William Wordsworth


A substantial portion of the poetic works of William Wordsworth tends to be fairly autobiographical, or, at the least, highly concentrated upon his own experiences of enlightenment or lack thereof. Wordsworth has an obvious and deliberate propensity to be intensely self-revealing in his works, not only in assessing and describing his own morality and mysticism, but, also, in his perceptions of the world (more specifically, his perceptions of nature). Wordsworth closely examines his self-attributed position as a poet in The Prelude and asks himself whether or not it is his title to claim. He has essentially obtained writer’s block and attempts to cure it by finding his origin of his ordainment as a poet. He accomplishes this by reviewing his childhood memories and the almost spiritual experiences that he believes endowed him with his status as a poet. These memories, or “Spots of Time”, are believed by Wordsworth to be of a healing nature after a traumatic experience. These experiences, to Wordsworth, are far from being supernatural, and are more overly-natural than anything else. It is starkly evident from near all of Wordsworth’s works that he places a great deal of spiritual value on nature. He, very apparently, believes that nature reveals to us the essential values, the spiritual experiences, and, as he explains in The Prelude, even the role we are ordained to take up in our lives. He believes, as stated in other poetic works, that nature makes out favored individuals and acts upon them, as it acts upon him. In the Prelude, he refers to his childhood, not only as a subject for verse, but also to confirm to himself, in his time of self-doubt, that he was meant to be a poet. He refers to his first recollection of poetic inspiration: his profound encounter with a river at the age of five years old. He recalls playing and swimming in it as it passively enlightened him: Oh, many a time have I, a five years\' child, In a small mill-race severed from his stream, Made one long bathing of a summer\'s day; Basked in the sun, and plunged and basked again Alternate, all a summer\'s day, or scoured The sandy fields, leaping through flowery groves Of yellow ragwort; or, when rock and hill, The woods, and distant Skiddaw\'s lofty height, Were bronzed with deepest radiance, stood alone Beneath the sky, as if I had been born On Indian plains, and from my mother\'s hut Had run abroad in wantonness, to sport A naked savage, in the thunder shower. He attributes this river with his own initiation as a poet, although just one stanza before, he describes his own state of frustration and invokes the river (or, the powers that had invested within him the gift of poetic ability) in a nearly accusatory manner, asking if it was worth that power and energy for the thwarted mental state that he is now experiencing: Was it for this That one, the fairest of all rivers, loved To blend his murmurs with my nurse\'s song, And, from his alder shades and rocky falls, And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice That flowed along my dreams? For this, didst thou, O Derwent! winding among grassy holms Where I was looking on, a babe in arms, Make ceaseless music that composed my thoughts To more than infant softness, giving me Amid the fretful dwellings of mankind A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm That Nature breathes among the hills and groves. He states that he has had ample education in the poetic medium to be able to successfully think in that manner and thus denies it as an obstruction. He determines that it is neither a lack of education nor the possibility that he was not destined to be a poet that is currently hindering him from writing a substantial piece of work. He decides that it is nothing else but his own mind, likening it to a “House of Bondage” and a tempest, stating that it is self-destructive due to the count and complexity of his own thoughts, for they can not be organized. He hopes that the “breeze” (or, poetic inspiration) will free him from the “House” so he can again