The Sublime Silence of Nature

A moment, taken for oneself in Nature can be a profound experience. At first, there is silence, solitude, loneliness. And then – softly, the whispering of the trees, their leaves softly brushing against each other in the gentle breeze fills your ears. A bird, far off, singing its praises, a bright staccato sound peppering the air.  Perhaps you hear squirrels in the branches, chattering, or on the ground, scampering about in search of some hidden morsel for them to gather. Nature, teeming with life and sound around you, fills you with a symphony of sound and emotion. In this revelry, unable to contain yourself, you move, or speak, and the symphony is over. The squirrels and birds have quickly returned to their nests, safe and high in the trees. The breeze stills, quieting the leaves and branches. You are alone again. Surrounded on all sides by possibility, and yet, in the moments of complete silence following what was the beautiful song of Nature just seconds before, you are left desperate for what was, wondering where the sounds and life and emotion that surrounded you went. Instead you are left with a stillness of spirit, a pause in thought, a line left blank in the narrative of your mind.

Sublimity is not only in the music of Nature, though this is where Wordsworth often expresses it in his writing, but in traditional music as well. Haydn’s The Creation, with its crashing high points followed by subtle pauses in timing have the same effect – a split second in which the mind is lost, stuck between remembering the previous moment and anticipating the next, without fully grasping either. This moment, this second of confusion and fear and aloneness, is a fleeting encounter with the sublime. It is the unexplainable and curious phenomenon sought by the romantics. Wordsworth encounters this moment of stillness and solitude,  “…sometimes in that silence, while he hung/ Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise/ Has carried far into his heart…” (406-408). The unexpected silence of Nature, the shock of stillness, is Wordsworth’s connection to sublimity. Hanging on the next note of nature, Wordsworth is struck at the core of his being, and his heart is deeply affected by the silence surrounding him. The emotional connection to nature that Wordsworth uses continually in his poetry is his personal connection to the sublime as well, and he too experiences the sublime in the shock that accompanies a moment of silence in a usually bustling environment.


~ by mjaka10 on September 5, 2012.

2 Responses to “The Sublime Silence of Nature”

  1. This is a very insightful post. The key word here is not “silence” but “shock.” You’ve choosen a solid quote that clearly demonstrates that the sublime experience emerges at the moment of shock felt in an unanticipated and undefinable silence.

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