Nature In 16th Century British Literature

2374 words - 9 pages

Nature is a fundamental aspect of people's lives. It encapsulates our everyday lives because it is everywhere we go and who we are; it's the air we breathe, the ground under our feet, the way we act, and the way we think. Nature has always been and always will be a major influence in the life of every human being no matter what the time period. The theme of nature in sixteenth century English literature functions as a means of expression, connection and understanding to the people of the time period and serves as a way of association and knowledge of one's individual self, sixteenth century British society, and perceptions of God. The following will demonstrate how this was evident in sixteenth century Britain.

In the literature of the time period in England, nature served in a way to connect an individual to their own self. What is meant by "the individual's own self" are the inner emotions that a person rarely gets a chance to express in an outwardly fashion due to social constrictions, fear, inability to properly express these emotions, etc. Nature was used as a gateway for self-expression and thus through this the individual was able to allow their emotions to flow out onto paper. Sometimes it is easier to convey one's feelings through an outlet of which other people also understand. In sixteenth century England, many people understood the use of nature imagery as a means of self-explication and therefore writers of the Renaissance era used it to their advantage.

Some of the greatest love poetry of the time period used nature imagery in order to express how and what the writer was feeling. For example, in Sir Thomas Wyatt's poem entitled "They flee from me", he uses the image of a wild animal as a metaphor for women. This is evident in the first stanza of the poem:

...With naked foot stalking in my chamber.

I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek

That now are wild and do not remember

That sometimes they put themself in danger

To take bread at my hand; and now they range,

Busily seeking with a continual change.

Here Wyatt is using a wild animal, which could be considered a deer or an animal which has gentle qualities, in explaining his feelings towards women. He is using an image of nature to express his feelings concerning women. In this stanza the reader could interpret the first stanza above, as Dr. Silcox has said, in a way in which women are like wild animals and can not really be tamed. Perhaps Wyatt feels that he will never be able to "tame" a woman for himself and that women will always been running away from him. It may also be said from a different point of view that Wyatt is sick of women teasing him. This is evident when Wyatt says "To take bread at my hand; and now they range..." . He could be telling the reader that he is sadden that women come to him for a bit when he has something to offer, then they later run away from him. Wyatt is undoubtedly using...

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