Friday, 24 April 2015

William Wordsworth and Nature


Wordsworth’s passion for nature is well-known. As De Quincey puts it, ‘Wordsworth had his passion for nature fixed in his blood. It was a necessity of his being, like that of a mulberry leaf to the silk-worm, and through his commerce with nature did he live and breathe.’ Wordsworth had a complete philosophy of nature. Following major points in his creed of nature may be noted:

Nature, A Moral Teacher

Wordsworth emphasized the moral influence of nature. A careful reading of ‘The Prelude’ shows that he received the best part of his education from nature. He regarded her as a great moral teacher, as the best mother, guardian and nurse of man, as an elevating influence. Like the senior Duke in ‘As You Like it’, he too found

                   Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks
                        Sermons in stones, and good in everything

In ‘Tintern Abbey’ he tells his sister Dorothy that “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”. In his eyes “Nature is a teacher whose wisdom we can learn if we will, and without which any human life is vain and incomplete”. In his words

                   One impulse from a vernal wood
                        May teach you more of man
                        Of moral evil and of good
                        Than all the sages can.

Wordsworth insists that through contact with nature the heart is exalted and made happy. Such happiness and exaltation is moral and in such a moral condition the heart can do no wrong.

Spiritual Interpretation Of Nature

Wordsworth believed that there is a divine spirit pervading all the objects of nature. This belief finds a complete expression in ‘Tintern Abbey’ when he tells us that he has felt the presence of a sublime spirit in the setting sun, the round ocean, the living air, the blue sky, the mind of man, tec. The spirit he says rolls through all things:

          A motion and a spirit, all objects of all thoughts rolls all things
            The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, the guide, the guardian of
            My heart, and soul of all moral beings.

This belief in a divine spirit pervading all objects on nature is called ‘Pantheism’. For him a walk in the country is as edifying and religious as a walk to Church. The fields and waters, the hills and woodlands are, according to his faith, visible outward manifestations of the ‘wisdom and spirit of the Universe’.

Development In His Love Of Nature

Wordsworth’s attitude towards nature did not become mystical or spiritual all at once. There were three stages in this development. In the first stage, he looked upon nature as a source of and scene for mere animal pleasure like skating, riding, fishing, and walking. In the second stage, developed into an impassioned love like a young man’s passion for his beloved, when

          The sounding cataract
            Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock
            The mountain and the deep and gloomy wood
            Their colours and their forms, were then to me
            An appetite; a feeling and a love

This stage was soon followed by the final stage of the spiritual interpretation of nature. He began to worship nature, because he saw in all natural objects the indwelling spirit of the ‘Supreme Being’. To him the myriad forms and phenomena around us were nothing but various manifestation of the divine. Moreover, he realized that there was an indissoluble bond between nature, man and God; this realization filled him with universal love and faith that all God’s creation is full of blessings. During this period his love of nature became linked with the love of man. 

Nature’s Soothing Influence And Healing Power
Wordsworth believed that the company of nature gives joy to the human heart. In ‘Tintern Abbey’ he expresses the joy he feels on revisiting a scene of nature. When after the failure of the great hopes of the French Revolution, Wordsworth’s mental horizon was darkened by doubts and disappointments; it was the lovely and peaceful surrounding of the Lake District that brought peace and solace to his subjected soul.

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