When William Wordsworth says in "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798" (1798),
For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity. (lines 88-91),
he grasps the concept that nature exposes the pain in human life, a theme that Coleridge meditates in "Dejection: An Ode." Age and experience have given Wordsworth new awareness that allows him to see the suffering of human society reflected in nature. Likewise, Coleridge hears nature, in the form of the wind playing upon the Eolian lute, telling stories of humanity:
What tell'st thou now about?
'Tis of the rushing of an host in rout,
With groans, of trampled men, with smarting wounds. . .
It tells another tale. . .
'Tis of a child
Upon a lonesome wild,
Not far from home, but she hath lost her way
And now moans low in bitter grief and fear,
And now screams loud, and hopes to make her mother hear. (lines 110-125)
This sensitivity to nature's message as opposed to enjoyment of its beauty comes with age. It seems part of destiny and involves the loss of the vigor and zest of youth for life.
Coleridge and Wordsworth, both address a mute female figure in their poems, and true to the Romantic fashion of the conversation poem, describe a personal change, using their own sorrows and musings as a basis for exploring the themes in their works.
- Nature, Shelley, and Wordsworth
- Nature in Shelley and Wordsworth
- Nature in Wordsworth and Tennyson
- Wordsworth and Coleridge as Romantic Nature Poets
Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000