The Prelude "Voyaging Through Strange Seas Of Thought"

William Wordsworth

"Voyaging Through Strange Seas Of Thought"

Context: Composed as the first part of a massive philosophical poem, The Prelude is a long autobiographical history of "the growth of a poet's mind." Wordsworth first tells of his earliest childhood, a time when he was a creature of sensation that grew through beauty from his natural surroundings and fear usually resulting from his own selfish actions; childhood was a time of animal pleasures during which he lived in complete harmony with his environment. Next he passed into the experiences of youth, a time of unreflective ecstasy before the necessity of thought separated him from nature; however, the demands of adulthood were already pressing upon him. Very slowly he was being estranged from nature and cast into the world of men where he was later to become disillusioned. More than anything else his entrance into St. John's College, Cambridge, marked the separation between his life in harmony with nature and his unhappy and lonely period of faith in the rational philosophers. In this quotation, introducing his account of his college experience, he foreshadows the loneliness of the years that were to follow by describing the statue of Sir Isaac Newton, the great seventeenth century scientist whose discoveries helped to form the creed that man could, through the use of his reason, make an orderly society.

The Evangelist St. John my patron was:
Three Gothic courts are his, and in the first
Was my abiding-place, a nook obscure; . . .
And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind forever
Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.