Nature in Literature has always been omnipresent, all-forgiving and divine, as well as on equal grounds with God: No matter what you do, you can’t fight its wrath, change its laws or the love it has for humanity. The phenomena of collective physical world and Literature is a common synthesis, but the disciplines belonging to the history of ideas have not explored it in great depth until the 20th century.
The term “literary ecology” was first coined by an ecologist Joseph Meeker in his work The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology (1972). In his book, Meeker argues that “in recent years, a feeling that ecological visions of life, and appropriate models for actual ecological living, have been described by literary artists for centuries. Some have even argued that ecology is and has been a legitimate humanist province. But the links between literature and ecology have never been clearly delineated” (Robert E. Morsebrger, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974). Despite his innovative approach, Meeker’s book was not as successful as was an essay by William Rueckert titled Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism (1978), which gave birth to a whole movement of environmentally political literature.
Now, let us is trace it back to the roots and talk about the English literature, the greatest lover of nature, next to the Indian poetry. While we already discussed that ecology has not been fully expressed in literary works, we can’t say so about “nature,” a more romantic form of unified realm. Let us take a look at Lord George Gordon Byron’s magnum opus, “She Walks in Beauty”, as an example:
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus, mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.”
Byron’s nature does not seek refugee in theory, it is a free concept, devoid from the existential dread we often face in life. Same could not be applied to William Wordsworth, who, with his simplified way of English, mainly associates nature with the Lake District, where he lived nearby. Living through the times of second industrialization period, dismayed Wordsworth longs for a deeper connection with mother earth.
Having briefly analyzed all these thinkers, I think Vazha’s work does stand out. In my previous essays, I have talked a lot about Vazha utilizing anthropomorphic animals as a way to state his views, but his approach towards other aspects of environment also remains interesting. Let’s take his famous poem, “Populus” as an example:
Oh, how pitiful is the violet,
That came to be on mountains!
Wretched, always harmed by cold,
Or stricken by lightning, on its top;
God gave the pitiful,
A short lifespan,
In this realm, for its loveliness,
A mere second of existence, is the plan,
When violet starts to wilt,
“Oh!” to God, it will weep:
“Why was I given life, O’Lord,
If a short stay, was my reward?”
In this poem, the central character, a small violet is completely devoid of divine nature, as it is not equal to a god and it does not exist for human pleasure. Having a mission of its own, it is very similar to us, making it relatable to the readers.
In my opinion, what makes violet more “human” is that her experience could be seen as a Biblical analogy, as it is very similar to the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus cried out to God the Father, asking him if there is any way for the messiah to avoid his cruel fate: “His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44).
The great thing about Vazha is that he can ideologically deconstruct almost every mainstream notion, looking deeply into the fractal labyrinth of knowledge. Nature, violet to precise, is no exception, as it died for our sins, like Jesus did, 2000 years ago, mirroring God the Son’s most human aspects.