In the modern romantic age literature moves toward an exploration of feelings. Ancient and Classical texts tended to focus on the questions of why are we? Medieval texts tended to explore where will we end up? In the Renaissance and Early Modern times texts moved to questions of the individual, how they think, and how the individual fit into their expanding world. Modern works sat down and asked how people felt about all of this growth that occurred to that point. Many times these feelings take a romanticized view of the world or some aspect in it. There was a push in this time and many poets took a look at nature and mankind’s relation to it. In each of these woks the author shows the power of nature and the intimate way that mankind relates to it.
Thoreau’s Walden takes this approach to the individual’s relationship to nature to a new level. Thoreau was one of the leaders of the Transcendentalism movement, which essentially believed that nature and the individual were the keys to life, that there was divinity in all people and nature, that intuition was the highest form of intellect. The movement pushed for self reliance and a denial of traditional forms of authority. (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 2004) Thoreau in Walden seems to believe that mankind is required to use nature to show the flaws in society. That nature exists in the perfect way that it does and that man exists in the discord that it does goes to prove to Thoreau that each individual needs to take a firm look at how they interact with the world around them. Yet, at the same time as Thoreau preaches the importance of the individual he makes firm claims about mankind and how they think “At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable.” (Thoreau 2008, 2177-2178) He attributes these thoughts and claims to all mankind, without apology. In many ways his writing reminds one of the type of writing that Montaigne employs in Essays, or Augustine in Confessions. Even Plato’s Apology brings the same kind of feeling. That the author is able to see to the core of human kind and bring forth these thoughts and feelings that we all share yet, may be unclear resided within us. When Thoreau says “But in this part of the world it is considered a ground for complaint if a man’s writings admit of more than one interpretation. … will not any endeavor to cure the brain-rot which prevails so much more widely ….” (Thoreau 2008, p 2180) One is reminded of when Plato tells of Socrates’ search for wisdom, only to find that those he approaches to learn from in truth know nothing. (Plato 2008, p. 562) Thoreau makes it plain that the individual is of key importance to their own experience in this world. That if the individual is unwilling to find for themselves the answers to the world that they are undeserving of getting the great experiences that life has to offer.
In “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revising the Banks of the Wye During a Tour July 13, 1798” Wordsworth says, “Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, Wherever nature led: more like a man Flying from something that he dreads than one Who sought the thing he loved.” (2008, p. 2157). He brings nature to the reader in such a fashion that the feelings of man are transposed upon these objects of nature. Yet, at the same time the reverence he feels for nature is clearly understood. When likening the rivers and streams to the tumultuous romances of his youth the reader is also reminded of Augustine and the troubles that he had when “the invisible enemy trampled on me and seduced me because I was in the mood to be seduced” (Augustine 2008, p. 856) . There is again this sense that these literary works so far apart in time are linked by the shared sense of human consciousness, the shared struggle of emotions and life that leads all mankind in one direction or another. That Wordsworth, like Thoreau attempts to steer these senses of humanity to the ever present font of nature helps to connect man with the world around him. It seems likely that in the modern age it would be important for man to look at nature with the idea that we are becoming separate from it. Nature no longer was the all consuming force that it had been, man was beginning to effect a very great change and element of control on all around him. It is reasonable to assume that as this change in mastery was beginning to be felt, that mankind would become want to become more aware of what is there. In the same sense that “green” awareness has affected people in more recent times.
When Pushkin tells us of how when Evgeny laid his head down and dreamed his morose thoughts that “A great sadness came over him that night;” (2008, p. 2170), the reader is reminded of Montaigne and his belief in the power of imagination. While the greater amount of “The Bronze Horseman A Petersburg Tale” is told from the perspective of the Neva the river which flows along the city and the ways in which the land itself changes. It is a unique way to tell a tale, and brings in these same modern ideals of the feelings that coincide with nature and not merely admiring the world around us but the idea that we are inextricably tied to the world that we live in.
Time has pushed humans farther from the connection there once was with nature. It seems that these poetic works of the modern age which focus on nature from a romantic perspective have this element in common. Each of these authors shows that times have changed. They build upon writing styles that were brought to us in the past and use concepts that have been cemented in the general consciousness by these works that went before. Most importantly though each of these authors reminds us that the world and those that live in it are tied and that when mankind forgets to look at the world that surrounds him and give it the esteem and recognition which it requires mankind shall suffer for it.
Augustine (2008). Confessions In Damrosch, D., & Pike, D. L. (Eds.). The Longman Anthology of World Literature. (Compact ed pp. 846-858) United States: Pearson Education Inc.
Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia (2004). Transcendentalism. Reference.com. Retrieved July 5, 2012, from http://http://www.reference.com/browse/transcendentalism
Montaigne, M. (2008). Essays In Damrosch, D., & Pike, D. L. (Eds.). The Longman Anthology of World Literature. (Compact ed pp. 1517-1528) United States: Pearson Education Inc.
Plato (2008). Apology In Damrosch, D., & Pike, D. L. (Eds.). The Longman Anthology of World Literature. (Compact ed pp. 558-575) United States: Pearson Education Inc.
Pushkin, A. S. (2008). The Bronze Horseman In Damrosch, D., & Pike, D. L. (Eds.). The Longman Anthology of World Literature. (Compact ed pp. 2166-2177) United States: Pearson Education Inc.
Thoreau, H. D. (2008). Walden In Damrosch, D., & Pike, D. L. (Eds.). The Longman Anthology of World Literature. (Compact ed pp. 558-575) United States: Pearson Education Inc.
Wordsworth, W. (2008). Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revising the Banks of the Wye During a Tour July 13, 1798 In Damrosch, D., & Pike, D. L. (Eds.). The Longman Anthology of World Literature. (Compact ed pp. 2155-2158) United States: Pearson Education Inc.