Nature and human nature are two of the main themes treated in the poem. However, they both have different meanings.
Firstly, nature means the world of living things and the outdoors. We recognize this definition through the King of Oakwoods passage; this is effectively shown by the presence of the nature’s lexical field: “oaks”, “trees”, spring”, “river”, “water”, “summer”, “fields”. This lexical field and this meaning of the word nature are as well found in the naturalist passage, but in a little more thorough way; “spawn”, “water’s sperm”, “red-brown grass”, “river”. This whole extract is about beauty of nature -even if a few aspects are somehow repugnant- and really demonstrates and proves something we tend to forget: how a human being can be interested in each single detail and concept of nature because, basically, our existence comes from nature…Order now
Nature also means a wild primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by man, civilization and artificiality. We notice this in the forester and the woodnymph; the forester tells and talks of what he observes and sees, while the nymph talks of what she feels. The nymph represents nature and wild living; her passages are poetic, rhymed, visually well written and structured. And this is the image of a primitive state of existence. The stonewaller extract shows as well this meaning of nature, because we notice she gives importance to stones and knows them well (a pure and natural object): “the really lovely stones I dream of”, “but it’s not just stones”, “I can read them”. So we efficiently see here that she respects nature and doesn’t let it be touched or influenced by man and civilization. Finally, the swimmer passage also proves this part of meaning of the word because there is really a link, a relation built up between the swimmer and the water: “I steered through rapids like a canoe” suggests that he’s in control and guiding the water, but right after, “digging my hands in” shows how powerful the water might be and how fast the stream is, and “what am I, spelling the shapes of the letters with legs and arms” makes us feel like the body is becoming an onomatopoeia and part of the water, and this suggests a lack of control, unlike the first quotation. And again, this shows us how the river is preserved as well as nature, and that they have kept their wild and natural side.
A third signification for nature is that it represents the fundamental qualities of a person or a thing. Identity and the presence of an essential character are implicated here; that is why the walker has especially to be noticed; it is the very first passage of the poem and he’s the first character evoked: “Who’s this moving along the moor? An old man seeking and finding a difficulty.”. Moreover, the author describes him a little: “An old man, fifty years a mountaineer”, “listen to the horrible keep-time of a man walking, rustling and jingling his keys at the centre of his own noise.” The notion of identity is clearly existing here, but also in the naturalist part; we know what he’s interested in, that he admires nature which makes this passage rather poetic than pragmatic. However, this extract is more personal than the walker passage -there are more first person singular pronouns- and she’s involved in what she sees around her and expresses feeling (“I love that”). The sound patterns -as “she loves songs, she belongs to the soundmarks of larks”- express her relationship with nature, its beauty.
The poacher and the fisherman and the bailiff show as well some identity in the poem; the poacher has a particular attitude to the river. He seems possessive, uncaring and resentful of others. We notice as well the structure of this passage with short phrases to convey excitement: “On a S-bend. Not a sound.” Moreover, the use of informal language gives a colourful, a sense of character and identity: “pissed”, “tosser”, “leg it downriver”. In the fisherman and the bailiff extract, we notice more a lack of confidence (“I fish like hell”). So he tries to find reassurance and contact with himself; he isolates himself in a natural world. But there is at the beginning a confusion and a lack of individual identity: we move from one private and lonely voice -the fisherman’s-, to a public role, in the bailiff. This extract is about nature, about fishing.
After an identity meaning, there is the last of the main significations of nature: that is it the whole system of the existence, arrangement, forces and events of all physical life that are not controlled by man. And this applies to the naturalist, the fisherman and the bailiff, the dreamer, and the sealwatcher. The naturalist because all the natural aspects he observes and admires are totally independent from him and from man in general. The fisherman and the bailiff because, as for the naturalist, the event of the massive quantity of salmon coming up is entirely natural and independent from man. For the dreamer, the fact is that it is a complete imaginative exploration: he actually looses control of his weight (“not quite in full possession of their weight”), exactly like in water. And this is as well a kind of force of physical life that we can’t control. Finally, the sealwatcher is also concerned because he talks about animal reproduction -“There the musky fishy genital smell of things not yet actual”-, which is something natural, as well.
So this was for nature in Dart and of course it is related to human nature which has especially one main definition.
Human nature in the poem can be defined as the unique elements that form a basic part of human life and distinguish it from other animal life. We recognize this signification particularly through the naturalist and the swimmer parts: because in the swimmer passage we notice a reference to an animal: “we change ourselves into the fish dimension”. The word “into” particularly emphasizes the transformation implicated. And in the naturalist extract, which is the one where we find the more animal enunciations: “frogs”, “Butterflies”, “heron”, “eel”, “otter”. In fact we notice that he pays no attention to capitals at the start of the sentences but that he does care capitalising animals; the importance given to nature and animals is then clearly shown and proved here.
To conclude, we can say that Alice Oswald does talk about nature at first, and then builds up human nature theme with and through it. By the way, her poem ends up with the part of the sealwatcher; the verb ‘to seal’ also means to close up securely. So we can say that, at the end, the author seals her poem.