Poetry - Nature and the Environment
William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Daffodils
Nature inspired Wordsworth’s (pictured right) poems and this is the most famous:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey (1793)
This poem compares:
- the wonders of nature and
- the woes of man (“the still sad music of humanity”, fourth line
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,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man.
William Wordsworth, The Tables Turned
This comments on the
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:-
We murder to dissect.
John Keats (1795-1821), To Autumn
The English poet’s (pictured right) opening lines describe the beauty of autumn:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-62),
The American poet and philosopher (pictured right) prefers the country to the city:
For I'd rather be thy child
And pupil, in the forest wild,
Than be the king of men elsewhere,
And most sovereign slave of care;
To have one moment of thy dawn,
Than share the city's year forlorn
John Clare (1793-1864), I Am
The English poet (pictured right) describes the spiritual peace that nature
I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil'd or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below--above the vaulted sky.
William Blake (1757-1827), The
The English poet (pictured right) describes the beauty of a tiger:
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Blake, Auguries of Innocence
In another poem Blake brilliantly captures nature's
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
(first four lines).
Ogden Nash (1902-71), Song of the Open Road
The American poet (pictured right) comments on how business can obscure the beauty of
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Sonnet
Shakespeare (pictured right)
comments on the weather’s unpredictability:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
(lines 3 and 4)
Robert Browning (1812-89), Home Thoughts, from Abroad
The English poet (pictured right) describes the joys of the English countryside
including (in the penultimate line), the buttercup, described as the children's dower (or gift
Oh, to be in England
Now that April 's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops -at the bent spray's edge-
That 's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
Christopher Marlowe (1564-93), Passionate Shepherd to His Love
The English poet (pictured right) shows how nature can fire the passion of love:
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
(first two verses)
Benjamin Zephaniah (1958- ), Health Care (1997)
The English poet (pictured right) in his rap style tells us to look after the planet:
Those dat sail
Tek care of de whales,
De strong should seek
To strengthen the weak,
Lovers of art
Should play their part,
An all those upon it
Tek care of the planet.
Edward Thomas (1878-1917), Adlestrop (1917)
The Anglo-Welsh poet (pictured right) tells us the beauty and peace of an English village on a train journey
during the First World War (in which Thomas was killed):
Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Anne Brontë, Lines Composed in a Wood on a Windy
The English poet (pictured right) describes nature's beautiful fascination
My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring
And carried aloft on the wings of the breeze;
For above and around me the wild wind is roaring,
Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.
The long withered grass in the sunshine is glancing,
The bare trees are tossing their branches on high;
The dead leaves beneath them are merrily dancing,
The white clouds are scudding across the blue sky.
I wish I could see how the ocean is lashing
The foam of its billows to whirlwinds of spray;
I wish I could see how its proud waves are dashing,
And hear the wild roar of their thunder today!