Percy Shelly and William Wordsworth were amongst the few poets that wrote during the romantic age. The word romantic was used to describe the period that imaginative literature was written between the late 18th and early 19th century. One of the key elements that distinguish the romantic poets from other poets who wrote during that time is that they attached some sort of importance of their imagination in a special way. The romantic poets like Wordsworth and Shelly were conscious of the wonderful capacity that enabled them to create imaginary worlds as they grew skeptical about the existing one. However, just like most of the romantic poets during the period, Shelly and Wordsworth were influenced by the revolutionary ideas while at the same time reacting to them. As a result, the ideals pushed them into forming a new communion with nature as a way to help them seek emotional refuge and consolation after facing the harsh and repugnant existing world. Even though the two poets wrote about nature in their poets, they also had different perceptions towards its representation. This paper is going to examine how effective Percy Shelly represented the concept of nature more effectively than William Wordsworth in their pastoral writings, Adonais (Shelly) and Tintern (Wordsworth).
Before looking at the extent to which each of the poets represented the concept of nature in their works, it is important to first mention that the two poets wrote during the time of romantic age and they both held radical political views (Perkins, 1960). Shelly and Wordsworth felt that their literary works held some sort of superiority to other forms of art and even the human experience. Therefore, even though they expressed their beliefs towards nature differently, they both shared the idea of hope in their works. The question that one may ask from the two poems is that can a poem really give someone hope? The two poets have similarly answered the question affirmatively in their poems. Both Shelly and Wordsworth attempt to resolve the conflict between nature and man through transcending the human experiences and art or literature in form of hope. Therefore, hope becomes the focal point of the poets subjectivity in nature. Further, both poets wrote during the period that people had become excited by natures power and wonders associated with the existing world.
Even though they both wrote during the same period, Shellys perception towards nature is totally different with the picture painted by Wordsworth. Shelly represents nature as wilder and crueler while Wordsworth represents the natural world as hospitable and tolerant. In Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth represents the natural world as a green pastoral landscape, which explains the soothing and nurturing features of the natural world (I. 158). He further describes the natural world as the heart that loved her (II. 123). The poet seems to appreciate the things that nature has granted him. Wordsworth felt that he had a special responsibility to explain what nature has presented the human race with. Through the persona, the poet expresses how the memory of the woods and cottages influences the way he (the speaker/persona) acts and interact with other people. The speaker realizes that the memory of the woods has affected his deeds of kindness and love. Of course, this concept has been explained by many educators who argue that learning experience can be highly influenced by ones environment. Therefore, where one grew up in or lived in can highly shape the way that person behaves. This is what the speaker acknowledges in the poem Tintern Abbey by Wordsworth that even though his past experience has significantly influenced his present, he still believes that the present events or memories will also influence his future.
Shelly, on the other hand, believes that the natural world is cruel and wild and does not support the nurturing of humanity. Shelly manages to effectively represent the cruelty of the world through the death of her beloved friend, Keat. Shelly expresses her discomfort with death as one of the nature that the existing world has brought upon the humanity. She says that I weep for Adonais-he is dead (I. 1). She tries to express that the world is not a green pastoral landscape as Wordsworth perceives it. In fact, Shelly presents the optimism and hope through what starts as a dejection and ends with some sort of optimism. Shellys poem Adonais expresses her unawareness of the death that killed her beloved friend, John Keats. Shelly starts his poem with a dejection in which he calls for everyone to mourn with her for the death of Adonais. In his pastoral work, Shelly effectively represents the concept of nature through her representation of emotions. Shelly represents the emotions of his friends death in older traditions and manages to make them appear simpler to the audience. He turns his fury and anger towards nature because he was not aware that Keat suffered from tuberculosis. He presents the helplessness of the Adonais mother, Urania who could not save her son despite summoning all the spirits to join her in mourning the sons death.
Even though the two poets have represented the concept of nature differently but it is important to mention that their perceptions and attitudes towards nature were largely shaped by the actual location at the time they composed the poems. Wordsworth composed the poem Tintern Abbey during summer period where he faced an icy mountain that was beyond his control of humanity. Wordsworth presented the nature as something beautiful but beyond mans capability to control. Shelly, on the other hand, presents her perception regarding the natural world as something beyond mans comprehension and capability. In what he describes as Plots of cottage ground (I.11), Shelly showed the power and splendor associated with the natural world that makes it difficult and impossible for human beings to comprehend. Shellys hatred for the natural world is largely influenced by the actual environment. However, unlike his counterpart, Wordsworth, Shelly expresses very little faith and he is more skeptical towards nature. Due to such little faith, Shelly undermined his happiness. Shelly manages to represent the concept of nature more effective than Wordsworth because he possessed a flexibility of mind which is different from the spiritual one that Wordsworth possessed. In most parts of the poem, Adonais Shelly expresses his thoughts towards death. He calls upon everyone to mourn with him as he tries to mourn his friend, Keat. Shelly further, fascinatingly, presents nature to be mourning death, one of his incredible techniques that bring out the concept of nature more effectively. He describes how nature mourns a death in stanza 14, 15, and 16 in which he illustrates how oceans, mountains, and winds all mourn the death of Keat. He explains that these natural features all look gloomy and with desolate sadness that expresses their dissatisfaction with the death of Keat. According to Morton (1994), Shellys desires, adoration, persuasion and veiled thoughts effectively represent the concept of nature.
Shelly believed that nature represents a powerful sublime event or entity which all seem meaningless to man. He describes nature as splendorous and deadly and presents dynamic forces that man cannot comprehend or control. Although he tries to presents the beauty associated with appreciating nature, Shelly believes that the fact that nature cannot be tamed by man makes it difficult to equate the beauty with the tranquility of nature. With his dynamic and flexible mind, Shelly advises that man should look nature from two points of view. The two sides include admiring natures unapproachable synthesis of power and grace. Looking at the issue from the two sides provides Shelly with various options to pick unlike Wordsworth that only accepts the hospitality and comforts that nature presents. Even in making decisions, the decision maker is able to make a proper and effective decision only through consultation that presents him/her with different points of view and a wide range of choices to pick from. However, looking at something from a fixed point of view may not represent the issue effectively. Just like Shelly has explained in the poem Adonais nature presents both splendorous events and also deadly events as well. Most often, people tend to focus on the good side of something without looking at the detrimental effects that it may bring. As much as people like to enjoy the nature of life that is filled with many interesting things, they must also remember that it will reach a time that the same nature will present deadly events. Shelly presents the concept of death in a simple manner that the audience can be able to understand it. We are able to understand the complexity associated with death in the poem because the way the poet has managed to simplify it. Even though Wordsworths context of nature is also simple, but his representation seem to show a different and fixed point of view regarding nature. Wordsworth believed that nature plays a more comforting role and sees nature as an external or sublime entity that does not threaten the life of humans. From Wordsworths point of view, these qualities do not threaten the life of someone but rather gives him/her comfort. Wordsworth, through the way he represents nature, does not appear to associate with other poets like Shelly who wrote during the romantic age, who were influenced by vast phenomena of nature in different ways (Wu, 2012). Wordsworth expresses that he cannot regret his past experiences citing that knowing nature never did betray; from joy to joy, for she can so inform (II.123-125).
Shelly has presented nature and man in an opposition manner, while Wordsworth presents nature and man as complementary elements of a whole explaining that man is part of nature. Even though Shelly has presented nature in a conflicting manner with the human concept, he still manages to effectively represent the ideals of nature than Wordsworth his flexible mind and attitude. As Shelly explains, nature is dynamic and keeps on changing. However, while nature changes it influences the human life and the society as a whole. Shelly manages to differentiate nature and man, something that Wordsworth has not done in his poem Tintern Abbey. In the poem Adonais Shelly Urania who is struggling with nature to understand what has happened to her son, Adonais and calls upon everything include nature to join her in mourning Adonais. In her dejection in the first stanza of the poem, Urania laments Adonais death and thou, sad hour, selected from all years; to mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers (I. 4-5). Shelly presents the dynamism of nature and how people should view it. He advises that people should not focus on the good side of life because when the negative side emerges, it would be difficult to comprehend. When a child is born in a family, the whole society becomes happy with it. As the child grows into adulthood, there are expectations that the family and the society have for him/her especially when he/she is a great person. Adonais was that also important to his mother that after his death, his mother Urania starts to express her dejection of nature claiming that she could not control death. One aspect of Shellys work that makes the poem more credible and representation of nature more effective is the way he has organized his ideas through logical deduction. Shellys works establish the main categories and then determining the secondary categories and how each of them relates to it. Shelly pragmatically creates his story not based on the omnipotent creative genius as Wordsworth by presen...
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