Reading the Field Marks of Poetry

Reading the Field Marks of Poetry

William Stroup, Keene State College

  1. One of the briefest, most effective introductions to Romantic Ecology that I have seen is in Mary Oliver's book Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse. The vivid depictions of the natural world in Oliver's own award-winning books of poems place her in the legacy of Romanticism, and in this book she seeks to make the patterns of traditional prosody resonant for contemporary readers. [1] It is the most effective handbook for teaching scansion, rhyme, and poetic conventions that I have ever used, and I recommend it as a supplement to any anthology of Romantic Period literature in one's courses [PDF]. But I did not think that such traditional skills of close reading related causally to the thematics of proto-ecological awareness in the Romantic period until I read Oliver's one-page excursus called "The Physical World." Throughout the book, Oliver has been thinking about the sound patterns that the "tin-eared," under-prepared contemporary reader misses in poetry from Chaucer to Frost, but here, as part of a chapter on "Image-Making," she stops to consider what other knowledge we are collectively losing. She responds here to two key pedagogical questions facing those who teach Romantic poetry to new readers: 1) Who are our students, and what tools do they need that aren't supplied by contemporary culture to become available to these poems? 2) What contexts do we want our students to become aware of in terms of the legacy of Romanticism? This legacy prominently includes the environmental tradition as part of a wider critique of progress. [2] Oliver begins with what seems like an obvious point, yet one which is widely ignored: "Poetry is rich with objects of the natural world used as images, comparisons, or emblematic figures. The force of the physical world upon us—even in our 'civilized' state—is beyond measure, and it was even more so in Shakespeare's time, or the age of Keats, or even Frost" (73). This seems fair, even basic, but then we come to the key point for ecological awareness, and the passage is worth quoting at length:
    Our experience with the physical world is assumed—a fact which may, alas, soon be no longer true for some of us. Keats's bright star, or any star, is hardly now visible from many cities, and daybreak is an hour on the watch face rather than the illumination of rosy fingers over the village.

    And yet, assimilating the experiences and the references of the poetry of the past requires that our relationship with the physical world be fresh, forceful, and firsthand. [. . . . ] Without knowledge of the natural world, it is poor work trying to read the old poems and "feel" them. No one speaks about this, but it is a real peril. As we remake our world, as we take down the physical surrounding of our past, the art of that past is becoming a 'storybook' place and not the real 'interface' (to take back an old word) between the lightnings, the blood flows, of passion, language, and thought. (73-74)

    The teaching and study of Romantic literature is not an exercise in nostalgia for a 'storybook' place but an opportunity to look carefully at how we respond to the only place we live. Even when the physical setting of a poem is explicitly a fantasy world, like the space where the pale knight loiters in Keats's "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," we register emotional loss through the absence of natural processes:  "The sedge is wither'd from the lake / And no birds sing." One could look at these lines and make two sorts of observations in connection to Oliver's book. First, only when one is aware of birdsong as a seasonally changing but constant presence could its absence hit us as emotionally devastating. This is the way the great naturalist Rachel Carson used Keats's poem, imagining a "Silent Spring," where birds have been eradicated by indiscriminate pesticide use, as emblematic of a world made sterile and robbed of beauty by human thoughtlessness. [3] Second, in terms of Oliver's overall purpose in Rules for the Dance for thinking about how metrical poetry functions, one sees the diminishment of the tetrameter lines to a final dimeter in every stanza as a sign of weakening. Keats show weariness and loss of vitality through his images and through the pattern of stanzas that end two feet too soon, as if the knight is worn out in the telling. The first of these points is fairly accessible to new readers of the poem who at least know or look up what a "sedge" is or who can summon a mental picture of that time of year when "the squirrel's granary is full," a basic naturalist's literacy that, again, cannot always be assumed but can be learned through experience. The second point requires that one scan the poem, notice and be able to name its dominant pattern and variations from this pattern, and ask not only how the pattern works but why it carries interpretive weight. This can also be taught, obviously, and is in fact the kind of close reading strategy that has been practiced for decades by teachers and scholars informed by the New Criticism.

  2. The characteristic moves of post-structuralist textual analysis go far beyond this kind of formalist inquiry, interrogating the systems of language and genre, and deconstructing the functions of such signifiers as race, class, gender, nature, nation, and the human. Ecocritical scholarship, at its best, does not avoid engagement with poststructuralist theory. Michael Cohen provides a skeptical report card on the strengths and weaknesses of Ecocriticism, which he cautions has not been evaluative enough, especially in its emergence in American cultural studies. In ecocritical approaches to British Romantic literature the work of Onno Oerlemans, James McKusick, Jonathan Bate, and others represent an engagement with cultural and textual matters of the first order of innovation and complexity. [4] This "Pedagogy Commons" gives teachers a chance to think about how to put this scholarly work to use in the undergraduate classroom, and that is where, I argue, the study of prosody is a necessary step in a process of recognition. The foundational knowledge of traditional versification that makes the poetry of the Romantic period available to our students' imaginations is analogous to the process of becoming an amateur naturalist who can "read the forested landscape" (to use Tom Wessels's phrase) in order to speak with historically-informed perspective on the natural world. Properly using one's Handbook to Literature or Glossary of Literary Terms to help one hear all that is there in one's anthology of poetry is an instructive parallel to taking field guides along in one's hiking pack. Early in my classes, students often tell me that they don't hear the stresses, don't feel the meaning of a blank verse line without rhyme, but once they start to enjoy the new-found vocabulary they see spondees and catalectic feet everywhere, much like a new naturalist finding glacial striations, or evidence of logging and fire everywhere they walk once these terms and clues become familiar. Early in my Romanticism course, I use a handout [PDF] called "Learning to Hear More Than the Words." It is quite brief and straightforward but surprisingly challenging for the many students who have never been asked to scan a poem before, and I try not to get discouraged when all but a few students cannot hear that the line "The poetry of earth is never dead" is five iambs. Reading the early chapters of Oliver's book helps with this (and many of her illustrations are drawn from Romantic poetry), but more important is the return to this vocabulary in the course of talking about other contexts. For example, half an hour into a thematic discussion on Shelley's use of Platonic ideas in the "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" I ask students to scan the poem and mark the rhyme scheme in the margins of their book. For some students, this reminder of our earlier classes practicing scansion is disappointing, and the students who have been most enjoying our philosophical flights look at me at first as if I have turned the poem into a math problem. But after some frustration and good discussion of allowable disagreements ("Can I hear a spondee there or is it definitely an iamb?") the relation between the repeated pattern of each stanza and the poem's subject comes into focus. As Michael Ferber says about this poem, in a book aimed at advanced beginners,

    As the theme of the poem is the inconstancy of Intellectual Beauty, the constancy of the highly wrought stanzas embodies a countertheme, as if they are lures or gilded cages to capture the elusive awful Beauty. Shelley will do something similar in his great "Ode to the West Wind." (54)

    Ferber's analysis, emerging out of a longer discussion of Shelley's rhyme scheme, lineation, and patterns of vowel sounds, is not Ecocritical, but is an example of why Ecocriticism needs to be grounded in such awareness of poetic form. At the undergraduate level, I think that thematic content tends to crowd out form too much, not only in discussions of the meaning and function of "nature" but in many contexts. The benefits of developing reading habits that emphasize the search for patterns become clearer as the course goes on or, to be more ambitious, as one's reading life continues.

  3. Our goal is to understand poetry, and by extension the creative efforts that humans have made to praise, lament, and otherwise understand our human condition. A necessary and long first stage in this process is the identification of poetic techniques and conventions that have proven effective and flexible in this pursuit. Differentiating the anapest from the trochee, or the Spenserian stanza from the Shakespearean sonnet, or blank verse from heroic couplets, are all parts of this apprenticeship, but not its final cause. In a fine, short chapter on "Adaptations" in his field guide to ecology, John Kricher distinguishes between "How-type" and "Why-type" questions for the naturalist. These bear on the tendency, for beginners learning how to put this new vocabulary to use, to stop at the mere identification of formal aspects and thus out of sight of the reasons that the precise terminology of any field of knowledge was created. Kricher points out that: 

    There are two kinds of questions that can be asked about the processes of natural history, "how-type" and "why-type" questions. When you observe a soaring hawk, a woodpecker hammering on a tree, or a brilliantly colored wildflower, you may wonder how the hawk manages to remain airborne without flapping its wings, how the woodpecker's head can withstand the severe blows of drilling into wood, and how the flower manages to produce colors in such a striking arrangement. All of these are how-type questions. They can be investigated and be subjected to relatively straightforward scientific analysis [through the laws of aerodynamics, physics, and biochemistry]. But, why does the hawk soar, why does the woodpecker drum, and why are flowers brilliantly colored? These questions deal with adaptation. To answer them is to reveal the most significant aspects of natural history.

    Both how- and why-type questions are important, but their focus is different. How-type questions focus on process. . . . Why-type questions deal with reasons why something is as it is. . . . Why-type questions deal with ultimate reasons for the patterns of nature. (250)

    In the study of the poetry, the parallel to this "how" and "why" dynamic of Kricher's is the difference between identifying a formal aspect of a work and recognizing its interpretive potential. All teachers of beginning students who, for various reasons, make prosody part of their approach to the study of poetry have read papers where new vocabulary is dropped in either inaccurately or without context, so that a paragraph about the dynamic between the narrator and the child in "We Are Seven" suddenly concludes with the unconnected claim that "the poem is also written in ballad stanzas." Without an ensuing discussion about what tradition Wordsworth is reviving in this form, or what a "lyrical ballad" means in connections to Wordsworth's poetics as developed in his "Preface," this would be a familiar example of incoherence in student writing. But we can teach from here if we recognize this as a step in the process, shared with naturalists, from identification to recognition. At the beginning of his essential Tree Identification Book, forester George Symonds explains why the distinction between these terms needs to be clearly understood, and that also can apply to the study of poetic form:    

    Identification is based on observation of details. Recognition means knowing trees at a glance, just as one recognizes one's friends [. . . . ] This book is designed for tree identification based on details, but do not fail, once a tree is so identified, to observe it under various conditions and at different seasons. Notice the look of the tree as a whole, how it branches, the size of the twigs silhouetted against a winter sky, the way the leaves are placed and how they hang in summer, the coloring in the fall. Realize that large twigs usually support heavy compound or large simple leaves. The reverse is also true. Try to see how the general outline of the tree differs from all other trees. . . . In this way a "feel" for a tree is built up, and it is only then that one can recognize a tree at a distance, such as a White Oak, whether one hundred feet tall or only thirty, growing massive or spreading in the open, or standing straight and tall in the forest. (9, 14)

    Though Symonds is trained as a scientist, a rhapsodic note comes into his voice here, and in this way of looking at trees we recognize the voice of Wordsworth or Emerson.

  4. To illustrate with an example of how these matters inform how I teach Wordsworth, late in my introductory course on the Romantics we read "Star Gazers" [PDF], a poem about Londoners looking through a new telescope, and the speaker's meditation on how the excited viewers "go away as if dissatisfied" (32). The poem is written in iambic heptameter, unusual and gimmicky for Wordsworth and for English poetry generally. One of my goals, then, is to put students in a position to ask "why did Wordsworth choose a heptameter line for this poem? " Before this point in the course we will of course have read many pentameter poems—"Tintern Abbey" right at the beginning, "Michael" more recently—enough for students to recognize pentameter's predominance even if they come to the course without a good deal of Shakespeare or Milton. Oliver is hardly the first to recognize the virtues of the pentameter line, but bases her discussion of it on the shared bodily experience of the writer and the reader as much as on the mind: 

    The secret of its constant employment is simply that it is the line which is the closest to the breathing capacity of our lungs—we have just enough on one uninterrupted reach to say it through—at the end we are neither exhausted nor do we have any real amount of breath left. It fits us. Thus the message it delivers is a message of capability, aptitude, and easy fulfillment, not edginess, not indolence, but the ease of something that fits—the ease of the song that fits, that one sings calmly. Within it passion, great passion, is held in the wildfire of form. (30)

    So, with this understanding of the pentameter line as a specific reference in our discussion of the pathos of "Michael," we come to "Star Gazers" with an understanding that the poem looks strange, does not fit comfortably in the mode we have come to recognize as typical for Wordsworth. If at least one student realizes that they rarely see seven iambs in a line, as here, and returns to Oliver's book or another source to find the seldom-needed term heptameter, then the discussion can turn to why Wordsworth would choose such a form here, and now we can look at the specific diction he employs to describe the unmeditative artificiality of the scene."Star Gazers" has provoked my students to spirited discussion and careful written work in recent semesters because the scenario that caught Wordsworth's attention in walking through Leicester Square in 1806 represents a conflict of even greater immediacy two centuries later. The "Show-man's" voice shouts loudest in our culture, with hype-fueled marketing and the creation of previously unknown needs part of the message our students hear every day. Against this, two important cultural opponents remain: the voice of the poet, which, as in this poem, is at once skeptical and capable of a searching, emotional power; and the example of serious scientific inquiry by those who might put the telescope to longer and better use. In the poem the speaker questions the cause of the dissatisfaction shown by people who have looked through the telescope, even wondering if "this resplendent vault" of the night sky itself is to blame:

    Is nothing of that radiant pomp so good as we have here?
    Or gives a thing but small delight that never can be dear?
    The silver Moon with all her Vales, and Hills of mightiest fame,
    Do they betray us when they're seen? and are they but a name? (13-16)

    In the course of this interrogation, "a name" is but a breath, a connection to the mythology of the moon with no universal power to delight. But one reason for this diminishment in the moon's power clearly has to do with the speed of the glance, for with all the sensory input of "Leicester's busy Square" (4) competing with the work of the one eye pressed to the lens, the look cannot be but cursory. Elsewhere in Wordsworth's poetry, "naming" is not merely "but a name" but a demonstration of engagement and loving attention to people and places. As Jonathan Bate has argued, Wordsworth's "Poems on the Naming of Places" point to a principle at work in much of his poetry, of finding a language commensurate with the perhaps wordless knowledge that his Michael has of "the meaning of all winds, / Of blasts of every tone." [5] The Show-man in "Star Gazers" does not know the meaning of what his telescope sees, or rather measures meaning only in terms of the profitability of this spectacle. To see better we need to see individual incidents, and poems, in terms of their relation to systems of signification that are more difficult to discern, and we have to work to learn the names of what we see. Without this effort to know more about what causes us temporary wonder, the night sky (when visible) is reduced to a light show and poetry (when read) to pleasing sound effects.

  5. This effort, in terms of the study of poetry, has a long tradition that includes much of what is still meant by close reading:  versification, awareness of genre and poetic traditions, and a learning process that starts with identification and moves on to recognition. A teaching approach informed by Ecocriticism is deeply rooted in these traditional humanist skills, and provides a means to see their connection to the goals of the study of natural science. With the help of Oliver's book on prosody, my courses have become more grounded in the traditional skills of close reading while at the same time emphasizing the need for an understanding of natural systems to foster one's ecological awareness. Neither part of this is easy or completed in a semester, and their relationship is symbiotic. In the forward to the last revision A Field Guide to the Birds that Roger Tory Peterson completed before his death in 1996, wildlife illustrator Robert Bateman points out that:

    For most of human history, our species has lived close to nature and therefore has been familiar with the names of their neighbors of other species. Even today, the few remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers can name thousands of kinds of plants and animals and what they do through the seasons. In our modern society, it has been said that the average person knows only 10 wild plants but can recognize 1,000 corporate logos. It should be the other way around. How can we hope to preserve and protect biodiversity if we don't even know the inhabitants of the ecosystem? The key to repairing this information gap is the field guide. If I had my way, field guides would be standard texts in every classroom, and learning to know other species would be an important part of the school curricula (xiii-xiv).

    The key is not just having the guide but using it effectively, as scholars in literary studies learn to use reference books. One can also assume the ratio of corporate logos to poetic conventions recognized by the students entering our classes doesn't look any better than the record for wild plants. A major goal of education should be reversing this in the name of the future and in the name of all that is worth bringing with us from our cultural past. The world that is too much with us is not the natural world, and Romantic poetry is a key part of a competing narrative in our cultural history. Another famous and useful field guide, George Petrides's on Eastern North American trees, provides another occasion for considering the power, and at least partial triumph, of Romanticism's "discovery" of nature. Considering the reasons why people should learn about trees, Petrides remarks that these "vary from the purely recreational to the strictly serious. Many human ills are related to the destruction of plants. Like all other creatures, we depend totally on green plants, which convert inorganic chemicals into organic foods and also help to maintain essential atmospheric gases in a healthful balance" (xi). In addition to mentioning the aesthetic and economic importance of trees, Petrides also says that one could "ask any urban dweller or real estate broker about the positive effect of green space on morale and property values" (xi). This is, admittedly, a rather worldly standard that seems to understate the sublime role of poetry that Shelley expounds in his Defence, but its everyday appeal says something about the endurance of attitudes towards the natural world that have been shaped by Romanticism.

  6. In many ways, one could argue that ecologically-minded critics participate in an aesthetically conservative aspect of Romanticism as a whole. Ecocritics repelled by what they identify as an excessive turn away from "nature" as a key term for discussion in literary and cultural studies, or who position themselves in opposition to the materialism of the dominant culture, resemble fusty neoclassical artists who battled against the schools of painterly Romanticism and Realism. Here is the great French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres railing in the 1820's against these modern schools in his pursuit of a pure, Greek style of painting:

    Let me hear no more of that absurd maxim:  "We need the new, we must follow our century, everything changes, everything is changed." Sophistry—all of that!  Does nature change, do the light and air change, have the passions of the human heart changed since the time of Homer? "We must follow our century":  but suppose my century is wrong. (in Goldwater and Treves 218)

    Our century is wrong about many important things, yet Ingres, for all of the magnitude of this outburst, is at least partially wrong as well. Nature does change, which is why field guides have to go through editions in reflection of physical changes in the world and new perceptual awareness, much like literary anthologies. Art historian Christin Mamiya identifies Ingres's view as "the cry of the great conservative, rejecting the modern. It expressed precisely the classicist's resistance to the new school of Romantic color and passion that changed the school of ideal form, of which Ingres had become high priest and first master" (in Kleiner 861). One might argue that in literary studies this resistance to passion resembles the struggle between formalist critics and those who study the thematics of sexuality, political subversion, and the rediscovery of silenced voices from past eras, all of which have energized literary studies in valuable and undeniable ways. The final cause of this call for formal poetic analysis, then, is what's at issue. Does thinking about the epic, lyric, Spenserian stanza, sonnet, ballad stanza, blank verse, and more lead us to more poetry only, as a closed system, or does it also lead outside? Part of our students' homework, and ours, is to go to where winds contend but silently. I am not arguing that metrical poetry is inherently ecological in structure—that would read against the colonialist imperative of much of the English-speaking tradition—but rather that the learning of the names and recognition of traditional patterns by readers who no longer live in an age dominated by these rules of verse is analogous to the cultivation of a naturalist's knowledge, and that this is not at all reactionary but necessary and radical.

  7. What it would mean to discover poetry's field marks would be to make identifications of essential features, with the goal of deeper recognition of patterns, variations, subtle changes, and profound aesthetic appreciation. Before the 1934 publication of the first edition of Roger Tory Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds the identification, illustration, and collection of birds was done through collecting the kinds of samples that would sit still:  taxidermy. Peterson made drawings based on photography and direct observations of bird behavior, less like the kind of narrow formalism that tries to isolate the text, driving a pin through its thorax, than a linguistic awareness of the synchronic and diachronic systems of language. The bird, in other words, flies through time, and the revision of the range maps through five editions of Peterson's Field Guide reveals a profound shift in climate health and the range of individual species not unlike the changes in a text's meaning over time. Species go extinct, or can no longer be heard in places where Romantic poets saw and heard them, and this can add a level of pathos to our experience of the poem. Reading for field marks is not like pinning to a wall, learning rules out of sheer cultural habit, like the otherwise empty and endless Latin exercises that Wordsworth hated in school. "The Peterson System" asks systematic questions about bird behavior—supplemented by drawings—which a fairly new reader of Romantic Period verse, without stretching the point, could also productively ask about a poem: 

    What is its shape?
    What shape are its wings?
    What shape is its bill?
    What shape is its tail?
    How does it behave?
    Does it climb trees?
    How does it fly?
    Does it swim?
    Does it wade?
    What are its field marks? (8-12)

    This last term, which Peterson calls the 'trademarks of nature' include all the tail patterns, rump patches, eye-stripes and eye-rings, wing bars, and wing patterns that one only sees when looking with these questions in mind. Many of the equivalent questions in the study of traditional metrical poetry are well known and could be organized into a Peterson system for reading the field marks of poetry:  Is the poem short, like a sonnet? Longer, like an ode? Very long, like an epic? Does the poem rhyme? If so, what is the pattern? If not, is this blank verse? How many feet in each line? Which type of poetic foot predominates? Is there a stanza pattern? If so, is it identifiable as a ballad stanza, Spenserian stanza, etc? Such lists risk reducing poems to problems to be solved, yet they are useful teaching tools, a particularly good one residing inside the cover of Helen Vendler's anthology for an introductory course on poetry. In presenting such questions as a useful guide towards recognition, remembering the mysteries, subtleties, exceptions, and complexities of bird or tree identification remains important. Oliver's title Rules for the Dance indicates her belief that any worthwhile enterprise requires some initiation before meaningful patterns can be discerned, and she points out that the rules of metrical poetry, developed over centuries and including all Romantic Period verse,

    are as certain and ongoing, though not so irreplaceable or so strictly kept, as are the rules of linear measurement—inches, feet, yards, rods, etc. They are less rigid because the metrical pattern of a poem is an apparatus meant to illuminate feeling and meaning, rather than a declaration of fact as an end in itself, the way nine inches means nine inches, unvaryingly. (6)

    Scanning the poem, charting the rhyme scheme, looking for resemblances to other poems, looking up unfamiliar words, hearing the poem, all of these are field work. As John Kricher asks regarding the acquisition of ecological literacy, "Is it possible to know and understand a forest or meadow by merely knowing what species are present? Charles Darwin would have said no," and he cites the passage from On the Origin of Species about the tangled bank (viii). [6] The goal of our field work must be towards a wider understanding of the function of poetry as a means of engaging with the impact of, in Oliver's phrase, "the force of the physical world upon us. "This is why I assign Oliver's book, and why I admire such writing assignments as those Walter Reed shared recently in Romantic Circles from his course on "Romanticism: The Ecological Imagination." In his description of this course, Reed emphasizes the "strangeness" that students should continue to feel about Romantic poetry, about the natural world, and about their own unrepeatable selves, and this provides a nourishing model for teachers.

  8. Oliver's point, and ours as teachers, is to make the older poems available as a living presence; as, alas, not old but forever piping songs forever new. If we have come to an historical moment where the trees are considered obsolete, or where it seems nostalgic to follow Wordsworth and "from the public way turn our steps" into places not seen from the road, then we need this recognition. As Bateman asks, "How can we hope to preserve and protect biodiversity if we don't even know the inhabitants of the ecosystem?" These efforts of attention are not nostalgia. It is our imaginations that are young, like babies, trying to find ways to live here. The poets of preceding centuries where metrical verse dominated provide habits of mind, a habitation and a name, for these inquiries, whether or not we find that writing new Horacian odes proves an answerable style to our ecological crises. As John Kricher explains about the work of ecology,

    Our goal is to understand nature. Just as it is satisfying to be able to identify various species of plants and animals, so it is satisfying to understand something of the ways they function in nature. Why-type questions are ultimate-type questions. They identify the most interesting aspects of natural history, those of adaptation and survival. The answers to ultimate-type questions reveal the actual fabric that holds nature together. Being able to ask and answer ultimate questions about natural history adds a new and powerful dimension to your understanding of nature. (252)

    And the same can be said of poetry, and the habits of mind that come from reading difficult or initially elusive poetry. It adds to our understanding of systems. It gives power to our understanding. It fits us.


[1] I also use and recommend Alfred Corn's, John Hollander's, and other books on prosody but find Oliver's book remarkably concise and accessible as a book to order for an undergraduate class. [BACK]

[2] This was part of the path-clearing argument of Jonathan Bate's Romantic Ecology:  Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition (1991). For a fuller discussion see also the chapter on "The Contemporary Romantic Critique of Civilization" in Löwy and Sayre 232-249. [BACK]

[3] Carson cites these two lines from Keats along with a passage from E.B. White as epigraphs to the first edition. For an excellent web resource on Carson and her connections to literature and ecology, visit this site, maintained by her biographer Linda Lear. [BACK]

[4] See the special issue on Romanticism and Ecology in the Romantic Circles Praxis Series (November 2001). An annotated bibliography for Ecocritical approaches to British Romantic Period literature is not yet available among the many useful reading lists on the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment's website, but one is in preparation. [BACK]

[5] See Romantic Ecology 85-115 and The Song of the Earth 205-242. [BACK]

[6] Ashton Nichols's recent collection of Romantic Natural Histories:  William Wordsworth, Charles Darwin, and Others moves between prose and poetry throughout, and makes it possible and practical to build a course around conceptions of the natural world in the period from 1750-1859. [BACK]

Works Cited

Bate, Jonathan. Romantic Ecology:  Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition. London:  Routledge, 1991.

---. The Song of the Earth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000.

Bateman, Robert. Forward. A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, By Roger Tory Peterson and Virginia Marie Peterson. Fifth Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.  

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

Cohen, Michael P. "Blues in the Green: Ecocriticism Under Critique." Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE). 20 April 2006. <>

Corn, Alfred. The Poem's Heartbeat:  A Manual of Prosody. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1997.

Ferber, Michael. The Poetry of Shelley. Penguin Critical Studies. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993.

Goldwater, Robert and Marcus Treves, eds. Artists on Art:  From the XIV to the XX Century. New York: Pantheon, 1945.  

Hollander, John. Rhyme's Reason:  A Guide to English Verse. New Haven: Yale UP, 1981.

Kleiner, Fred S, Christin J. Mamiya, and Richard G. Tansey. Gardner's Art Through the Ages, Eleventh Edition. Fort Worth:  Harcourt College Publishers, 2001.

Kricher, John C. A Field Guide to Eastern Forests, North America. Peterson Field Guides. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.

Löwy, Michael and Robert Sayre. Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity. Trans. Catherine Porter. Durham, NC:  Duke UP, 2001.

McKusick, James. Green Writing: Romanticism and Ecology. New York: St. Martin's, 2000.

Nichols, Ashton, ed. Romantic Natural HistoriesWilliam Wordsworth, Charles Darwin, and Others. New Riverside Editions. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

Oerlemans, Onno. Romanticism and the Materiality of Nature. Toronto: U Toronto P, 2002.

Oliver, Mary. Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Peterson, Roger Tory and Virginia Marie Peterson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, Fifth Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

Petrides, George A. A Field Guide to Eastern Trees. First Edition Expanded. Peterson Field Guides. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Symonds, George W. D. The Tree Identification Book: A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees. New York: Quill, 1958.

Vendler, Helen. Poems, Poets, Poetry:  An Introduction and Anthology. Second Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002.

Wessels, Tom. Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England. Woodstock, VT: Countryman, 1997.

Wordsworth, William. "Star Gazers." 1807. The Major Works. Ed. Stephen Gill. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1984.