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: renewing her anguished spirit and becoming happy once more. Through three of her sonnets discussed below, Smith connects with the different parts of nature and displays envy over it’s ability to easily renew it’s beauty and vitality.
Smith’s second sonnet “Written at the close of Spring” focuses on the wonderful ability nature has in rejuvenating itself every year. Smith personifies Spring in the way it “nurs’d in dew” its flowers as though it was nursing its own children. 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. Smith is mournful that humans cannot be like the flowers of Spring.
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. 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?” (Lines 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 with. 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 “the half-form’d nest of finch or woodlark.” Spring has just arrived and all parts of nature are feeling its effects. The birds are having children, the leaves are coming back on the trees, and all the flowers are blooming. “Ah! season of delight!- could aught be found to soothe awhile the tortured...