Now that you have read Wordsworth’s “To a Butterfly” and considered what the speaker suggests about the natural world and how he conveys his ideas, you’re ready to consider what you think of these ideas. Respond to the following questions to demonstrate your understanding of the poem, its connection to romanticism, and the applicability of the ideas to modern life.
- Do you think the speaker (Wordsworth) gains anything by taking the time to observe the butterfly?
- How does the speaker’s appreciation for the butterfly demonstrate a Romantic view of nature? Use specific examples from the poem to support your response.
- Do you believe that people today would benefit from the same kind of close observation of nature? Why or why not? Provide an example from your own life in support of your response.
Read the Poems first!
A Grain of Sand
Consider these four lines of poetry by William Blake:
To see the world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
These lines suggest that, to the person who takes the time to really look, a grain of sand can reveal a world of ideas and beauty. A tiny, short-lived flower can suggest the vastness of the skies. Even in a space as small as the palm of one’s hand are wonders to dwell on—each muscle, each line a marvelous detail.
This is a deeply Romantic view of nature—that each little piece of nature has lessons to teach and marvels to display.
William Wordsworth’s “To a Butterfly,” found in your Explorationsanthology on page 62, also focuses on a tiny part of nature—on a bug, to be exact.
In this poem, the speaker not only observes a butterfly closely, but he also speaks to it. Speaking to something that cannot reply is a literary technique called apostrophe . By addressing the butterfly, the speaker personifies it and treats it as a person with whom he can converse.