Discuss Romantic views on nature in the poetry of Wordsworth and Shelley.

Both Wordsworth and Shelley had a Romantic preoccupation with nature as expressing a higher spirit than civilization. For Wordsworth, nature was most often a source of joy and solace, a soothing balm and a source of happy memories. Shelley was more focused on extreme elements of nature, such as Mt. Blanc, and the ways nature expressed his sense of his own inadequacy by being superior to human endeavors.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Romantic poets held nature in high regard. To them, it was a manifestation of God or an expression of a divine force or a higher spirit. They had a deep emotional response to it: to them it was sublime, eliciting feelings of awe. They most often valued it more highly than civilization, finding human endeavors filled with corruption and depravity.

Wordsworth, who was more conventionally religious than Shelley, perceived nature as expressing God's spirit and divinity. Wordsworth most often depicts nature as a soothing and tranquilizing balm to the worried or desolate spirit. He finds joy in simple encounters with nature, such as the lovely waving of thousands of daffodils in a spring breeze or in watching a butterfly alight on a flower. These encounters with nature evoke happy memories and then become a store of memories that provide joy and solace.

Shelley, though an atheist, was Romantic in that he assigned a special power to nature to move and impact the human spirit. His focus is more often on the awe-inspiring, fierce, or extreme elements of nature, such as Mont Blanc, the highest peak of the Alps. He often uses nature, too, as a vehicle to express his own discontents with the limitations of his life rather than a solace. The way the wind blows the autumn leaves around the earth fills him with a fierce longing that his own leaves of papers—his writing—might be similarly blown about the world and discontent that his voice is not heard. The skylark, which feels to him immortal, shows him the painful inadequacy of his own mortality.

Both poets focus on nature and feel its presence intently. For Wordsworth, it is most often a soothing balm and source of joy, while for Shelley, it brings up longings and discontent.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial