Nature vs Man in “Lines Written in Early Spring”

     In his poem “Lines Written in Early Spring”, Wordsworth contrasts the natural world’s serenity with mankind’s conflict to grapple with the disconnect between humans and Nature. Despite recognizing the inherent “link” between humans and Nature, Wordsworth contrasts his “sweet mood” and “pleasant thoughts” toward nature with his “sad thoughts” toward mankind (l. 3-5). To explain these “pleasant thoughts”, Wordsworth articulates the beauty in the natural world through written imagery and description, but he also emphasizes this beauty through the poem’s meter and rhyme scheme. Each of the six stanzas in this poem includes four lines that follow an ABAB rhyme scheme; each stanza also includes a combination of iambic tetrameter and  iambic trimeter, which perpetuates a natural rhythm comparable to a heartbeat or a breath. The combination of a consistent rhyme scheme and iambic meter, then, affects the sound of the poem so that it emulates the same fluidity and beauty as the natural world. Wordsworth uses his own figurative language to depict the pleasures of the natural world, but also using poetic structure and sound to do so invites the reader to experience these pleasures as well. 

     Wordsworth explicitly describes some of the beautiful and enjoyable aspects of nature, such as the blossoming flowers and singing birds, and refers to these pleasures as being “heaven… sent” and a part of “Nature’s holy plan” (l. 21-22). By including religious allusions in his understanding of Nature, Wordsworth implies the natural world’s spiritual importance. Nature is not just an environment, then, but rather a transcendental feeling and experience of great tranquility, beauty, and pleasure. The beauty and spirituality of Nature, however, does not align with the material world and “what man has made of man” (l. 8). Although Wordsworth never directly explains “what man has made of man”, the historical context of his poem makes it likely that this line refers to the negative consequences of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. The French Revolution showed humankind’s ability to harm each other, while the Industrial Revolution showed humankind’s ability to harm Nature. Both events showed a great contrast between Nature’s intrinsic pleasurability and humankind’s violence. Wordsworth does not criticize this dichotomy between nature and humans, however. Instead, he ends the poem questioning if he even can “lament” the actions and effects of humankind while living as a part of “Nature’s holy plan” (l. 21-24). This rhetorical question shows that, even at the end of the poem, he continues to grapple with the meaning of Nature and humanity’s role within it. Whether or not the spiritual aspects of Nature are strong enough to overcome the laments of humanity, then, remains up to the reader to decide. 

**Note- referenced poem from, so it is NOT the original edition as seen in the Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry.

One thought on “Nature vs Man in “Lines Written in Early Spring””

  1. I like how you brought to light another one of the ways that Wordsworth describes nature’s relationship with humankind, and in this poem it seems to be more of a struggle than in some of his other poems. For example in “Tintern Abbey,” the speaker is pondering his personal relationship nature and how he used to be a part of it, one with the animals, and then he matured and now he sees the humanity in nature, or is at least reminded of humanity when he regards it. I also like how you point out that Wordsworth is not simply criticizing the “dichotomy” of humans and nature, just acknowledging and questioning it.

Comments are closed.