Feb 22, 2024
Feb 22, 2024
by T. A. Ramesh
One World, Idea of Utopia in Literature
Not satisfied with the religious ideas and not also convinced with the philosophic interpretation of truth people seek consolation, asylum and satisfaction in Literature which pleases and instructs simultaneously with valuable ideas on human life, human love, human nature and humanism. Also, literature does the work of humanization of the vast advancement of modern knowledge which was previously beyond the reach of humanity. Now the magic spell of literature is the idea of Utopia ' One World, which has the capacity to solve all the problems of mankind, is ruling the minds of men all over the world. For the keen and rational minded people criticism of human life, social life, nature, religious literatures, God, etc. in literature show truth and gives convincing guidance for satisfactory living in the world. In this respect the study of literature indeed makes one a good intellect.
Humanism, the Message of Literature
Whether heaven or hell is there or not the world we know is surely there. Whether it is an illusion or idea in the larger sense the world is a reality as long as we are alive there. What is most valuable and important here is not merely knowledge and civilization but love and culture the sustaining force of life in the world. What is important here is surely not animalism nor even spiritualism or divinity but only humanism which is the mark of greatest value for human beings and is the message of literature for mankind.
Instinct and Intellect
It is a fact that though man lives by instinct he progresses only by intellect. Civilization began with the development of intellect in man. So many changes took place in him. Now for everything man depends upon knowledge first. In animals instinct over shadows intellect. But in man intellect overshadows instinct. Among animals, monkey is considered to be superior in faculties. Rat is one of the smallest animals. By instinct rat indulges in sexual activities, whereas monkey learns sexual act only by copying from other animals. This is a scientific observation which informs the power of instinct is higher in rat than in monkey. Naturally the power of intellect is highest and the power of instinct is lowest in man. Therefore only by knowledge man comes across what sex is all about. When this is so with sex, what do we say about love, the highest form of human expression? Indeed it is a complicated thing and about this Aldous Huxley talks in detail in his Essays in Texts and Pretexts. So, to know what love is, it seems knowledge in literature is a must for everyone.
Love, Knowledge for Freedom
Apart from the love between man and women from the love of material things, abstract things, etc. the enhancement or the decrease of human values can be ascertained. When we are reading the works of poets, philosophers, intellectuals, we can understand very well where their love lies. For example if we read the works of Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley, Shakespeare, Milton, Spinoza, Jesus and Machiavelli, we can understand what love of beauty, Nature, liberty, perfection, greatness, intellect, love and power is respectively. From this we can say that love means devotion, desire, natural inclination and interest, which is the beginning for everything and without which nothing can be achieved in the world. This kind of love is the best diversion from tension, anxiety, worries and fear for anyone towards attaining a sense of relief or freedom. Actually by this way only intellect of man might have improved and overcome all kinds of fear. In this respect knowledge of this nature independently or through education is needed for all for getting freedom in the real sense.
Human Culture, the Expression of Literature
Animals don't lead a determined or planned way of living. But the life of human being is entirely different. From experience man learns a lot, gains knowledge out of it and gets wisdom as time passes on. From the usual activities he forms a routine for himself. In the routine life he follows a system without affecting the privileges, rights and liberties of other people or society. In the routine life he covers all aspects of human needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, work, entertainment, arts, music, books, Nature, God, etc. and tries to achieve harmonious human perfection or a satisfying completion in life and this sort of living only is usually expressed in literature as human culture. Culture differentiates and ennobles human being from others.
Synthesis of Love and Knowledge for Freedom, Joy, Peace and Satisfaction
Knowledge, wealth and power are needed for the world life. Anyone of the three alone cannot solve and fulfill problems and commitments of life. But without knowledge other resources cannot be wisely utilized for the betterment of oneself or the world. With high knowledge, power may be gained but human perfection cannot be achieved. Therefore according to Robert Browning by the synthesis of love and knowledge only perfection of individual soul can be achieved. Also, according to Matthew Arnold harmonious human perfection can be achieved only by culture, since culture is nothing but the 'love for and the study of perfection' in thoughts, words and deeds.
It is a fact that human efforts in the field of science and technology, wonderful expressions in literature and religious services are various ways of doing works not for material benefits or recognition but for spiritual satisfaction. Further freedom got from the synthesis of love and knowledge leading towards perfection only helps man to enjoy life with joy, peace and satisfaction. In addition to that the main aspects of human nature such as the sense of goodness, beauty and truth are also fulfilled by way of culture and more than anything else the best thing to do in the world is to pass on such knowledge of culture to others generation after generation.
Knowledge, Vision, Ambition and Achievement
In general getting knowledge through education, doing a suitable job to accrue wealth, enjoying the pleasures of life by indulging in entertainment after work and devoting retirement life in spiritual pursuits in order to satisfy spiritual needs are the usual or settled way of living for all the people. But human nature is such that not satisfied with what man inherently has, tries for completion in life aspiring high due to his mind to break his limitations and achieves perfection in order to have a change in evolution. Just acquiring knowledge is not enough for one to become powerful to solve all problems of life and attain perfection and liberation.
Intellectually musing over things of life, man, world, Nature, etc., one is sure to get visions, dreams, ideas, etc. quite institutional in nature of the past, the present and the future. Without such dreams or visions one cannot become an ambitionist to lead a happy and successful life. In fact ambition is the driving force that helps to overcome hardships and difficulties and turn a dull and insipid life into an interesting and noble one because of its inspiring power that gives the hope that life is worth living at least to know the noble things of life if not to achieve noble things in the world for oneself or for others. Therefore it is clear that ambition based on intellectual Vision will certainly fructify into a noble achievement which we see in the great works of literature in the world. For example the poetic works of Robert Browning, W.B. Yeats and William Wordsworth can be quoted.
Browning ' Synthesis of Love and Knowledge for Perfection
At first Browning thought that the end and aim of life is attaining power by acquiring highest knowledge. He realized that knowledge can only be a means to reach the mind of God but with love, which is the creative cause of Universe and God itself, it is possible to touch the infinite power between God and man. So, with the synthesis of knowledge and love perfection of man can be achieved. Therefore the purpose of life is to achieve perfection in life through love, art, music, paintings, poetry, etc. if not in the world at least in heaven since 'arc' here is 'full circle in heaven.' If perfection is achieved here itself what is the use of the existence of a heaven at all? Hence the highest ideal for man could be only perfection in art, music, poetry, love, soul, etc. Even if the forces spoil the efforts towards perfection, highest goal or ideals should not be relinquished for earthly pleasures or material or trivial things, as failure to achieve perfection is not so important for God as the care, devotion and efforts involved for the achievement of lofty or noble ideals. This philosophy of life can be seen in many of his poems such as Abt Vogler, The Ride Together, Andre Del Sarto, etc.
Yeats ' Vision, Map of Inner Life
Man's thoughts, knowledge, love and life are bounded by space and time of the world and he is born to deal with the problems connected with it and die. There is no escape from it and this is his destiny. If he escapes he may reach a timeless and formless pure state of perfection in the other world. The Vision of W.B. Yeats is all about that, which he symbolically expresses as a spiralling cone with the broad base representing the mortal life of man and apex representing the spiritual life of man. The map of his inner life, philosophy and religion is his vision, basing which he wrote mostly all of his poems. Among them Sailing to Byzantium and Byzantium are the simple, philosophic and difficult master pieces nobody can fail to quote. For John Keats heard melodies are sweet but unheard melodies are sweeter. But for W.B. Yeats unheard melodies may be sweeter but the heard melodies are always sweet. Especially Sailing To Byzantium is expressed as the realized views of an old man who is about to die.
Sensuous Animate Nature and Permanence of Spiritual Art
The old man in this poem faces the problems of old age, death and regeneration and finally gives his decision. He says that this world is not for the old but for the young only. Here young lovers, birds on the tree and fishes of the sea, 'Fish, flesh or fowl,' etc. sing songs in praise of mortal sensual song without caring for the ageless intellect or wisdom, which is treated as monuments only. Here animate nature is devoid of spirit or spiritually passive. On the other hand the old man is both physically and spiritually impotent, a mere paltry thing, an effigy, tattered cloth upon a stick. But he realizes that all the monument like things are teaching him the magnificence of soul.
He rejoices by this realization and sails to Byzantium, the world of spirit. There he prays for the sages of God's holy fire, the singing masters to descend spinning in a circular motion to relieve the soul from the body by burning the heart with the holy fire without leaving it in the dead body so that the desire in it for sensual passion shall be totally eradicated and then the soul released from the natural thing can take birth not in the body form of some neutral thing but in the external form of an art. He wants the goldsmith to make him into a golden bird on the golden bough to sing the song of eternity to the Emperor (poet), lords and ladies of Byzantium (his native place) praising the eternal spiritual love forever. Yeats simply says through this poem that the animate nature is devoid of spirit and temporary only but the inanimate art, poetry created by him is full of spirit and is immortal and permanent.
Wordsworth ' Mysticism in Nature, A System of Philosophy
After Shakespeare and Milton, the poet who has settled well deep in the heart is William Wordsworth. He has established for Nature a unique place and a Universal appeal in his poems in literature which no one has superseded and surpassed so far in the world. Generally poets depict the beauty of Nature or show the similarities between the different moods of men and the sound, the fury, the gentility, etc. of Nature. But in the case of Wordsworth, Nature itself seems to have expressed everything for him through his pen like a benign teacher does to a good student. Indeed the knowledge Wordsworth gained from Nature by his eyes, ears, through his sense-perception and his thought conception helped him to develop his inner Self in Nature can be seen in his poems such as Tintern Abbey, Ode: Intimations of Immortality Recollected From Childhood, The Prelude and so on.
His feeling and thought, the growth of his mind rather the development of his inner life from the childhood up to 28 years is expressed in The Prelude which is in fact a spiritual autobiography of Wordsworth in the Epic form. Actually he planned to write about Man, Nature and Society in The Recluse for which The Prelude was written as an introduction. But the Recluse was not written and so, The Prelude was revised and corrected into complete piece by itself. Perhaps what was left by Wordsworth might be continued to the end by some poet in the future to give a system of philosophy he was trying to achieve! However with the two smaller poems, Tintern Abbey and Immortality Ode, the genius of Wordsworth can be appreciably judged. That to the spontaneous expression of Tintern Abbey itself composed without any alteration within 4 or 5 days on his journey from Tintern Abbey via Wye to Bristol clearly distinguishes Wordsworth's different phases of love for Nature.
Blessed Mood or Intuitional Mood in Nature Far Superior than Books and Philosophies
Nature was everything for Wordsworth. Indeed the knowledge he has gained that has embedded deep in his memory and the joy and pleasure he has enjoyed by his own sense experience in nature and due to that blessed mood or the state of visionary trance or the intuitional mood he had of his inner self and the life of things around him are far more superior and rarest than he could have gained from school, college, books and the philosophic ideas through his friend, S.T. Coleridge has compensated many a time for all the losses he had suffered in life whenever he recollected it in tranquility and made him the most happiest person more than anybody else in the world! Tintern Abbey, a typical poem is the junction of his mood, interest and pursuit of life of the past and the future with regard to his attitude and the influence of Nature, in which his instinct, emotion, intellect, intuition and mysticism have combined together in such an inseparable measure that it is very difficult to deal with it fully by all.
Introspective and lonely by nature, at first the early loss of his parents when he was at school, he sought not the company of his fellow beings but only the company of Nature where many a time he was in a state of trance for a considerable time. During the holidays and vacation times he joyfully indulged in coarser or boyish or animal pleasure in Nature by climbing mountains, skating, boating, swimming, horse riding, walking etc.
'I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bound o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led; more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
To me was all in all.'
Aesthetic Pleasure in Nature
Later on until the age of 23 or so he was passionately in love with the beautiful objects or shapes of nature and enjoyed aching joy and dizzy rapture to the extent that he was in the state of a blessed mood by which he could be alive in sleep and also dead while awake in order to explore his inner self and the life of the things around him in nature.
... 'The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye, ' That time is past.
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures.'
... "that blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul!
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.'
He loved nature for its own sake and enjoyed aesthetic pleasure in nature. Such a pleasure he could not enjoy after 5 years in the same place he had already seen and still remember in his mind as that time or season of his youth is gone and over then.
Still Sad Music of Society in Nature
More than that already the French Revolution which was fighting for democratic principles such as liberty, equality and fraternity turned into a war of conquest which disturbed his intellect very much and put him under spiritual crisis in such a way that he lost faith in Nature, society and in God. So, he heard the still sad music of the society in nature everywhere.
...'For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing often times
The still sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chosen and subdue.'
In the interval of 5 years his spirit was tempered, he was tamed and his mind matured so much that he could philosophize over human tragedy. He felt nature is the best healing balm that could solve the malaise of mankind as nature never betrays anyone.
'and the prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgements, nor the sneers of selfishness,
Not greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings.'
The quietness and beauty of nature gave him joy and pleasure and made him show mercy and kindness to others. This sort of intellectual love for nature made Wordsworth muse over the mystery of nature in a mystical way.
Spiritual Pleasure or Nature Mysticism
His nature mysticism is more distinct than his philosophical ideas which are, though borrowed, adapted to the needs of his search of truth in nature and everything was subdued and mingled within the purview of nature and not beyond it.
''.and I have left
A presence that disturbs me with joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of sometimes far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting Suns,
And the blue sky and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
He felt a divine spirit is pervading in everything everywhere. The meeting point of the inner world of man and the outer world is nature and the boundary between them is ever shifting and not fixed. Nature is almost the body of God. As the pre-existence of man in nature is remembered by the mind and nature is the link between the mind and the outer world, the communion of the mind and nature reveals man all the secrets and also the ultimate reality. This message rather the truth ever distinguishes and keeps Wordsworth alive in the minds of men. This spiritual love of nature and the message of Wordsworth really elevate the mind and energizes worn out souls whatever be the chaos or the calamities of the society are!
Aching Joy and Dizzy Rapture Unforgettable
Then to complete the poem, Tintern Abbey he again comes to the starting stage to make it a full circle. He recovered from his mental depression mainly due to his sister's (Dorothy) love, affection and care and as a result they have come to Tintern Abbey once again. As a sort of advice to his sister, friends and readers he says that when one is in a state of fear, pain or loneliness one has to remember that place and the natural scenes seen so that the lost mood can be regained because the joy and pleasure got from the beauty of nature gives one the blessed mood, aching joy and dizzy rapture or the aesthetic pleasure which are the most important and vital thing for human spirit.
'The memory be as dwelling place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, for fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts,
Of tender joy will thou remember me,
And these my exhortations!'
He finishes by saying that he could see from the wild looks of his sister's eyes the former phase of his love i.e. the aesthetic passion for nature ,which led him to enjoy that blessed mood he could never forget in his life, because that is the most important and joyfully useful part of human life in the world.
'My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes.'
Perfection, Permanence ' Rare; Nature the only Compensation
By trial and error methods man learns and to satisfy his needs and curiosity he tries in all possible ways to explore mysteries of life to get experience and knowledge of truth which he shares with everyone. To fulfill natural destiny, to achieve completion or perfection he seeks the hand of woman as his better half. Though he gets home, wife and hundred relations the peace he longs for, the freedom he seeks and the immortality or permanence he dreams he hardy achieves. So, he tries his hand in arts such as music, paintings, sculpture, poetry, etc. to achieve perfection and permanence in the higher level.
Here also it is possible only by the gifted and the chosen few and for others the appreciation or criticism of the achievements of the gifted people only is possible. This is also not instantly possible without great efforts. So, only boredom or fatigue remains finally. Therefore the physically and the visibly remaining thing left for men to explore is Nature only.
The beauty of nature absorbs one and all at anytime and gives the blessed mood which cannot be forgotten so easily. Through the senses in nature it is possible to feel the presence of a living spirit in all fauna and flora including man. Indeed nature is the living scientific art that enlightens, elevates, energizes, inspires and gives ideas both creative and mystical. Hence there cannot be a better friend, philosopher and guide other than nature for man.
Utopian Dreams made Realities because of Literature
There are esemplastic writings in literature by S.T. Coleridge, poetry like novels by Virginia Wolf, novel of blood consciousness by D.H. Lawrence, stream of consciousness novel by James Joyce, etc. which are beyond the scope of man to understand due to their obscurity or indecipherability. Psychological novels by Alfred Hitchcock, etc., and dream like writings of Salmon Rushdie, etc. are modern writings. Novels of scientific adventures by authors like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, etc. and novels of Utopian dreams by Francis Bacon, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell have become realities. So many discoveries and inventions have been achieved after such writings. Yesterday's dreams with the development of human knowledge in science and technology since 200 years have come true today and will come true tomorrow also.
More by : T. A. Ramesh