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The Anatomy of Poetry

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Poetry is the telescope for which we look into a poet’s feelings, beliefs and the core values a poet bases their life upon. Describing and illustrating these principles through their perspective on nature is one way a poet shares their views with the readers. Some poets see nature as a curse and a punching bag for insults. Writers such as Edgar Allen Poe see nature casting a ghastly and appalling effect on people. One who sees nature as “a tub of male whales, maker of worn wood, shrub-ruster,” and a “sky-mocker” uses nature for a verbal punching bag, casting their anger upon it, hoping to be relieved (Winter Ocean, 3). Other poets, like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, see nature possessing peacefulness with a high spirited attitude. Some poets similar to Whitman actually believe nature is a deity, and should be adored and worshiped. A poet’s stance on nature many times is dependant on their views and beliefs of God; whether they are atheist, agnostic, Christian or indifferent, poets choose their words based on their religious convictions.

As a Christian, John Green Wittier shows a positive description of nature, thus leaving the reader with a strong perspective on nature as well. Whittier holds nothing back from explanation when it comes to his religious beliefs. In his poem, “The Eternal Goodness”, he states that he doesn’t know His (God’s) hate, only His goodness and His love. (“The Eternal Goodness, 51-52). The reader can clearly tell just by reading this quote that Whittier has a true relationship with God. Linda Grimes, a critic for suite101.com, states, “This poet had faith and an inner vision that rendered him incapable of negating or limiting the experiences of life. He saw all as sparks from the Divine; he was able to show us the beauty and value in things and experiences we miss because of our basic insecurity and lack of faith or unwillingness to look for the good in nature and circumstances.” (John Greenleaf Whittier; Snow-Bound, 1). Grimes explains how Whittier was almost unable or “incapable” of keeping himself from writing about the good in nature and the experiences of life. It naturally flowed from his inner being. Whittier also reveals to us how nature can menace and intimidate us,
“The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray.
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon…
So all night the storm roared on;
The morning broke without a sun…”
(Snow-Bound, 60-61)

Whittier shows how nature can be a torment, and even a threat, but the end result it has on humans is positive, even when nature’s power and force is overwhelming, “Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.” (Snow-Bound, 63). The reader can clearly tell that Whittier believes God created nature to be beautiful to us even if it inflicts what at first glance is an imminent threat. Because of his Christian views, Whittier sees the affects of nature on humans as positive and always good. Even though nature can gnash its teeth at us, we still find ways to make it look dazzling and magnificent.

Edgar Allen Poe was sadly an extremely lost man. Not only did he view nature as a negative influence, but almost all of his pieces of poetry are sad and depressing. In some of his pieces, he writes that nature frightens him. Robert Giordano debated that Poe did well in French and Latin, but became of debt due to drinking and gambling; he had no choice but to quit school less than a year after her started (“A Short Biography of Edgar Allen Poe”, 1). Perhaps with proper training and spiritual disciplines, Poe could have graduated college as a different man, and it could have even affected his works of poetry. This quote from “The Lake” explains thoroughly how Poe sees nature as down casting upon the human soul.
“Death was in that poisonous wave
And in its gulf a fitting grave.
For him who thence could solace bring
To this lone imagining.
Whose solitary soul could make
An Eden of that dim lake. “
(“The Lake”, 18-23)
This piece of poetry explains how Poe actually fears the majesty of nature, and what most people would find breathtaking, he sees as terrifying and dreadful. This can be interpreted as a rear in the Creator of nature- and for the Christian a fear of the Almighty God. As Christians, se see nature as a gift from God to show his honor and beauty. It can also bring comfort and serenity to those who want it. Instead, Poe saw it as what made him lonely and forlorn.

Using an affable and amiable attitude, T.S. Eliot put a flawless look on the face of nature because he believed in the one True God. He wrote about all sorts of topics, from politics to the criticism of the West. Cleo Kearns states that he wrote consciously as a “representative, partisan, poet and critic of the West.” She goes on to say that after his conversion in 1927, he wrote as a practicing Christian (Kearns, 79).


“The broad-backed hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud.
Although he seems firm to us,
He is merely flesh and blood.”
Eliot states here that the hippopotamus simply is enjoying nature. Eliot is also shows how we should take after the interests of the hippo regarding nature. The hippo shows how any part of nature is able to be enjoyed. In Eliot’s poems regarding his faith, he does not use hints or use puns, but gives the reader a picture of how a fervent Christian speaks, “Flesh and blood is weak and frail, susceptible to nervous shock, while the True Church will never fail, for it is based upon a rock.” (The Hippopotamus, 5-8). Eliot compares nature (the hippo) to man. We are just flesh and blood, and someday our physical bodies will die, but God (the True Church) is solid and will never fail. Later on in the poem, Eliot shows how the hippo (also man) rises into heaven and plays a “harp of gold”. Eliot shows that even though as Christians, we go through tough times. But if we press on, we can be reunited with God.

The way a poet explains the effects of nature on mankind can reflect what their religious views are, if any. No matter what or who they follow, it can be shown through their works and writing. Some poets are influenced by God, or the lack there of. This can be revealed in almost all of their pieces. One can also realize that God even says, “If man cannot praise me, the rocks I created will”. Although Poe and others find difficulty in praising God through their creative work, scripture tells us “The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Exodus 15:2).



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