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Examples of the suggestive power of nature are found in the works of nearly all the great poets. This view is not developed to any great extent by the earlier poets, yet it is hinted at by Shakespeare, Herrick, and Milton, and others in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But from the latter part of the eighteenth century the idea of finding our own feelings reflected in nature grows and develops into the modern subjective way of looking at the outside world. Thus we find in Shake
“As You Like it."
"Blow, blow, thou wintry wind,
Although thy breath be rude."
“Look how the floor of heaven
And in Milton:
“Paradise Lost." Book IV.
"But neither breath of morn when she ascends
With charm of earliest birds; nor rising sun
When we come to the modern poets, the subjective view is much more strongly developed. Thus Byron tells us what bitter feelings oppressed him when he looked on the loveliness of Greece:
“Don Juan." Canto III.
“The Isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
But all except their sun is set.
I could not deem myself a slave.
the voices of the dead Sound like a distant torrent's fall, And answer, 'Let one living head, But one arise we come, we come!' 'Tis but the living who are dumb."
In a fine chapter on the poetry of Sir Walter Scott, Ruskin, while recognizing the sadness in his writings, tries to prove that his habit was not of looking at nature as changed by his own feelings in this way, but as having an animation and pathos of its own, wholly irrespective of human presence or passion. He paints nature as it is in itself, bright, serene, or gloomy. But we think few people can agree with Ruskin in this. Scott's descriptions of nature are very beautiful, but like other great artists he very often, and in his finest passages descriptive of nature, reflects the moods of man, as the following instances will show. In the touching song:
“Ah, County Guy, the hour is nigh,
what matters it, the beauty and loveliness of the night? Nature is not in sympathy with the feelings of the lover, and it is all a sad and weary affair, unless shared with County Guy. And what suggestions nature makes to the aged ministrel describing the battle:
“There is no breeze upon the fern,
The following fine description of a sunset is full of sad regret, recalling happier hours, ere they faded away and were gone like the setting sun:
“The sultry Summer day is done,
“Rokeby." Canto V.
And Stanmore's ridge, behind that lay,
And how full of sadness are these lines:
“Marmion." Canto II.
“Now from the summit to the plain
The following pathetic verses show clearly how deeply nature reflected his changed feelings:
“The sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill
Flames o'er the hills of Ettrick's shore.