The Allure of Nature

Nicole Tesorio

The idea of nature is that it is something inspiring, with the ability to make the hardest heart beat with a new light. Nature moves the soul because living within the city limits in a way limits us in seeing the true splendor and beauty of even the smallest piece of grass, if only enough time is taken to appreciate it and where or how it came. One thing about this Romantic Travel class is that everything we have studied and read made me think about the fact that back in the seventeenth century, nature was an important part of the artistic movement in that it became a part of writing. It is so beautiful to read the travel journals of the writers from that time because it is not everyday that you are able to read something so moving, where the description of a mountain is done with such detail and feeling that you experience that mountain in all its sublime glory.

One of the things that really stood out for me during one of our class discussions was the idea that a woman travel writer tended to personalize her writing and I think that this is an important factor when writing about nature. Maria Williams and her descriptions of Switzerland are personalized. She mentions her emotions and is constantly describing why nature moves her and how it moves her. As an example, when describing her view of the Rhine falls, she describes the awe of the waters and the movement of the falls while at the same time stirring her emotions as follows: "…whence I saw the river rolling turbulently over its bed of rocks, and heard the noise of the torrent, towards which we were descending, increasing as we drew near. My heart swelled with expectation"[Vol. I, 59]. The first thing that stands out is the movement of the river, the strong and powerful yet sensual flows of the river. Then is the sound of the waters, a roar which increased as she descended the Rhine's banks. Both the movement of the river followed by its powerful sounds then moves Williams with anticipation. This idea of dynamics within nature is an important part of travel writing. Essentially, nature itself is a dynamic entity. It is always changing, and everything within nature has its own flow, its own way of moving. This in turn ties in with human emotion. As seen with this excerpt from Williams, as she witnesses the dynamics of the water, both how it sounds and how it looks, her own emotions become dynamic. She moves from interest to anticipation, her emotions showing their own dynamism. The idea is that nature is something that moves a person and stirs the emotions of that person. Personally, I find it hard not to personalize nature in that when I behold nature, it almost always pulls a reaction from me. I see myself amongst whatever I see, whether it is a tree or a full landscape.

It is hard to see how it is possible to look at nature in a strictly scientific and organized way. Though our surroundings can be explained scientifically, it is not enough to satisfy that part of the human spirit which needs to be awed from time to time. I found William Coxe's descriptions of his travels through Switzerland, in comparison to Maria William's descriptions, a bit more organized with a strict flow. It seems to be that a man's perspective will almost always (and I say almost because there are always exceptions), remain objective because men tend to view things in a more objective way. For instance, Coxe's view of the Rhine as follows: "A scaffolding is erected in the very spray of this tremendous cataract, and upon the most sublime point of view:-- the sea of foam tumbling down-the continual cloud of spray scattered around at a great distance, and to a considerable height-in short, the magnificence of the whole scenery far surpassed my most sanguine expectations, and exceeds all description" [16]. This excerpt is more organized and is written in the form of a list. The thing that stands out in this passage is the objectivity of the description. The approach is one that stresses what is seen and how it is seen. It conveys the awe of Coxe in a more subdued manner. As a reader, I can see what Coxe is experiencing, but not the way in which he experiences it. The absolute magnificence of this fall and its waters is no doubt apparent but at the same time there is no extreme emotional impression upon which to see the Rhine from Coxe's description. Objectivity is fine and I agree that nature in itself possesses objectivity. I mean, all elements within nature have a specific function and serves a purpose that is unique to whatever the object may be, but at the same time, for that objectivity to become real, it is also important to include aspects of emotional parallels in order to establish a more colorful outlook on nature.

What is really charming about Williams's writing is that it is written in abandon, almost as if her writing has its own order, maybe something Williams never planned, but it happened anyway. There exists the dramatic with what Williams sees and in this the flow of her writing is more relaxed and more fluid because she does not put restrictions upon herself nor on her writing. The outbursts of emotion with which she writes is at times overwhelming and yet exciting because of its suddenness. Her sudden outburst upon seeing the Rhine as she exclaims "Oh majestic torrent! which hast conveyed a new image of nature to my soul, the moments I have [61] passed in contemplating thy sublimity will form an epocha in my short span!-thy course is coeval with time, and thou wilt rush down thy rocky walls when this bosom, which throbs with admiration of thy greatness, shall beat no longer!"(60-61) is a testament to the sublime and the outpour of emotion that goes into it. It is outstanding to see this element of emotion, where all feeling rests on personal experience and wonder. The way that Williams approaches nature brings to new light a different perspective. Nature ceases to be something that merely exists and rather becomes a well from which all emotions flow. This flow is what ties the female mind with nature. Somehow there rests within the woman that continual understanding about nature and its importance.

There will always be a different approach to the idea of nature. Men and women have different ideas on how to express a feeling about nature. Either way, nature writing is inspirational and it evokes a different reaction or a different opinion from different people. What is important becomes the style in which the idea of nature is expressed. Emotionally or objectively, nature remains that part of the universe that maintains its allure and its beauty no matter what the writer or the style that is used. Nature just is and forever will be, inspiring.

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