Discuss Wordsworth's attitude towards nature in "The Prelude."

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Nature is a source of beauty, peace, and inspiration to William Wordsworth in "The Prelude."

Nature is, first and foremost, beautiful. Wordsworth uses a great deal of nature imagery when describing his childhood surroundings and explains how much joy he found in exploring and existing in such a...

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Nature is a source of beauty, peace, and inspiration to William Wordsworth in "The Prelude."

Nature is, first and foremost, beautiful. Wordsworth uses a great deal of nature imagery when describing his childhood surroundings and explains how much joy he found in exploring and existing in such a beautiful place. He appreciates everything from the hills and flowers to the lakes and rivers. There is never an aspect of nature that he finds unappealing.

Nature is also a source of peace for Wordsworth. He says that there is "a calm that Nature breathes among the hills and groves." It calms his soul when he is doubting or unhappy. As he grew up, he was better able to understand that nature was more than a beautiful refuge. It was a place where he could escape from the troubles of the world. Nature guided him when he needed guidance and soothed him when he felt upset.

Wordsworth's connection with nature gives him a great deal of inspiration. He says that "Nature by extrinsic passion first peopled my mind with beauteous forms or grand, and made me love them." This is likely why he uses so much nature imagery in his work. When he returns to nature, he is refreshed and given the inspiration to write again.

Sometimes, though, Wordsworth struggles with his love for nature, which fights against his love for the pleasures of city life and excess. For example, he spends time in London and France and misses the bountiful nature of his youth. One of the regrets that he has is his attachment to worldly pleasure—but his love of nature always helps him get back on track and inspires him to write again.

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Like most of the Romantic artists, Wordsworth has a special reverence for nature. In The Prelude, he constantly juxtaposes the shallowness of the social world humans have created with the unpretentious splendor and peace of nature. Nature is viewed as a refuge from the cares of society, and the speaker constantly returns to the natural world to recharge and engage in periods of reflection.

The Prelude also intimates a connection between nature and the divine. This, once again, is emphasized by the natural world's separation from society. Like God, nature is harmonious and apart from the trifling, anxiety-inducing cares with which urban and even small-town life so often occupies itself:

With my own modest pleasures, and have lived
With God and Nature communing, removed
From little enmities and low desires,
The gift is yours; if in these times of fear,
This melancholy waste of hopes overthrown . . .

Therefore, Wordsworth's attitude towards nature, while it goes from mere delight as a child to reverence as an adult, is always positive. A life segregated from nature is perceived as missing something essential.

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Wordsworth loved nature, especially the nature he experienced during his childhood holidays in the English Lake District, a place to which he returned as an adult. He felt closer to God when he was in nature. In The Prelude, his semi-autobiographical work about how he accepted his vocation as a poet, he writes that describing the manifestations of God in nature was a key part of his poetic calling. He notes in The Prelude that he conceived of himself as a poet-prophet in the mold of John Milton.

In The Prelude, Wordsworth contrasts his time at Cambridge, studying at St. John's College, with his time in nature. He finds the university and the dissipations of his fellow students unsatisfying compared to being in the natural world. He does not much enjoy his studies: he writes that he would rather be out hiking, and he values his vacations spent in or near the Lake District.

After describing in The Prelude the severe disappointment, depression, and disillusion he experiences in France as the revolution he believed in so fervently turns to bloodshed, Wordsworth writes of his retreat to the Lake District. He is renewed by the idea that he can write poetry that expresses the presence of God in nature and also communicates to the upper classes the virtues of simple, rural people by showing them in their natural settings in the best possible light.

Nature, he thought, could light his path through life and could help guide him. He expresses in The Prelude his youthful optimism and faith in nature. The quote below is the quintessential Wordsworth. All he needs is a cloud, and he will be fine:

The earth was all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way.

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It is clear from the opening section of this long poem that nature is of the utmost importance to Wordsworth, and that in some ways it shapes his own feelings and emotions completely. This poem traces the changes in the relationship that Wordsworth has with nature as he moves from childhood, through to his adult life, and then finally enters old age. Yet one of the key aspects that remain constant is the massive influence that nature has on his life. Note how this is explored in the opening section:

For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven

Was blowing on my body, felt, within,

A correspondent breeze, that gently moved

With quickening virtue, but is now become

A tempest, a redundant energy,

Vexing its own creation.

Wordsworth gives thanks to both of these different emotions that he experiences as he contemplates nature, seeing in them both "vernal promises" and the hope of both activity and quiet meditation. Wordsworth's attitude to nature, although it changes as he grows up and ages, is clearly one that is based on a very intimate connection between himself and nature. To a certain extent, Wordsworth's emotions are tuned in to what is happening in nature, and clearly nature plays a big role in governing his feelings and emotions.

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