Dear Liberty! Yet what would it avail
But for a gift that consecrates the joy?
For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven
Was blowing on my body, felt within
A correspondent breeze, that gently moved
With quickening virtue, but is now become
A tempest, a redundant energy,
Vexing its own creation. (Book 1, lines 31–38)
In the first book of The Prelude, Wordsworth returns to his childhood home and looks to the natural world around him for inspiration. He has thrown off the cares of city life and recovered the sense of freedom and liberty that he felt as a child in the Lake District. However, Wordsworth feels that liberty and freedom are of little worth if he can’t be visited by the gift of creativity. He wants the breeze blowing on him to give rise to a “correspondent breeze”—a breeze of inspiration that helps him to create poetry. Instead, he is vexed, or thwarted, in his ability to write.
Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. (Book 1, lines 341–345)
In book 1, Wordsworth roams around his native countryside and recalls memories from different seasons in his childhood. His focus on nature and childhood in this passage—and throughout the poem—confirms Wordsworth’s status as a Romantic poet, as childhood and nature are two of the central motifs of Romantic literature. In nature, Wordsworth sees workings of the divine, “inscrutable workmanship” which unites the entire natural world. Though humans are mortal, he finds beauty in their “immortal spirits.”
As if awakened, summoned, roused, constrained,
I looked for universal things; perused
The common countenance of earth and sky:
Earth, nowhere unembellished by some trace
Of that first Paradise whence man was driven;
And sky, whose beauty and bounty are expressed
By the proud name she bears—the name of Heaven.
I called on both to teach me what they might . . . (Book 3, lines 106–113)
Thinking back to his college education, Wordsworth recounts that though he was often preoccupied with his social life at Cambridge, he found inspiration from nature there just as he had at home. He studied in the lecture halls of Cambridge, but he nevertheless looked beyond his formal studies to the universal truths that nature could teach...
(The entire section is 579 words.)