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“Walking Home in the Dark” and “An Essay on Man: Epistle I”: Poetry About Nature


Poetry about nature and its features occupies a significant part of the world’s poetic heritage. At the same time, in addition to describing the world, many poets resort to the analysis of such a phenomenon as human nature that conveys aspects of people’s characters and their outlook on life. As examples, two poems will be considered: “Walking Home in the Dark” by Brooks Haxton and “An Essay on Man: Epistle I” by Alexander Pope. In these works, poets not only give descriptions of the world around them but also argue on the topic of human nature by comparing and contrasting the motives and drivers of specific actions and attitudes towards life. Both poems convey unique thoughts about how humans and nature are united, but specific nuances distinguish Haxton’s and Pope’s messages regarding the contexts of their works and the techniques used for creative coloring.

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Approaches to Nature Description

Each of the poets uses nature as a tool to convey the context of the experiences and the thoughts of the characters. However, the techniques they utilize for this purpose are distinctive. In his poem, Pope views nature as a source of inspiration and benefits: “for me, kind Nature wakes her genial power.” Haxton, in turn, refers to the world around him as an instrument that describes his state of mind and current events: “of starlight by the season’s crowbar by the moon” (53). These approaches distinguish the ideas of the poets concerning the role of nature. Pope notes that the world can bring both good and evil and mentions earthquakes, merciless heat, and other cataclysms. Haxton, in turn, refers to nature as an ally that helps tune in to specific moods and states of mind, for instance, “in the early dark in early autumn” (53). In addition, Pope focuses on specific descriptions of the environment and its greatness, while Haxton concentrates on humans in the context of nature. These approaches allow highlighting the characteristics of the poets’ styles and their opinions on what is natural.

One of the key differences in the ideas of the two poems is the depth of the knowledge of nature and its role. Pope discusses the perfection of humans as entities living in harmony with the world around them and condemns any attempt to conquer or pacify nature. In his opinion, any moral hesitation or mental discord is not characteristic of the natural world where order and balance are integral components and contribute to maintaining balance in life (Pope). Haxton, in turn, refers to the human essence as the key measure of all living things and puts people’s desires and ideas above any other phenomena: “toward you, however dark it is, with love” (54). In the general context, Pope’s idea is that one should not consider humans separately from nature since they form a single and indivisible being coexisting in harmony. The poet states the following: “the general order, since the whole began, Is kept in nature, and is kept in man” (Pope). The difference in the eras of the creation of the two poems and the changes in values can be the key reasons for these distinctive interpreting approaches.

Means of Expression of the Poets’ Ideas

Both poets use individual literary techniques and devices to emphasize the features of nature they describe and their place in human life. Haxton uses epithets to represent specific elements of the surrounding world more vividly. For instance, in his poem, the narrator walks towards home and describes “the summer’s worth of dismissed leaves turned brown” (Haxton 53). In this stanza, he reflects the sad calmness of nature and compares it to the state of a person who reflects on life and its unhurried but constant movement. This approach proves that Haxton is more focused on human nature that is the basis of existence and, although it depends on the world, is a key tool that describes the purpose of human existence. The accompanying elements, such as moonlight or fallen leaves, complement the overall picture and serve as entourage while the narrator is the key figure. The era of creating “Walking Home in the Dark” can explain this style since the 20th century opened the importance of personal freedom. This method of description characterizes Haxton as a down-to-earth poet who seeks to convey nature in humans rather than humans in nature.

Pope, in turn, uses other literary techniques to convey his views on the world around him. One of the main devices is personification when the poet personifies nature and endows it with the properties and traits of people. For instance, he writes the following: “then Nature deviates; and can man do less?,” thereby emphasizing that nature can have similar sins with those of people (Pope). To convey the unity of the human with nature and their connection in the same world, the poet endows nature around him with the ability to act independently: “if nature thunder’d in his op’ning ears…” (Pope). Such means of literary expression prove Pope’s distinctive position from that of Haxton about the role of nature. For a poet from the 18th century, this style is natural due to the trend towards romanticism. By opposing people to nature, he condemns any manifestation of pride and insists that a person should not forget about where and why he or she lives and what the natural destination on earth is. Therefore, unlike Haxton, Pope deliberately reflects humans in nature and not vice versa.

Main Similar Feature

While comparing the two poems, one, however, can draw attention to one common aspect in their plot – the inherent presence of nature beside people. Both Haxton and Pope pay attention to the elements of the surrounding world that accompany a person on his life path. While they make distinctive arguments about the role of nature, its importance is reflected alongside the main narrative. Moreover, even characteristic elements are emphasized to reflect specific moods, such as Haxton’s “ferocious starlight” (54). Thus, both poets mention nature deliberately to reflect specific aspects of human life.


The analysis of the considered poems by Haxton and Pope allows concluding the poets’ distinctive approaches to the description of nature and its role in human life. Each of them uses individual expressive techniques to emphasize specific ideas and form characteristic images. Haxton’s approach is based on emphasizing the role of nature in humans, and accompanying descriptions of the world around him complete the picture. Pope, in turn, draws attention to the human in nature and personifies it by endowing the world with unique properties and power. However, the presence of nature beside people is a common feature of both poems.

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Works Cited

Haxton, Brooks. Dominion. Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.

Pope, Alexander. “An Essay on Man: Epistle I.” Poetry Foundation, Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, March 12). “Walking Home in the Dark” and “An Essay on Man: Epistle I”: Poetry About Nature.

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StudyCorgi. "“Walking Home in the Dark” and “An Essay on Man: Epistle I”: Poetry About Nature." March 12, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "“Walking Home in the Dark” and “An Essay on Man: Epistle I”: Poetry About Nature." March 12, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) '“Walking Home in the Dark” and “An Essay on Man: Epistle I”: Poetry About Nature'. 12 March.

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