The Concept of Nature in Nineteenth-Century English Poetry

By Joseph Warren Beach | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III THE METAPHYSICAL CONCEPT OF NATURE

A MOST interesting aspect of Wordsworth's concept of nature, and central to our whole discussion, is his metaphysical notion of the spirit or soul of the universe. While this idea is rather widely diffused through his nature-poetry, it is most nearly expressed with philosophical explicitness in some half-dozen passages occurring in "Tintern Abbey," "The Prelude" and "The Excursion." The first and most famous passage is from "Tintern Abbey" ( 1798). This poem is entirely devoted to a statement of the reasons why the poet is a worshiper of nature,

A lover of the meadows and the woods, And mountains, and of all that we behold From this green earth. . . .

After listing the benefits of nature to him in the way of pleasure, of consolation, of "tranquil restoration," and of moral culture, he arrives as the culminating gift of all.

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; A motion and a spirit that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things.

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