The poem “To the South Downs,” by Charlotte Smith, is a very romantic poem filled with nature, music, and intense emotions. Lines three and four of the poem speak to a personal connection with nature. “I wove your bluebells into garlands wild, / And woke your echoes with my artless song.” (3-4). In these lines, there is the use of your and I. The speaker personally addresses what seems to be the “South Downs.” This is important because it shows that the narrator of the poem is not speaking to the reader, instead they are speaking to these hills. The reader is an overseer of this connection of the narrator and this place of nature. It can be interpreted that the reader is supposed to be there, it is not an accident. This may be because the narrator wants to show their connection and how most people were once connected. This prods the question of how people are truly in tune with nature, and it brings about ideas of childhood and the wonders of it in the next few lines.
The first words of Smith’s poem are “Ah, hills beloved!” (1). This is also present in the beginning of line four. It seems that the narrator is calling out to these hills to hear their plea which is that they should give them a restored sense of peace that they lost after growing up. By using words like “soothe,” “restore,” “throb no more,” the hills seem to be the narrator’s last place of hope, they want to be saved and healed by these homelands that they once sung to. This plea matters because it shows a sense of childhood hope coming back into their life. When people grow old, their imagination begins to fade and the tree that they once hugged, the plants they once sung to, and the forts they built in the woods become a thing of the past. When humans grow older, there is less of a sense of connection to nature. The narrator is clearly showing this and being the representation for this loss. By doing so, the narrator sets an example and reminds people of the nature that once brought them peace that they can no longer return to for reasons unknown.
Unfortunately, the end of the poem is very depressing and ends on a note of death. Instead of repeating the first line, the narrator instead says “Ah, no! – when all, e’en Hope’s last ray, is gone,” (13). This line breaks after the ah very much like the ones before it and the change wording make it stand out. By creating this difference, the narrator seems to reach a conclusion in their ideas of their relationship with nature. In the last two lines, there is also no use of I and you which provide the idea that the narrator is no longer talking to nature but instead perhaps talking to themself. This is different because the narrator seems to abandon the idea of going back to this “happy child” and singing their “artless song” anymore. Instead, they state that “There’s no oblivion – but in Death alone.” (14). Overall, this ending connects to the narrator’s ideas of wanting to live in ignorant bliss with her beloved hills and going back to her childhood ways. However, she concludes that Death is oblivion. This speaks to readers as it shows how childhood obliviousness cannot always be restored. However, people should search to reconnect with the nature around them and search for their own personal peace.