William Wordsworth


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William Wordsworth (1770-1850), British poet, credited with ushering in the English Romantic Movement with the publication of Lyrical Ballads(1798) in collaboration with Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

William Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland, in the Lake District. His father was John Wordsworth, Sir James Lowther's attorney. The magnificent landscape deeply affected Wordsworth's imagination and gave him a love of nature. He lost his mother when he was eight and five years later his father. The domestic problems separated Wordsworth from his beloved and neurotic sister Dorothy, who was a very important person in his life.

With the help of his two uncles, Wordsworth entered a local school and continued his studies at Cambridge University. Wordsworth made his debut as a writer in 1787, when he published a sonnet in The European Magazine . In that same year he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, from where he took his B.A. in 1791.

During a summer vacation in 1790 Wordsworth went on a walking tour through revolutionary France and also traveled in Switzerland. On his second journey in France, Wordsworth had an affair with a French girl, Annette Vallon, a daughter of a barber-surgeon, by whom he had a illegitimate daughter Anne Caroline. The affair was basis of the poem "Vaudracour and Julia", but otherwise Wordsworth did his best to hide the affair from posterity.

In 1795 he met Coleridge. Wordsworth's financial situation became better in 1795 when he received a legacy and was able to settle at Racedown, Dorset, with his sister Dorothy.
Encouraged by Coleridge and stimulated by the close contact with nature, Wordsworth composed his first masterwork, Lyrical Ballads, which opened with Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner." About 1798 he started to write a large and philosophical autobiographical poem, completed in 1805, and published posthumously in 1850 under the title The Prelude.

Wordsworth spent the winter of 1798-99 with his sister and Coleridge in Germany, where he wrote several poems, including the enigmatic 'Lucy' poems. After return he moved Dove Cottage, Grasmere, and in 1802 married Mary Hutchinson. They cared for Wordsworth's sister Dorothy for the last 20 years of her life.

Wordsworth's second verse collection, Poems, In Two Volumes, appeared in 1807. Wordsworth's central works were produced between 1797 and 1808. His poems written during middle and late years have not gained similar critical approval. Wordsworth's Grasmere period ended in 1813. He was appointed official distributor of stamps for Westmoreland. He moved to Rydal Mount, Ambleside, where he spent the rest of his life. In later life Wordsworth abandoned his radical ideas and became a patriotic, conservative public man.

In 1843 he succeeded Robert Southey (1774-1843) as England's poet laureate. Wordsworth died on April 23, 1850.

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Recent Forum Posts on William Wordsworth

Romantic poetry (Wordsworth)

I am wondering what you all think of these poems? The Boy of Winander: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asr2LwvsMfQ Nutting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz1dcN1RWLs I read both of these out loud in the videos. The Boy of Winander is from the Fifth Book of Wordsworth's Prelude (one of my favorite parts. Nutting is another autobiographical poem written is that Wordsworthian style of guilt an the innocence of youth and the personification of nature (in this case, a tree). I am currently writing a 25 page term paper on Wordsworth's Prelude, and these ideas play a major role. P.S. In case you are wondering, I already have a degree in philosophy, hence my username (Spinoza, my favorite philosopher). You will find that Wordsworth (and Shelley, and also Coleridge) were all influenced by Spinoza (and later, Hegel) – i.e. that idea of a monistic unity – one substance. For more info. on this, look for H. A. Wolfson's book The Philosophy of Spinoza.


How would you describe Wordsworth in one word?

i have to finish my poet biography and I need to describe him in one word/ phrase. When you think of Wordsworth what do you think of? for example.. is he ambitious, shy, competitive? thats what I'm looking for. Thanks!


Wordsworth's Personality

I recently read a statement about it sometimes being hard to separate Wordsworth's poetry from his unattractive/repellent personality. I was a bit surprised by it. Although I have found some of his behavior in the Annette Vallon affair rather reprehensible, my tremendous love of Wordsworth's poetry has perhaps led me to associate the man too closely with his work. I know there were also disagreements with Coleridge in the later years, but I am not familiar with the details. Sometimes I can be a very naive reader, when I love an author as I do Wordsworth. Anyways, any thoughts?


The Prelude

According to the site data, "About 1798 he started to write a large and philosophical autobiographical poem, completed in 1805, and published posthumously in 1850 under the title The Prelude." As an assignment for class, at Montery Peninsula College, I analyzed part of Book First, yet it is not part of the works accessible on this site. Perhaps I missed it and if I did, please point me to it on the site. If not on the site why not, i.e. was the work edited by someone else. The lines analyzed from Book First are at 351-371. In the text, "Western Literature in a World Context" Vol. 2. The lines begin “The mind of man is framed even like the breath And harmony of music. There is a dark Invisible workmanship that reconciles Discordant elements, makes them cling together In one society..." Online at Bartlesby.com and in other works, the beginning is ”Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows 340 Like harmony in music; there is a dark Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles Discordant elements, makes them cling together In one society...." My comments were "Book First of the Poem is Wordsworth journey as poet. How he came to be and how he has been fashioned by his experiences. The opening lines of the excerpt “Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up Fostered alike by beauty and by fear…” provide an image of that dormant seed awaiting the rain and sun to burst forth in all its floral glory. He is nurtured by the beauty of his surroundings but also “fear”, which, in context, is his experience with the French Revolution and the ensuing reign of terror. Before the lines quoted, he is talking about his youth, but in the context of the work, he talks about struggling with themes for his poetry. In the lines quoted, he is dealing with the poetic mind and the experiences that make up that mind, “…terrors, pains, and early miseries, Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused…” In short, what he has seen and experienced being recalled, in moments of reflection, “The calm existence…when I am worthy of myself!” He comments on how nature for some appears in gentle visitation, parting the clouds, with the flickering lightning, but to him her ministrations were much more severe, but designed to suit her aims. Again, I assume he is referring to his experience in France. Perhaps someone can shed light on why the difference in text. Did he re-write? I also found Wordsworth to be more introspective than I would have assumed for someone who was only 35 at the time the poem was composed." Perhaps someone who follows this site can explain the different language, the editor???


Tintern Abbey: A Powerful Prelude to Nature

"These beauteous forms, through a long absence, have not been to me. As is a landscape is to a blind man's eye: But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din of towns and cities, I have owed to them, in hours of weariness, sensations sweet, felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; And passing even into my purer mind, with tranquil restoration:--feelings too of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps, as have no slight or trivial influence on that best portion of a good man's life. His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love. " -Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour. July 13, 1798. After returning to this beautiful setting, Wordsworth reflects that despite "a long absence" the memory remains damp and new to his heart. The memory of the place is imprinted and tattooed into his brain such as is every aspect of life from the imagination or point of remembrance from a blind man. A mind who cannot see can never forget, because images and sensations permanently exist, unchanging. Even after leaving Tintern abbey for the first time, Wordsworth can still "feel" nature and it's overwhelming, breathtaking effects on the soul, even as he sits alone in 'lonely rooms" or in other dim and dark corners of the world. On grim sidewalks and in the bleak bustle of towns and cities, his heart can still sense the "landscape with the quiet sky," and he can smell the "green hue" that evaded the sycamores and orchard-tufts. "In hours of weariness," perhaps this touching place in which he so vividly and fondly remembers provides consolation and comfort, and for that he pays a silent tribute to the absent place and its unforgotten imagery. Perhaps it is a tingling sensation or a quiet high that warms the blood and pulsates the beating heart; as received by Wordsworth at the memory or notion of this calming and tranquil location. Nature could be concieved as a blamelss drug, as often one feels slightly "high" when standing at the mouth of a waterfall, or inhaling lungs full of sweet and innocent air, pure and untouched by the poisons of human industry. Perhaps it is a natural endorphine caused by nature, explaining that quick and urgent rush, or the inexplicable "high" and tingly sensation one often feels when outdoors, a feeling invariably leading to a comforting perception of happiness. This drug would undoubtedly leave an imprint on the brain, causing the body and the heart to revel in it's memory. "As have no slight or trivial influence on that best portion of a good man's life, his little nameless, unremembered, acts of kindness and of love." Here Wordsworth, in savouring those sensations offered from places like Tintern Abbey and all the beauty and passion evoked from nature, and reasons that these effects have a strong and definite influence on the better part of a good man's life. At the end of their years, one will always remember things such as this. The awe one felt at a certain beloved spot of earth, or appreciation for the way such a simplistic and natural part of creation made one feel, will remain with them forever. Nature itself is a "little act of love," so slight at times it lay forgotten. Perhaps subconsciously "little, nameless, unremembered acts of love" that people bestow day after day are due in part to exposure and appreciation for nature and the particular effects it may have. For example, if nature can make a person feel beautiful, free and happy, then the world they percieve on all other levels would mirror this perception. In result, they would unwittingly bestowe little acts of love and kindness throughout their daily lives.


"Lucy"

Hey, does anybody know if Lucy in Wordsworth's poems is a real person or not?


wordsworth and his poetry

Hi all:) i was just wondering if you were able to give me some tips on how William Wordsworth's context has influenced his choice of poetic devices in his works, mainly tintern abbey, daffodils and early spring cheers :)


Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey

"Once again/ Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs/... The day is come when I again repose/ Here, under this dark sycamore" (890). In Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth revisits the bucolic setting of his childhood, and in doing so mirrors the passing of his childhood into manhood with the changing of his dwelling from country to city. While he once loved the freedom of living in the country, in the city he must grapple with the "heavy and the weary weight/ Of all this unintelligible world" (891). But the one reassuring thing about this poem is that Wordsworth doesn't leave the country behind. Indeed, while he is living in the city and trying to succeed in man's own making, society, he says that he "...oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din/ Of towns and cities, I have owed to them (the forms and aspects of his nature setting)/ In hours of weariness, sensations sweet" (891). Wordsworth returns to Tintern Abey older and with "life and food/ For future years." He is an established and accomplished member of society, who in being so has succeeded in maneuvering his way through social obstacles to secure some measure of wealth and fame, who is returning to his roots and remembering a time when he was free as a roe "bounding o'er the mountains, by the sides/ Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams" (892). Wordsworth, in his youth, was free to roam, explore, and be creative among the wild, untamed country. While he thinks back on how he used to be he realizes that "that time is past/ And all its aching joys are now no more" (892). He accepts his present situation as an older, less free man, but he doesn't mourn the passing of his childhood. Wordsworth doesn't mourn the loss of nature, or his childhood, because he realizes that the beauty of nature is present in everything around him. He realizes there is a spirit "hose dwelling is the light of setting/ And the round ocean and the living air/ And the blue sky, and in the mind of man...Therefore am I still/ A lover of the meadows and the woods/ And mountains..." (892). Because he sees in the mind of man, which relates to the city, the greatness that forms valleys and mountains and oceans, he is able to keep within him an aspect of his childhood innocence, relating to the country, while he is progressing further and further into manhood. He says that the innocence from his childhood inspires him to realize that "all which we behold/ Is full of blessings" (893). While Wordsworth is very aware of the fact that he is no longer the roe that once went bounding over the country landscape he is also not lamenting the loss of his childhood. He comments on this by saying "Not for this/ Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur" (892). The beautiful thing about this poem is that Wordsworth was wise enough to be able to take his reverence of nature into society and even to apply it to the mind of man. By doing so, he is able to return to the setting of his childhood and not feel the stinging pang of loss, simply because he didn't so much loose his childhood as he moved on into manhood where aspects of his childhood still exist.


The world is too much with us; late and soon

William Wordsworth’s sonnet “The World Is Too Much with Us; Late and Soon” addresses the loss of nature in a consumerist society. Nature is a common theme in Wordsworth’s work and in his sonnet he addresses the diminishing connection to nature he experiences due to consumerism. Wordsworth’s sonnet is introduced with a juxtaposition of consumerism and nature. “Getting and spending, we lay waste to our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours” (1-2) Wordsworth compares obtaining and spending to nature because nature cannot be owned regardless of the price. The juxtaposition illustrates the purity of nature in its inability to be owned and the greed of consumerism in its drive to own all. The word “power” in first line is a reference to the connection through nature that is lost by acquiring and spending. Wordsworth specifically capitalizes the word nature in the middle of the sentence to illustrate its importance in a consumerist society. Though things in nature might be obtained or even used by man, they will always belong to nature. Upset by the loss of his connection to nature, Wordsworth exclaims, “We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!” (3) This exclamation shows that through excessive consumerism man has given away its heart, the life sustaining force within, which Wordsworth says is a filthy blessing. Wordsworth uses the word sordid which means dirty or filthy, next to the word boon which means a blessing, to illustrate the dirtiness of consumerism in comparison to the blessing purity of nature. Wordsworth continues by demonstrating that through mankind’s growing greed, both nature and men have been thrown out of sync, “The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; For this, for everything we are out of tune; It moves us not.” (5-8) Wordsworth clearly states that man is out of tune with nature and that the beauty of nature can no longer move the human soul. When the celestial light of nature is doused by the greed of consumerism, nature fails to move mankind emotionally. This severely upsets Wordsworth and the poet cries out, “Great God! I’d rather be a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn, So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn” (9-11) To say such an audacious statement in 1888 evokes shock and Wordsworth uses this shock to illustrate the severity of his plight. The creed outworn referred to by Wordsworth is the Christian tradition that has failed to provide a solution to his problem. Wordsworth would do anything to reconnect to nature, even if that meant the certain persecution of becoming a Pagan in the late 1800’s. The final two lines of Wordsworth’s sonnet conclude with the final warning, “Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn” (12-13) Wordsworth makes an allusion to the Greek God Proteus to symbolize the transforming power of nature while referring to Triton, the messenger of the deep, to symbolize the sound of his warning. Wordsworth illustrates through his sonnet that while man is consistently surrounded by material goods and possessions, it is nature in its purity and inability to be owned that the soul is truly inspired.


Ode: Intimations of Immortality

In “The Gospel According To Thomas,” Jesus is asked where the kingdom of Heaven is and he replies that the kingdom of Heaven is here on earth but man does not see it. In reading “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” I was reminded of this in particular with stanza five: “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The soul that rises with us, our life’s star, hath elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar: not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy!” We are born complete and whole; our knowledge of this fact becomes a fading memory as we age. Woodsworth can remember having the experience, but not the experience itself. If “Heaven lies about us in our infancy” and later in life, as Woodsworth says in the last half of stanza one: “Turn whereoe’er I may, by night or day, the things I have seen I now can see no more”, what happened? Should we be so presumptuous to assume that it is Heaven that changes and becomes invisible to our senses? Or could it be that it is man’s perception of immortality dims, leaving a vague unease in its place? I believe this was Woodsworth’s lament, like lying awake with an answer to a question tickling the edges of consciousness, so close to grasping yet forever out of reach.


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