Monday, October 26, 2009

Nature Defines Nature

For my Enlgish 300 class we have been studying the affect that nature has on literature.  We have mostly been reading poetry. We recently wrote a paper on one of the poems we have been studying in class. In it we were supposed to discuss how the use of nature can relay the real message the aurthor was trying to make.  Here is my paper. Hopefully it will impress you  and my professor! Enjoy...

There are two definitions of nature.  The first being the nature of a person, the nature of a community, or the nature of any object which refers more to characteristics such as innate personality traits or inherent behavioral patterns. The second being the nature that refers to the actual flora and fauna and landscape of a particular place.  Often times the landscape definition of nature is used to characterize the nature of a person or a community. This is precisely what Thomas Gray accomplishes in his poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”  A simple reading of this work may convey a picture of a lonely church cemetery but underneath the rural scenes Gray is addressing the social problems of his time.  Gray ultimately uses the nature present in a churchyard as an analogy to the social nature of the eighteenth century.

The first parallel the poem makes is the way the poor are defined by nature.  The scene opens at the end of the day with a description of the landscape and the animals and trees that cover it, “The plowman homeward plods his weary way” (3) and  darkness begins to set in. Through these simple descriptions the dominating force of nature is manifest in a peasants life.  They live their life day to day as the sun comes and goes. The plowman’s day is determined by the sun; he returns home when darkness or the elements prevent his work. Their lives have a simple rhythm with the elements of nature.  Their station in life is also defined in their working of the land.  In farming the plowman uses a sickle to “furrow of the stubborn glebe” (25) which means he creates a small trench to plant seeds into a row.  Everything grows in a straight line because it is planted there.  This is paralleled to the way the poor live.  They are planted into life with it already “furrowed” in a certain direction and the have no way to branch from it.   Gray describes a poet who epitomizes this theory. The poet is seen by the “upland lawn” (100), under the “nodding beech” (101), or by the “brook that babbles” (104) just wandering and thinking. He is lead to the places that suit his life and work. His life is simple and lead by nature. The connection of the poet and the nature is sealed when at his death he is buried into the earth that had patterned his life. 

Gray also uses nature, or rather the lack of nature, to view the life of the aristocrat.  Instead of living in parallel with nature the wealthy go around with “the boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, /and all the beauty, all the wealth e’er gave” (37-38).  They seem only to be concerned with one thing, themselves. Gray describes the life of these great men with all pomp and importance of ancestors, all beauty and accumulated wealth, no simpleness or rhythm. They live there lives shut up in their houses and churches and ignore the rhythms of nature.  Gray projects that all the counterfeit pride will eventually come to an end because all “the paths of glory lead but to the grave” (36). He is stating that all the dominant acts and superfluity is useless because eventually everyone ends in the same place, the grave. Even in death the rich fight against nature.   They chose to be enshrined in a church with “the long-drawn isle and fretted vault” (39) rather then in the earth.  The wealthy are not defined by the nature within the churchyard but rather by the church itself. They want to be remembered for their greatness and wealth and not for their deeds.  In all their snobbery and royalties, they erect “trophies” (38) and ring bells pleading with the world to never forget them.

Joining these theories about nature defining the rich and poor, two new views emerge: first, the way the aristocrats view the poor. At the start of the poem Gray describes several animals in the churchyard.   He describes an owl sitting up in a “ivy-mantled tower” (9) complaining to the moon about things wandering over to “molest her ancient solitary reign” (12). The owl represent the these aristocrats and their idea that they can look down on the poor.  They sit on their mantled thrones or in their decorated manors and tyrannize their servants and the commoners who work beneath them.  They justify their actions with their power; they believe they have the right because of their ancient solitary endowment. They view the poor as a part of nature, the very nature to whom they are indifferent and ignore. 

The second theory that emerges from the description of the rich and poor is the way society, and the poor themselves, should view the poor.  Gray discourses on the lives these poverty stricken people could live if they are given the chance.  He states “Full many a gem of purest ray serene,/The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:/Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,/And waste its sweetness on the desert air” (52-56).  The first two lines of this stanza are referring to beautiful gems on the ocean floor that no one ever discovers.  The second two lines are describing beautiful flowers out in the wilderness that bloom but no one is there to see them blush or to smell their sweet perfume.  Both the gem and the flower are there and still magnificent but no one is there to recognize it or praise them; likewise, these peasant forced to live a certain life have this potential to become great yet no one is there to discover them or praise them.  They could sway “the rod of empire” (47) and be great rulers or wake “the living lyre” (48) and become great musicians but “Chill penury repressed their noble rage,/And froze the genial current of soul” (51-52).  Their poverty, which is the very station they are thrust in to, bars them from their potential and represses any high ambitions.  

Nature is way of defining nature. In “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” written by Thomas Gray, the social nature of his time is questioned through the simple nature in a church cemetery.  Nature, such as the owls of the night and sweet smelling desert flowers, parallel the wealthy and poor and show them as the elite who look down upon the poor and the poor who are channeled into a life there is no branching from.  Gray is trying to say that social hierarchy is an ignorant cultural custom.  In the end death unites everyone, life should unite as well; yet, as Gram has illuminated, social discrepancies will divide. 


REALND!!!! Well I just got back from Ireland and had the time of my life! It was so beautiful and I just felt really connected to Dublin since I lived in Dublin, Ohio for 7 years of my life haha.  Here is just a brief summary of some of the things we did!

The first day we got there we went to see Dublin castle.  The castle part was a little but of a let down but they took us underground and showed us the ruins of the original castle and the underground river.  We were exhausted form getting up at 4 and getting our flight to Dublin so we just walked around Temple Bar (the pub and shopping district of Dublin) and found some place to eat and then we headed back to our hotel.  We decided to watch “P.S. I Love You” because the next day we were headed on a tour through the Wicklow mountains which is where they filmmed the scene where they meet!

We had to get up early and go to the tourist office to get on our tour bus.   We started driving our into the Irish country side and it was unbelievable.  It wasn’t the typical Irish green, it was still the vibrant green but then there was all of this orangey copper color everywhere (I mean it is October which means fall:) and it was just our luck that it was raining all day… it really wasn’t that bad but it was a little foggy. We saw some waterfalls and lakes and mountains.  We stopped at this little town called Laragh (pronounced Laura:) and we had hot chocolate and scones at this cute little bed and breakfast.  We stopped at the ruins of an old monastery and walked around some lakes on our way back to Dublin.  When we got back we ate some dinner and walked around the city some more.  We went and saw a movie, which was really stupid, and then we went to bed!

Again we had to get up early because we took another day trip out to the Cliffs of Moher.  These cliffs are the cliffs of insanity in “Princess Bride” and the cliffs in the recent “Harry Potter 6” that just came out.  They are on the west coast of Ireland so it was a 3 hour drive out.  They were unreal! I loved them.  We were luck that is was pretty cleat so we could see them well.  We stopped at a castle on the way back but we were so tired we didn’t really appreciate it… We got back late and went right to bed.

Saturday was our Dublin day.  We started off by checking out of our hotel and taking the train out to this little seaside town called Bray to go and see this manor house called Powerscourt.  If you have seen the movie “Count of Monte Cristo” it is the house Edmond buys when he becomes the count.  The house is just surrouned by these beautiful gardens so we just walked around.  It was sunny the whole time we were there which was so nice! I finally dried up and thawed out from the rainy days!  We made our way back to Dublin and went on a tour of Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells (this 2,000 year illuminated manuscript of the 4 gospels).  We went and ate quick and then headed to Christ Church Cathedral and went to Choral Evensong.  It was a little long but really interesting. All I have to say that I prefer our sacrament meeting any day! We went back to the hotel and picked up our bags and then caught the bus to the airport.  We arrived home safe, sound, and tired. It was an amazing trip and if any of you ever get the chance to go, GO! I can tell you all of the best places to hit!


Cliffs of Moher...
Lake at the Monestary Ruins...
Christ Church Cathedral...
Dublin Castle...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kensington Gardens

For my English 300 class we had to write a poem about nature... oh boy. I wasn't really looking forward to it but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I decided to write about Kensington Gardens since it is my favorite spot in all of London. I am not a poet by any means but here it is...

Kensington Falls

October trees line the curving walkways,

The path of a mother pushing a pram 

Shaded by the friendly sweeping boughs.

The wandering lane meets waters edge

And disappears beneath the corrugated surface

Only to be disturbed by the wake of a swan;

Reflected in the ripples lies a secret.

A single red limb whispers the sound of autumn.

The gentle brush of a hand could sweep away 

The colors of brisk mornings and thanksgiving;

Yet leaf to leaf, branch to branch, tree to tree,

The rumor of an approaching fall spreads 

Until the entire garden is aflame.

The paths puzzling the landscape lead to fountains

One of Roman times and yet another of youth.

The face of a boy plays in the burning foliage 

Beckoning the harvest to capture his boyhood 

And end the sweet sunshine of summer.

Tender winds rustle through fields of golden grass

And carry the invisible hum down curving walkways

Only to disappear through the Lancaster’s Gate. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stratford Upon Avon

Well today we went on a lovely day trip to the lovely town on Stratford, home of the Great William Shakespeare. We started the day at Mary Arden's farm.  I thought it was interesting that is was still a working farm.  I felt like I learned a lot more by seeing it rather than reading about it.  We saw some falconeering and learned about the servants as we watched them eat a real period meal.  We then headed to Anne Hathaway's house.  Anne Hathaway was the woman Shakespeare married when he was 18... she was 26... and pregnant.  I loved learning about Shakespeare's life before he was a playwright.  I also enjoyed seeing the actual cottage.  It was pretty much kept in the same condition it would have been when Anne and William were there.  It was bigger then I thought it would have been which showed that they were not a peasant family.  We then headed to the actual house Shakespeare was born in.  We went through a very interesting exhibit about him before.  It made me appreciate his lagacy a little more.  For example it said that almost at every moment of the day "Hamlet" is being performed somewhere in the world!  We had a few hours to kill after the birthplace and then we went to se the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance of "The Winter's Tale." This has been my favorite Shakespeare we have seen so far.  I loved the time period they portrayed it in and plot and the meaning behind it.  It was just a reminder of how we shouldn't judge others and the power of forgiveness.    

The Birthplace...
Anne Hathaway's Cottage...
The Winter's Tale...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The National Gallery II

Friday was nice too.  It was my month mark so I celebrated by going to the Park... ok I actaully went to the park to study, but it was still nice.  That afternoon we had the chance to go back to the National Gallery.  We just walked by paintings and talked about them.  It really was like having a live powerpoint presentation.  We studied some art from the Baroque time and them some prictures from the Rococo period.  After Dr. Soper talked to us we were able to walk around and look at some artists we are going to study.  I really am excited to learn about Turner because I really loved the colors and style.  It was neat to see some work from Van Gogh and Monet. Here are some of the pictures we saw when we were there!
One of Van Gogh's flower portraits...
Ruben's Rape of the Sabine Women...
One of Rembrants Self Portraits...
Monet's Bridge...

Friday was nice too.  It was my month mark so I celebrated by going to the Park... ok I actaully went to the park to study, but it was still nice.  That afternoon we had the chance to go back to the National Gallery.  We just walked by paintings and talked about them.  It really was like having a live powerpoint presentation.  We studied some art from the Baroque time and them some prictures from the Rococo period.  After Dr. Soper talked to us we were able to walk around and look at some artists we are going to study.  I really am excited to learn about _____ because I really loved the colors and style.  It was neat to see some work from Van Gogh and Monet. Here are some of the pictures we saw when we were there!