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Monday, March 18, 2019

Nature and man can never be fast friends

Matthew Arnold
Philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau have argued that man can only be happy if he lives in harmony with nature. Matthew Arnold disagreed with this point of view—in his poem, “In Harmony With Nature” (written in the 1840s), he notes that nature is cruel, stubborn, and fickle, and that nature and man can never be fast friends.

Here’s Arnold’s poem, “In Harmony With Nature”:
"In harmony with Nature?" Restless fool,
Who with such heat dost preach what were to thee,
When true, the last impossibility—
To be like Nature strong, like Nature cool! 
Know, man hath all which Nature hath, but more,
And in that more lie all his hopes of good.
Nature is cruel, man is sick of blood;
Nature is stubborn, man would fain adore; 
Nature is fickle, man hath need of rest;
Nature forgives no debt, and fears no grave;
Man would be mild, and with safe conscience blest.
Man must begin, know this, where Nature ends; 
Nature and man can never be fast friends.
Fool, if thou canst not pass her, rest her slave!
I think Arnold had a better understanding of man’s relationship with nature than any modern environmentalist.

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