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The Concept of Nature

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The Concept of Nature in the Poetry of William Wordsworth and Robert Frost : A Comparative Study

Chapter One
Introduction

1. Background
Poets have long been inspired to tune their lyrics to the variations in landscape, the changes in season, and the natural phenomena around them. The Greek poet Theocritus began writing idylls in the third century B.C.E. to glorify and honor the simplicity of rural life--creating such well known characters as Lycidas, who has inspired dozens of poems as the archetypal shepherd, including the famous poem "Lycidas" by John Milton. An idyll was originally a short, peaceful pastoral lyric, but has come to include poems of epic adventure set in an idealized past, including Lord Alfred Tennyson's take on Arthurian legend, The Idylls of the King. The Biblical Song of Songs is also considered an idyll, as it tells its story of love and passion by continuously evoking imagery from the natural world. The more familiar form of surviving pastoral poetry that has retained its integrity is the eclogue, a poem attuned to the natural world and seasons, placed in a pleasant, serene, and rural place, and in which shepherds often converse. The first eclogue was written by Virgil in 37 B.C.E. The eclogue also flourished in the Italian Renaissance, its most notable authors being Dante and Petrarch. It became something of a requirement for young poets, a form they had to master before embarking upon great original work. Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia and Edmund Spenser’s The Shephearde’s Calendar are English triumphs of the form, the latter relying on the months of the year to trace the changes in a shepherd's life. In "Januarye," Spenser compares the shepherd's unreturned affection with "the frosty ground," "the frozen trees" and "his own winter beaten flocks." In "April" he writes "Like April showers, so streams the trickling tears." It was the

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