The Ages Of Poetry


The English Romantic poets of the 19th Century had a conception about nature that, over a century later, appears in the poetry of today. These poets have had a significant influence on the attitude and vocabulary a contemporary poet uses. Among the contemporary poets, Dana Gioia, in his two poems, "Becoming a Redwood," and "Rough Country," has drawn on the idea of the innocence and untainted part of nature that parallels the Romantic poetry of William Wordsworth and William Blake in their poems "Nutting," and "The Tyger." Also, Gioia has captured the wild-like and untamable demeanor of nature that many English Romantics have similarly captured. Finally, Gioia uses the concept of the sublime in his poetry to the extent that nature becomes dangerous to humans.
Many English Romantic poets have written about the innocent and purity that can be found in nature. In Wordsworth\'s "Nutting," he comments on the beauty of the innocence of an "unvisited" nook his character discovers. Wordsworth writes, "Unvisited, where not a broken bough / Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign / Of devastation; but the hazels rose / tall and erect, with tempting clusters hung, / A virgin scene!" (Ln17-31) Wordsworth is commenting on the innocence and beauty of nature without human intrusion. This Romantic conception of innocence parallels Gioia in his poem "Rough Country." He writes, " a spot so hard to reach that no one comes-- / a hiding place, a shrine for dragonflies / and nesting jays, a sign that there is still / one piece of property that won\'t be owned." (17-20) This last line implies that this part of nature will remain untouched, this part of nature will remain pure and innocent, and a Romantic conception of nature that even Gioia has adopted in his poetry.
Another conception that the English Romantics held about nature was that nature is wild and untamable. This wild-like aspect of nature is described in William Blake\'s "The Tyger." Blake writes, "Tyger, Tyger / Burning bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?" (1-4) Blake creates this image of the Tyger as a wild beast, an untamable creature of the forest, and thereby composes nature the same way. Gioia in many ways parallels this view in his poems. In his poem "Rough Country," nature is viewed as "a place no engineers can master," (6)"a landscape made of obstacles / of steep hills and jutting glacial rock."(1-2) This nature Gioia describes is not sweet and delicate or fantastic; on the contrary, this attitude toward nature is fierce and ferine. The landscape of the nature in this rough country is not welcoming to human\'s tread, just as the "Tyger" in William Blake\'s poem would not be. In Gioia\'s "Becoming a Redwood," a wild and untamed animal is also found in this passage, "Something moves nearby. Coyotes hunt / these hills and packs of feral dogs. / But standing here accepts all that." (19-21) Both the Tyger and the coyote have the instinct that embodies nature and both are wild animals. Gioia draws on the Romantic conception that there is wild freedom found in nature.
This concept of wild freedom and untamable nature can be more clearly seen through the diction of the poems. Wordsworth writes, "At thorns, and brakes, and brambles, -- and, in truth, / More ragged than need was! O\'er pathless rocks, / Through beds of matted fern, and tangled thickets, / Forcing my way, I came to one dear nook / Unvisited." (13-17) In Gioia\'s "Rough Country," he uses words like "tangled" (10) and "twisting" (13) and "thorn thick underbrush," (13) all of which Wordsworth uses in his poem "Nutting." Gioia writes, "Where tall black trunks of lightning-scalded pine / push through the tangled woods to make a roost / for hawks and swarming crows. / And sharp inclines / where twisting through the thorn-thick underbrush."(9-14) In each passage, these poets present nature as something wild, rugged, and difficult to maneuver simply through their chosen words.
There is also a certain fear and respect of the wild, the rugged, and the untamable part of nature that can be seen in the poems of the English Romantics. In Wordsworth\'s, "The Prelude: Book 1, 340-400," he