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This poem charts the gradual development of Wordsworth's relationship with nature as he grows up, starting with his very first childhood recollections of nature and realisations of its power and majesty. Note, for example, how he remembers experiencing nature as a child when he takes a boat and goes rowing:
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon’s bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct
Upreared its head. 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.
Nature in the form of this "huge peak" is both awe-inspiring and terrifying with its "grim shape" and the way it appeared to follow him. In Wordsworth's childhood, therefore, nature appears to be almost supernatural in its power and majesty, able to both command awe and terrible fear. In his youth, Wordsworth describes how in nature he found freedom from the stifling power of civilisation, education and expectations, and how during his time at Cambridge he is able to think more introspectively about the difference between reason and feeling, as expressed in his emotions about nature. Following this, a visit to the Alps once more hits Wordsworth with the power of nature, but this time he is aware how his feelings for nature have distanced him from his fellow man, and he finds in the French Revolution a happy marriage of feeling and intuition and social cause. Lastly, in his old age, Wordsworth returns to nature, finding in it a sense of order and justice that is absent from human society. At each stage of his development therefore, Wordsworth has a slightly different relationship with nature.
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