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William Wordsworth, born in the Lake District in the UK, an area of continuing great beauty, wrote some of his best poetry about his beloved landscape. His earliest poems, contained in An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches, reveal how he relished his natural surroundings.
When he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, his strongest ever influence he came to appreciate the psychology of David Hartley which he had previously overlooked. This inspired him to include peasants, children, and even those with mental disorders in his poetry. Many of the poems in LYyrical Ballads, which he wrote with Coleridge, were based on the life and tribulations of ‘the commoner’ thereby exposing the unrefined workings of the mind. Whilst Colderidge would make the supernatural more believable in such works as “The Ancient Mariner,” Wordsworth
agreed to write on basic human emotions directly and sincerely expressed in ordinary life.
This did lead to a reluctance from those exposed to his poetry such as We Are Seven,” “The Idiot Boy,” and “The Thorn,” to accept what he said. They found his words shocking:
There is a Thorn—it looks so old,
In truth, you’d find it hard to say
How it could ever have been young
It looks so old and grey.
Lyrical Ballads also focused on the wonder of nature and how it could barely be separated from God. Man and nature were inextricably linked and created oneness.
As one of the Romantic poets, in “Tintern Abbey,” for example, he fully expressed the Romantic concept and spirituality of nature:
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing often-times
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts. . . .
To deal with the mundane tasks of urban life, Wordsworth embraced the power of nature and its ability to release a person and
to give poetry a worthy purpose.
In London, 1802 Wordsworth pleads for a return to moral virtue and dignity
We are selfish men;Oh! raise us up, return to us again;And give us manners, virtue, freedom,power.
This is amongst his most famous poems together with The World Is Too Much With Us,” “To Toussaint L’Ouverture and It Is a Beauteous Evening Calm and Free.
Wordsworth was aware that his own imagination may have been failing him and was afraid because to him the imagination was the route to freedom and the moral compass. He accordingly re-examined his concept of the role of the human imagination in “Ode: Intimations of Immortality as Recollected from Early Childhood.
The “Ode to Duty,” also written in 1804, clarified his new position. He accepted a new sense of self-imposed control bringing inner peace in terms of Seneca and Kant.
Wordsworth's later poetry became less inspiring and his is lesser known or appreciated for it.
Refer to eNotes for an understanding of Wordsworth and his poetry.
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