The romantic era emerged from the mid-eighteenth century as a result of an over-bearing emphasis on reason, order, balance, harmony, and intellect. The romanticists believed that the empiricism of the enlightenment era could not reveal more important subjective and invisible truths, but was instead limited to the visible world and objective reality. Romanticists believed that in order to advance in life and discover the mysteries of the world it was necessary to find individuality and introspection by withdrawing from society. The society of the time was still wrapped up in the importance of etiquette and decorum of the enlightenment era. A significant reason for the romantic rebellion was the fact that neither knowledge nor material gains had really changed the world. Romantics therefore believed that in order to live a fuller life and change the world they must look within themselves and find the spiritual truths that had been forgotten.
William Wordsworth made the ballad an acceptable literary genre. Both he and Coleridge took the lyric, a high cultural form, and the ballad, a low cultural form and combine both to create the Lyrical Ballads. A deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature was just one of many characteristic attitudes that romantics held. Wordsworth, however, was more so a real nature lover than any other Romantic poets. His poetry was a true reflection of this attitude. Two of his poems, "The World is Too Much with Us" and "Nutting", the conflict between modern daily life and nature is a common theme.
In the poem, "The World is Too Much with Us", Wordsworth contrasts nature with the world of materialism. Wordsworth tries to make the reader realize that the modern world has lost a connection to nature and to everything meaningful. "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers/Little we see in Nature that is ours" (2-3). Wordsworth also says that we have given over our lives and even our hearts to these material things, and having been so preoccupied by doing so that we have forgotten what is really important. He suggests that searching for the beauty of nature is what is truly important. The speaker claims he would want to be a Pagan raised according to ancient mythology instead of doctoral religion. He believed that ancient Greeks had a better understanding and appreciation for the intrinsic power of nature. This poem indeed shows Wordsworth's deep appreciation for nature, as well as, his hope that nature would be the key to finding peace with one's self.
Wordsworth's poem, "Nutting", is another great example of the poets vision of nature. At first glance, the poem might seem simple and carries the same message of many other of his poems, that humans destroy nature. However, taking a deeper look Wordsworth uses underline meaning to show the true damage that humans do to nature.
The poem begins with a young boy leaving his cottage to go "nutting". As the young boy walks through the woods, he describes "thorns, brakes, and brambles, and beds of matted fern, and tangled thickets" covering the path (13-15). The sense of anticipation builds due to feeling that the path is being protected by a brush and foliage and therefore should not be explored. Finally, the boy reaches a place that appears beautiful and untouched. The boy describes the scene as gorgeous, tranquil, and peaceful. The boy decides that this beauty should not go to waste. Therefore, he begins to play and pick flowers and afterword he feels ashamed for disturbing the scene.
This was just the surface idea of Wordsworth's poem. His underline meaning however was much more disturbing. Wordsworth describes the beautiful place the boy stumbles upon as a "virgin scene" (20). The scene is one that has been untouched and unvisited by men and is wholesome and pure. "A little while I stood, Breathing with such suppression of the heart As joy delights in" (21-24). The young man is taken back with the stunning beauty and attraction he finds in the virgin scene. Suddenly, however, the boy is overtaken by anger as he feels nature is "Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones and on the vacant air" (53-54) and not on himself. He then tears down and violates the scene with "merciless ravage" (57). Nature's reaction to this destruction is not of revenge or even defending itself-"Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up their quiet being" (59-60). It is as though Wordsworth is showing that nature is always giving and forgiving. The boy, however, did feel a sense of guilt knowing that he did destroy something that was so pure, innocent, undefiled -"I felt a sense of pain when beheld the silent trees" (64-65).
Wordsworth was a true literary master of his time. His work captured his deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature. His ability to look within himself and find deeper mean in life sat the stage for many of his fellow writers. Wordsworth believed that literature should be for everyone not just the highly educated. Like many other Romantic poets, Wordsworth thought that children and even peasants lived a truer and fuller life because they were not affected by over emphasis on reason and intellect of the world but rather they possessed a natural understanding. The Enlightenment sought to represent the outer world and the Romanticist sought to represent the internal self. Wordsworth's poems showed a true reflection of inner-self and the importance of nature.