Nature in Context vs. Nature out of Context
Nature has long been the focus of many an author’s work, whether it is expressed through poetry, short stories, or any other type of literary creation. Authors have been given an endless supply of pictures and descriptions because of nature’s infinite splendor that can be vividly reproduced through words. It is because of this fact that often a reader is faced with two different approaches to the way nature is portrayed. Some authors tend to look at nature from a more extensive perspective as in William Wordsworth’s “I wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” While some authors tend to focus more on individual aspects of nature and are able to captivate the reader with their intimate portrayals of nature that bring us right into their imaginations as shown in John Keats’ poem, “To Autumn.”
Keats once wrote that other authors describe what they see, while Keats describes what he imagines. The poem, “To Autumn,” is certainly evidence of that because from the beginning it builds up the Autumn landscape and touches upon nature in a more concrete way than Wordsworth ever touched upon. Its full of excellent picture language like, “And fill all fruits with ripeness to the core, /To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells,” which shows that he can also write about what he sees and feels in the same sentence. Then in the second stanza he starts to fill an already almost perfect picture with his imagination, by moving the background of the poem from the ripened fruit to the cider press, showing what beautiful things that Autumn can produce. He personifies Autumn, “Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; /Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep, /Drows’d with the fume of poppies while they hook, /Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers,” thus embodying her into the daily routines of harvesting. But the second line in this poem, “sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find,” was particularly interesting to me for I relate to its feelings of optimism and accord. In a way it also seems that the second stanza is heavy with sleepiness, with the exception of the last four lines, as displayed in the above quote with words like the “winnowing wind”, “Drows’d”, and “sound asleep”.
The four last lines of the second stanza, as I mentioned earlier, describes Autumn in pure action, “Steady thy laden head across a brook; /Or by a cider-press, with patient look,” by bringing out the true active lifestyle of what nature truly is. Again, through his imagination Keats is able to embark upon what he is really seeing. The purpose of the poem becomes clear in the final stanza, and in the warmth of the second line, “Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they? /Think not of them, Thou hast thy music too,” where Keats sheds light on the idea that that everything has a purpose. It would appear that Autumn, the season which robs us of the warmth of summer, where the leaves come tumbling from the trees, the season that prepares the world for a dark and cold winter ahead, has its purpose too. What would spring be without death, light without dark, but indeed it appears that Keats is thinking of life without death. In this poem, Keats is able to focus in on the beauty and splendid ness of autumn in order to demonstrate that everything will change according to the natural cycle of life, and what is generally regarded as bad is also essential to the persistence of life.
While Keats used his descriptions of nature in order to demonstrate a point regarding life, Wordsworth steers clear of that route, and uses nature solely for its beauty and for nothing else. For example, Wordsworth uses several settings that are almost like backgrounds to in which to compare the daffodils, “Continuous as the stars that shine…The waves beside them danced.” He is placing these images of flowers beside some of nature’s most spectacular beauties trying to convince the reader that nothing stands up in beauty against these flowers. And whereas Keats’ intention was to follow his feelings, “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, / Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;” Wordsworth chooses to write exclusively about what his eyes are seeing, “ [The daffodils] stretched in never-ending line/ Along the margin of a bay: / Ten thousand saw I at a glance, / Tossing their head in sprightly dance,” and keeps from interpreting what he is seeing in full depth. Keats adds his own element to the poetry that he is writing, embarking on a journey that brings him to the depths of his imagination with what seems like an incredible ease. Keats has adds incite into his poetry, while Wordsworth makes up for lack of depth with sprightly personification and playful rhymes, “ For oft when on my couch I lie/ In vacant or in pensive mood, / They flash upon the inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude; / And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances with the daffodils,” that makes the poem entertaining to read. The rhythm adds a natural touch and shows that the poem is more of the classical, stereotypical poem that most people are familiar with. Often times people see a poem such as Keats’, “To Autumn” and become confused because not only does it not rhyme, but at times Keats’ references can become confusing. The reader is faced with having to probe into the mind and imagination of what some would call a genius and truly interpret the poem. Personally, I felt that it was difficult to interpret his words in the context of what of his imagination.
The poems did reflect on upon some similarities. For instance, upon reacting to these beautiful flowers, Keats says, “And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances in the daffodils,” while Keats’ reaction to the beauty of nature is quite similar as he states, “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? / Think not of them, thou hast thy music too.” Both of these men showed an appreciation of nature through these two poems. Their tactics use in describing what they saw, imagined, or felt however were quite different, but they both managed to get their point.
While both poets were able to take a stance on nature, and look at it from a different perspective, I found it difficult at times to follow John Keats‘ poems and interpret his thoughts and imagination. Comparing Autumn’s winnowing hair to a billowing cloud of straw, although it makes for an interesting picture inside a reader’s head, is not something that my brain associates with nature. It was this kind of comparison to nature, and Keats awkward use of personification that made me relate and like Wordsworth’s poem better. Wordsworth, like any other good poet was able transform ordinary life into art. A process of interpreting what he saw, shaping, and ordering took place between the time that he observed the daffodils and the finished poem. Wordsworth made it possible for the reader to see the daffodils in a new way that did not require an awkward use of language. It also provided a setting that was not only enjoyable to read, but left the reader a newfound appreciation of nature that Wordsworth showed us.