Notes on Charlotte Smith

Smith’s epic poem, “Beachy Head,” encapsulates many Romantic ideals – vibrant local imagery, the progression of thought in a field of vision, incorporation of many stations of life, a complex interaction with time and history, awareness of the meaner aspects of the setting and life, and prose language in poetry form among other aspects. She incorporates history, geology, nature, and literature seamlessly and like a bird floating upon a breeze, allows the nature of the poem to direct her movements.

Central to the poem is the transience of human nature and the fleetingness of life. She constantly reminds of the insignificance of human life in the greater span of time, and the fragility of human life against the lasting face of nature. She suggests the smallness of human life and the vanity of human endeavor, based on an acute knowledge of history and the passage of time.

She also suggests a certain degree of nationalism – the disfavor of non-English items and localities, the favor of English nature compared to the colonies, the superiority of English nature over foreign gems and goods, and a condemnation of English exploitation of foreign places.

Additionally, Smith brings up (and lets go) complex ideas like the nature of human happiness, the nature of memory and time, and a circle of reflection that expands outwards as it looks inwards.


About abbaxjane

Devoted writer, reader, pen pal, post card collector, raven admirer, anglophile, tea drinker, music lover, and binge watcher.
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