The Collective Soul of Nature and Humanity

In his poem “Lines Written in Early Spring,” Wordsworth presents a highly Romantic notion: that humanity has an almost familial duty to Nature, who created a relationship between nature (small ‘N’) and humanity, her ‘children.’ The poem consists of six stanzas with four quatrains each that have an abab rhyme scheme, which helps Wordsworth create a very predictable, natural, and elegant flow to the poem. The second stanza particularly stands out to me: “To her fair works did Nature link / The human soul that through me ran, / And much it grieved my heart to think / What man has made of man” (Lines 5-8). 

Here and throughout the poem Nature is personified and capitalized, referred to as a “her” who has had a physical impact on the world. I believe that by using this pronoun, Wordsworth draws a connection in the mind of the reader to Mother Nature, specifically the nurturing and creating aspect of that figure. He describes her “works,” that is the physical nature around Wordsworth, as linked to the “human soul.” Additionally, by using the first person perspective throughout the poem, Wordsworth implies that this connection to the soul that “through me ran” actually runs through each reader, who puts themself in the narrator’s shoes. 

In the Notes section in the back of the Penguin Classics edition, it mentions that “Wordsworth at this period thinks of the human souls as part of a Platonist World Soul” (page 883). Essentially, this boils down to the claim that there is a natural connection between all living things, similar to how the soul is connected to the human body. To Wordsworth, the “human soul” is linked to the soul of Nature’s “fair works.” I interpret this bond between Nature, humanity, and nature as a sort of familial relationship, with all being connected and meant to support the other. (Mother) Nature linked the human soul and nature, and therefore both have an obligation to respect one another as equals. Obviously, things within nature (ex: plants, animals, etc) do not share the same body as humans, but it has been a common belief throughout history that the soul and body are separate, and I think Wordsworth is playing into the notion that this communal soul transcends the physical barriers between the two. 

However, Wordsworth has noticed that much of humanity does not respect this relationship between it and nature. While “what man has made of man,” which is repeated twice in the poem, could be interpreted as the cruel actions humans enact on other humans, I also think it can be interpreted as “what man has made of nature” since they are metaphorically equals, at least in this interpretation of the poem. Wordsworth grieves this betrayal on the behalf of humanity, because many people are ignoring their responsibility to protect, enjoy, and love the works of Nature, to which we are intrinsically linked. Many may object to the notion that nature and humans are equal in all ways, but this idea just proves Wordsworth’s deep love for the natural world. 

3 thoughts on “The Collective Soul of Nature and Humanity”

  1. Drewstarsaroundmyscars, I really like your point on how Nature and humanity have a familial relationship with one another in this poem. Building off of that, I think that you could also argue that the rhyme scheme of the poem helps convey that familial relationship. Wordsworth’s abab rhyme scheme in this poem makes me think back to the nursery rhymes I heard as a kid. By incorporating this pattern I think Wordsworth addresses the readers, humanity, as the children and paints Nature as the mother figure.

  2. Dear Drewstarsaroundmyscars,
    Wow. Love your insight on the human soul throughout your analysis and commentary on Wordsworth’s poem. I totally agreed when you said “Wordsworth is playing into the notion that this communal soul transcends the physical barriers between the two.” In fact, I see this idea of the communal soul transcending the physical barrier reflected in another one of Wordsworth’s poem called Tintern Abbey, in which Wordsworth describes his corporeal form essentially being shed and his being becoming just his soul. And this departure from the burden of his physical self is the result of his human soul being “connected” (quote you) to the sublime nature.

  3. Drewstarsaroundmycars, I am fascinated by your claim that the link that (Mother) Nature has made between humanity and nature has made them metaphorical equals, as it made me rethink my understanding of the poem. I believe that your point can be emphasized further if we look at the ways in which Wordsworth personifies all of the pieces of nature that he mentions, such as the flowers that “[enjoy] the air [they breathe]” (l. 11-12). This personification helps me visual the connection between humanity and nature, and how when man speaks to man, man might actually be speaking to nature.

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