This was regarded as undesirable and leading to the degradation of the humans. According to the romantics, the solution was “back to nature” because nature was seen as pure and a spiritual source of renewal. It was also a way out of the fumes of the growing industrial centres for the new industrial rich. Inspired by the works of romantic authors and poets such as Wordsworth, Keats and Shelly, they hopped on the newly developed railways and travelled to the Lake District. This led in the end to an appreciation of the landscape, described in terms as the “Sublime” and also “Delight” (in the landscape). Spoliation of a pure natural landscape was regarded as undesirable and destructive. These ideas are still with us and led the way for modern day conservation and environmentalism as well as outdoor recreation and appreciation for natural and historical heritage.
More strange than true: I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!
-Act 5 Scene 1
Basic to such sentiments was an interest central to the romantic movement: the concern with nature and natural surroundings. Delight in unspoiled scenery and in the innocent life of rural dwellers is perhaps first recognizable as a literary theme in such a work as “The Seasons” (1726-1730), by Scottish poet James Thomson. It was a formative influence on later English romantic poetry and on the nature tradition represented in English literature, most notably by Wordsworth. Often combined with this feeling for rural life is a generalized romantic melancholy, a sense that change is imminent and that a way of life is being threatened. The melancholic strain later developed as a separate theme, as in “Ode on Melancholy” (1820) by John Keats .