In Charlotte Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets, Smith uses nature as a vehicle to express her complex emotions and yearning for a renewal of her spirit. Utilizing the immortal characteristics of spring and the tempestuous nature of the ocean, Smith creates a poetic world that is both a comfort and a hindrance to her tortured soul. Even while spring can provide her with temporary solace and the ocean is a friend in her sorrow, both parts of nature constantly remind her of something that she will never be able to accomplish: the renewal of her anguished spirit and complete happiness in life once more. Through three of her sonnets in this collection, Smith connects with the different parts of nature and displays her sensible temperament with her envy over nature’s ability to easily renew its beauty and vitality.
In “Written at the close of Spring,” Smith’s second sonnet, she focuses on the wonderful ability nature has in rejuvenating itself each year. Smith personifies Spring in the way it “nurs’d in dew” its flowers as though it was nursing its own children (“Close of Spring” 2). While it creates life, Spring is not human, because it has this ability to come back after its season has passed. Human beings grow old and die; we lose our “fairy colours” through the abrasive nature of life (“Close of Spring” 12). Smith is mournful that humans cannot be like the flowers of Spring and regain the colors of our lives after each year.
Normally in comparing the age of sensibility with nature, we see this great appreciation of nature as a whole. In Smith’s poems, we do see this, but mostly in this sonnet we see a jealousy of nature. Smith is able to connect with the beauty of Spring on some level; it is something that brings her a small amount of happiness, but she is mournful because she will never be like Spring. Each year, nature renews itself after winter and gives us a season of rebirth. The flowers that were once dead come back just as bright and beautiful as the year before, while human beings grow older and more heartbroken with each successive year. She uses the final couplet to question her audience with something that perplexes her: “Another May new buds and flowers shall bring; Ah why has happiness- no second spring?” (“Close of Spring” 13-14). Smith not only wonders why humans cannot renew themselves as easily as nature can, but also why we are unable to renew our emotions. Once you lose happiness, it is not that simple and easy to obtain it back. In this way, Smith believes that her happiness is no longer able to return to her; it has died for good.
The season of spring is a brilliant vehicle to express your sensibility through. Unlike her poem “Written at the close of Spring,” Smith’s poem, “To Spring,” is written to Spring itself while it is in its full glory. Nature comes alive in this poem: “where the young leaves, unfolding, scarce conceal beneath their early shade, the half-form’d nest of finch or woodlark” (“To Spring” 4-5). Spring has...