The journey of main idea of the theme in sonnets has traveled a long distance from love to conjugal love, religious love, and then love for nature. However, it has turned out that poetry related to nature or love for nature has surpassed all other poetic output. Such poems excel in literary devices as well as diction. Sonnets, too, have the same case. They surpass all poetry when it comes to nature. Besides popular sonneteers such as Milton and Wordsworth, several other poets have tried writing and made a name. some best sonnets about nature written during the 18th and 19th centuries at the peak period are as follows.
To the River London by Thomas Warton
Ah! what a weary race my feet have run,
Since first I trod thy banks with alders crowned,
And thought my way was all through fairy ground,
Beneath thy azure sky, and golden sun:
Where first my Muse to lisp her notes begun!
While pensive Memory traces back the round,
Which fills the varied interval between;
Much pleasure, more of sorrow, marks the scene.
Sweet native stream! those skies and suns so pure
No more return, to cheer my evening road!
Yet still one joy remains, that not obscure,
Nor useless, all my vacant days have flowed,
From youth’s gay dawn to manhood’s prime mature;
Nor with the Muse’s laurel unbestowed.
A family lineage in Oxford, Warton has also been a poet laureate who has set models in the English sonnet tradition. Even Wordsworth wrote in his lines and made a name. This beautiful sonnet tells the audience and readers how the poet used to roam around the Thames in London and how nature influenced him in a way that it seems his first Muse was the river itself having an “azure sky” and “golden sun.” The entire sonnet resolves around the natural elements where the poet’s mood becomes pensive, and he marks the “Sweet native stream” in front of him where he has just one joy that also remains obscure. It is a natural beauty. With the ABBAABCC rhyme scheme in its octave and DEDEFF in its sestet, the sonnet sets to explore the theme of nature in the first quatrain that becomes a problem in the second and ultimately goes to the resolution in the end. That is why the sonnet has been placed first in our order of ranking.
Written at a Farm by John Codrington Bampfylde
Around my porch and lowly casement spread;
The myrtle never-sear, and gadding vine,
With fragrant sweet-briar love to intertwine;
And in my garden’s box-encircled bed,
The pansy pied, and musk-rose white and red,
The pink and tulip, and honeyed woodbine,
Fling odors round; the flaunting eglantine
Decks my trim fence, ‘neath which, by silence led,
The wren hath wisely placed her mossy cell;
And, far from noise, in courtly land so rife,
Nestles her young to rest, and warbles well.
Here in this safe retreat and peaceful glen
I pass my sober moments, far from men;
Nor wishing death too soon, nor asking life.
Written by John Cordington Bampfylde, this beautiful sonnet stands second in our order of ranking. Regarding the poet, he was an excellent sonneteer of the 18th century who dedicated several of his poems to Sir Joshua Reynolds, a popular painter of his time. Interestingly, almost all of them present the theme of nature. That is why this sonnet also explores the natural beauty around us. It tells us how the poet has bedecked his entire home with myrtle, vine, pansy, musk—rose, tulip, woodbine, and other such flowers amid the noise of the birds. This natural environment has made his “sober moments” filled with happiness. The use of beautiful natural metaphors, consonances, assonance, personifications, and alliterations has made this sonnet an excellent piece of its time. The sonnet shows the rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA in its octave and DEDEDE in its sestet.
To the River Arun by Charlotte Smith
On thy wild banks, by frequent torrents worn,
No glittering fanes, or marble domes appear,
Yet shall the mournful Muse thy course adorn,
And still to her thy rustic waves be dear.
For with the infant Otway, lingering here,
Of early woes she bade her votary dream,
While thy low murmurs soothed his pensive ear,
And still the poet—consecrates the stream.
Beneath the oak and birch that fringe thy side,
The first-born violets of the year shall spring;
And in thy hazels, bending o’er the tide,
The earliest nightingale delight to sing:
While kindred spirits, pitying, shall relate
Thy Otway’s sorrows, and lament his fate!
Written by Charlotte Smith, a great English sonneteer who published Elegiac Sonnets and became a household name in the world of the poetry of the 18th century, this beautiful poem stands third in our order of ranking of the best sonnets about nature. The poem impacted his contemporaries, S. T. Coleridge, Leigh Hunt, and Walter Scott in poetic writing. Written about the River Arun, the sonnet presents its beautiful banks and different shapes that appear in its water. He terms its natural beauty as a Muse that loves its rustic waves. Such natural metaphors, use of assonance, and consonance sounds bedecked with natural foliage have created a natural environment in this sonnet.
Written in Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire by Edward Gardner
Admiring stranger, that with ling’ring feet,
Enchained by wonder, pauses on this green;
Where thy enraptured sight the dark woods meet,
Ah! rest awhile, and contemplate the scene.
These hoary pillars clasped by ivy round,
This hallowed floor by holy footsteps trod,
The mold’ring choir by spreading moss embrowned,
Where fasting saints devoutly hymned their God.
Unpitying Time, with slow but certain sweep,
Has laid, alas! their ancient splendor low:
Yet here let pilgrims, while they muse and weep,
Think on the lesson that from hence may flow.
Like theirs, how soon may be the tottering state
Of man,—the temple of a shorter date.
“Written in Tintern Abbey” by Edward Gardner, this beautiful sonnet presents Tintern Abbey as it used to look in the 18th century. Calling it green, he states that even the captives become amazed at its beauty, bedecked with ivy-rounded pillars, dark woods, and soft moss. He goes on to say that all this beauty is going on knees before the Lord in a way that even times become “Unpitying Time.” He means to say that it teaches a lesson to its pilgrims who come and go with the flow of time. The use of literary devices such as mid-rhyme, end rhyme, consonance, assonance, metaphors, and similes have made this sonnet one of the best nature sonnets.
The Poppy by Sarah Hamilton
Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green.
Light weed, whose poisoned scent with sickly power
Bears on the nerves which seek the morning air,
As thou, dire poppy, thy sleek head dost rear
Amid the yellow corn, thou fatal flower!
To soothe the sorrows of the midnight hour
The children of distress to thee repair,
But ah! too oft do wretched mortals dare
Through thee to flee from life which cares devour.
The coward mind, which shrinks beneath its woes,
Seeks in thy juice a cure for worldly grief,
But oh! how impotent the sad relief,
Which bids the guilty victim’s tomb unclose!
Yet thou canst mitigate disease’s pain,
And with thy balm assuage the fevered brain.
Sarah Hamilton wrote several popular sonnets during her time, but her natural sonnets made a name during the 19th century. This unconventional topic has cropped up quite an unconventionality. Sarah praises the poppy, and its different types with their “poisoned scent” to state that this small plant seems to have a personified figure with a “head dost hear” yet has a “fatal flower.” However, its good point is that it makes the “children of distress” find refuge in it. Its botanically beneficial characteristics have been given in the last couplet to show the effectiveness of the poetic diction. Therefore, the sonnet has been placed fifth in the order of natural sonnets.