Please give an explanation of Book I of The Prelude.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The first section of this lengthy poem, argued by some critics to be the best presentation of Wordsworth's beliefs about nature, concerns a description of the speaker's childhood and his early awareness of nature and the kind of relationship he developed with it. This opening book does contain many sections that are addressed to nature in its various guises, and in particular its spirit and wisdom, but the various reminiscences that are narrated clearly explore the sense of wonder and majesty that the youthful Wordsworth found in nature. This is most evident in a description Wordsworth includes of how he rowed out into the middle of a lake and saw a "huge peak":

I struck and struck again,

And growing still in stature the grim shape

Towered up between me and the stars, and still,

For so it seemed, with purpose of its own

And measured motion like a living thing,

Strode after me.

The figure of the peak is particularly interesting, because its personification, which describes it as a "living thing" striding after the guilty Wordsworth who has borrowed a boat for a row captures both the immense beauty of nature but also the way that it can produce a response of awe and fear as well. The poem develops this relationship with nature, describing how Wordsworth felt free and liberated when he was able to get out in nature and escape his schoolwork and society. He does make clear that the rebellion he experienced was only internal, and was not external, as he was a good student and worked hard. The desire for liberation was something that he experienced and pursued in his spirit.

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