Environmental issues are burning ones in modernity; however, they are not new for the 20th and 21st centuries, since they were raised much earlier, at the outbreak of the Industrial Revolution. It is also true that the environmental problems have been frequently raised in poetry – the works of Wordsworth, Bishop, and Yeats may serve as evidence for this fact. All these authors have repeatedly raised the issues connected with the pace of progress and its impact on the surrounding nature, and have devoted some lyrics to these questions.
One of the remarkable pieces of poetry dedicated to the impact of man on nature is Sonnet; the poet voices his regrets about the Industrial Revolution and its effect on the connection between people and nature. He stresses the fact that with the emergence of machines people have lost their unity with nature they used to have before: “Little we see in Nature that is ours” (Wordsworth 3).
This is the reason for which the author disapproves of the progress and longs back to the time when no pollution, plants, manufacture, and industry existed, and wants to become a wild pagan on the untouched Earth: “I’d rather be/A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn” (Wordsworth 9-10).
The topic of regretting the progress and missing the genuine nature are also visible in the work of Yeats called The Lake Isle of Innisfree written at the end of the 19th century. The beginning of the poem takes the reader to the beautiful, untouched world of charming nature. All the author wants to have is a hut “of clay and wattles made” (Yeats 2), and “a hive for the honeybee” (Yeats 3). The dream of the poet is to “live alone in the bee-loud glade” (Yeats 4).
The pictures that the poet draws with the following lines of the verse are romantic, attractive, and naturally charming for all people who know what natural, simple beauty is. However, the author then shows the setting of his dreams, thus juxtaposing his dream and the surrounding reality: “I hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore/ While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray” (Yeats 10-11)
The motives of nature are also present in the verse titled The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop, and the author’s intent is to show both the dominance of people over the nature, and the respect they should have towards it. First of all, she shows that the way fish live is much better because of the pollution people have created – “his gills were breathing in/the terrible oxygen” (Bishop 22-23).
By these words the author shows that her habitat is worse than the fish’s is, but still she is the winner in the race as she has caught the fish that is in her power. Only seeing that the fish is an old fighter, and he has got into her hands only because he is tired of fighting, she provides an artistic comparison of the fish to people. She compares the hooks in the fish’s lip with the medals of an old soldier, and gives a metaphor of an old, wise man with a beard:
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw (Bishop 61-64)
Thus, as one can see from the present works, there is much on the issue of environment and nature in poetry; the poets have been not only worshipping the beauty of nature in their verses, but have managed to show how tragic the disconnection of people with nature is, and how drastic the role of industrial development is in this process. Poets show themselves as tied to the modernity, but longing back to the untouched, virgin nature that is lost forever for contemporary material and technologically advanced people.
Their nostalgia about the foregone times of unity with nature serves as a good guide for people forgetting about the nature, its place in human lives, and its truly dominant position compared to mechanics and human impact. Therefore, such readings and analysis may deepen the human understanding of what environment is, and what it should be for us – not only the subject of preservation, but of admiration, attention, and appeal in its genuine simplicity and charm.