Dissertation
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A Comparative Study of William Wordsworth’s and Tao Yuanming’s Pastoral Poetry

Author WangChunXiu
Tutor MaYanHong
School Liaoning University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords pastoral poetry views on nature differences and similarities language theme
CLC I106.2
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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William Wordsworth and Tao Yuanming are the most outstanding pastoral poets in the history of English and Chinese literature. They do share keen love and veneration for nature and pastoral life and take them as their permanent themes. As the leading figure of the English Romantic Movement in poetry, Wordsworth is most celebrated for his poetry of nature and is labeled as a“worshipper of nature”. His love for nature is deep and boundless. He can penetrate to the heart of things and give the reader the very life of nature. To him nature means more than rivers, trees, rocks, mountains, lakes, and so on. Nature has a moral value and has its philosophical significance. Tao Yuanming is the father of Chinese pastoral poetry. After resignation from the officialdom, Tao withdraws from the noisy public life and comes back to the simple and tranquil country life. He enjoys living in seclusion and writes many poems to eulogize the greatness of nature and the common and rustic life. In spite of the fact that they are from different times and countries, William Wordsworth and Tao Yuanming both advocate that human beings should return to nature to perfect man’s soul. These similarities of the two poets make this thesis possible and valuable.This thesis aims to make a detailed and comprehensive comparison between William Wordsworth and Tao Yuanming and their pastoral poems and tries to explore their similarities and differences in several aspects. The author intends not only to compare and contrast, but also tries to probe into what lies behind these similarities and differences. Sincerely and hopefully, this comparative study would contribute to the cultural communication between the west and east.This thesis consists of three parts: the introduction, the main body and the conclusion. Its main contents are as follows:The first part is introduction, which mainly gives a general survey of the two poets and makes a brief summary of the previous research about them and their pastoral poems, and then points out the perspectives and great significance of this paper.The second part is the main body which is made up of three chapters. Chapter One is divided into two sections. The first section states respectively the origin and development of pastoral poetry in both the western countries and the eastern world. Pastoral poetry in the western countries can be dated back to ancient Greek and Rome with the shepherd’s life as the theme, while the Chinese pastoral poetry can be traced back to the Chinese pre-Qin time, when Shi Jing (The Book of Songs) came to this world. The second part is about the status and contributions of Wordsworth and Tao Yuanming in writing their pastoral poetry under different cultural backgrounds. They created numerous outstanding literary works and are both very significant in the literary history of the Eastern and Western world.Chapter Two analyzes the similarities of Wordsworth and Tao Yuanming’s pastoral poetry and it consists of three sections. The first section compares the two poets’similar ways of returning to natural life: they both experienced hard struggles in their earlier period and finally chose the rural life as their lifestyle. During the early years, Wordsworth experienced the disillusionment of French Revolution and the impacts of Industrial Revolution and at last chose to seek truth and comforts from the great nature. Tao Yuanming chose to live a secluded life after his serving for the court. The second section explores the similarities in their poetic themes: the beauty of great nature, the tranquility of rural life and their deep sympathy for the rural common people. The third section analyzes the two poets’similarity in their poetic language. They both have the habit of employing a kind of simple and plain language of common people, which is characteristic of their writing styles.Chapter Three analyzes the differences between Wordsworth and Tao Yuanming’s pastoral poetry and it also consists of three sections. Section One explores the different cultural backgrounds and philosophical traditions of the western and eastern world, which are also the root of the two poets’differences and divergence. William Wordsworth and his works are deeply influenced by the theory of Pantheism, the Christian beliefs and some basic principles of Rousseau. Tao Yuanming who was born under the background of eastern culture is deeply influenced by the principles of Confucius in his earlier period, while during his latter period he was influenced by Taoism and Buddhism. Section Two states their different views on nature. Since Wordsworth is affected by his Christian beliefs and Pantheism, he believes that God exists in everything and all men are born kind in nature. It is the sophisticated society that makes men degenerate and corruptive. He also advocates Rousseau’s theory of “back to nature”. Tao Yuanming, who is Taoism in his mind, thinks that men and nature are one, and only from nature can men purify his corrupted soul. And Tao Yuanming chose farming as his way to be close to nature and back to nature, which is obviously different from Wordsworth’s methods of recalling the innocence of childhood. And section Three is about their different poetic realms which are clearly reflected in their pastoral poems. William Wordsworth stresses on his own meditation on nature and considers nature as a teacher, a source of knowledge and inward joy. He holds the view of men and nature belonging to different systems. However, Tao Yuanming who holds different opinions emphasizes his merging into nature, which represents the tradition of Eastern culture that believes“man is an integral part of nature”.The third part is the conclusion. After the detailed analysis mentioned above, this thesis draws to the conclusion by emphasizing and highlighting the comparative results in the previous chapters. Here we emphasize and eulogize the advocates of coming back to nature and keeping a harmonious relationship between men and nature. In addition, the simple language of common people should also be advocated and reinforced.

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