Study Guide

Bearded Oaks Man and the Natural World

By Robert Penn Warren

Man and the Natural World

You'd think a poem about oaks would have more about oaks. But, as with other metaphysical poems, this guy starts with something real, a bit of nature, then gets pretty quickly into Man's relationship to it, as well as the stresses of civilization shaping the moment. What would you expect from a poet known as a "Southern Agrarian" (kind of like a gentleman farmer), but a communion or identification with the natural world? From the title "Bearded Oaks," the trees reign supreme over the scene. The two lovers are merely observers, nearly inanimate themselves in their stillness and silence.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What do you think the bearded oaks from the title symbolize?
  2. What's the speaker's opinion of humanity? How do you know? 
  3. Does the speaker's position about nature change throughout the poem? If so, how? 
  4. How are the four elements (fire, water, earth, and air) represented and ranked in this poem?

Chew on This

Nature doesn't really care about humanity (we hate to break it to you). Any serious reflection on the "big picture" will tell you how small and insignificant we really are.

Breathe deep, Shmoopers. Poetry is the perfect way to make peace between nature and human nature.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...