Wordsworth's "The Haunted Tree" and the Sexual Politics of Landscape

My article considers a late poem by Wordsworth—"The Haunted Tree" —in the context of recent critical debates about the politics of nature in the Romantic period. I argue that Wordsworth writes landscape in symbolic terms so as to define the kind of Britishness—and British poetry—that he considers proper. That Britishness is defined against commercial capitalism, as we might expect, but also against Oriental models of government, and against the Byronic poetry that, as Wordsworth saw it, pandered to Orientalist models. Wordsworth, in short, redefines Burkean discourse in an updated natural sublime intended as a corrective to the dangerous sexual and gender roles glamorized by Byron. As such, his poem, far from being a flight from politics into nature (the "retreat" that New Historicism has found to be characteristic of Wordsworth), is a politicization of nature in terms that are both traditional and innovative. They are also conservative.