell, 1954.Levinson, Marjorie. The Romantic Fragment Poem: A Critique of a Form. Chapel Hill, NC:      University of North Carolina Press, 1986.