I had no thought of violets of late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
The natural world has been one of the recurring subjects of poetry, frequently the primary one, in every age and every country. Yet we cannot easily define nature, which, as Gary Snyder points out in his preface to No Nature (1992), “will not fulfill our conceptions or assumptions” and “will dodge our expectations and theoretical models.” Yet the urge to describe the natural world—its various landscapes, its changing seasons, its surrounding phenomena—has been an inescapable part of the history of poetry.