Nature Writing Essays

Nature Writing Essays-26
William's father had described the waters of one of Florida's celebrated limestone sinkhole springs as smelling ''like bilge,'' tasting ''sweetish and loathsome,'' and boiling up from the bottom ''like a pot.'' William saw ''an enchanting and amazing crystal fountain, which incessantly threw up, from dark, rocky caverns below, tons of water every minute . After its publication in 1791, Bartram's '' Travels'' was devoured by the generation of young European poets that included the author of '' Kubla Khan.'' Bartram supplied Coleridge, Wordsworth, Chateaubriand, and others with genuine examples of the exotic, Rousseau- esque wonders they hungered for - not only ''caverns measureless to man,'' but noble Creek warriors, lovely Cherokee maidens, flowery savannas, fragrant groves, brilliant birds.The wonders seem a little overblown to us today, but they were real, honestly observed and vividly described.

William's father had described the waters of one of Florida's celebrated limestone sinkhole springs as smelling ''like bilge,'' tasting ''sweetish and loathsome,'' and boiling up from the bottom ''like a pot.'' William saw ''an enchanting and amazing crystal fountain, which incessantly threw up, from dark, rocky caverns below, tons of water every minute . After its publication in 1791, Bartram's '' Travels'' was devoured by the generation of young European poets that included the author of '' Kubla Khan.'' Bartram supplied Coleridge, Wordsworth, Chateaubriand, and others with genuine examples of the exotic, Rousseau- esque wonders they hungered for - not only ''caverns measureless to man,'' but noble Creek warriors, lovely Cherokee maidens, flowery savannas, fragrant groves, brilliant birds.The wonders seem a little overblown to us today, but they were real, honestly observed and vividly described.

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Of course, there was much writing that concerned nature before Linnaeus developed scientific classification in the mid- 18th century, but the fascination with nature itself that science evoked was new.

Before Linnaeus, there were hunting stories, fables, herbals, bestiaries, pastorals, lyrics and traveler's tales, but nature generally was seen in only two dimensions.

'' Carlyle wrote to Emerson, '' Treats of Florida generally, has a wonderful kind of floundering eloquence in it; and has grown immeasurably old.

All American libraries ought to provide themselves with that kind of book; and keep them as a future biblical article.'' If the more flowery passages in Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales are to be believed, American pioneers were beginning to sound more like William than his father.

In fact, early 19th-century frontier letters contain quite a few effusive descriptions of flowery prairies and soaring forests along with more prosaic matters, suggesting that nature-loving in the romantic mode had caught on.

Nature writing changed as romanticism evolved into Victorian pragmatic optimism.

Bartram, a Philadelphia Quaker who collected Venus' flytraps and other curiosities for wealthy English patrons' gardens, saw the wolves and swamps of the wilderness as uncomfortable obstacles, and his descriptions of Florida and upstate New York in the 1750's and 60's reflect this. They are not quite nature writing as we understand it today, because an element of poetic sensibility is lacking from their genuine scientific interest.

JOHN' S son, William Bartram, supplied the missing element.

Nature writing has been particularly prevalent in America, for an obvious reason.

European colonists found here a world which was for them (if not for the Indians they displaced) empty of historical or religious association.

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