Lines Left Upon A Seat In A Yew-Tree

The poem “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” contrasts the Enlightenment sensibility. The most significant way in which the poem contrasts the Enlightenment is though its attempt to harmonize with nature and stepping back from the industrious city, into the relaxation and peace nature offers. The first and second line of the poem opens with ” Nay traveler! rest. This lonely yew-tree stands/ Far from all human dwelling.,” persuading the traveler/stranger/humane individual to accompany nature for a while. The second line “Far from all human dwelling,” creates the illusion of a problem with society/the city. The Enlightenment sensibility is opposed because nature over city is marketed to the individual, and human connects/relationships are shut off to be alone with nature in a private instead of public setting. As the poem goes on, 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.,” empower nature, and give it human like qualities through personification. Nature is personified with so much power, so much it is able to embody human action, and have authority over how to make humans feel when they are standing with her. Personifying nature opposes the Enlightenment concept of mastery of nature, because in the context of ” Lines left upon a Yew-tree,” in lines 5-7, nature starts showing mastery over an individual by possessing the power to “lull” the mind into a different state; a different whirl of emotion and thought.  The poem progresses, and the further I read to the end, I realized the stranger is in nature to reconnect with his innocence from his younger years; he is attempting to harmonize his life to the innocence of nature. The lines read ” In youth, by genius nurs’d / And big with lofty views, he to the world / Went forth, pure in his heart, against the taint / Of dissolute tongues, ‘gainst jealousy, and hate, / And scorn, against all enemies prepared/ All but neglect.,” he is explaining how he used to be in harmony with peace in his youth, until society interrupted his harmony. The Enlightenment advertises industry, and salvation through work ethic, which this poem contrasts by sending the message of harmonizing with nature and taking a step back from the industrious city, in order to live a peaceful life.


Solitude and Value in “Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree”

There are many instances where Lines contrasts the ideals of the Enlightenment. One such moment is found in lines 20 through 29. In these lines, starting with “And with the food of pride sustained is soul – In solitude,” there is more focus on the individual self than with his place in society. The subject “nourishe(s)” a “morbid pleasure” and  in this, we are drawn to his internal workings instead of whatever economic value he may have around him. This “morbid pleasure” would be ignored or cast out of attention by the ideals of the Enlightenment, but it is seen as a source of wisdom in this Romantic piece. The last lines are a direct attack against the Enlightenment teachings. The subject is said to have an “unfruitful life” and yet the subject is also seen as wise to have this life. This type of Romantic rhetoric attacks the Enlightenment idea of the self only having value as an economic unit. Instead, a contemplative, internal, and “unfruitful” life makes one valuable.

“Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” Analysis in relation to Enlightenment ideas

Wordsworth’s “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” addresses the Romantic idea of seeking peace through immersion in nature, an idea not concurrent with the industrious ideals of the Enlightenment thinkers. However, Wordsworth doesn’t wholeheartedly believe that seclusion from civilization is the most fulfilling way to live life; he acknowledges the pleasure of admiring nature (“he then would gaze / On the more distant scene; how lovely ’tis”) but ultimately recognizes the beauty of human interaction (“Nor, that time / Would he forget those beings, to whose minds / Warm from the labour of benevolence”). Initially, the poem seems to solely contradict the notion that time should be spent working towards a realistic goal as opposed to pondering nature, but in actuality it contradicts something deeper than that. To the Enlightenment thinkers, each citizen is an economic unit with a value tied strictly to monetary output, but, as illustrated through this poem, Romantic writers believe people are much more than the number on a price tag. Wordsworth affirms that mankind is a beautiful, essential part of nature by stating that “The world, and man himself” become “a scene of kindred loveliness”.  “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” rejects the Enlightenment idea that people are merely commodities to be used for economic profit, and instead admires them as unique members of the natural world.

Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree

The lyrical ballad “Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree” by William Wordsworth contrasts with Enlightenment sensibility in that it focuses on communion and harmony with nature as opposed to the mastery of it. The speaker says that “the wind breath[ing] soft” and the “curling waves…against the shore” will “lull thy mind” (5-6). This implies that nature is soothing and also creates a content tone. In Enlightenment pieces nature is not viewed as a source of tranquility but rather as something to be used, particularly for economic purposes. The male subject in this poem turns to nature for salvation and pleasure after facing “jealousy…hate, and scorn” from the public (16-17). The inclusion and description of human emotions throughout also differentiate this poem from Enlightenment ideals which tend to focus on reason. The beauty of nature is inspiring to the subject in this poem; nature “subdue[s] him to herself.” This Romantic idea greatly contrasts with the idea of the mastery of nature in Enlightenment works.

Lines left upon a seat in Yew-tree

A significant way in which” Lines left upon a seat in Yew-tree” contrasts the Enlightenment sensibility is the portrayal and the use of nature . Wordsworth describes nature as being a tool for the traveler to survive with “Who he was that piled these stones, and the mossy sod/First covered o’er, and taught this aged tree,”(9-10). Also, the fact that the traveler appreciates nature is one of the ideas of being a romanticist with “he loved to sit,/his only visitants a straggling sheep, the stone-chat, or the glancing sandpiper;”(22-24). Furthermore, this shows how the lifestyle of being with the trees is far greater suited to the traveler. In addition, the fact that even from the beginning Wordsworth includes how “this lonely Yew-tree stands far from all human dwelling”(1-2) as a way to show that the traveler is opposed to the living of metropolis cities. So , Why does Wordsworth address in the very beginning that both the traveler and Yew-tree are alone? What is the significance of the Yew-tree and its relationship with the traveler in the ballad?

“Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree”, by William Wordsworth

This poem entitled “Left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” by William Wordsworth, is one of the first British romantic poems, a movement which was built in reaction against the Enlightenment. The first striking element which contrasts with the Enlightenment’s values is the emphasis on nature. Indeed, nature is in the center of the poem. First of all, the main character of this poem seems to be not a human being but a “yew-tree” on which the man is sitting. Moreover, the semantic field of nature is omnipresent in this text. We can actually notice that everytime a natural subject is mentioned, it is along with a meliorative adjective. We can quote, for instance : “No sparkling rivulet spread the verdant herb” (L3). The melioratives adjectives used here are “sparkling” and “verdant”. They are both used in order to underline the beauty of nature. But above all, nature appears as a supreme element with which humans are supposed to be unified to. Indeed, the final morality implies that humans are not supposed to be alone but to be in harmony with nature. In this poem, William Wordsworth condemns the man who saw nothing but himself, and who decided to live in his own lonely world, ignoring every other form of life : “Stranger ! Henceforth be warned ; and know, that pride […] is littleness” (L 46 and 48). The use of the noun “littleness” emphasises the greatness of nature, compared to humans. Thus, this general emphasis on nature contrasts with the Enlightenment’s values, which advocates the mastery of nature by human beings.

The second striking element which contrasts with the Enlightenment’s values is the emphasis on feelings. Indeed, many feelings are itemized, good ones or bad ones : “jealousy” (L16) ; “pride” (L20) ; “pleasure” (L28) ; “joy” (L39). But the supreme feeling, advocated by the author, is actually love. Indeed, it is the first feeling quoted, but also the last one. It is considered as the best feeling a man can have : “instructed that true knowledge leads to love” (L56). It is not only related to the good but also to the truth, as if William Wordsworth knew the truth about life. This is also a typical romantic point of view, which is that the writer is supposed to deliver a message to mankind and has to be a guide for the people. Plus, the feeling of love is seen here as a global feeling, that not only humans but also animals can have : “what if these barren boughs the bee not loves” (L4). Here, love as a universal feeling reinforcing the idea of a vital harmony between human beings, animals and nature. The flood of feelings created by the author clearly contrasts with the cold writing style of the Enlightenment writers, who advocates reason (brain, head, body), instead of feelings (heart, soul).

Nature in “Lines Left upon a seat in a Yew-tree”

“Lines Left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” by William Wordsworth is in all honesty, the embodiment of the Romantic writing period. Its intentional use of nature imagery is an essential difference between Romanticism and Enlightenment.Romanticism was, in fact the reaction to the Enlightenment and its standards. Romanticism tended to be more critical of the imperialistic attitude of those who wrote during the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was more focused on how one should master nature, and how one should not discuss emotion, feeling, or even desire. In short, the Enlightenment lacked pleasure, and in all honesty, excitement. An example of writing during the Enlightenment would be the novel Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe seems to do everything with a purpose. In one instance, Crusoe is communicating to the reader everything that he has done, and for what purpose it has been done. He says “and so when I found I was pretty safe as to beasts of prey, I worked sideways, to the right hand, into the rock; and then, turning to the right again, worked quite out…” (Defoe). Crusoe is building a shelter, for the purpose of staying away from anything that could harm him, either animals or weather conditions. Crusoe is actively being a sensible character, and is actively conquering nature. Crusoe moves with a purpose, and there is nothing more important than that purpose. Curse proves that he is the strongest, the most intelligent, and superior being in his shipwrecked society. But “Lines Left upon a seat in a Yew-Tree” is quite the contrast to Crusoe’s active sensibility.

In “Lines Left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” nature is such an essential part of the poem. This tree that the traveler must sit on with the narrator is “far from human dwelling” (ll 2). It’s very desolate and confusing for the reader, and it is hard to tell what is real and what isn’t. The storyteller then goes on to say “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” (lines  5-7). This storyteller is communicating the impact that nature is having on him, rather than the impact he is having on nature. This directly contrasts with what Defoe communicates in Robinson Crusoe because the narrator is actively admitting that he is allowing nature to control him. Nature is making the narrator feel soothed, and is ultimately admitting that nature has the ability to have control over him. In some of the final words of the poem, it is said that “The man/  whose eye is ever on himself/ doth look on one/ the least of nature’s works / one who might move the wise man to that score which wisdom holds” (ll 51-4). Here again, Wordsworth circles back to the idea that nature, may in fact, be in control over humanity. He specifically uses the phrase “the least of nature’s works” to further this explanation. In conclusion, the main difference between the enlightenment writing and the Romantic writing is that those during the enlightenment aimed to conquer nature, while those during the romantic time period aimed to embrace nature and give up control to nature.