The Prelude "But To Be Young Was Very Heaven!"

William Wordsworth

"But To Be Young Was Very Heaven!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: When still a young man, Wordsworth, like many of the British liberals, believed that the French Revolution marked the inauguration of a new age of political equality and freedom from tyranny; the old ways that had enslaved men were being changed by Reason, and dreams were coming true because people were concentrating on the problem of how to make life on earth pleasant rather than on how to earn an eternal life of joy. After he had grown apart from nature and momentarily accepted the rationalistic doctrine that man could form a perfect society on earth, Wordsworth was blinded to the full implications of the Revolution. In fact, he believed so strongly in the power of Reason that the Reign of Terror and the execution of the royal family came as a disillusioning shock to him and threw him into such a quandary that for a while he could find nothing solid upon which to build his life. The quotation comes from his account of the dreams of his youth before the period of disillusionment began.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven! O times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights,
When most intent on making of herself
A prime enchantress–to assist the work
Which then was going forward in her name!