Nature vs. Society: Wordsworth's Romantic Poetry Essay

Nature Vs. Society: Wordsworth’s Romantic Poetry Over time, poetry has changed and evolved in its sense of the word nature. In its beginnings the idea of nature or natural was seen as negative and evil. However, in more recent times due to the era of Romanticism, nature in poetry is viewed in a positive and even beautiful light. William Wordsworth was a poet who wrote his poetry with a romantic attitude. Furthermore Wordsworth wrote specifically the poems “We Are Seven” (WAS) and “Three Years She Grew” (TYSG) in a style that showcased the superiority of nature over society. We Are Seven” and “Three Years She Grew” portray a romantic attitude in their works, additionally the values placed on the natural world over the societal world are viewed as more significant in the period of Romanticism. Beginning with “We Are Seven”, it is a lyrical ballad that is essentially a story of a modern, city man who comes across a young, eight year old cottage girl. The poem begins with the first stanza in which was not written by Wordsworth, but by Samuel Coleridge.

It starts of with the narrator speaking and in order to foreshadow the poems theme he describes a youthful, innocent child and then ends by stating “[w]hat should it know of death? ”. (Wordsworth, WAS, 4) This gives the audience the impression that the poem has to do with the idea of death and who may know more it, the young and innocent or old and supposedly wise. In the second and third stanza the man describes the young girl in vivid terms to paint the picture for the audience of that she is very natural.

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The narrator describes: She had a rustic, woodland air, And she was wildly clad: Her eyes were fair, and very fair; —Her beauty made me glad. (Wordsworth, WAS, 9-12) With the use of words such as rustic, wildly clad and fair, the reader has an image a young, beautiful and natural untamed looking girl. The girl is used as a device to symbolize nature. Also when reading how the man describes the young girl, the audience gets the sense that he is very contrasting compared to her since he describes her in such colorful terms.

Moreover, that her beauty made him happy, the audience is shown that this girl of nature is shown to be very beautiful, perhaps especially in this certain day and age. The conversation begins in the fourth stanza with the man asking the little cottage girl what he probably feels is a simple question that any innocent child could answer: “[s]isters and brothers, little Maid, / How many may you be? (Wordsworth, WAS, 13-14) In which the young girl replies that there are seven altogether, further explaining that two are living in Conway, two are gone to sea, and lastly “[t]wo of us in the church-yard lie” (Wordsworth, WAS, 21) The man is found confused by her response and ultimately is dissatisfied with the young girls answer for he believes that if two of them are dead they should be non existent and thus, “…ye are only five. ” (Wordsworth, WAS, 36) In this discussion the audience begins to see the contrast in opinions between the young girl and the man.

Each feel strongly that his and her answer is correct, however it is the man who seems ignorant to understand the everlasting connection the young girl maintains with her dead siblings. Further into the poem the girl describes the relationship and activities she shares with her deceased brother and sister, stating: My stockings there I often knit, My kerchief there I hem; And there upon the ground I sit, And sing a song to them. (Wordsworth, WAS, 41-44)

Contrast is then again explored as although the young girl’s siblings have passed on, she still spends time with them and connects with them as if they were still with her then, which illustrates the natural side. The man who represents society however, is still eager to prove her wrong and thus results in his attempt to break her down mentally and blatantly exclaims “[b]ut they are dead; those two are dead! ” (Wordsworth, WAS, 65) In response the young girl sticks to her statement and claims “…[n]ay, we are seven! (Wordsworth, WAS, 69) This argument further instills the notion of society and its logical, close mindedness while nature has the view of emotional and an open-minded perspective. The second poem “Three Years She Grew” has the same theme of death however, is from a different perspective. Generally, the poem is about a man who shares a love for a woman although her life is short lived. The poem is full of compliments towards nature, and to be associated is seen to be of the upmost regards. In the first stanza, the udience is hearing about how nature feels about this now young three-year-old girl also known as Lucy. Nature is ultimately personified almost as a mother figure or further Mother Nature in which “adopts” the young girl. Then Nature said, “A lovelier flower On earth was never sown; This Child I to myself will take; She shall be mine, and I will make A Lady of my own. (Wordsworth, TYSG, 2-6) In this verse, nature is choosing the young girl for it’s own, which in the natural world can be viewed as one of the best things that can happen to an individual.

Also, nature marks the girl as “Lady” which invokes a class status, that of upper class. Lucy will be a natural lady, and thus does not need society’s confirmation of this, furthermore contrasting nature to society in social recognition. The second stanza also compares nature to society in the use of social laws. “Both law and impulse: and with me…/ …[s]hall feel an overseeing power/ [t]o kindle or restrain”. (Wordsworth, TYSG, 8-12) In these lines, the idea of law and impulse are the same thing within Lucy.

She will be raised naturally so her impulses will be instinctive and positive, having a sort of law inside herself in which she learns from nature whom is a good mother. Moreover, she needs not be imposed on societal laws for she does not need them. In the next verse, Lucy is described that she will be “…sportive as the fawn”. (Wordsworth, TYSG, 13) This simile is used to describe the joy the Lucy will have and that she will be playful and wild. Nature gives a freedom and joyfulness in experiencing life.

In addition, nature declares that “…[h]ers the silence and the calm/ Of mute insensate things” (Wordsworth, TYSG, 17-18) meaning along with her joyfulness she will also have serenity and calm, this unlike the busy city of society. Lucy will learn to be “insensate”, which ultimately is the quiet of nature and none other. All the while through the poem, Lucy is growing up. Amongst the things that Lucy will learn, nature states that Lucy will have a sort of “…silent sympathy”. Wordsworth, TYSG, 24) Lucy will learn to be sympathetic and be able to identify with others. This is suggesting that imagination must predicate to having sympathy. In comparison to society, cities create isolation for there are too many person’s to connect, however when one is alone they are able to learn to sympathize, thus the idea of “silent sympathy”. Lucy will also obtain a secret knowledge that city people will not learn, as stated in the line “…she shall lean her ear/ In many a secret place”. Wordsworth, TYSG, 26-27) Lucy’s education is superior to a formal education taught in schools, for hers can only be learned through nature. In the last stanza, the speaker shifts from nature to that of Lucy’s love. Lucy has now reached adulthood however her “…race was run” (Wordsworth, TYSG, 38) meaning that Lucy has passed away. Lucy has died young and although this is a sad time, the narrator who finds peace through what he has learned from Lucy and her teachings of nature asserts: This heath, this calm, and quiet scene; The memory of what has been,

And never more will be. (Wordsworth, TYSG, 40-41) The narrator takes comfort with calm and understanding, or through the quiet and serene. This is shown not to be agonizing for death is only natural. Lucy has shared her qualities with her love, which furthermore connects men to nature through women. Additionally, although she is gone, the man is still surrounded by nature; he can feel her around him, which portrays their intimate connection. The age of Romanticism celebrates not only nature but also emotion and personal connections.

Each of the previous poems by William Wordsworth has relations not only with each other, but also with their simple yet not simplistic styles, as well as their themes of death and how people cope with the loss of loved ones. In “We Are Seven” the audience is exposed to the notion of a family connection with deceased loved ones that cannot be severed by the logical thinking of society. “Three Years She Grew” exposes readers to the emotional connection between a young girl, nature and her partner. Nature shows its dominance over society in that emotion and connections are more important then that of logic and reason.

Furthermore, each of these poems can be seen as relevant even in today’s day and age for many, if not most individuals have that longing of a deep emotional connection with another. Works Cited Wordsworth, William. “Three Years She Grew”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. 8th ed. New York: Norton, 2006. 1509-1510. Wordsworth, William. “We Are Seven”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. 8th ed. New York: Norton, 2006. 1487-1488.


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