William Wordsworth’s Prelude

Wordsworth (1770-1850) and English Romantic Poets
  1. Wordsworth’s Childhood and Education
  2. Radical Wordsworth
  3. Domestic Wordsworth: Lyrical Ballads
The Prelude: Or, the Growth of a Poet’s Mind: 1799, 1805, 1850

Epic and Lyric Poetry

      1. "Wrath be now your song, O muse, the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus…"
      2. "Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending …"
      3. "I sing of warfare and a man at war.…"
      4. "Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit / Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste / Brought death into the world, and all our woe,…"

Book I: Childhood and Wordsworth’s Purpose

Thus far, O friend, did I, not used to make

A present joy the matter of my song,

Pour out that day in measured strains...

From the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads:

I answer that the language of such Poetry as I am recommending is, as far as possible, a selection of the language really spoken by men; that this selection, wherever it is made with true taste and feeling, will of itself form a distinction far greater than at first would be imagined, and will entirely separate the composition from the vulgarity and meanness of ordinary life; and, if metre be superadded thereto, I believe that a dissimilitude will be produced altogether sufficient for the gratification of a rational mind.

Stealing a Boat

…for many days my brain

Worked with a dim and undetermined sense

Of unknown modes of being. In my thoughts

There was a darkness—no familiar shapes

Of hourly objects, images of trees,

Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields,

But huge and mighty forms that do not live

Like living men moved slowly through my mind

By day, and were the trouble of my dreams.

The Power of Imagination: Book VI

  1. Exploration and Touring
  2. Disappointment: Crossing the Alps
  3. Imagination Rises Up

Imagination! lifting up itself

Before the eye and progress of my Song

Like an unfathered vapour; here that Power

In all the might of its endowments, came

Athwart me; I was lost as in a cloud,

Halted, without a struggle to break through.

And now recovering, to my Soul I say

‘I recognize thy glory’. In such strength

Of usurpation, in such visitings

Of awful promise, when the light of sense

Goes out in flashes that have shewn to us

The invisible world, doth Greatness make abode,

There harbours whether we be young or old.

Our destiny, our nature, and our home,

Is with infinitude, and only there;

With hope it is, hope that can never die,

Effort, and expectation, and desire,

And something evermore about to be.

Reason and Revolt in the French Revolution: Book X

What there is best in individual Man,

Of wise in passion, and sublime in power,

What there is strong and pure in household love,

Benevolent in small societies,

And great in large ones also, when called forth

By great occasions, these were things of which

I something know, yet even these themselves,

Felt deeply, were not thoroughly understood

By Reason…

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,

But to be young was very heaven!

Imagination, How Impaired and Restored: Boox XI and XII

Reason and Imagination

There comes (if need be now to speak of this

After such long detail of our mistakes),

There comes a time when Reason, not the grand

And simple Reason, but that humbler power

Which carries on its no inglorious work

By logic and minute analysis

Is of all Idols that which pleases most

Spots of Time

The Best Power

I seemed about this period to have sight

Of a new world, a world, too, that was fit

To be transmitted and made visible

To other eyes, as having for its base

That whence our dignity originates,

That which both gives it being and maintains

A balance, an ennobling interchange

Of action from within and from without:

The excellence, pure spirit, and best power

Both of the object seen, and eye that sees.