Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Nutting” is a poem about the possibilities and problems of communion between humans and nature; it involves the irony that the boy’s revelation of communication between himself and nature occurs by means of his violation of nature. Wordsworth’s The Prelude, arguably the greatest nineteenth century poem in the Western world, terms such revelations of nature’s presence “spots of time” and narrates similar moments of the poet’s spiritual development through youthful violations of nature in episodes of boat stealing and woodcock snaring. “Nutting” was originally designed to be part of these traumatic experiences of poetic growth in Book I of The Prelude.

Excerpted from the longer poem, “Nutting” is a beautifully complete poem in its own right that was published in the 1800 edition of the groundbreaking Lyrical Ballads, which contains an influential literary manifesto in the preface authored by Wordsworth under Coleridge’s inspiration. The poetic principles of the preface find embodiment in “Nutting.” The typically Wordsworthian theme of the poem focuses on a semimystical experience of a young man’s joyous, if fitful, apprehension of the spirit of life in the universe, the meaning of which is probed in the mature mind of the narrator remembering an early time of mindless pleasure in nature. The poem shows that moments of spiritual apprehension are not easy to come by, to preserve with the same initial...

(The entire section is 559 words.)