What connections does Shelley make between nature and art in Shelley’s poems
Q.. What connections does Shelley make between nature and art in Shelley’s poems, and how does he illustrate those Connections?
Ans. Whereas older Romantic poets looked at nature as a realm of communion with pure existence and with a truth preceding human experience, the later Romantics looked at nature primarily as a realm of overwhelming beauty and aesthetic pleasure. While Wordsworth and Coleridge often write about nature in itself, Shelley tends to invoke nature as a sort of supreme metaphor for beauty, creativity, and expression. This means that most of Shelley’s poems about art rely on metaphors of nature as their means of expression: the West Wind in “Ode to the West Wind” becomes a symbol of the poetic faculty spreading Shelley’s words like leaves among mankind, and the Skylark in “To a Skylark” becomes a symbol of the purest, most joyful, and most inspired creative impulse. The Skylark is not a bird, it is a “poet hidden.”
For Shelley, nature is not just a matter of presenting landscapes, scenes and creatures; it is a source of inspiration and emotion. In “Ode to the West Wind”, Shelley is fascinated by the mighty force of the wind. It is a source of inspiration for the poet. It is a liberating force as well as a tool of bringing about revolutionary changes. He makes an earnest plea to the West Wind to infuse him with its raw power and liberate him from the bout of depression which has temporarily overwhelmed him. Shelley looks upon the wind as a great force that can liberate him from the “thorns of life” on which he has fallen. More importantly, he treats the wind as a force that can spread his poetic messages throughout the world and bring revolutionary changes.
In the last stanza, he implores the wind to make him an instrument and tool of revolutionary change: “make me thy lyre”. He prays to the wind to scatter his dead thoughts over the universe so that, like the autumn leaves, they may stimulate new idea which will bring out a new era in human history: “Be thou, Spirit fierce,! My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!/ Drive my dead thoughts over the universe/ Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!” For Shelley, poetry is not mere art. It is an ‘incantation’. It is a prophecy. It pours life into dead things. It evokes faith in the despondent. But, nature plays a great role. The West Wind will act as a ‘trumpet’ to announce ‘my words among mankind’ and rouse the world from its stupor.
In “To a Skylark” Shelley sees nature as something that goes beyond its outer appearance and instead sees it as a form of inspiration or emotion. The Skylark is a “spirit” invisible in the sky. It sings and flies free of all human error and complexity, and while listening to its song the poet feels free of these things too. The bird is a “scorner of the ground”. Its music is better than all music and all poetry. Shelley asks the bird to teach him “half the gladness / That thy brain must know,” for then he would overflow with “harmonious madness,” and his song would be so beautiful that the world would listen to him, even as he is now listening to the skylark. Thus, the Skylark is Shelley’s natural metaphor for pure poetic expression, the “harmonious madness” of pure inspiration. The Skylark’s song issues from a state of purified existence, a notion of complete unity with heaven through nature.
Thus, in both “Ode to the West Wind” and “To a Skylark”, Shelley establishes connections between nature represented by the wind and the bird respectively and art meaning his poetry. In both cases, nature is a sort of supreme metaphor for beauty, creativity, and expression.