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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,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,

Although thy breath be rude."

“Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold;
There's not the smallest orb that thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims,
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close us in, we cannot hear it.”

“The Mer-
chant of

And in Milton:

“Paradise Lost." Book IV.

“But neither breath of morn when she ascends
With charm of earliest birds; nor rising sun
On this delightful land; nor herb, fruit, flower,
Glittering with dew; nor fragrance after showers;
Nor grateful evening mild, nor silent night,
With this her solemn bird; nor walk by moon,
Or glittering starlight, without thee is sweet.”

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:



Canto III.

"The Isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose and Phæbus sprung!
Eternal Summer gilds them yet,
But all except their sun is set.
“The mountains look on Marathon,
And Marathon looks on the sea,
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream'd that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians' grave,

I could not deem myself a slave.
“What! silent still? and silent all ?

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."

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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,
The sun has left the lea,
The orange flower perfumes the bower,
The breeze is on the sea.
The lark his lay, who trill'd all day,
Sits hush'd his partner nigh,
Bird, breeze, and flower proclaim the hour,
But where is County Guy?"

“Quentin Durward."

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:

“The Lady
of the
Canto VI.

“There is no breeze upon the fern,

No ripple on the lake,
Upon her eyry nods the erne,
The deer has sought the brake;
The small birds will not sing aloud,
The springing trout lies still,
So darkly glooms yon thunder cloud,
That swathes, as with a purple shroud,
Benledi's distant hill.
Is it the thunder's solemn sound
That mutters deep and dread,
Or echoes from the groaning ground
The warrior's measur'd tread?
Is it the lightning's quivering glance
That on the thicket streams,
Or do they flash on spear and lance
The sun's retiring beams?”

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,
The western hills have hid the sun,
But mountain peak and village spire
Retain reflection of his fire.

“Rokeby." Canto V.

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Written for George Thomson's “Scottish Melodies."

The following pathetic verses show clearly how deeply nature reflected his changed feelings:

“The sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill
In Ettrick's vale is sinking sweet,
The westland wind is hush'd and still,
The lake lies sleeping at my feet;
Yet not the landscape to mine eye
Bears those bright hues that once it wore,
Though evening with her richest dye
Flames o'er the hills of Ettrick's shore.

“With listless look along the plain
I see Tweed's silver current glide,
And coldly mark the holy fane
Of Melrose rise in ruin'd pride.

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