What aspects of Wordsworth's mind and poetic heart are illustrated in "Nutting"? 

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most important thing to remember about Wordsworth is that he is a Romantic poet (not romantic like love, romantic as in the genre and time period).  Romantic artists (authors, painters, etc.) adhered to a certain set of beliefs.  Gone is the cold logic of the Age of Reason.  Romantics focus on emotional experiences.  They also focus on the individual. The Age of Reason was very much focused on the "good of the whole," while Romanticism puts the focus on a single person.

Another characteristic of Romantic art is the emphasis and focus on nature, or Nature.  For Romantic authors like Wordsworth, nature isn't only a thing; nature is more akin to an entity.  These authors believed that a person can have a deep, emotional relationship with nature, a sort of spiritual oneness in which knowledge, peace, guidance, etc. can all be attained through communing with nature.  A last main characteristic of Romantic literature is the theme of carpe diem.  The "seize the day" mentality is very important to this literary period.  Wordsworth and his writings exemplify this time period's characteristics so well that many textbooks will use Wordsworth to highlight literature/poetry that is typical of the genre.  

"Nutting" illustrates Wordworth's adherence to Romantic literature quite nicely.  For example: 

"When, in the eagerness of boyish hope,
I left our cottage-threshold, sallying forth
With a huge wallet o'er my shoulders slung,
A nutting-crook in hand; and turned my steps
Tow'rd some far-distant wood..."
Right away the reader sees a single individual that is making his way into the heart of nature (a forest).  He is going with eagerness.  He's excited to go and go now (carpe diem).  
Later in the poem, the speaker comes across a virgin section of the forest that has not been disturbed by people. 
"I came to one dear nook
Unvisited, where not a broken bough
Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign
Of devastation..."
The scene delights the poem's narrator and brings him unabated joy and happiness.
"Among the flowers, and with the flowers I played;
A temper known to those, who, after long
And weary expectation, have been blest
With sudden happiness beyond all hope."
He continues to lay and play in the perfect nature scene until
"up I rose, and dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash and merciless ravage. . ."  
The speaker takes flowers, nuts, branches, etc.  He's excited by his rich harvest of sorts.  
"Ere from the mutilated bower I turned
Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings..."
The sequence of the poem in which the narrator is breaking down the beautiful section of the forest appears to take the poem completely against Wordworth's romantic ideals.  And if the poem ended there, it would take on a completely different tone.  The poem continues, though.  The speaker turns around and sees the devastation that he created.  He "felt a sense of pain when I beheld the silent trees. . . "  He is saddened at having ruined the completely untouched section of the wood.  That's exactly how a Romantic would feel at witnessing the misuse and destruction of nature. 
The last line really sells the poem as a Romantic piece of literature as well.  
" . . . for there is a spirit in the woods."  
I wrote earlier that Romantics thought of nature as Nature, as an entity with feelings. Wordsworth conveys this idea by saying that the woods he was in have a spirit and attitude toward his actions. 

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