Making reference to at least three poems, explore the relationship between man and nature that Wordsworth and Coleridge describe. The Romantics were revolutionary in their poetry and subject matter – simple language being used to praise natural living, an aspect of England being quickly decimated at the hands of the Industrial Revolution. The French Revolution had soured, poverty in Britain was at a high, and the American Revolution had barely passed. The poets, inspired by Rousseau’s theories of an innate, natural, morality in man, promoted a return to natural ways of living, of appreciation of nature, as a way of remedying society’s woes.
This need to appreciate nature is apparent in most of the Lyrical Ballads. An emphasis on personal experience is made in poems such as The Nightingale, Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey and Lines – additional information is given in the title, giving a time and place (such as A conversational poem, written in April, 1798), encouraging the idea of nature, in this case hearing a nightingale, being something for an individual to experience personally, intimately.
This is echoed in Tintern Abbey, the first four lines praising the “sweet inland murmur” of mountain springs while offering precise information – the poet has been absent for “five summers, with the length//Of five long winters! “. The likening of summer to a long winter implies the poet has missed the closeness with Tintern Abbey, the real experience of the world around him is what contents him. Lines perhaps offers more of an explanation as to why the relationship between man and nature should be a close one; “One moment now may give us more//Than fifty years of reason”.
The poets reflect their own relationship with nature in the poetry, making use of the first person for the narrative. However, while there is emphasis on personal appreciation, the idea that the relationship between man and nature should be a shared one is present – In The Nightingale the first person collective pronoun is employed – “yet let us think upon the vernal showers”, “we shall find a pleasure in the dimness of the stars” and Lines encourages the poet’s sister to “come forth and feel the sun”.
The poet’s use of the adverb ‘now’ stresses the importance of being in nature, and the reward – the wealth of knowledge and the experience of the sublime (as found in Tintern Abbey, line 38). The suggestion that the relationship between man and nature also entails learning is a running theme in many of the Lyrical Ballads. The poets seem to encourage a ‘natural’ learning, particularly children – in The Nightingale the poet ‘deems it wise’ that his son will be raised as a ‘playmate’ to nature, and The Female Vagrant describes an idealic childhood as one full of the ‘thoughtless joy’ in fishing and rearing sheep.
The likening of a perfect childhood to being raised in nature suggests an innocence in the relationship, void of the complexities and corruption in contemporary adult life. Indeed, Expostulation and Reply suggests that nature can benefit the mind in a wise passiveness. The poem concerns two speakers, a William and Matthew, the latter chiding the former for ‘dreaming his time away’.