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Blog

Wordsworth and Learning Through Nature

Joy and Matthew Steem

mountain clouds

When You send out Your

breath, life is created,

and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is

renewed.

- Psalm 104:30 (The Voice)

I once had the words "To Lucy" embroidered on a notepad for a friend's birthday. He's been a lifelong fan of Narnia, so I had the salutation stitched on the book to inspire the childlike wonder, receptivity to beauty, and spiritual heroism of Lucy Pevensie in his own writing.

I had mostly forgotten about that notebook until I recently returned to the Romantic poets, specifically Wordsworth. While reading the Lucy poems, I was reminded of the embroidered name and began thinking about what was to be learned from the Lucy of Wordsworth's poems.

In the fourth Lucy poem, “Three Years She Grew," Nature recognizes something extraordinary in the small rural and solitary child named Lucy. In the first three stanzas, Nature speaks of how she will instruct the tender child in the ways of glee, gentle grace, and sympathy. Nature says that she will teach Lucy about the sportiveness of the fawn and the tranquility of insensate, or inanimate, things.  Through her relationship with Nature, Lucy will acquire the "state of floating clouds" and be shaped by grace through sympathetic storm watching. By submitting herself to Nature's guidance, she'll learn to be attentive enough to recognize and admire the dimmest of midnight stars and tune her ear to the obscure and quiet places where rivulets murmur and brooks make gentle whisperings. What’s more, her internal receptivity to beauty will be mirrored in external loveliness, for “beauty born of murmuring sound/ shall pass into her face.”

And then, there it is. The first three lines of stanza six and I am truly stilled.

               And vital feelings of delight

               Shall rear her form to stately height,

               Her virgin bosom swell

In Wordsworth, it is in "vital feelings of delight" that Lucy is brought to the "stately height" of true and admirable maturity. And, I too am reminded of the fruit of living in wonder and delight as Lucy does; I wish to daily live in the maturing gratitude that "the land is satisfied by the fruit of His work," as the Psalmist says (104:13). And while my notion of Nature may be closer to St Francis’ (the patron saint of ecology) “Sister Nature” than Wordsworth’s “Mother Nature,” I still wonder if Lucy could be an exemplar of the reciprocal relationship of ministry our Creator has set up between us and the natural world. As we, in following our Father’s example, minister to Nature through attention and care, Nature, through God's bounty, ministers to us.