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NATURE IN ENGLISH POETRY
BETWEEN POPE AND WORDSWORTH
SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF ARTS, LITERATURE, AND SCIENCE,
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, IN CANDIDACY FOR
THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
The University of Chicago Press
The general theme of the treatment of nature in literature is not a new one. Schiller's essay entitled “Ueber die Naive und
Sentimentale Dichtung" (1794), was the first attempt Introductory to state and explain the difference between the statement
classical way of looking at nature and the modern
way. The externality, the lack of heart, in the classical attitude towards nature, he attributed to the fact that the Greeks were in their thoughts and habits of life so a part of nature that they felt no impulse to seek her with the passionate longing of the modern poet, whose ardent and heartfelt love of nature is but the result of a mode of thought and life out of harmony with her. This essay, however inadequate as a presentation of the Greek attitude towards nature,' determined the lines on which much of succeeding study was made.
Alexander von Humboldt in his Kosmos (1845-58), in the midst of his scientific generalizations and his encyclopaedic accumulation of natural facts takes occasion to discuss the treatment of nature in poetry and landscape painting. The chapter on landscape painting is chiefly confined to such topographical, botanical, and other pictorial representations as serve to add to our knowledge of distant lands. The boundaries of the whole question are enlarged by a representation of the profound feeling for nature in Semitic and Indo-European races.
There is a brief study of the mediæval feeling for nature as it appears in Dante, and finally of the treatment of nature in some prose writers of
Humboldt was the first to attack Schiller's view. He said that after a full reading of Greek and Roman authors he found himself. unable to accept Schiller's statement without many reservations. Later Biese spoke of Schiller's Essay as “jener bahnbrechende Aufsatz,” but showed that the statement of the case was inadequate because it was based on the poetry of a single period and thus failed entirely to take account of many phases of nature presented in the poetry after the brief "reflexionslose naive homerische Zeit."