Written by Dipen Bezbaruah
It is widely accepted that Wordsworth was a poet of nature. However, his uniqueness lies in the fact that he has presented in his poetry an impressive and emotionally satisfying account of man’s relation to nature. All created things are part of a unified whole in his concept.
Man in Wordsworth’s conception is not to be seen apart from nature, but is the very ‘life of her life’. In fact Wordsworth’s love for nature led him to the love of man. Scarcely a poem of his is concerned with sole nature description. Nature may, of course, dominate, but the “still sad music of humanity” is never ignored.
“Tintern Abbey” gives a valuable and beautiful analysis of the three different stages in the poet’s description of nature. In the first stage, i.e., in boyhood Wordsworth felt an animal pleasure in nature. Like a deer he ‘ran races’ over the mountains and on the banks of rivers and streams. Then his attitude to nature was purely superficial. His youth and formative years of life were spent amidst nature’s beautiful surroundings. As a boy nature was a physical passion to him. It was a coarse appetite. In this stage his love for nature was without any mystical and spiritual touch. This love for nature in the words of W.H. Hudson, “was a healthy boy’s love of the open air and freedom of fields”.
The second stage is characterized more or less by his passionate love for the sensuous beauties of nature; the sounding cataract haunted him like a passion; the tall rock, the mountain, the fragrance of flowers, the murmur of the running streams, the chirping of the birds and the sounds of the waterfalls and the deep& gloomy woods –all were to him an appetite, a feeling and a love. His approached the sights and sounds of nature from a painter’s angle without any philosophical thought.
In the third and final stage of the poem the poet no longer cared for the pictorial beauty of nature. In the running water of the brook, he heard the ‘still sad music of humanity’. The water of the brook gave him the idea of the tears of humanity. Now he came to perceive the existence of a divine spirit that rolls through all the objects of nature.
“ A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts
And rolls through all things.
This belief in a divine spirit pervading all the objects of nature is called Pantheism.
The three stages described in the poem marks Wordsworth’s change in the attitude towards nature. While in the first stage his love for nature was a healthy boy’s delight, in the second stage nature became an indispensable part and all in all to him. In the third stage his attitude towards nature was highly philosophical; he heard the “ still music of humanity”, i.e., he looked at Nature in terms of its relation with Nature.
Wordsworth believed that the company of man Nature gives joy to the human heart. In this poem he expresses the joy he feels on revisiting a scene of Nature. Not only the actual sight of the scene is pleasing, the very memory of the scene that soothed in the past and comforted his mind. He got ‘ sweet sensations’ from these objects of Nature in hours of weariness. Nature had a healing effect on troubled minds and sorrow stricken heart.
The poet did not forget to emphasize the moral influence of Nature. He spritualise Nature and regarded her as a great moral teacher, as the best mother, guardian and nurse of man, as an elevating influence. He believed that between man and Nature there is a spiritual intercourse. So he calls Nature —
“The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being”.
According to him, Nature deeply influences human character. He tells his sister Dorothy “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”, that Nature can impress the human mind with quietness and beauty; that Nature gives human beings lofty thoughts. He advises Dorothy to let the moon shine and let the winds blow on her, i.e., to put herself under Nature’s influence.
In his eyes, Nature is a teacher whose wisdom we can learn if we want, and without which any human life is vain and incomplete. He believed in the education of Man by Nature. In this he was somewhat influenced by Rousseau. The interrelation of Nature and man is very important in considering Wordsworth’s philosophy. Both, according to him, are part of a whole and should live in harmony.