How did William Wordsworth evolve as a poet throughout his life? 

How did William Wordsworth evolve as a poet throughout his life?

 

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Wordsworth's early poems were marked by a sense of mysticism and wonder. For example, in 1798, he published Lyrical Ballads, a seminal work in the English Romantic movement, with his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth's poem "Tintern Abbey" is a lyrical description of nature that becomes a meditation on poetical inspiration. He asserts the healing power of nature, writing that "Nature never did betray/ The heart that loved her." Wordsworth deliberately used real language as opposed to elevated diction and defined poetry as "emotion recollected in tranquility." He composed several poems following this idea, including "My Heart Leaps Up" and "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."

Wordsworth then turned to writing a more abstract poem called "The Recluse, or Views of Man, Nature and Society," but he was unable to finish it. He returned to writing poems about the interaction of nature and people, such as "To a Butterfly" and "The Rainbow." 

Around 1802, when he was 32, Wordsworth sank into a period of depression. He visited France, where he had spent time after the French Revolution of 1789. He found that the promise of the revolution was unfulfilled, and he lost the idealistic attitude of his youth. Instead, he became an English patriot, expressing his patriotism in poems such as "London, 1802." He was also concerned with his friend Coleridge, who used opium to deal with physical pain. Wordsworth's poems at this time, such as The Ecclesiastical Sonnets, turned to Christian themes for inspiration and are considered dogmatic and unexceptional. 

His last work, published after his death, was The Preludes, which many people consider his masterpiece (it had formerly been known as "the poem to Coleridge"). It is an autobiography about the development of the poet and includes revealing details about Wordsworth's life.