Discuss Wordsworth's The Prelude Book I as an autobiographical poem.


The Prelude

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Wordsworth himself viewed this work, which was unpublished on his death, as an autobiographical poem in which he sought to describe his growth and development of his understanding of man's relationship with nature an the imagination. It is not strictly autobiographical in that it does not focus on his birth or the situation of his parents. It rather presents a series of carefully selected moments that support the purpose of the author. It is therefore clear that Book I of this lengthy poem focuses on Wordsworth's early childhood and his first experiences of nature and how he interpreted the beauty of the world around him, particularly focused on the Lake District in North England, where he spent many happy holidays as a child. It is far more than just a simple autobiography, however, as what is of relevance is not the poet's life by itself, but the poet's burgeoning relationship and understanding of the world around him, as this following quote demonstrates:

Yes, I remember when the changeful earth

And twice five summers on my mind had stamped

The faces of the moving year, even then

I held unconscious discourse with beauty

Old as creation, drinking in a pure

Organic pleasure from the silver wreaths

Of curling mist, or from the level plain

Of waters, coloured by impending clouds.

Nature then becomes the lense through which Wordsworth recalls his life. This is why the early memories that this section of the poem contain are focused around his distinct memories of nature and his germane understanding of how he related to nature. The phrase "unconscious discourse with beauty" reflects that Wordsworth believed himself to have naturally and organically entered into a relationship with nature. This wasn't something that he needed to be taught or instructed about. Book I therefore captures this instantaneous affinity Wordsworth felt with nature and traces its beginnings.


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