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As a prelude to a discussion of ‘Nutting,’ it is important to take note of the historical context around Romanticism as a movement. The Romantic era originated in Europe and lasted from the beginning of the 1800s until around 1850. It began as a reaction against the ideals of the Enlightenment and sought a return to the simple, yet powerful realm of emotions. The style of writing was also simplified. Writers were no longer interested in the dense, complex expressions of the classical poets. Instead they wrote with an emphasis on natural diction.
In the case of Wordsworth, he saw his own poetry as being a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” His work was based on the memories of emotions he contemplated and set into words. Today Romantic poetry is seen as being both spontaneous and concerned with the difficulties inherent in setting emotions into a specific poetic form. The same process can be attributed to other well-known Romantics such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats and William Blake.
There are a number of different characteristics one might look for within a piece of Romantic poetry. First and foremost, the utilization of natural emotion to create discernible meaning. One of the most prominent elements present in Romantic works is the idea of the sublime. This idea was taken up by Wordsworth and is present within ‘Nutting.’
Sublime refers to the use of language to excite a reader’s emotions beyond that which they normally experience. It can be attributed to scenes which are both grand and horrifying, often at the same time. For instance, in the moment in which the speaker of ‘Nutting,’ having destroyed the pristine bower he was sheltering in, turns and looks at his work. He is overwhelmed by the horror, and power of what he has just done.
Another element of Romantic poetry present in ‘Nutting’ is that of imagination. This was a factor that was very important within Wordsworth’s writing. He saw it as being a spiritual force that could, if utilized properly, improve the world. Imagination is seen in the young speaker’s contemplation of some kind of spirit residing within the forest.
One of the most prominent features of this kind of poetry is a love or appreciation for nature. Nature was used as a primary source of inspiration within Romantic works, as can be easily seen in ‘Nutting.’ The entire narrative takes place outside in what was at first a pristine clearing, untouched by human hands. The speaker is moved in positive and negative ways, by the beauty of the wild, unruly woods.