The Importance of Nature
Imagine a world without nature. Without trees.
Clouds. Seasons. Snow. Green grass. Beautiful flowers.
What would the meaning of life be? Would people just go along erecting buildings and growing industries? Without an escape to nature, the world would be a dull, boring place. Sanity would be sparse and many of the world’s successes would never have happened. The genre of romantic writing captures the value of nature in a special way. The way to capture romantic writing is through shunning the artificiality of civilization and seeking unspoiled nature, championing individual freedom and the worth of the individual, contemplating nature’s beauty as a path to spiritual and moral development, finding beauty and truth in exotic locales, the supernatural realm, and the inner world of the imagination, and finding inspiration in myth, legend, and folk culture (Characteristics 144). The poem “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant depicts the characteristics of a romantic literature because of its descriptions of nature’s beauty, search for individual worth and freedom, search for wisdom of the past, appreciation of unspoiled nature, and value of feeling and intuition over reason. First, “Thanatopsis” shows romanticism through the way it introduces nature’s beauty.
In the poem, it shows that through nature, life can be understood and seen in a new way: “…Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim / Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,” (Bryant 23-24). It’s showing that we came from nature, so in the end, we will return to nature.
Another place where nature is described to be a director of one’s path is in lines 37 through 45, it describes nature as the decorations of a man’s tomb: “…The hills / …Are but the solemn decorations all / Of the great tomb of man…
.” (Bryant 37-45). This is showing that nature is just decorating where we belong. We are all destined to end up in the ground, so it’s helping life seem more enjoyable and understandable. “Thanatopsis” does a good job of displaying romanticism by showing that nature can capture the essence and value of life to guide one’s future.
Second, Bryant depicts romantic qualities through the importance of the individuality of a person. In lines 24 through 26, Byrant has a good way of showing that all men will end up in the same place, so why should we be different during life? “And, lost each human trace, surrendering up / Then individual being, shalt though / to mix forever with the elements,” (Bryant 24-26). In this part of the writing, it is explaining that each human will surrender themselves to the ground and everyone will become equal. No man will be in a different place than in the earth. Their tomb may be different, but they’re all in the ground.
Why be bothered by them when you’re alive when they can’t help where they end up in the long run? Everyone is equal and that is proven by where we end up after death. Bryant does well in showing that, when all is said and done, all humans are equal and end up in the same place, which is a big part of romantic writing. Next, the poem shows romanticism through describing how one should seek nature instead of the man-made world. In lines 14 through 17, it describes how life may become hard, but when you step into nature, things become clearer and more enjoyable: …
When thoughts Of the last bitter hour come like a blight Over thy spirit, and sad images Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall, And breathless darkness, and the narrow house, Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart; Go forth, under the open sky, and list To nature’s teachings, while from all around– Earth and her waters, and the depths of air– Comes a still voice.– (Bryant 14-17) Through this section of the poem, Bryant describes the man-made world with harsh words that show the negative aspects of it. When it says, “When…
.breathless darkness, and the narrow house, make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;…” it’s showing that the world has many negative things that can make your days hard and lonely. The next statement shows how nature itself can make one happier and light of spirit.
It says: “Go forth, under the open sky, and list to nature’s teachings.” This is showing that nature has a way of teaching people how to enjoy life and make the best of what’s around you and to not take nature for granted. With the poetry’s explanation of the man made world, it gives the beauty of nature a whole new meaning, showing that this is a romantic piece. In addition, “Thanatopsis” uses mythology and legend, which is a romantic element, to elaborate on the importance of nature and it’s role in human society. In lines 2 and 3, the poem describes nature as being a person, and having its own voice: “..
.she speaks / A various language;…” (Bryant 2-3).
Through that, it is giving nature its own being, as if nature itself is a person. This could be considered mythology or legend, because many myths state that nature is a separate being that has feelings and a voice. This shows that is true in a way, by giving it a voice and a language of its own. Bryant’s use of mythology and legend help emphasize the importance of nature in every day life. Last, the poem uses romanticism to show an imaginative view of nature and makes it seem like nature itself were talking throughout the writing. Lines 14 through 17 have a great way of giving nature a voice and showing that it has a power of its own: “Go forth, under the open sky, and list / To nature’s teachings, while from all around– / Earth and her waters, and the depths of air– / Comes a still voice.
–” (Bryant 14-17). When this is being said, it is showing that nature can “speak” straight to a person. It is explaining that the beauty of nature around you can show you things that oneself couldn’t notice on their own. By giving nature a voice, it shows that nature has an authority as it speaks just like humans do; in romantic writing, nature is very important. In conclusion, “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant is a perfect example of a romantic poem for many reasons.
Bryant’s descriptions of nature’s beauty show the reader that there is wisdom to be found in the natural world around you. He shows respect to the country sides around him and explains a direct connection between humans and the Earth. Also, Bryant had a good way of portraying the importance of individuality and the value of a person. It explains that all people ends up in the same place after death, which shows that everyone is equal when all is said and done. The poem also explains that the natural world is where wisdom is found and the artificiality of the man made world is made of corruption and pain. Fourth, “Thanatopsis” also has a good way of using myth and legend to elaborate on what is or should be important to a person.
Last, Bryant seems to give nature an imaginative voice by writing as if nature itself were speaking. This being done shows that nature has an authority in the world and should be respected. Take a step back and see what you’re missing. See what you should be enjoying. Don’t take the beauty for granted.