Thomas Stearns Eliot once rebutted on the ongoing poetic criticism of Wordsworth’s poetic reminiscence; that good poetry was ‘the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling’ instead suggesting that it was in fact an escape from emotion and personality. He felt that critics should be turning their attention away from the feelings and opinions of the poet to re-focus on the poetry.
That was it: a bold defense, otherwise Wordsworth seemed to be in a straight jacket.
William Wordsworth, the romanticist, the obvious poetic opulent of the 18th century and ‘Nature’ itself were the most apparent compatible alliance, one could ever imagine. His treatment of nature is poignant coupled with accuracy and close observation. As once he remarked; he wrote with his eye ‘steadily fixed on the object’. Even the slightest of his poems have evidence of close observation.
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one.
This treatment of his has however hackneyed itself since the beginning of his poetic career. Even the most polished of his poems have the same stamp, as in ‘The Prelude’, Resolution and Independence. This personal dealing with nature in all her moods produces a joy, and euphoric experience that to most readers is Wordsworth’s most fervent charm. To nature he is never worthless, but always adequate and full with all regal and all encompassing love and that is perhaps the highest achievement he ever desired.
‘The Prelude’ was commenced in the beginning of the year 1799, and completed in the summer of 1805. Several years ago, when the author retired to his native mountains with the hope of being enabled to construct a literary work that might live, it was a reasonable thing that should take a review of his mind, and examine how far nature and education had qualified him for such an employment. Nature is portrayed as a perpetual teacher, educating the child alike a foster parent. It conveys a sense of adventure coupled with the downfall into the sublime, and presents a common day scenario in accordance with naturalistic motifs and dream-like ambiance evident in romanticist poetry. The excerpt describes a snippet from Wordsworth’s life; an evening ride upon a lovely boat that grows into a fearful encounter upon noticing a peak beyond the horizon, ending with the narrator falling into a troubled demeanor, termed as a “dark solitude”. Being such a common day event, readers are engaged by Wordsworth’s experience, and can relate to his responses to the naturalistic stimuli that he encounters. The verse form heightens this bond between reader and author, being more raw and accurate to each emotion Wordsworth experiences while going through the event presented in the excerpt, and Wordsworth’s use of diction and imagery highlight the various tone shifts and Changing narrator.