The Environment and Poetry Poetry has a vital role in the world and needs to be given a chance in these modern times. Poetry gives a person a voice and allows the reader to see things through the eyes of another. This is why poetry is important. This power of poetry is particularly evident in environmental poetry. Environmental poetry emphasises the power of nature on humanity and the unfading presence of the environment. This omnipotence of nature has been reflected in a vast number of poems, ranging from those of the idealistic Romantic period through to modern poetry.

While the personal context of one environmental poet may differ vastly from that of another, nature can still have the same powerful effect on the human spirit regardless of when and where they lived. This notion is reflected in the comparison of such poems as ‘God’s Grandeur’ by Gerard Hopkins and ‘Homo Suburbiensis’ by Bruce Dawe. Personal context of each of these poets is vastly different which in turn greatly effects the perspective from which they write yet both acknowledge the same power that nature has on the human spirit. Hopkins was born in 1844 to an upper-middle class family.

He grew up in England and was well educated, attending Highgate School and Balliol College, Oxford where he studied Classics. Dawe, on the other hand was born in 1930 to a working class family. He attended nine schools before leaving at age 16, not completing his Leaving Certificate. Gerard Hopkins wrote ‘God’s Grandeur’ during the late 19th Century at the rise of the Industrial Revolution. The world he knew was at an end. Many people were showing no regard for the natural environment, refusing to acknowledge its supremacy. Even from its seemingly moribund state Hopkins was still left in awe of the power of nature.

Bruce Dawe wrote ‘Homo Suburbiensis’ in 1997. He lived in a suburban world where it would seem the natural environment was all but non-existent yet natures brilliance still shone for him. Even with these vast differences of context both poets were witness to the same power of nature and projected this message through their poetry. Hopkins proclaims that ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God’. He believed the industrial world he saw forming only masked the power nature held, it’s greatness would continue to ‘flame out like shining from shook foil’- natures beauty still visible in bursts of resplendence.

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Hopkins witnessed and embraced the power of nature when many did not and was able to emphasise and reflect that power in ‘God’s Grandeur’. Bruce Dawe, standing in a small veggie patch in the middle of suburbia felt also the power which nature offers. His poem portrays his life as been in disarray but this link to nature he had discovered in his backyard was a ‘constant in a world of variables’. Nature’s power seemed to bring order to his life; like a familiar voice in an alien world. Taking to the garden nothing but his thoughts, it was a place for contemplation and meditation; somewhere he was connected with nature. Homo Suburbiensis’ in particular emphasises nature’s resilience to the destruction man had brought it. Its strong presence still apparent in a place, it would seem, as far from the natural environment as could be possible. Nature had a profound effect on both Hopkins and Dawe. They were able to express these experiences of nature through their poetry and so emphasising and reflecting the power of nature and its presence in the world. Poetry needs to be given a chance, it allows the reader to experience the message of the author in a way like no other form of literature.


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