William Wordsworth Questions and Answers

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William Wordsworth is poet of nature. Discuss

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The previous posts were quite lucid in their explanation.  I would suggest that there is a thematic reason as to why Wordsworth is a poet of nature, as well.  Part of the driving force behind the Romantic thinkers, of which Wordsworth is an essential component, was to create a realm that was different than the preceding literary movement, the Neoclassicists.  The Romantics wanted to conceive of a setting which was not entirely urban, did not focus on socializing with others, and develop an individual, as opposed to collective, sense of self.  In attempting to tear away the mask of inauthenticity that dominated their perception of Neoclassicism, Romantic thinkers saw nature as the perfect setting for their ideas and beliefs.  Its purity and splendor, its experience on an individual level, and its presence helped to fuse the duality of mind and heart.  This appealed to Wordsworth, which is why so many of his poems have implications to the natural world or use it as their setting.

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To the poet William Wordsworth, the glory of Nature was everything, right from childhood. Even as a baby where he and grew up in a house on the banks of a beautiful but powerful river, Nature permeated his everyday life in an area of outstanding natural beauty near the Lake District of northern England. As well as its beauty however, Wordsworth was aware of its terrible power and you will see many portaits of dark brooding mountains and the isolation of lonely moors. This contrast made him reflect on the mysteries of life and death as a human. Truly, he felt 'my heart leaps up when I behold' the glories of Nature, yet it made him think and write also of the idea of duty and the stages of human life. He shared this appreciation of the world around him with his sister Dorothy.

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William Wordsworth (1770–1850) teamed with Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772−1834) to produce the Lyrical Ballads. In Lyrical Ballads, these two writers achieved something quite rare in English literature—a collaborative work of creation. English literature from Chaucer forward is rooted in the individual sensibility, but in this volume, two geniuses merged gloriously. At the time they produced Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth and Coleridge were also part of a larger group called the Lake Poets. Nature and redefinitions of nature are at the heart of the Romantic revival, and nature itself is, perhaps, nowhere more beautiful than in the region of England known as the lake country.

Wordsworth was born in the Lake District; both his parents died when he was still young. According to his autobiographical poem The Prelude, William was allowed to run wild in nature, which became for him a kind of mother. Throughout his poetry, we see a pantheistic refrain: God inheres in the natural world around us. God is in nature.

William was educated at grammar school, but he tells us in The Prelude that there was much loneliness in his childhood. One notes in this poem what Keats called the “egotistic sublime”; Wordsworth was obsessed with himself, but this obsession is part of the Romantic project. Wordsworth’s early circumstances rendered him extraordinarily introverted, and a solitude with nature was a vital element in his psychological makeup.

Another of his most famous poems, “Daffodils,” opens with the line “I wandered lonely as a Cloud.” Loneliness within a natural world and creativity from the natural world are at the heart of Wordsworth’s poetry, and loneliness, for him, is a creative state. Reconnecting with society is one of the great problems in the Wordsworthian view of the poetic role because the poet, of course, cannot stay forever alone.

Wordsworth attended Cambridge University and experienced his first major intellectual stimulus on a visit to France, at the crest of the early revolutionary period in 1790. In the early 1800s, Wordsworth settled in the Lake District with his sister and muse, Dorothy, and began to devote himself seriously to poetry. In 1795, he had met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose muse was both more philosophical and wilder than  Wordsworth’s: opium and Immanuel Kant, the great German philosopher fed that imagination. The fruit of the relationship between Coleridge and Wordsworth was the collaborative volume Lyrical Ballads, first published in 1798. It was reissued with a manifesto preface by Wordsworth in 1800 and again with an expanded introduction in 1802.

Although it’s a slim volume, Lyrical Ballads may be the most influential book of poetry in English literature. It acted as a bomb under the sedate establishment of verse, which had been erected so formally and carefully by the Augustans. The book was originally published without names, as if it were a production, not of individual talent, but of the spirit of the time.