Elizabeth Bishop: Poems

Landscape in Elizabeth Bishop's "Cape Breton" College

In “Cape Breton,” Elizabeth Bishop describes a landscape for the rigid cliffs and water that compose it, but also for its representation on a grander scale. The landscape is a representation of the peaceful world and how it is inevitably interrupted by human presence, affecting its ability to be natural. To Bishop, the landscape is intriguingly mysterious but is constantly awaiting on the arrival of civilization, proving that we cannot always have just nature, but rather we must have nature in relation to humans. Bishop describes a landscape not as a world of things, but rather as a laying down of ideas and hidden meanings.

Bishop paints a mysterious landscape, one with a wall of mist that “hangs in layers among the valleys and gorges of the mainland” and “the ghosts of the glaciers” (Bishop 16, 18). The landscape is ominous and almost nervous, as if waiting on the arrival of something or someone. Bishop describes each feature of the landscape at more than just face-value. She describes each part of the landscape as having feelings rather than being lifeless and emotionless, suggesting that the landscape’s meaning goes beyond the water and rock it is composed of. The glaciers are described as ghost-like and the edges of rock...

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