Classic English Literature

Classic English Literature

Nature is something that people cherish because of what it does for them. For the writers, it can be said that the value of nature has been utilized as something that can negatively affect the reader or a positive effect on the reader. People are urged to appreciate what life gives them because it is anticipated that at one time, nature will not be there for them. Many writers commemorated the glories of the individual spirit, the imaginations, the emotions and some of the basic elements of human nature. Washington Irving used superstitions and intertwined them with nature in his stories. William Cullen Bryant talks about how nature can reflect on an individual’s emotions. Henry David Thoreau is looked at as an environmental father of the green movement and a naturalist, courtesy of his writings. The paper compares/contrasts the way in which the three authors have used nature in their writings.

Thoreau is deemed as one of the proponents of Transcendentalism. His works can be described as those of a transcendental poet who managed to walk the line between society and nature. He can be described as a being living in the natural world and who continues to relate and interact with others through his words. Considering the works of the writer, he is more of the transcendental equivalent of a preacher, whose purpose can be said to be articulating communion with God. It is deemed an act of writing about nature, about the communion with nature, which made it real and made it relative to the rest of the world. There is some form of beauty. It is as though writing it down brought the beauty of nature into the world of human beings (Irving, 2018).

Through Thoreau’s own work, there is a sense in which he liberates the readers. This is evidenced in Thoreau’s first sentence of “walking”, which evokes his intention to speak a word for nature some level of wildness and something that can be called absolute freedom (Irving, 2018). These three things are considered to be more of the same. Most of his records are transfigured in such a way that he is not just writing words down but striving to symbolically elevate the natural objects into symbols that tend to be supernatural, divine or celestial representations that exist in mind. He affirms, “We hug the earth-how rarely we mount!” (Irving, 2018). He tells the audience to climb a tree, get higher, and even see the world in a more different way. The words used are a metaphysical antecedent. The author goes ahead to say that he lives in the confines of a world in which he makes occasional and transient forays only. He is of the opinion that because of his walks, he is connected enough to nature to such an extent that to end a walk may not necessarily be to return home but to return home. There are things he puts so candidly, hence showing his interest in nature. For instance, he says, “Every creature is better alive than dead, men moose and pine-trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it” (Irving, 2018). However, his writing depicts the transcendental use of the world.

As for William Cullen Bryant, a keen analysis of his work can link him to the transcendentalists. As mentioned earlier, his works revolve around the nature of nature and the nature of life. For instance, a poem such as “the yellow violet” can be classified as a poem talking about the nature of life. On the other hand, a poem like “The Prairies” is an example of the nature of nature (Bryant & Voss, 1975). However, the two poems are all about fields, flowers and trees, and they tend to take on different perspectives about nature itself. “The Yellow Violet” clearly shows the nature of life in a way that can be described as a very simple way. In this regard, the writer takes the cycle of a yellow violet and attempts to use it in describing what can be called the humanistic world around him. In fact, he uses personification in order to achieve this. For instance, he says A “modest flower pops out from the dark, damp leaves below and makes the woods of April bright” (Bryant & Voss, 1975). The author has brilliantly described this site as an early smile and something that kept a smile on his own face. Even the various colors and blooms which surface in the month of May is not that joyful given that when the violet blooms, it happens to be the first color one can see after a long winter of grey. Here, it is apparent that the modesty of the meek flower can be likened to that of a human being. Another important line from the poem says, “So they, who climb to wealth, forget” (Bryant & Voss, 1975). The writer suggests that the yellow violet is far much better than even wealthy people who are merely wrapped up in their wealth as one can always count on it to brighten up his/her day.

Washington Irving also uses nature extensively. Imagery has been used to portray nature in various ways. Considering writings such as “Rip Van Winkle”, the writer uses imagery to portray nature, thus painting some form of literary images of the Catskill Mountains (Irving, 2018). This point towards some significant place in the history of the writer. Ideally, the Catskills are considered timeless in nature. It is also something that is thought to be untouched by humanity. The writer can successfully build on it by creating such an impression, thus incorporating the supernatural and other worldly themes. Nature has also been portrayed as the eternal and timeless quality which transcends the everyday existence of people as the writer puts it, “When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky” (Irving, 2018).

Given the writings from the three authors, nature has been predominantly used, either symbolically or literally. For Thoreau’s work, nature been used in both a literal and symbolic way. There is a sense in which both Henry David Thoreau and William Cullen Bryant embrace Transcendentalism. This is the American philosophical and theological thought, which is said to have combined both respects for nature as well as self-sufficiency. In fact, all three writers are aligned with this school of thought in one way or the other. Washington Irving leans more on the supernatural cadre rather than the theological thought. There is also symbolism in his writings as we are told the significance of the Catskills, the memories they brought, and how they were highly esteemed. Nature is a dominant theme in all the above texts, and there are slight differences in the manner in which the theme has been approached. Sometimes it is explored from an ecological perspective, while sometimes linked to the supernatural beings. Thoreau’s work was more informed by the interaction he has had with the outside world. William Cullen uses nature as a way to celebrate his emotions and imaginations. As for Irving, he embraces the extensive use of imagery to portray nature.


Bryant, W.C., & Voss, T.G. (Eds.). (1975). The Letters of William Cullen Bryant: 1836-1849 (Vol. 2). Fordham Univ Press.

Irving, W. (2018). Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories. Courier Dover Publications.

Thoreau, H.D. (2011). HD Thoreau, a Writer’s Journal. Courier Corporation.

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