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Thread: An Organized Discussion of the Romantics

  1. #16
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    At the same time that Wordsworth is reacting against the last two centuries of verse, I believe there is also a nostalgia present in his poetry, which might seem at the first paradoxical. Wordsworth's poetry does not look forwards to the future but backwards; he may be advocating the everyday language of men, but he is at the same time advocating a rustic way of life that is starting to become a little old-fashioned. Wordsworth admits that men-of-age had become more city-seeking than ever before and, if my history is not wrong, I believe men started to work in factories around this time with machines and steam power. The recommendations in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776) did not take long to be put in play, and one can imagine the division of labor that was introduced at the time. Wordsworth says of his time,

    The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the encreasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have conformed themselves. The invaluable works of our elder writers, I had almost said the works of Shakespeare and Milton, are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse.--When I think upon this degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation I am almost ashamed to have spoken of the feeble effort with which I have endeavoured to counteract it; and reflecting upon the magnitude of the general evil, I should be oppressed with no dishonorable melancholy, had I not a deep impression of certain inherent and indestructible qualities of the human mind, and likewise of certain powers in the great and permanent objects that act upon it which are equally inherent and indestructible; and did I not further add to this impression a belief that the time is approaching when the evil will be systematically opposed by men of greater powers and with far more distinguished success.
    One sees that Wordsworth is not only reacting against imitative poetry, but is more profoundly reacting against the time he lived in, the manners of time, the predominant ways of life... uniformity, conformity, and somewhat surprisingly also the 'vulgar' novels that were being written at the time, which featured the 'extraordinary incidents that men craved for'. Instead of writing a poetry that depicts these new trends in living, Wordsworth chooses to depict the low and rustic life:

    maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that situation our elementary feelings exist in a state of greater simplicity and consequently may be more accurately contemplated and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings; and from the necessary character of rural occupations are more easily comprehended; and are more durable; and lastly, because in that situation the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature. The language too of these men is adopted (purified indeed from what appear to be its real defects, from all lasting and rational causes of dislike or disgust) because such men hourly communicate with the best objects from which the best part of language is originally derived; and because, from their rank in society and the sameness and narrow circle of their intercourse, being less under the action of social vanity they convey their feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions.
    Wordsworth is often described as a nature poet, but what motivated him to explore the theme of nature? One idea is that it is a reaction against an emerging industrial and urban way of life; while Wordsworth looks to the present for his form he looks to the past for his content. Inasmuch as his Preface is a manifesto for a new form of poetry, it is also a manifesto for old habits of mind. The themes of nature and rustic life go hand-in-han d; the rural life comes into everyday contact with the 'best objects in life' - with nature. The men who interest Wordsworth are those who stay in contact with the earth. I think the fact that he uses their language is less a reaction against archaisms than it is an homage to a way of life that has become nostalgic.

    In "Strange fits of passion I have known" the speaker comes to a sudden and surprising final thought, which is almost a non sequitur to the rest of the poem: "If lucy should be dead!" What reason does he have to believe this? None whatsoever. This thought can be inspired by nothing else but nature; it is prophesied to him by the sinking moon, by the hill on which he is rising, the cottage in the distance and the night that is progressing. I also believe, though I am a little confused on this subject, that Wordsworth allows for the speaker to be dreaming all the while: "In one of those sweet dreams I slept." One can see, then, how nature alone provides the inspiration for the speaker's feelings - how his final thought is not led up to by reason but by an imagination in accordance with the progression of the night, an imagination affected by the impetus of nature.
    Last edited by ktm5124; 08-01-2010 at 04:40 PM.

  2. #17
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    I think you make some interesting points Ktm, particularly about the claimed progressive nature of his subject in rejecting the industrialisation that was occurring apace. You comments reminded me of Blake's Dark Satanic Mills, which illustrate a theme already set. As I was reading the earlier comments, and Wordworth's preface, his desire for a simplification of the language reminded me of Orwell's essay on the language promoting the same thing. It's funny that this theme continues today with the plan engish movement, and the variations on this with common complaints about various literacies such as text language.

    I think your comments upon the poem are also pertinent given the moon is a sybol for the female and it takes place entirely in his head.

  3. #18
    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    After rereading the collection yesterday I think I'm finally up to answering the big question:

    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    I think pertinent questions we could ask is if Wordsworth is achieving what he sets out to do according to the Preface. Ignore the fact that Wordsworth complains about the use of rhyme, then chooses to write a ballad, a rhyming form.
    And that is a big question. It involves defining what Wordsworth set out to do, and interpreting whether the poems fit the prediction. The first step of this is doubly hard because Wordsworth is not exactly forthcoming about what he means in some places. Which poets "think they are conferring honour upon themselves, in proportion as they separate themselves from the sympathies of men?" What are the "certain powers in the great and permanent objects?" Wordsworth raises these questions in a context that he hardly bothers to reproduce for the reader, but rather assumes a certain level of knowledge--what is now historical knowledge. So I'm going to have to fill in some of the missing information here in order to fully answer the question. Some of it's probably obvious, but I suppose someone's got to bring it up.

    Wordsworth was not alone when he tried to turn poetry toward more ordinary, colloquial language. In fact, one of the literary fads of the 1790's was the German ballad Leonore by Gottfried August Bürger. The notice from the Monthly Magazine in 1796 for the English translation of the Ballad included this bit of praise:

    His [Bürger's] extraordinary powers of language are founded on a rejection of the conventional phraseology of regular poetry, in favor of popular forms of expression, but by the listening artist from the voice of agitated nature.
    This review is also where Wordsworth and Coleridge first came across Bürger, a writer who has been called the "immediate inspiration of Wordsworth's interest in the ballad" (S.M. Parrish The Art of the Lyrical Ballads 1973). When Wordsworth wrote the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads he was participating in a sea change that was already well underway. His reaction to it is unique--and it's one the of the few lasting ones that anyone cares to read--but it's still one that should be understood as part of a discussion. Wordsworth wasn't single-handedly changing literature forever, but rather was noticing the change and giving it a certain direction. The society that had given rise to neoclassical poets (those that "think they are conferring honour upon themselves, in proportion as they separate themselves from the sympathies of men") was starting to pass away. The nineteenth-century readership would not be a closely knit group of well-educated men, but rather would change into a diverse crowd of people from different classes and levels of education. Imitating Horace and making some clever rhymes would no longer carry a work into multiple editions. Neither Bürger nor Wordsworth were directly responsible for this, but they did determine the direction of what new poetry would be. Much of the motivation behind their pleas for "common" language is a desire to encourage the new lesser-educated readers to read poetry and replace the former academic readers. As Bürger would put it:

    Anyone who denies [popularity] in theory or in practice puts the whole business of poetry on a false track and works against its true purpose. He draws this universal, human art out of the sphere of influence that it belongs to, pulls it away from the marketplace of life and exiles it to a narrow cell like that in which the surveyor measures and calculates or in which the metaphysician expounds on something obscure before his few students
    The desire to speak to in a large "marketplace" rather than to a "few students" is palpable. Wordsworth may be operating with similar motives when he says in the Preface that he hopes to speak to the whole of mankind rather than "furnish food for fickle tastes, and fickle appetites, of their own creation."

    Just as Wordsworth met some unfavorable reactions in England, though, Bürger roused powerful opposition from the German public. One the strongest cases against Bürger was made by the famous critic, poet, and dramatist Frederick Schiller. He argued that since "the expansion of knowledge and the division of labor" there is no single humanity that the poet can court. When one pretends to write for humanity with common language they are actually just pandering to the lowest common denominator. True art for Schiller must "abandon actuality" (which is divided between classes and scientific disciplines), and instead "soar with becoming boldness above our wants and needs, for art is a daughter of freedom and takes her orders from the necessity inherent in minds, not from exigencies in matter" (Aesthetic Letters, 1791? [I believe]). Between Bürger and Schiller there was an argument about where poetry would go once Neoclassicism dissolved. Would it play for sympathy with the newly literate masses, or would it pursue an abstract, metaphysical understanding of humanity?

    Interestingly, Wordsworth tried to combine these two direction in the Preface. Even though Bürger's Leonore had a large influence on Wordsworth's view of form, he was never fully convinced that Bürger was a good poet. He held on to some of the same reservations that Schiller worried about. In a letter to Coleridge Wordsworth would criticize Bürger for his reliance on "incidents" which "are among the lowest allurement of poetry." He concludes: "I do not find those higher beauties which can entitle him to the name of a great poet." In the Preface, it's "incidents" that the ignorant, urban masses most want: "where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident." Contrary to what he perceives as an unhealthy taste, the Lyrical Ballads are designed so that "the feeling therein developed gives the importance to the action and situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling." This "feeling" would be something closely allied to Schiller's metaphysical truth. The Preface has it that the "passions" evokes are designed to be "incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature."

    In this way, Wordsworth tries to combine both sides of the argument. He wants to encourage a less literate audience to appreciate art, but he also wants to elevate his audience with the "beautiful and permanent forms of nature." Is he successful? Looking at just the first part (encouraging new readers), I would say yes--eventually. Initially, he wasn't successful with very many readers at all, but eventually his works did become the accessible gateway into poetry he meant them to be. After all, almost all the Victorians saw him in this light. He even plays a large role in the poetic education of JS Mill. I think even to this day the Lyrical Ballads is an excellent introduction to poetry, and I frequently suggest it to people looking to get into the form. It's something that can be read without much prior reading (contrary to what the above paragraphs would have you believe). Yet it also something with a lot of payoff. Death, familial love, joy of life, contemplation, theistic doubt, almost all of the themes still resonate, and the poetry brings them to you in such a clear way.

    The second goal in the Lyrical Ballads is harder to gauge: does the Lyrical Ballads bring readers closer to what's permanent or intrinsic in the world? This is so hard to measure, in fact, that I'm going to go get something to eat and finish this later.
    "Par instants je suis le Pauvre Navire
    [...] Par instants je meurs la mort du Pecheur
    [...] O mais! par instants"

    --"Birds in the Night" by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). Join the discussion here: http://www.online-literature.com/for...5&goto=newpost

  4. #19
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Wordsworth's interest in the rural, simplistic life is probably related to the growing industrialization of the time. However, I think it has more to do with the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who argued that man is naturally good, and society harms man by distancing them from their simple natural state. I've tried reading Rousseau's Origins of Inequality, and it's a painful read, I think it's mostly nonsense (well intentioned though), but it was certainly influential nonsense that influenced generations. I'm not adding anything too revolutionary to the discussion though haha.

    Tying Rousseau's philosophy in with Quark's post, I think Wordsworth might have thought that his depictions of humans in nature, and basic human emotions and experiences was approaching what he thought was the intrinsic good of people, but I don't think many people would agree with that view today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulclem View Post
    I think you make some interesting points Ktm, particularly about the claimed progressive nature of his subject in rejecting the industrialisation that was occurring apace. You comments reminded me of Blake's Dark Satanic Mills, which illustrate a theme already set. As I was reading the earlier comments, and Wordworth's preface, his desire for a simplification of the language reminded me of Orwell's essay on the language promoting the same thing. It's funny that this theme continues today with the plan engish movement, and the variations on this with common complaints about various literacies such as text language.
    Definitely - Wordsworth's arguments crop up again and again in history. When I came upon the line in the Preface where Wordsworth explains his desire to depict the low and rustic life, noting the simplicity and greatness of their passions, I was reminded of a comment made by Steinbeck, where he said that, in the time of his writing, nobility was most present in the poor. This is very similar to Wordsworth's sentiment.


    Quark - what an interesting post! I had no idea about the discussion you raise that was going on prior to Wordsworth. When I have time I will make a more substantial reply... I am ashamed to say I am at work right now :-)
    Last edited by ktm5124; 08-02-2010 at 01:32 PM.

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    Bear in mind, too, Wordsworth's early life - he was born and brought up in the Lake District, an isolated area of lakes and hills, then as now, largely untouched by industrialisation. The influence of the beauty of nature is a subject which recurs in his later work, especially in The Prelude. He would have been much in the company of plain-speaking folk.

    Thanks for the background information, Quark - it's new to me too. Though I'm a great believer in the Text, the whole Text and nothing but the Text, I'm increasingly coming to believe that the more we know about the thinking surrounding the inception of a work, it's Zeitgeist, so to speak, the more is added to its comprehension.
    Last edited by kasie; 08-02-2010 at 04:28 PM.

  7. #22
    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    Some great replies so far (despite the opinions of certain nay-sayers who clearly never learned the old maxim, "if you can't say anything nice..." )

    Quark--Thanks for the additional historical context. (Is the romantic period an area of expertise for you? And if it is, do we get to pelt you with all our burning historical and contextual questions? ) I had assumed that he was taking part in some sort of contemporary discussion, but had little to no knowledge of who he was either rejecting or following, so this is useful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quark
    In this way, Wordsworth tries to combine both sides of the argument. He wants to encourage a less literate audience to appreciate art, but he also wants to elevate his audience with the "beautiful and permanent forms of nature." Is he successful? Looking at just the first part (encouraging new readers), I would say yes--eventually. Initially, he wasn't successful with very many readers at all, but eventually his works did become the accessible gateway into poetry he meant them to be. After all, almost all the Victorians saw him in this light. He even plays a large role in the poetic education of JS Mill. I think even to this day the Lyrical Ballads is an excellent introduction to poetry, and I frequently suggest it to people looking to get into the form. It's something that can be read without much prior reading (contrary to what the above paragraphs would have you believe). Yet it also something with a lot of payoff. Death, familial love, joy of life, contemplation, theistic doubt, almost all of the themes still resonate, and the poetry brings them to you in such a clear way.
    I think this is an excellent point, both about Wordsworth and possibly many of the well known romantic poets. I personally was ushered into the world of poetry via Wordsworth and Keats (or, perhaps more accurately, I began to appreciate poetry in a more full and profound way for the first time reading them) and, like you, sometimes recommend them to people as "gateway" poets.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quark
    We're lead to think a bit about what happened to Lucy, but even more so we wonder what the relationship with the speaker was. Lucy is used consistently in the poems as a sort of undefined love interest of the speaker, we learn very little about her, and she is essentially a device used by Wordsworth to explore emotions related to unrequited love.
    Since you've brought up "She dwelt among the untrodden ways," I wanted to add to this the very powerful way in which the dynamic you are describing also prompts an identification with the speaker on the part of the reader, which in turn opens the reader up to a broader consideration of his/her connection with others. The poem is set up to emphasize that Lucy was a person that we the readers neither knew nor cared about. Then, when the degree to which the speaker of the poem cared comes out at the end, it not only prompts us to wonder about his relationship to her, but also to identify with the speaker as someone who cares for someone as we ourselves have cared for people important to us in our lives. As a result of this identification with the speaker, the reader is further invited to identify Lucy with someone he or she has loved and perhaps also to realize that the people we love may be considered just as inconsequential to others as Lucy was to us (at least before we read this poem). The move to end the poem on this personal note makes us more aware of the Lucys of the world, more apt to feel that we should be more mindful of the way people we may not know or think we have a bond to are potentially people whom we could (and perhaps should) care about ourselves. So, I would add to my previous post that it is not only a glimpse of open interiority in which we become interested in the mind of the speaker, but a glimpse of potential shared interiority, in which we shift our perception to that of the speaker that makes Wordsworth's poetry remarkable. The way "She dwelt among the untrodden ways" moves us to feel that we are, to use the words of another poet, "involved in mankind" is certainly what makes the poem especially beautiful to me, and I imagine this is true for most readers of the poem.

    KTMand OrphanPip also bring up some important points about the probable influence of both the dawning industrial age and of the philosophy of figures like Rousseau upon Wordsworth's poetry. I doubt that any would dispute that both of these had an impact on Wordsworth's world view. However, I think that Kasie brings up an extremely important point in reminding us all that Wordsworth was also someone who had considerable first hand experience of nature and the rural countryside.

    I would like to explore a particular word that KTM brings up in relation to this point. This word is "nostalgia." I'll quote part of KTM's post:

    Quote Originally Posted by ktm
    At the same time that Wordsworth is reacting against the last two centuries of verse, I believe there is also a nostalgia present in his poetry, which might seem at the first paradoxical. Wordsworth's poetry does not look forwards to the future but backwards; he may be advocating the everyday language of men, but he is at the same time advocating a rustic way of life that is starting to become a little old-fashioned.
    I think you're absolutely right that "nostalgia" is an important term to bring up in relation to Wordsworth, however I think it may be even more complex and paradoxical a term than you suggest here. As Kasie suggests, nature and rural life were not, in fact a part of the past for Wordsworth but very much his present, and a treasured part of his present experience throughout the majority of his life. It's always a good idea when possible to start by looking at the obvious answer, and in Wordsworth's case the most obvious answer to the question of why he was a nature poet was that he loved the natural world. He comes across as a person and a poet who had a very true and profound attachment to nature as the thing which helped him to most clearly understand the ground (literal and figurative) he had in common with fellow human beings and also helped him to most closely connect with the roots of his own emotional and spiritual parts.

    This said, you're right that living in the industrial age also played a considerable role in the way he situated himself as a nature poet, and the contrast between the emerging industrial no doubt was a large part of what prompted him to think about and express his love of nature so strongly and consciously in his work. He addresses this perhaps most clearly in the well known sonnet, "The world is too much with us" http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15878 However, in thinking of Wordsworth as a nostalgic poet, he is certainly not one for whom nostalgia means that he is sitting around in a city thinking of the good old days of rural life from a considerable distance, because the rural life was a tangible part of his own present life (and this is one of the reasons that he is, not only a nature poet but a good nature poet). He did, however, see the potential for that life to become a thing of the past, and I think that as a result of that we do see a sort of crafted nostalgia emerge in his poetry, an idealized view of the natural world and its rustic people that creates a sense of nostalgia within the person for whom that life does seem to be a thing of the past. There certainly was a very real past nostalgia evoked for some readers of his own time and this is true to an even greater extent for the majority of us as readers of the 21st century. It may be worth considering whether Wordsworth would have thought of himself as looking "backwards" necessarily in writing about the natural world, or if he would have thought in terms of intervening to bring attention to and preserve what he saw as a vibrant part of his present world and what he imagined potentially continuing into the future. Perhaps one could call this almost a defensive or pre-emptive nostalgia: an attempt to create a sense of nature and rural life as a "lost place" that we all deeply treasure in order to inspire others to seek it out and to begin to value it before it truly is lost altogether. Certainly he has been partially successful in this given the numbers who flock to England for the purpose of making pilgrimages to the Lake Country.

    Of course, when it comes to Wordsworth and nostalgia the poem that could keep us talking for a year or two is "Tintern Abbey", but I'm not sure if we're ready to move on to that one yet or not. When we do, (speaking of poetic tourism) I've got some lovely b&w shots of the ruins looking spooky and romantic at dusk that I can post.
    Last edited by Petrarch's Love; 08-02-2010 at 08:32 PM.

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  8. #23
    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    Tying Rousseau's philosophy in with Quark's post, I think Wordsworth might have thought that his depictions of humans in nature, and basic human emotions and experiences was approaching what he thought was the intrinsic good of people, but I don't think many people would agree with that view today.
    Thanks for bringing that up OrphanPip because that really helped put together something that was hard for me to say. There's something that's not really satisfying about Wordsworth's philosophy: other than the obvious unanswered questions that his verse brings up like "why am I listening to someone talking about 'anchoring' their mind with nature rather than going out an 'anchoring' my own mind in nature?" No, there's something deeper that's always prevented me from fully agreeing with Wordsworth's program (and there really is a program if you read works like The Prelude). It's not there isn't enjoyment, and even great art to be found in Wordsworth. It's just that his message sometimes is a little shallow--particularly when you compare it to works like Rousseau's Discourses. I could be wrong about this. After all, there are plenty over very sophisticated people whose lives have been changed by the Lyrical Ballads or The Prelude, and I don't think that's a bad thing. If the poems bring hope and kindness into some people's lives that's actually probably a good thing. Granted, my heart is two sizes too small, but I won't begrudge anyone spiritual growth--even if it's from works that I find less than complete.

    This is my post, though, so I'm going to voice my own reservations about Wordsworth's philosophy. As the Preface lays it out, the Lyrical Ballads' goal is to trace the contours of man's untarnished mind--the progression of his thoughts and affections. And, while it's fashionable (and frequently necessary) for academic or scholars to rephrase declarations like this in historical or political terms, I'm going to take Wordsworth at his word and evaluate the poems based on the claims he makes for them in the Preface. Do they accurately follow the course of our innate consciousness? No, I don't find the poems compelling representations of our untaught minds. I actually find Rousseau far more interesting when he discusses--with truly revolutionary implications--how man first enters the world without attachment or desire. Rousseau's primitive man can take any form in the future. Rousseau's primitives represent something far more alien than Wordsworth's quaint rustics. The primitive man is something inaccessible to Rousseau, and that adds it a certain profundity that is lacking with Wordsworth. Rousseau's Discourses are a powerful reminder that the status quo is not the status quo ante, and that society can take many different forms--since none of them were determined by man's innate nature. Wordsworth's rustics maybe show us that we can cultivate a warm, benign gaze if we contemplate nature and the fond moments from our past. There's nothing really revolutionary in that. In fact, later generations (who had other philosophies entirely) found Wordsworth easy appropriate for their own purposes. To Victorian readers (sorry to keep going back to that, but it's what I know), Wordsworth was used to encourage the kind of warm sentimentality that Victorians thought should knit together families and lovers. It was considered an antidote to harsh societal pressures--not really a revolutionary statement about what's innate in mankind. Wordsworth's poetry lends itself to this kind of appropriation in a way that Rousseau doesn't. To me, that weakens the message. I've never been able to find the kind of meaning in Wordsworth that I do in, say, Rousseau.

    Don't misunderstand, though, I'm not (if I could double underline I would) saying Wordsworth was a bad poet--just a bad philosopher. The poetry is very powerful, so that's what I want to get to. I will get to it, too. I've just been juggling a few book clubs at once, so haven't had time to give this my full effort. Now that I'm through the Preface, though, I'm eager to post something about the poems.

    Quote Originally Posted by ktm5124 View Post
    Quark - what an interesting post! I had no idea about the discussion you raise that was going on prior to Wordsworth. When I have time I will make a more substantial reply... I am ashamed to say I am at work right now :-)
    Well, before it sounds like I'm completely taking credit for those observations, let me point out that many scholars have written about the Schiller/Bürger arguments. Many of the quotations I used were culled by Martha Woodmansee in The Author, Art, and the Market (1994?). She puts Wordsworth in a slightly different light, though. Still, I didn't do all of that work myself. I love LitNet and everyone on it, but no one is worth that much research!

    Quote Originally Posted by kasie View Post
    Though I'm a great believer in the Text, the whole Text and nothing but the Text, I'm increasingly coming to believe that the more we know about the thinking surrounding the inception of a work, it's Zeitgeist, so to speak, the more is added to its comprehension.
    Yeah, I too want to return to the text after all of those contextual notes, but I don't think there's a single one-size-fits-all approach to poetry. Some questions invite a historical approach (as I thought OrphanPip's did), but others demand close analysis of the text. That's what's great about LitNet. So many perspectives are represented on the forum, and eventually you hear from everyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Petrarch's Love View Post
    Some great replies so far (despite the opinions of certain nay-sayers who clearly never learned the old maxim, "if you can't say anything nice..." )
    Easy there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Petrarch's Love View Post
    Quark--Thanks for the additional historical context. (Is the romantic period an area of expertise for you?
    If you talk to the committee approving my exam list, then, yes, I'm a complete expert on the romantic poetry. Otherwise, no. Really, I'm much more comfortably with later prose.

    Quote Originally Posted by Petrarch's Love View Post
    And if it is, do we get to pelt you with all our burning historical and contextual questions? )
    Burning questions? No, I think I'm already burned out from last two posts. Let's talk poetry!

    Quote Originally Posted by Petrarch's Love View Post
    I think this is an excellent point, both about Wordsworth and possibly many of the well known romantic poets. I personally was ushered into the world of poetry via Wordsworth and Keats (or, perhaps more accurately, I began to appreciate poetry in a more full and profound way for the first time reading them)
    I can't remember who exactly got me into poetry first. More evidence that Rousseau is right: the pre-poetry Quark is unrecoverable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Petrarch's Love View Post
    Since you've brought up "She dwelt among the untrodden ways," I wanted to add to this the very powerful way in which the dynamic you are describing also prompts an identification with the speaker on the part of the reader, which in turn opens the reader up to a broader consideration of his/her connection with others.
    Oh, that's good. Yeah, I get that sense, too. The poems frequently are conduits through which to see our relationship with others. Do you think it's just about recognizing and contemplating our relationships? Or, do you think Wordsworth is trying to push our contemplation in any one direction?

    Quote Originally Posted by Petrarch's Love View Post
    The move to end the poem on this personal note makes us more aware of the Lucys of the world, more apt to feel that we should be more mindful of the way people we may not know or think we have a bond to are potentially people whom we could (and perhaps should) care about ourselves.
    That's probably a better way of putting what I called a "warm, benign gaze." I might add (but you probably already covered this in your first post) that the poem also encourages us to read our own lives in terms of our private Lucys. Lucy reminds us to value our own affections and truths above those recognized purely in society.

    Quote Originally Posted by Petrarch's Love View Post
    So, I would add to my previous post that it is not only a glimpse of open interiority in which we become interested in the mind of the speaker, but a glimpse of potential shared interiority, in which we shift our perception to that of the speaker that makes Wordsworth's poetry remarkable. The way "She dwelt among the untrodden ways" moves us to feel that we are, to use the words of another poet, "involved in mankind" is certainly what makes the poem especially beautiful to me, and I imagine this is true for most readers of the poem.
    There is something sublime about how Wordsworth draws intersubjectivity from such ordinary occurrences as grief for a lost lover. The Preface claims that it's the poems choice of subject (rural life) that opens up this beauty, but I tend to think Wordsworth's art is a little richer than that.
    "Par instants je suis le Pauvre Navire
    [...] Par instants je meurs la mort du Pecheur
    [...] O mais! par instants"

    --"Birds in the Night" by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). Join the discussion here: http://www.online-literature.com/for...5&goto=newpost

  9. #24
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    In one of those sweet dreams I slept,
    Kind Nature's gentlest boon!
    And all the while my eyes I kept
    On the descending moon.

    My horse moved on; hoof after hoof
    He raised, and never stopped:
    When down behind the cottage roof,
    At once, the bright moon dropped.

    What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
    Into a Lover's head!
    "O mercy!" to myself I cried,
    "If Lucy should be dead!"


    The poem has rather a startling, anti-romantic ending. Is he saying that Nature - personified here - Mother nature - has her gentle boon, but our "wayward thoughts" intrude upon it, much like his contemporary society was intruding upon Nature with the industrialisation?

    On Petrarch's point about Poetic tourism, I recall hearing that the Romantics popularised hoidays, walking and the general appreciation of nature in a way that was not done before. I can't see the working class population doing this but probably the middle classes. Perhaps they were were the ones who benefited from the increased wealth of the industrial revolution. Ironic?

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    But what would be ironic? All romantics (or at least most of them) are not from industrial class or anything close to that. I think Keats was the only the only one who was close from non-upper middle class. They are intelectuals, many with academic formation, some even from nobility or sustained by it. They did not wrote for the lower economic classes either (who could not probally even read) and Coleridge even complained by the increase of romance popularity in the sense that writing for the popular market would kill poetry.

    In this sense, think how notable is Coleridge criticism. When he disagree with Wordsworth about the language of Lyrical Ballads ,saying Wordsworth did not wrote like their subjects but created the illusion so the reader could feel like it was said by the subject while it was a highly stilized poetic language he is just telling about this irony: we are apart. Social wise, experience wise and educational wise. Nobody who considered that a poet should be a philosopher would think otherwise, of course.

    As the feeling, which is what matters, I saw another day here in the forum the textbook differences between classic and romantic (one have emotion, other reason,etc) which is obviously flawed, since we may find individual examples that deny it all. I think the real difference is how they keep walking. They all Johnhy Walker, but it is how. Classical guys walk looking foward, they feel the loss, but they consider it unavoidable and go ahead. Hence so much irony in the classical texts, that is a good way to make up for the contradictions. While the romantic, even loving all the progress, even when optimistic, walks looking over shoulder. He can not leave behind and yet have the sense it is gone. Lucy is dead after all. This, because like Wordsworth said, they will write when all feelings are smothered by contemplation, It is gone. We can see it in Keats duality on the odes to Grecian Urn or Nighitingale, Coleridge remembering a poem that he had forgot, Blake need to balance the devil and the good in one good and one self, Shelley atheism and at sameticime a sense of faith, even Schiller aesthetics, when beauty is gone and is ever, almost unattanaible or Baudelaire Paris, Emily Dickinson powerfull vocation and reclusive life... Byron would go to hell to paradise, but he would carry hell with him. But he knew he could not have both worlds.

  11. #26
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    I was questioning - is it ironic that in trying to establish a rustic simplicity of language- but not necessarily ideas - that the readership would be the people who benefited from an industrial background. Just speculation, and looking back i don't think I was clear.

  12. #27
    Keats will always be my favorite of the Romantics. It is my personal belief that he was the most skilled, and that his "Ode on a Grecian Urn" remains a poem representative of the period for me.

    THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness,
    Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
    Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
    A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
    What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
    Of deities or mortals, or of both,
    In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
    What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
    What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
    What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

  13. #28
    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulclem View Post
    The poem has rather a startling, anti-romantic ending. Is he saying that Nature - personified here - Mother nature - has her gentle boon, but our "wayward thoughts" intrude upon it, much like his contemporary society was intruding upon Nature with the industrialisation?
    There's been a lot of talk of industrialization recently, and I do want to touch on that eventually. But, for now, maybe it's best to look at just this poem's "wayward thoughts." I think one could potentially read "wayward" as simply erroneous or willful, but the dream here is presented in rather glowing terms ("fond," "sweet," etc.). Perhaps a safer reading would interpret the "wayward thoughts" as unguided musings. After all, what happens when we're involved in some kind of repetitive action--like watching horses hooves rising and never stopping? The sense of constant action turns into a sense of inaction. A noise if repeated long enough will get tuned out by the hearer. Repeated motions come to be no motion at all with time. We get drowsy in the calm of monotony, and our minds become unhitched from our bodies and surroundings. Thoughts wander randomly. This is the thought process of the poem. It's interesting that it's this process, and not some logical string of realizations that lead to the last lines. It's not as though the speaker thinks to himself that he's afraid to lose Lucy because of this or that reason. Rather, it's the non-linear, dreamy process of one drifting off that leads him to his epiphany. Far from being anti-Romantic, this seems extra-Romantic.

    I suppose you could interpret the repetitive action of the poem as indicative of industrial labor, and conclude that the dream is a fevered one. When I get more into the industrialism thing later, I'll say a little more about why I tend to put that reading toward the back of my mind (although not completely out of it).
    "Par instants je suis le Pauvre Navire
    [...] Par instants je meurs la mort du Pecheur
    [...] O mais! par instants"

    --"Birds in the Night" by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). Join the discussion here: http://www.online-literature.com/for...5&goto=newpost

  14. #29
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    Yes - I'm exploring the idea of why dead and not absent or rejecting him. I'm looking for a wider implication. The moon is descending and dropped - which seems to prompt this wayward thought.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulclem View Post
    I was questioning - is it ironic that in trying to establish a rustic simplicity of language- but not necessarily ideas - that the readership would be the people who benefited from an industrial background. Just speculation, and looking back i don't think I was clear.
    I think it would only ironic if Wordsworth and Coleridge intention was to address the rustic public and not just propose a poetical valorization of the language.
    Pehaps what you see as ironic in the inner contradiction of Rousseau idealism, which is fundamentally flawed, albeit fundamental as ideal.

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