"Sweetest Melodies Are Those That Are By Distance Made More Sweet"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Wordsworth was, as he openly admitted, a recluse; after he had thrown himself into human affairs at the beginning of the French Revolution and had learned from bitter experience that men use high-sounding words to conceal their selfishness and cruelty, he regained his mental health by returning to the scenes of his childhood. This return to nature reinforced the memories he had of a time before he became a passionate liberal, eager to advance the goals of rational enlightenment; it re-established the inner peace such as a child surrounded by a pleasant environment might possess. Unwilling to face again the misery that had tormented him during the time that he wandered about in complete disillusionment, he retired to Grasmere with his sister and seldom entertained anyone except his closest friends. In this series of four sonnets, he defends his voluntary retirement by saying that as a recluse he is not touched by the pretense of society and that in such solitude he is able to develop his powers of imagination. Believing that "poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," he had little patience with people who insisted that poetry arose from immediate sensations; in fact, he thought, as he states in this quotation, that the imagination and memory alone can bring happiness, and release a man from present conflicts in order that he may write great poetry.

Children are blest, and powerful; their world lies
More justly balanced, partly at their feet,
And part far from them: sweetest melodies
Are those that are by distance made more sweet;
Whose mind is but the mind of his own eyes,
He is a Slave; the meanest we can meet!