In “Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree,” Wordsworth embodies the idea of Romanticism by describing a reclusive man who loved nature and rejected the ideas of The Enlightenment. The yew tree itself symbolizes the poem’s subject who “turned away, /and with the food of pride sustained his soul in solitude” (Lines 19-20). Just as the “lonely yew-tree stands/ far from all human dwelling,” so does the man who rejected the city and its inhabitants (Lines 1-2). Wordsworth makes sure to include that the man retreats to a place that is “barren” (Line 4). Leaving the city to survive on a barren shore embodies the Romantic ideals that contrast those of the Enlightenment. Not only does the man flee to a place that is barren and therefore of little economic use, he flees into the country to be one with a place in nature he feels is beautiful. Living on the shore defies reason, but serves emotion as the man’s heart “could not sustain/ the beauty still more beauteous” (Lines 33-34). The man also lived an “Unfruitful life” (29). As The Enlightenment champions logic, invention, economy, and mastery of nature, the man who lives alone in an undeveloped shore rejects all ideals of being a productive member of a society, particularly is a city. The yew tree stands alone, not producing anything, yet it provides beauty. Likewise, the hermit made the choice to leave based off of his love for the shore and his hatred for economy and reason, living his life on his emotion and love, becoming one with nature.
As we read “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree,” we clearly see the deep inner thoughts and reflections reminiscent to the Romantic period. It contrasts the Enlightenment by teaching that solidarity and mediation can heal the turmoil that a fast paced world provides. Not only do we as humans need to take the time to have these reflections but we also need to provide ourselves with the correct surroundings in order to reach new levels of realization. This poem creates wonderful imagery of nature and then teaches us what to do with such a setting near the end. “Instructed that true knowledge leads to love, true dignity abides with him alone who, in the silent hour of inward thought, can still suspect, and still revere himself, In lowliness of heart” (Line 56).
The poem “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” by Wordsworth, differs with the Enlightenment sensibility as the poem is majorly influenced by the idea of harmonizing with nature. It describes how life with nature, prevails the young boy’s previous life within society. Where this young boy sets upon a place far away from his providence to be intertwined with nature. The young boy sails to his adventure and sees, “This lonely yew-tree stands/ Far from all human dwelling (lines 1-2).” The young boy accepts the isolated island, away from all interaction from humans or urbanization. In lines 15-17 it states, “With big with lofty views … went forth, pure in heart against the taint,/ Of dissolute tongues, ‘gainst jealousy, and hate,/ And scorn, — against all enemies prepared,/ All but neglect.” This shows how the boy disregarded all the problems and negativity that came from living in society and embraced nature. The boy came to a realization that with nature, there is nothing fear but there is everything to embrace.
All in all the poem describes the life of a young boy living away from the ideals of the Enlightenment sensibility. It shows how logic and reason are not always how people embodied their decisions, but through emotions as well. This poem explicitly shows rejection of the Enlightenment sensibility, and the acceptance of Romanticism.
“Lines Left Upon A Seat” contrasts the Enlightenment most directly in its portrayal of nature as a place of ultimate peace and happiness. The man described in this poem goes there to live in quiet happiness, disgusted with modern society. While it ultimately doesn’t serve to grant him true happiness, nature is still presented as a major factor in personal satisfaction, that it is the natural setting for joy.
Interestingly, this story actually displays a slightly Enlightenment thought, that society is actually needed in some form. While it doesn’t say that humanity needs to run like a machine, it does stress that a life lived in solitude in nature isn’t the right way to live, that to be truly happy one must seek human connections. Romanticism is known for introspection, so it’s seems rare to me that it would acknowledge the need for other people and their viewpoints.
While the Enlightenment presses the idea of reason and logic, Wadsworth offers a moral to his tale that strikes a balance between nature and humanity. The subject of this tale is an innocent youth who spurned his corrupted society to spend time in the lofty yew-tree. Nature in this work is a powerful force that is capable of inducing an “altered state” of mind. This is reflected in lines 5-7, “Yet, if the wind breathe soft, the curling waves, / That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind / By one soft impulse saved from vacancy.” The man who has turned his back on society is consumed by Nature, a force that should be feared. Wadsworth wrote that “Nature had subdued him to herself,” in line 47. He was insignificant in the grand scheme of the world. He lacked human connection and would never feel what others felt. The Enlightenment focus on the logical and rational misses this idea of inward reflection and human connection. Emotions are to be controlled according to the Enlightenment idealists, but Lines left upon a seat in a yew-tree places an important role on emotions and interaction with other humans or the lack thereof.
In the poem “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-ree” written by William Wordsworth, it is noticeable nature and internal working are the appropriate terms to describe the man and his own way of living; this features consist of the Romanticism and are completely the opposite of what Enlightenment sensibility is all about.
Nature can be seen throughout the poem in scenes like this ones, “Far from all human dwelling” (line 2) showing us readers the first point; the man is not in the city, he is just by this tree with no pressure to run anywhere else in the search of money or work or any ‘greed’. “Went forth, pure in his heart, against the taint” (line 15) is a clear representation on how economy has no place next to the Yew-tree; he is prepared for the world but in his own thoughts, ways and reflections. Finally “whose eye / is never on himself” (51-52), is the best way to explain how the man was not attached to anything else rather than its communion with nature instead of its manipulation; in other words it is a pure description of his love and way of survival within it.
The man’s way of learning was by experience rather than by critical reflection, making his connection with nature, emotion and humanity much more powerful, rather than just an insensible and systematic way of seen things that represent the Enlightenment.
After reading “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” I find that it contrasts the Enlightenment sensibility mostly in regards to privacy, self-reflection, and nature. In the poem the man flees from society feeling neglected and tries to embrace his solitude in nature. Yet he cannot forget his time and he has been changed by it and by his pride. The poem suggests that having privacy and inward reflection is healing, “True dignity abides with him alone/ Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,” unlike the Enlightenment ideal that the way to happiness is through industriousness and working for the public good. This can also be seen in the beginning of the poem where the “Traveller” is beckoned to come and clear his mind, “if the wind breathe soft, the curling waves/ That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind.” Another significant contrast is view of harmony with nature being a source of wisdom. In the Enlightenment reason and religion are sources of wisdom but in the poem harmony with nature brings about “inward thought” and “true knowledge” which leads to love.