William Wordsworth

August 24, 2006


Major English Romantic Poet
Both parents died before he was fourteen
Spent boyhood life close to nature
Attended Cambridge University, after graduation spent two years in continental travel
Helped launch the Romantic Age (with Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Part of the big 6 male Romantic poets
Consciously made a radical break from conventional poetry: made his work an example of ‘plain living and high thinking’
England’s National poet


“It was published, as an experiment, which, I hoped, might be of some use to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of real language of men in a state of vivid sensation…”“For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings…”“What is a poet? To whom does he address himself? And what language is to be expected from him? He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endued with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.”

-Preface to Lyrical Ballads

-A simple Child, / That lightly draws its breath, / And feels its life in every limb, / What should it know of death?

‘How many are you, then,’ said I, / ‘If they two are in heaven?’ / Quick was the little Maid’s reply, / ‘O Master! we are seven.’
‘But they are dead; those two are dead! / Their spirits are in heaven!’ / ‘Twas throwing words away; for still / The little Maid would have her will, / And said, ‘Nay, we are seven!’

-We Are Seven

I gazed- and gazed- but little thought / What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie / In vacant of in pensive mood, / They flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude; / And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances with the daffodils.

-I wandered lonely as a cloud

Creates relation between man & nature
Creates emotion in tranquility through recollection

I saw her singing at her work, / And o’er the sicle bending;- / I listenend, motionless and still; / And, as I mounted up the hill, / The music in my heart I ore, / Long after it was heard no more.

-The Solitary Reaper

Stress on solitude
Creates a figure of the girl through the ‘peeping Tom’ view of the speaker
The song of humanity is more powerful than that of nature

Now free, / Free as a bird to settle where I will. / What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale / Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove / Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream / Shall with its murmur lull me into rest? / The earth is all before me: with a heart / Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty, / I look about; and should the chosen guide / Be nothing better than a wandering cloud, / I cannot miss my way.

Much wanting, so much wanting, in myself / That I recoil and droop, and seek repose / In listlessness from vain perlexity; / Unprofitably travelling toward the grave, / Like a false Steward who hath much received, / And renders nothing back.

Dust as we are, the immortal Spirit grows / Like harmony in music; there is a dark / Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles / discordant elements, makes them cling together / In one society. How strange that all / The terrors, pains, and early miseries, / Regrets, vexations, lassitudes, interfused / Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part, / And that a needful part, in making up / The calm existence that is mine when I / Am worth of myself! Praise to the end!

Ye presences of Nature, in the sky, / And on the earth! Ye visions of the hills! / And Souls of lonely places! can I think / A vulgar hope was yours when ye emloyed / Such ministry, when ye, through many a year, / Haunting me thus among my boyish sports, / On caves and trees, upon the woods and hills, / Impressed upon all forms the characters / Of danger or desire; and thus did make / The surface of the universal earth / With triumph and delight, with hope and fear, / Work like a sea?

-The Prelude or Growth of a Poet’s Mind, Book First; Introduction, Childhood, and School-time


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