The 20th-century ushered in a sense of hopelessness through the proliferation of the industrial age and mankind becoming the creator of their world. The world became more and more mechanized and not only in the work place. Lifestyles, ideas, and even religions became mechanical. This ties in with the alleged "death of God" in modern times as well as modern poetry. Humans became like gods creating their world; as a result, they became increasingly disconnected with the natural, godly, world that surrounded them. This disconnection made them lonely with their surroundings. Wallance Stevens and T.S. Eliot tackle these feelings in their poetry. At first, both poets suggest that life is simply a hopeless and empty exercise, as well as one that can bring no true fulfillment. Human creators seem unable to create fulfillment. But when one looks closer,
At first, readers of their poetry see worlds in which God has been replaced by human creators. Is this world view totally secular? Both Eliot and Stevens seem to show secular worlds due to their ideas and the content of their poems. Much of the poems focus on the materialistic, especially items that are man-made. Furthermore, rather than creating something great, human creations are destructive to nature. Stevens's poem Anecdote of the Jar builds on this notion by showing how destructive humans are to the surrounding nature. More so, something man-made can "claim dominion" over everything and ultimately destroy it. Much like T.S. Eliot's The Fire Sermon in The Waste Land, the natural beauty of the world is destroyed by the littering of humans. Civilization, although upheld in all respects to be civil and the best way of life, destroys the natural surroundings.
How does this relate to the secular? Prior to the 20th century, when people were more reverent towards God or some concept of the divine, they were also more interested in and reverent towards nature. Nature, a creation of God's, could be seen as having a little bit of divinity itself. People like the Romantics celebrated nature and more spiritual, rather than mechanical or materialistic, creations. Modern poets like Eliot and Stevens, then, seem to be working against Romantic and Transcendental ideals of celebrating the spiritual or natural. Wallace Stevens's poem The Snowman suggests the lack of connection between humans and nature. To understand winter you must "have a mind of winter" (?) to respect what you see . Essentially to be "one" with nature you must be like the snowman - a being that respects nature and does not "think of any misery in the sound of the wind" (?). The snowman does not read anything into the wind that is not there. Because of this, it is able to understand "the nothing that is" (?) there. Humans, on the other hand, apparently have a tendency to misread nature, which shows their lack of connection and understanding to it. Again, this can represent their disconnect from God.