Pantheism is the belief that everything is God, and God is everything. The universe, “Nature,” and God are thus interchangeable terms. The Romantics, who glorify nature, frequently exhibit pantheistic views. It is important to consider the marked change from the Neoclassic “Great Chain of Being” idea, where all forms of existence fall into an organized hierarchy. Here, wind is as divine as man, and as God.
In “Tintern Abbey” Wordsworth’s pantheistic views come forth in lines 93-99:
And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man.
In this passage Wordsworth discusses the third phase of man’s response to Nature (as Prof. Batten outlined in lecture) where man sees God in Nature, and ultimately everywhere. God, or the “presence,” is described as dwelling in the sun, the ocean, the sky, the air, and in man. The repitition of “and” emphasizes the multiplicity of the divine dwelling-place.
Second-Generation Romantics display the pantheism theme in their poems as well. In Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” and “Mount Blanc,” he uses the wind and the mountain and arve, respectively, to explore pantheistic ideas. Shelley describes “the everlasting universe of things” in the first line of “Mount Blanc. This phrase sums up Nature, God, and man’s thoughts into one “everlasting universe.” Shelley uses the river to represent the “flowing” nature of divinity in this poem, and uses the wind for the same purpose in “Ode to the West Wind.” The wind, a manifestation of the divine, affects all things from the leaves to the sea, also affects Shelley. In line 52, Shelley actually refers to praying to the wind, which again reaffirms the pantheistic idea that God is everywhere, and everything deserves, in essence, a “prayer.”
Remember, it’s easy to find examples of pantheism in Romantic poetry. Since the Romantics stress the “one with Nature” theme so frequently, this theme is often extended to include the divine with Nature, and thus man with the divine.
[alyssa linn, sec 1b]