English literature and nature | 2019-03-07 | daily-sun.com

English literature and nature

Nasih Ul Wadud Alam

7 March, 2019 12:00 AM printer

English literature and nature

In 2013, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared 3 March to be a "World Wildlife Day". The event makes people aware about the "Endangered Species of World Fauna and Flora". This year's UN theme regarding wildlife was "Life below Water: for People and Planet." Officially, marine life has 2 lac water animals. Unofficially, the number would rise a lot higher! Human beings are battling hard for spaces. Our expanding nature has put marine life in danger. We have built dams, bridges, culverts and borders. Unfortunately, Wild lives below and above water, are always the sacrificers.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, England had a Romantic Movement. The Romantic Poets tried to revive our love for nature. The major romantic poets, William Wordsworth, S.T. Coleridge, John Keats, P.B. Shelley wrote poems in easy languages. They wanted common people to read poems without many difficulties. At that time, common English people showed aversion to reading literature. They found it hard to decode English literary works. As a result, the romantics wanted to revolutionise English language and literature. Human dealing with nature was one of their many subject matters. They focused on the clarity of thoughts, singularity and lucid individual utterances.

Wordsworth found the representation of God in nature. Critics call it pantheism. In "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" he found his bliss in daffodils. S.T. Coleridge's old mariner in "The Time of the Ancient Mariner" has found no mineral water for quenching his thirst. In "Ode to a Nightingale", Keats wants his imagination to fly like the Nightingale. The English poet, Keats was physically very weak in the latter years. Poems on nature sublimated him. To get a better treatment, Keats went from England to Italy where Shelley was on his side to help him recuperate. However, he died of tuberculosis only at the age of 25. The Nazrul of England, P.B. Shelley, friend of Keats, a revolutionary poet, hopes that the west wind will bring a revolution to society. That zealous approach will remove orthodox ideas from society.

The romantics wrote against the destruction of nature. In Wordsworth's "The World is too much with us", the narrator speaks of his frustration about people's mercenary tendencies. He laments that people have no time for nature. They are busy in earning money and ruining nature. He abhors the idea of people clamping down trees for making profits from them. In "Ode on a Grecian Urn", Keats criticises human beings for ignoring the bliss of nature. The lack of care for nature, Keats felt, makes human society less imaginative.

The Victorian England (1837-1901) destroyed nature for rapid industrial development. The industrial process made new technological innovations. War countries got new weapons for winning battles. Human beings became more anthropocentric than ever.

Patriarchy subjugates women. Human beings become patriarchal towards nature. They wrongly consider nature to be weak. Nature is as strong as women. Nature is always the winner. The world has experienced many incidents of nature's destructive sides. In Tennyson's "The Lotos-eaters", the mariners speak of their haplessness when natural calamities strike viciously. Tennyson attempts to prove that nature metes out its own punishment. It is better not to mess up with nature and the justice of nature.

"Man is the only animal who tortures and knows how to refine cruelty. Inhumanity is the other side of our coin, which proudly bears the idea of the dignity and the greatest of man"(Dominique Jaricaud, On the Human Condition, 2002:19). In other words, human beings are preserving nature to demolish nature. We have shaken the order of biodiversity. Many plants and oceanic creatures have lost their existence. On the one hand, we have destroyed the African wild nature. Human encroachments have reduced wildlife spaces on Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia. The Sundarbans has turned out to be a man-made natural park. Illegal fishing has reduced the production of fishes. The coast guard officials are unable to protect the largest mangrove forest from illegal poachers. In the world, wild predators and preys have shrinking spaces. Neo-colonialists have a lust for ivories. The movie, Blood Diamond shows how big companies are making products out of Ivories. Many Africans get killed for collecting ivories. Poor Ivory trees! Oceans have distilled waters. Litters have spewed oceans.

We destroy nature. Nature tries to destroy us. It is the ancient game. One day, the world will end. Our materialistic lives will count for nothing. Is the Almighty waiting to reward us or punish us? Only HE knows and HE knows!


The writer is a Lecturer, Department of English, Chittagong Independent University