A study of his poetry and its reflection Essay

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This will be done by utilizing a wide selection of Wordsmith’s poetry spanning the poet’s lifetime. HIS experiences are certainly mirrored In the subject matter of his creations and because of the Inextricable link between Wordsmith the man and Wordsmith the poet, the poems discussed in this paper have been separated into three sections. The first section will deal with poems from the Lyrical Ballads. The second section explores Wordsmith’s Sonnets. While the last section will deal with the “Ecclesiastical Sketches,” as they have been referred to by critics and poets the like.
In his famous poem “The Rainbow,” Wordsmith grandly proclaims that, “the Child Is the Father of the Man” (line 7). If we are to consider this claim on the basis not of its philosophical merit but rather of its personal relevance to the poet, this statement must be considered an absolute truth. For Wordsmith, through his poetry, explores himself: his thoughts, motives and feelings; in short Wordsmith poetry is in essence an exploration of the soul not of the mind and it is because of this that his poetry is so profound, so fluid and so “Romantic” In nature.
Thus Wordsmith’s poetry reflects him the man and hence the subject matter of his poems changes throughout the years as he goes through different experiences. In he poem “Lines written a few miles above Tinder Abbey,” Wordsmith discerns that there are three main stages of development: childhood, youth and manhood. Indeed these stages can be likened to Wordsmith’s poetical development. The publication of Lyrical Ballads marked Wordsmith’s birth and early childhood while the Sonnets of 1 802 and beyond definitely reflect a wiser, worldlier Wordsmith.
However it is in his Ecclesiastical Sketches that Wordsmith the poet reaches the pinnacle of his development: his manhood in the world of poetry. Hence the separation of this paper into the three stages of his development. Wrought his life experiences, many of which are recounted in his poetry. There is, undoubtedly, a direct correlation between his life and his poetical works and a thorough knowledge of his background is necessary to understand his poetry and the stages that it undergoes. For example, the poetry of the Lyrical Ballads is light and carefree in tone and ambiance while that of the Sonnets is somber and reflective.
This is because Wordsmith suffers a period of political disillusionment with the defeat of the French Revolution which is heavily reflected in his poetry of the time. It follows naturally that if the subject matter and ambiance are affected by Wordsmith’s life then so would the themes and images of the poems. For these reasons, the poems have been separated into three distinct groupings to be explored separately. However while these poems may differ in content, they reflect the same elements of Romanticism seen in Wordsmith’s poetry.
In fact, the differences in content only serve to highlight Romanticism as a poetic style applicable to all genres of verse. BACKGROUND AND Contraindication”William wordsmith north of England. He homebodies the yeoman of England with its sturdy constitution and independence of mind” (11). So says R. S. Thomas in his introduction to “A Choice of Wordsmith’s Verse. ” His poetry is very reflective of his disposition and throughout his life the main constant in his poetry is its reverent response to and appreciation of nature.
If we are to return to the line, “The Child is the Father of the Man,” then Wordsmith’s poetry becomes as pure and as clear to us as the Cuckoo’s song was to him. For Wordsmith’s childhood, described at length in his epic poem the Prelude, was idyllic. In the Prelude book I he describes life as a baby in his nurse’s arms, hearing and being drawn to the music of the river Deterrent. His childhood follows along a similar theme of communion with nature. Indeed nature’s influence on the spirit is the underlying theme of his poems in Lyrical Ballads.
Then at the age of seventeen, after the deaths of his parents in 1778 and 1783, Wordsmith was separated from his five siblings and sent away to school at SST. John’s College in Cambridge. There his life was simple and unencumbered. Vacations were spent in walking tours around England and on the continent with friends. It was on these excursions that many of the ideas expressed in Wordsmith’s poetry began to take shape. His deep appreciation of nature developed into a more sublime, spiritual communion. The Revolutionary Years 1791, Wordsmith’s poetic life began in earnest.
He revisited France where he came into brief contact with a Frenchman, Annette Balloon, by whom he had a child. His reunion with his daughter is beautifully depicted in his sonnet, “It is a beauteous evening, calm and free. “On this visit to France, Wordsmith became engrossed in the literary work and philosophies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Because of this influence, he developed strong republican sympathies and French people. In 1793 he returned to England where the excitement of the revolution quickly descended into disillusionment with the beginning of the Reign of Terror in September 1793.
Wordsmith’s actions during the French Revolution have been alternatively praised and criticized by critics. Those who praise his actions claim that Wordsmith showed himself to be a morally sound individual, who, sympathetic to the plight of a people, was moved into action. Others view Wordsmith’s timely departure before the war as form of escapism. Whatever the case, the French Revolution heavily impacted upon him and his poetry, and after the “death” of the revolution Wordsmith became depressed and angered with his fellow man.
As Graham Hough, Professor of English at Cambridge University states,let is customary to reproach Wordsmith for abandoning it (the revolution), which is absurd; even Romantic poets must be permitted to grow up. What we can legitimately regret is that he abandoned so much with it, so many of the ideals that should have been immune to historical disappointment. (53)This abandonment of deals is found in the Sonnets which tell of Wordsmith’s worldly disillusionment and later embitterment.
The abandonment becomes even more apparent in the later Ecclesiastical Sketches which showcase Wordsmith’s seldom seen cynical side where biting remarks with a distinctly fatalistic tone reign. Then in the winter of 1794, he fled England to avoid military conscription and went with his sister, Dorothy, to Germany. That winter was indeed a revolutionary one for it was here that Wordsmith’s and Samuel Taylor Coleridge friendship blossomed. The winter spent in each other’s company precipitated the publication of the Lyrical Ballads in 1798 and marked in earnest the popularization of Romanticism in Britain.
The Reclusive Hearst years 1802 and 1803 were busy ones for Wordsmith. 1802 saw him married to a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson. Before the wedding, Wordsmith revisited France for a settling of affairs between him and Annette. While in France he spent some time with his illegitimate daughter, Caroline. However following this, Wordsmith and his wife installed themselves at their new home from which he seldom vacated. But more importantly, these years saw a revival in Wordsmith’s political interests which are reflected in his sonnets, composed around this time.
For in 1802 the Peace of Amines was concluded with France formalizing Britain’s recognition of the newly formed French Republic, a move which was welcomed by liberal sympathizers. This political revival elevated Wordsmith’s verse to new heights and his sonnets are profound in their expressions of disappointment, tempered with newfound hope. The Declined again Wordsmith’s political hopes came crashing to the ground when the unstable period of peace ended in the beginning of a personal despotism This was all too much for Wordsmith to bear and his later work shows his defeatist attitude and the lack of hope with which he became imbibed.
WORDSMITH THE Reinterpretation’s, as succinctly defined by wisped. Org, “is a complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Western Europe. ” The Romantic Period ushered in a period of literary revolution where old fashion neoclassical ideals were permanently abolished. Before the advent of Romanticism, emphasis in poetry was placed on the order and balance of reasoned thoughts. Poets had to adhere to strict rules of form and diction and the higher the level of elevation of language, the greater the substance of the poetry created.
Furthermore, the subject matter of the poem was also a matter of tacit understanding amongst most poets. For poems depicted Kings, Queens and Gods and described major historical, social and political events. Hence why Wordsmith’s poetry has been hailed by many as revolutionary; for it was only with the birth of Romanticism that ideas such as nature, human imagination, childhood, and the ability to recall emotional memories of both happiness and arrow were able to be discussed and dissected in poetry.
For as Hough reiterates in “The Romantic Poets,” The effect of Wordsmith’s critical doctrines is indeed not exhausted yet; though there are probably few poets today who are directly under his influence, many of the feelings about diction and poetic ornament that now seem almost instinctive are the direct result of the Workstations reforms. (67-8)These Workstations reforms are legendary: the poet’s thoughts on language and diction, his austere pantheism and the wide variety of the emotions his poetry evokes in the reader are all precepts upon which modern otter has been founded.
The elements of Romanticism that will be focused on in this paper have already been outlined. Wordsmith’s emphasis on Nature, his language, the thoughts and feelings expressed and his development of tone and ambiance will all be examined in detail. While his reverence for nature and his thoughts on language remained unchanged during his poetic lifetime, the thoughts and feelings expressed in his poetry were all linked, as previously indicated, to his personal development. Thus differences in subject matter will be fully noted and their historical importance explained.
Furthermore, Wordsmith’s development of tone and ambiance will also be integral as it was through this development that he managed to evoke emotions in the reader. The emotions the poems evoked in me personally as a student of the “Workstations reforms” will be explored and the poems viability as Romantic pieces of literature will then be ascertained. Singularly remembered by most as the pre-eminent poet of nature. Critics have debated for decades over how to classify the influence that nature has had on him and his poetry. Most agree that Wordsmith’s poetry is pantheistic but this view may wrongly implicate him.
While I personally agree with the critics, there is another side to the story. For Wordsmith was, in earnest, more of a mystic than a pantheist in that he believed in a higher spiritual experience that man could enjoy. He was always denied being a pantheist, but the spiritual experience which he described lent divine qualities to both the Child and to Nature which strengthened critics’ claims that Wordsmith believed there was divinity in all things. However this was never the case, though he definitely associated both Nature and the Child with the divine. Romanticism was concerned with nature in this regard. Romantic poets all shared
Wordsmith’s belief that man, through quiet reflection and communion with nature, could be cleansed. This is in fact Just what Wordsmith prescribes. In the face of the social and political upheaval of the French Revolution he created the poem “Lines written a few miles above Tinder Abbey”, a testament to Wordsmith’s belief in nature as divine. In fact, nature’s divine presence in Wordsmith’s life is explored in many of his early lyrics. He uses Lucy to represent himself-beautiful and blessed because of Nature’s bountiful blessings. He describes nature as an actual being, an influence- a parent, teacher, guardian, comforter and guide.
However it is in the poem “Lines written a few miles above Tinder Abbey” that Wordsmith really comes into his stride in describing the metaphysical union that he shares with nature. In this poem, two important Workstations themes are discussed: Nature’s tranquility and the sublime qualities of nature. In the poem, Wordsmith opens with these soft and soothing lines:… L hear/ These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs/With a sweet inland murmur. — Once again/Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs/ which on a wild secluded scene impress/ Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect/ The landscape to the quiet of the sky. -8)Later in the stanza he describes the scene as a “pastoral farm” and this utopian concept certainly, with the above excerpt, conveys the tranquility that Wordsmith feels at the river Ye. He later expresses that when in the city or when stressed or sad, he would conjure up the image of the wide natural vista of the landscape and become immediately calm again. Such is the effect of the river; of nature! Len the poem, Wordsmith calls himself a “worshipper of Nature,” and this is certainly a pantheistic poem:To them I may have owed another gift/ Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood…
In which the heavy and he weary weight/ Of all this unintelligible world/ Is lightened-that serene and blessed frame/ And even the motion of our human blood/ Almost suspended we are laid asleep/ In body and become a living soul/ While with an eye made quiet by the power/ Of harmony, and the deep power of Joy/ We see into the life of things. (37-47)The above quotation is probably one of the most talked about phenomenon in English poetry for here Wordsmith is blatantly alluding to a metaphysical experience of sorts; but even more so, a metaphysical communion with nature.
This idea was regarded as avian-garden at its conception but has since been recognized by any to hold considerable philosophical weight. Whatever your stance on the power of nature over man, the pure power of Wordsmith’s poetry in this passage cannot be denied for here Wordsmith’s power comes from his conviction and the reverent tone with which he describes the experience. Nature in the Sonnets the poem “It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,” Wordsmith’s reunion with his daughter is chronicled. In this poem religious imagery abounds and nature as sublime is seen in Wordsmith’s link between nature and God.
Moreover the ability of nature to sooth the poet is seen almost reflected in his Houghton as he must first look to nature for support and comfort before he can address his daughter. The divinity of nature is seen in the opening lines of the poem. In fact the whole octave of the sonnet describes nature in this way: “The holy time is quiet as a Nun/ Breathless with adoration… The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea” (2-3, 5). In these lines nature is compared with explicitly religious ideas to introduce the idea of nature as a link between man and God- the truly divine.
By associating both nature and the child (“Thou lies in Abraham’s bosom all the year” (12)) with God, Wordsmith creates continuity. The lines, “It is a beauteous evening, calm and free… The broad sun/ Is sinking down in its tranquility” (1 , 3-4), clearly describe the soothing presence of nature on Wordsmith. This whole poem reflects the quietness of the atmosphere in the lofty description of nature and the gentle address to his daughter. Nature in the Ecclesiastical Sketchiness of Wordsmith’s most compelling narratives is the poem “Resolution and Independence,” which describes a meeting between the speaker and an old “Leech- gatherer. In this poem, while none of nature’s beauty is lost, there is some discord between nature and the speaker’s state of mind. In the previous poems the poet’s continuity with the atmosphere and with nature was seen however in Resolution and Independence, nature is almost mocking the speaker. This change is definitely in keeping with Wordsmith’s new attitude of worldly disillusionment as the poem will prove:There was a roaring in the wind all night, /The rain came heavily and fell in floods; ‘But now the sun is rising clam and bright; /The birds are singing in the distant woods… Saw the hare that raced about with Joy; / I thick upon me came; / Dim sadness-and blind thoughts, I knew not, nor could name…. Solitude, pain of heart, distress and poverty. (1-3, 16-8, 27-8, 35)The above passage spans stanzas I-V and describes the landscape and the speaker’s state of mind. The night before there was a storm and now nature is calm and gay whilst the speaker is undergoing an inner storm of doubt and worry. The contrast between nature’s blitheness and the speaker’s own dreary disposition emphasizes the discord that Wordsmith felt with his fellow man and by extension with the universe.
His ideas on continuity have already been recounted and thus the extent of the pain he felt because of his disunity can be fully understood. For in his later years, Wordsmith was unable to recapture the beautiful spiritual experience of which he describes in Tinder Abbey. The loss of his ability to commune with nature on that level has been linked to his embitterment with man due to political disappointment which greatly depressed him. Wordsmith then becomes almost Jealous of nature’s harmony because he is unable to partake in it and so tries to block nature out.
This is almost an unspeakable crime in Wordsmith’s ethical rulebook; one does not ignore nature. Moreover, the poet’s description of the Old Man, and importantly the Old Man’s link to nature, further underscores the poet’s fall from grace: “Motionless as a Cloud the Old Man stood, / That hearth not the loud winds when they call/And movement all together, if it move at all” (73-5). However in true Workstations fashion the speaker, and presumably the poet, are made to see sense and are pulled out of their dreary wanderings by a conversation with the wise and humble old man who puts everything in perspective for the poet.
Therefore the effect of nature on the poet is still seen as it is almost as if the Leech- Gatherer is sent by Nature herself to rouse Wordsmith’s spirits, such is the link teens the old man and the surroundings. Thus through these distinctly Workstations concepts, the undercurrent of Romanticism is evidently seen. For while Wordsmith uses personal experience to fortify his stance on nature, the Romantic idea of appreciating nature’s beauty for not only it’s aesthetic greatness but also for the emotional healing it offers those willing to look. THE LANGUAGE OF COMMON Northwester’s thoughts on language are best described in his own words.
In the Preface of the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsmith expresses his view of poetry, the role of the Poet and his stance on engage and poetic ornament. Wordsmith’s expression of poetry as, “the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquility” became a benchmark of Romanticism and with it came his views on language:The principal object, then, proposed in these Poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible in a vanity, they convey their feelings and notions in simple and unallocated expressions.
Accordingly, such a language, arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings, is a more permanent, and a far more philosophical language, than hat which is frequently substituted for it by Poets. This quotation, while rather long, is extremely important for it expresses Wordsmith’s purpose as a writer and completely separates him from neoclassical poets. For here we have Wordsmith boldly proclaiming that his poetry is for everyone! It is a reflection of ordinary life he says; poetic ornament is necessary he cries and poets who pride their poetry on this are not poets.
So why does Wordsmith embark on such a grand literary revolution? Let us not forget where he came from. Wordsmith was a highlander; a yeoman. He grew up eating poetry that was unrelated perhaps even at times incomprehensible to a young man from a background such as his. Hence it was his responsibility to create a whole new genre of poetry that could be read and enjoyed by the masses. This is really what Romanticism was all about: changing the rules to create a new level playing field where everyone had a voice. Throughout Wordsmith’s literary career, he remains true to his thoughts as intimated in the preface.
Poems such as Lucy Gray, The Rainbow and the Solitary Reaper published in 1799, 1802 and 1807 respectively are all testament to Wordsmith’s view of language. In his preface however, Wordsmith states his opinions as fact which is where my opinion seems to differ from his. For Wordsmith’s feelings about language as being more profound in its simplicity are more personal opinion than absolute truth. Indeed the poems where he does not adhere strictly to his rule on language are some of his most profound. Tinder Abbey, Mutability and Intimations on Immortality are some of his most widely praised poems and they all violate his golden rule.
This is not to undermine Wordsmith’s edict but rather to show that it is not an absolute one for he was able to confer the same profundity into all his poems, no tater the diction used. WORKSTATIONS PHILOSOPHIESWordsworth has been known to refer to himself as a philosopher however I am not of the opinion that he was ever truly one. In his poems though, many aspects of other people’s philosophies are dissected and given a Workstations twist. While the discussion of philosophy featured prominently in neoclassical poetry, what is different about Romantic poetry is that emphasis was placed on thoughts and feelings over reasoned thought.
In Wordsmith’s poetry he was able to combine these two elements of emotion and philosophy to create ideas that were truly unique Thoughts and Feelings expressed in the Lyrical Bailsman of Wordsmith’s lyrics are deceptively simple poems, not only because of his diction but also because of his simple rhyme scheme. One such poem “Lines written in Early Spring” expresses two extremely essential ideas: Heartless philosophy of Associations and Darning’s theory of the Sensibility of Plants. Associations is a complex psychological theory that gives insight into the human personality.
Many critics of Hartley claim that his description of the emotional and moral process is coldly mechanical in that he saw human development as bound by environment and necessity. Hartley thought that the human mind linked similar situations together until we developed “sensibilities” from these associations. However Wordsmith was not concerned with the root of Associations but rather the grand idea of it all as expressed in the poem: “To her fair works did Nature link/ The human soul that through me ran. Only Wordsmith the “nature poet” could take such a scientific theory and manage to convey a spiritual association between the divinity of nature and the human soul. But this was a central Workstations belief as we have already seen and in the preface Wordsmith says that man and nature are essentially adapted to each other. Another great Workstations concept was the belief in Darning’s theory of the sensibility of plants, I. E. That plants have the natural capacity for conscious thought. This belief is clearly seen the poem: “The birds around me hopped and played…
The budding twigs spread out their fan/ To catch the breezy air/ And I must think do all I can/ That there was pleasure there” (13, 17-20). While these thoughts or concepts are expressions of the poet’s moral wanderings, the soul of Wordsmith’s poetry is in the emotion or feeling he conveys to the reader. In this poem, Wordsmith’s feelings of lost revolutionary zeal are expressed. He grieves for “what man has made of man” (8) and plaintively appeals to mankind: “have I not reason to lament what man has made of man? (23-4)Thoughts and feelings expressed in the Syntheses sentiments of lamentation are echoed in Wordsmith’s sonnets. In his “London 1802,” he expresses his general dissatisfaction and disillusionment with England. The poem opens with an apostrophe (direct address) to the great British poet John Milton. With this cry of desperation, Wordsmith launches into a heated description of present England and why the entry is in need of a savior:She is a fen/Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen, [Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower/Have forfeited their ancient English dower/Of inward happiness.
We are selfish men; / Oh! Raise us up, return to us again; [And give us manners, virtue, freedom and power. (2-8)Len this quote, Wordsmith denounces the church, state, literary world, the home and the throne. Here he is strong and direct in his placement of blame for he says “we are selfish men. ” The whole country is to blame for the erosion of the moral values that Thoughts and Feelings expressed in the Ecclesiastical Sketches poem “Ode: Intimations on Immortality” is almost a philosophical discourse. In this poem ideas are all interconnected, so much so that readers are distantly reminded of Heartless theory.
However this poem is a very important one historically as it is Wordsmith’s own explanation to the line “the Child is the Father of the Man:”Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: / The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star/ Hath had elsewhere its setting, / And cometh from afar: / Not in entire forgetfulness, / And not in utter nakedness/ But trailing clouds of glory do we come… Heaven lies about us in our infancy! / Shares of the prison-house begin to close/ Upon the growing Boy/ But He/ Beholds the light, and whence it flows…
The Youth who daily farther from the east/ Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest… At length the Man perceives it die away, / And fade into the light of common day. (59-64, 66-70, 71-2, 76-7)Wordsmith’s explanation of his famous line in this metaphysical exultation is only one of the two ideas so beautifully expressed in the passage above. For Wordsmith’s cynical view of the world is also seen. However to first discuss the metaphysical, Wordsmith lives that the Child is born trailing clouds of immortality in that the child is born with some knowledge of the divine home from which we were all brought.
However as time passes and especially with adolescence, the child loses the ability to recall the divine until, in adulthood, the ability is completely lost. This idea in itself is not a new one; the idea of losing one’s childhood innocence to the conventions and routines of daily adult life is an ancient one. However it is the sadness and anger with which Wordsmith expresses these sentiments that makes them so profound. The first line of the passage sets the tone as a rather cynical proclamation of defeat. We are born to die, Wordsmith says as he goes on to elucidate his view.

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