Charlotte Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets

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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...

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... but she always realizes at the end that her happiness is forever gone and she only has despair to look forward to her future. While nature is a typical outlet for people with a sensible nature, like Smith, it can also just as easily create a desire in man that can never be attained.

Works Cited

Smith, Charlotte. "To Spring." Poem Hunter. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2011.


Smith, Charlotte. “Written at the close of spring .” Elegiac Sonnets. Ed. Stuart Curran.

New York: Oxford, 1993. 13-14. Print.

Smith, Charlotte. “Written in a tempestuous night, on the coast of Sussex.” Elegiac Sonnets.

Ed. Stuart Curran. New York: Oxford, 1993. 58. Print.

Smith, Charlotte. “Written on the seashore- October, 1784.” Elegiac Sonnets. Ed. Stuart Curran. New York: Oxford, 1993. 20. Print.
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