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In numerous poems during the romantic period the themes are centered on children and nature. The themes are not just about children alone and not just nature but the two subjects together. This is to suggest that children and nature are connected, the two subjects are one. Poets during the romanticism era use the childhood period as sort of a looking glass into nature and its true aspects which seems to get lost once adulthood is reached. The poems in the romantic era are all about trying to regain that innocence that special bond that a child seems to be able to share with nature.
Samuel Coleridge's poem "Frost at Midnight" is set in the winter season with him describing his feelings about his infant baby. Coleridge realizes how special his child is and how his child is able to share a connection with nature. A connection, that Coleridge believes that he was deprived of "For I was reared/ in the great city, pent' mid cloisters dim, and saw naught lovely but the sky and stars"(Coleridge 51-53). Coleridge here claims that because he was raised within the city he never was able to create that special bond with nature. Due to this fact he uses his child now as sort of that medium into understanding nature, since he himself lost that time of innocence to the city.
Coleridge is pained by his bringing up in the city life and throughout the poem is rejoicing that his child instead will be able to grow in nature. "But thou, my babe! Shalt wander like a breeze/ by lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags/ of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds."(Coleridge 54-56). The line "Shalt wander like a breeze" suggest that Coleridge believes that child and nature are one. The child will actually become a part of nature, a breeze and shall wander in nature by the lakes and sandy shores.
Coleridge by the end of his poem is still hopeful for his child. That even when his child is grown, will still remember that humans and nature are one, he claims that God will help him maintain this status. "Great universal Teacher! He shall mould/ thy spirit, and by giving make it ask. Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee."(Coleridge 63-65). Coleridge uses the child in this poem to show that children and nature are one. Through this poem the audience is meant to see that humans and nature are not separate entities but together they act as one single unit. Unfortunately as we leave childhood and begin our journey into adulthood we seem to lose that view of nature and ourselves and begin to see nature separately.
Looking next at Wordsworth poem "Ode Intimations of immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" Wordsworth also agrees with the Coleridge idea, that children are able to connect with nature. The only difference between the two is that Wordsworth believes that as every child is born, they immediately share a connection with nature and with heaven, that they are born with this connection. Coleridge on the other hand believes that this connection, yes, occurs during the innocent time of childhood but is not one that is guaranteed. For Coleridge this connection must be made, you are not born with it, for he himself says he never had the chance to connect with nature the way his child is able to.
Wordsworth in this poem wants the audience to wake up! To see that we have lost our way and have been sleeping, he wants us to return to the mindset of a child "There was a to,me when meadow, grove, and stream,/ the earth, and every common sight,/ to me did seem/ appareled in celestial light,/ the glory and the freshness of a dream."(Wordsworth 1-5). Children are the ones who are able to see nature for what is truly is. "Heaven lies about is in our infancy!"(Wordsworth 66). Unfortunately Wordsworth loses this way of seeing and thinking to the world as he begins to grow. "It is not now as it hath been of yore; ---/ turn wheresor'er I may/ by night or day,/ the thinks which I have seen I not can see no more." (Wordsworth 5-9). Here Wordsworth is sadden that although he tries to see what he once was able to, he can not.
Wordsworth believes that losing this mentality is inevitable. "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;" "Shades of the prison - house begin to close/ upon the growing boy."(Wordsworth 58, 67-68). Wordsworth is sadden by this thought that we lose our innocence appreciation for the natural world. Yet he is reminded that he can still be happy for he still has the child and his memories to help connect to nature. Wordsworth uses his experiences and a child to keep him connected and Coleridge uses his infant to keep him connected. This is what it means when Child is the father of man.
Of course the child can not care for the man, but still the child has something to offer. Just as a father offers protection and care for a child, the child offers the mindset and lens into the natural world. The child is a reminder that nature and humanity are one; they are intertwined with one another.