Lines Written in Early Spring

by William Wordsworth

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Student Question

How can you convert the poem "Lines Written in Early Spring" into a modernistic style?

Quick answer:

The Modernists are more cynical and alienated than the Romantics; they do not find solace in nature, but rather in other man. The Modernists do not find any spiritual connection to nature nor a connection with God like Romanticism did. For example, the Romantics looked on nature as something holy; the Modernist sees it as merely mechanical. The Modernists are much less involved with form and structure than the Romantics; they do not use rhyme or meter and they write freely without concern for form.

Expert Answers

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In his poem, "Lines Written in Early Spring," while Wordsworth, thematically like the Modernists, is disappointed and disillusioned with man, he finds solace in nature, but the Modernist poets would not. Also, the Romantics are much more spiritual than the Modernists. Another point of difference between the Romantic William Wordsworth and the Modernists is in form:  rhyme is characteristic of Romanticism, not Modernism; symbolism is more prevalent in Modernism. Further, with Wordsworth the reflection upon nature is elevated, idyllic; however, the reflections of Modernists poets are more pessimistic and ambiguous, sometimes written even in a stream-of-consciousness. Moreover, the Modernists valued tension along with ambiguity.

So, in rewriting Wordsworth's poem, the student will want to revise the stanzas that extol nature, such as the third stanza in which the poet retreats to the beauty and peace of Spring in order to find solace in nature from his disappointment in "What man has made of man." For, the Modernist would find no such solace; instead, he would feel completely alienated. In the third stanza, Wordsworth makes himself a part of nature and thus gains control of his world; the Modernist cannot do this; he is left alone, separated from the world.

Here is an example of how the student could change the second stanza in which the poet aligns himself with Nature in his grief of "What man has made of man" and third stanza into a Modernist form:

  • Original versions:

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreath;
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes

  • Revised Modernist version:

I wander the streets of dilapidated dreams,
There lies the vagrant beside the drunken.
Amid the grey of urban progress'
I wonder what man has made of man.

What care I for the greens, the periwinkle, the primrose
Of the passing world whose pasture lies with the junkyard?
What man knows another, let alone a flower?
The nothing has separated the rose from the water.

Revising the stanzas so that the tone is more pessimistic, the meaning more ambiguous, and the form less disciplined can be a guide to the creation of a more Modernistic poem.

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