My Heart Leaps Up

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die! The Child is father of the Man; . . .

Human Encountering Nature. Simply, the poet suddenly beholds an element or aspect of nature as if for the first time, with keen perception. Here's another excerpt from a famous Wordsworth poem:

I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. . . .

Nature as Reflection of Mood. In this type of poem, the setting is outdoors and the poet describes a personal feeling, not in context with what is seen in nature, but as a backdrop for mood. Here's an excerpt from such a poem titled "Stanzas Written in Dejection, Near Naples" by Shelley:

I see the Deep's untrampled floor

With green and purple seaweeds strown; I see the waves upon the shore,

Like light dissolved in star-showers, thrown: I sit upon the sands alone — The lightning of the noontide ocean Is flashing round me, and a tone Arises from its measured motion;

How sweet! did any heart now share in my emotion. . . .

Nature-Human Celebration. The poet celebrates himself or herself as part of nature, as does Walt Whitman in this excerpt:

SPONTANEOUS ME Spontaneous me, Nature,

The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with, The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder, The hillside whiten'd with blossoms of the mountain ash, The same late in autumn, the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and light and dark green, . . .

Essence of Nature. Such verse focuses on some element of nature and describes its beauty or essence, as H.D. does in this excerpt from a poem titled "Sea Violet":

Violet your grasp is frail on the edge of the sand-hill, but you catch the light — frost, a star edges with its fire.

Isolation From Nature. This type of verse describes how a person feels apart from the natural world, excluded somehow from its essence or beauty, as this excerpt from a poem titled "Blight" by Emerson illustrates:

Our eyes

Are armed, but we are strangers to the stars, And strangers to the mystic beast and bird, And strangers to the plant and to the mine. . . .

Nature as Reflection of God. One of the most common types of nature poems, this calls on some aspect or element of nature to harken images of the Creator. An example by Edna St. Vincent Millay:


0 world, I cannot hold thee close enough! Thy winds, thy wide grey skies! Thy mists, that roll and rise! Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag And all but cry with colour!

If you scan major anthologies, you'll find plenty of examples of nature verse. The best all have one common element: They do not gild the lily, as it were, attempting to improve nature. Nature cannot be improved — only observed.

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