Many poets use poetry to convey their feelings for nature. Poets like Seamus Heaney, John Clare and Alfred Tennyson use a variety of techniques to reflect their experiences, connections and emotions in regards to the natural world. Seamus Heaney’s Storm on the Island presents his feelings to nature in several different ways. The first of these is through use of emotive language. Throughout the poem, Heaney uses words like “tragic” and “savage” to connote his views of how aggressive nature is to the reader.
These words of anger give the audience a sense of the rage that Heaney sees in forms of nature like the wind which he is describing and the fear that he has for it. Heaney cleverly uses this to exemplify his emotions towards nature; fear for the aggressive nature of it but also respect for its strength. This is similar to the way Alfred Tennyson uses language to show readers his attitudes to nature in The Eagle. Tennyson makes use of possessive language such as “his mountain walls” to give the eagle he’s describing a sense of possession over the walls and the land.
Alongside this, he uses words such as “azure” – a colour often used to describe the sky but also associated with royalty in heraldry – to give the bird a royal presence whilst describing the scene. This good use of possessive terms alongside clever description enables Tennyson to connote a sense of respect for the eagle to the reader. This, like with Storm on the Island, is used to reflect the poet’s sense of respect for nature using language, however, unlike Heaney, Tennyson uses a sense of possession and grandeur to give a more positive form of respect for the eagle than Heaney’s fearful respect for the wind.
John Clare puts a different spin on the use of language to reflect his attitude to nature in Sonnet. Clare uses terms like “I love” repeatedly to show the audience how his feelings for nature – love. Unlike Heaney and Tennyson, Clare’s use of language here reflects purely love rather than respect but he goes about this a similar way – using descriptive and emotive language to show the reader his emotive connection to nature. All three of these expressions provide a strong account of the poet’s feelings for nature, whether it is of fearful or positive respect or even love, by establishing a connection to the reader through a common emotion.
This technique is used effectively and extensively in The Eagle, Sonnet and Storm on the Island. Another technique used by Heaney in his poem Death of a Naturalist is using a simile to convey emotions about a topic to the reader. In the poem, Heaney comments on frogspawn claiming that it “grew like clotted water”. This simile connotes an image of a thick, solid-like liquid just as frogspawn is, in its jelly-like form. This is an effective method of conveying emotions to the reader as it is an oxymoron – a description that contradicts itself.
Water, due to its liquid-like qualities, cannot be clotted as it does not bunch together. This simile, therefore, shows the audience the contradictory connection Heaney has to the frogspawn; it is ugly and unappealing yet attracts his attention. The use of a simile also occurs in Sonnet; John Clare similarly uses this technique to convey his emotions towards a certain object. Clare compares how “reed clumps rustle like a wind shook wood”. This is a useful comparison for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this simile compares an action to a similar one on a larger scale.
This hyperbolic mirroring gives the audience a sense of the enormity Clare feels about the action due to his emotional connection to this natural event. Secondly, this simile is used to add rhythm to the poem; both “reed clumps rustle” and “wind shook wood” use alliteration and assonance in a list of three to give the line a clear and catchy sound. Clare’s two uses for this simile show his emotive attitude to nature whilst giving the poem rhythm like one would find when observing these things.
Alfred Tennyson puts a different spin on the use of a simile in The Eagle: he uses a simile to add strength and power to the description of the eagle. In the last line of the poem, he describes how the eagle falls “like a thunderbolt”. This new description gives the action of the eagle a sense of supernatural power which enforces the power of the eagle over its kingdom. Similar to Clare’s use of a simile, Tennyson uses the technique to exaggerate the power of the eagle. This shows how Tennyson sees some of the powers of nature as being extraordinary and amazing whilst withholding great power.
Also used by these poets is the technique of using imagery in language to represent a key theme. In Sonnet, John Clare uses positive images and adjectives to get across images of the tranquil and peaceful attitudes of nature. By using language like “beaming forth” and “insect happy wings”, Clare connotes happy, bright images to the reader with the intention to show them how he sees nature – peaceful and joyous. This clever use of imagery shows how Clare thinks nature is a beautiful thing. This is a sharp contrast to the imagery used by Seamus Heaney in Storm on the Island and Death of a Naturalist.
Heaney uses negative military-style language to the same effect. By using phrases like “poised like mud grenade” in Death of a Naturalist and “bombarded by the empty air” in Storm on the Island, Heaney shows the reader his views of nature. This negative impact connotes a sense of anger that controls nature which further shows Heaney’s view that nature is an aggressive force rather than John Clare’s view of the beautiful and peaceful nature. On the other hand, this aggressive force of nature is a metaphor for the conflict Heaney witnessed as a child.
He grew up in Ireland where he witnessed soldiers preparing for the Second World War and has lived through most of the troubles suffered by Ireland. This has taken a large impact on some of his poems, particularly Death of a Naturalist, which talks about the conflict he witnessed as a child. In this regard, Both Heaney and Clare use imagery in their language to reflect themes and parts of their personal life; whilst their ideas about nature conflict, their techniques for expressing emotion are relatively similar.
Between the four poems, Heaney, Clare and Tennyson connect a wide variety of views of nature through various techniques. These techniques are used in an effective manor to produce a wide variety of results. Whilst Heaney tends to take a more negative view to nature compared to Clare, both use similar techniques to provide an equally effective portrait of their views of nature. Tennyson, on the other hand take a more direct route to explain the grand attitude he takes to nature. All three of these great poets use strong and effective measures to explain their attitudes to nature.