The Prelude

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Wordsworth’s blank-verse narrative, often achieving Miltonic sublimity, is punctuated by hauntingly recalled “spots of time” which Wordsworth links to intimations of his future poetic calling. These “spots” include the earliest moments of moral and spiritual awareness and are usually associated with an intensely felt response to nature.

In the first two books, “School-Time,” Wordsworth concentrates on the pleasures of sports, mountain walks, and relationships with schoolmates and supportive adults. “Residence at Cambridge” records the impact of the first important intellectual influences in his life, while the “ministries” of nature are reaffirmed by “Summer Vacation,” a book that also conveys his first self-consecration to the poet’s task. Books contrasting an Alpine excursion with the overpowering density of London lead the poet to his discovery of the interface between man and nature, the “Love of Nature leads to Love of Man.”

The poem now rises to the challenge of the French Revolution, which Wordsworth confronts as a great cataclysm in the moral history of mankind. Man’s essential nature is revealed anew. Returning to England and desperate over his native country’s declaration of war against the Revolution (which he felt was already endangered from within France itself), Wordsworth finds strength in his own ripening powers as a poet. THE PRELUDE concludes with a magnificent hymn to the Imagination,...

(The entire section is 501 words.)