Wordsworth: The Purity of Human Nature

As we discussed in class, the language of the Romantic Period as a whole was marked by its shift away from the elaborate, baroque style to one in the tongue of common man. Through the deliberate choice of everyday diction, both Wordsworth and Coleridge go against the elaborate forms and figures of speech that dominated much of 18th century English poetry.

In the preface, Wordsworth argues that the vernacular language of commoners, “being less under the influence of social vanity”, conveys “feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions” (295). Hence the language used by the “humble and rustic” people was “a far more philosophical language” and more sincerely expressed universal human feelings.

Wordsworth goes on to point out that their poems depict “incidents and situations from common life” (294) with a shift of focus to elements such as peasants, children, rustic country settings and the pure state of nature. By doing so, the poets broke past the Neo-Classical restricts on the choice of poetic subject matters, which were usually confined to the lives of kings, queens, nobles and life in the city. Furthermore Wordsworth maintains that the very purpose of poetry is to offer access to the emotions within human memories and to provide pleasure through the uncontaminated expression of feeling.

This overall style remains consistent throughout his works, including the poem simply known as Tintern Abbey.The language throughout the monologue stands out for its simplicity and directness as the poet speaks frankly in plainspoken manner, thus making it easy to understand (even today in 2013). Wordsworth focuses on the subjects of childhood, memory and its preservation. This along with the religious references, rustic symbols (of cottages, orchards trees) depict the beauty of humanity’s connection with nature.

Therefore am I still

A lover of the meadows and the woods,

And mountains; and of all that we behold

From this green earth; of all the mighty world

Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,

And what perceive; well pleased to recognize

In nature and the language of the sense,

The anchor of my purest thoughts… (Wordsworth 291)

 

Through his interconnectedness with nature, Wordsworth finds an inspirational harmony and outlines how his senses (“of eye and ear”) are the building blocks of his consciousness.

What strikes me most about his work overall is the focus on the human mind and it’s appreciation of the solace that imagination and memories provide. Wordsworth’s emphasis on the basic but very universal theme of human nature along with his simplistic, modest approach is what makes his writing not only relevant but an almost natural pleasure to study today.

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3 Responses to Wordsworth: The Purity of Human Nature

  1. rwhittaker says:

    I completely agree with your statement that – according to Wordsworth – the very purpose of poetry is to offer access to the emotions within human memories. I think this concept of memory is especially prevalent in Tintern Abbey in that not only is Wordsworth reflecting on his time here five years prior, when he looked at nature “in the hour of thoughtless youth” (290), but is also commenting on the fact that what he sees while he stands here, is “life and food for future years” (290). Wordsworth notes that what he is viewing presently has “changed, no doubt, from what I was when first I bounded among these hills” (290), I’m curious about how his memories about this moment would impact Wordsworth if he was to return for a third time?

  2. bkmilne says:

    This DQ post was completely relevant and helpful when thinking about what we discussed in class, with the help of the written words and your thought out examples, the blog post is well done. Though I questions, even though
    “Wordsworth focuses on the subjects of childhood, memory and its preservation.”
    Which I do not deny is a completely true statement, but in Wordsworth’s statement “therefore I am still” or “were then to me an appetite; a feeling and a love”.

    So I question, did Wordsworth truly preserve everything, or was his memory a more hyped-up and exciting version of the true memory; through Wordsworth poetry I get the feeling that his “preserved memory” of Tintern Abbey was not realistic, hence he now seems disappointed with his return and constantly states that back then nature was a love “that had no need of a remoter charm”, but I feel as if it is not that way anymore.

    Is his reaction to the return to Tintern Abbey due to his playing-up of his memories, or because he really was that excited and in love with nature as a child, or because he has now grown up and understand nature isn’t quite everything he remembered?

  3. nicolericher says:

    I love the line from the quote you pulled “Therefore am I still….” This line feels like one of the most complex lines he uses while also the most revealing. When you wrote: “Hence the language used by the ‘humble and rustic’ people was ‘a far more philosophical language’ and more sincerely expressed universal human feelings,” it threw the connection to Descartes right at me and made me think more seriously about that particular segment of the poem.
    Descartes words: “I think, therefore I am” was stated in an elaborate philosophical series of letters. The Discourse on Method would have been limited to scholars (“flowery language” being one of the reasons); Wordsworth makes it more attainable by suggesting that regardless of language, educational background and/or the way you associate with nature and other men, you exist as well and we exist because existence runs through all things. Perhaps it’s a stretch but the line just previous to your selection seems to draw more support to this conclusion:
    “…and in the mind of man,
    A motion and a spirit, that impels
    All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
    And rolls through all things. ” (99-102)
    As an aside, do you suppose the enjambment through that line “Therefore am I still” is intentional? It almost feels like a dramatic pause as the poet is still while taking in the beauty of his surroundings.

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