The Beauty and the Hardship

To me The Prelude is like a diary for Wordsworth of all of his memories as a young boy growing up with nature.  Throughout this poem he commonly describes the innocence and freeness of a himself as a child and how he and nature have intertwined to become one. This then becomes an expression of his past, present and future self that nature is a force acting as a guide in his life.

This particular passage that I have choosen shows the beauty and hardships of nature and the connection with it.

 

Wisdom and spirit of the universe,

Thou soul that art the eternity of thought,

That giv’st to forms and images breath

And everlasting motion- not in vain,

By day or star-light, thus from my first dawn

Of childhood dids’t thou intertwine for me

The passions that build up our human soul,

Not with the mean and Vulgar works of man,

But with high objects with enduring things,

with life and Nature, purifying thus

The elements of feeling and thought,

And sanctifying by such discipline

Both pain and fear, until we recognize

A grandeur in the beatings of the heart. (428-441)


In this passage there is an immediate connection to Wordsworth himself and some greater force known as nature. He feels this force gives meaning and purpose to his life by giving him these great mental images which the becomes a powerful source to live with reference to the word “breath” (430). The poem then goes on to talk about the intertwining of childhood and nature, and how Wordsworth feels that this deep connection with nature has built “up [his] human soul” (434). This reflects that nature becomes the parental figure and guiding force instilling certain values and morals within him. This idea is further re-established when you shows the ability that nature has to purify “feelings and thought” (438) as if it acts as cleanse to the spirit and soul from any blemish upon him.  This force of nature is constantly shifting and changing throughout the poem as if it is something that he never wants to let go and eventually accepts to become apart of him. This preception of nature that Wordsworth displays is touching but in it’s own way leaves a sense of “pain and fear” (440) within him that he accepts.

 

Nor was this fellowship vouchsafed to me

With stinted kindness. In November days,

When vapours rolling down the valleys made

A lonely scene more lonesome, among the woods

At noon, and’ mid the calm of summer nights

When by the margin of the trembling lake

Beneath the gloomy hills I homeward went

In solitude, such intercourse was mine- (442-449)


This second half of the section I have chosen reflects the negative aspect to the connection with nature. Wordsworth commonly depicts his connection and love for nature as something “lonely” (445) and “lonesome” (445) leaving him with this feeling of “solitude” (449). In that even in the beauty of the image that he paints in our minds of these “vapours rolling down the valleys” (444) or “the calm of a summer nights” (447) there is a strong sense of isolation and sadness. In that choosing this love of nature has made him an isolated lonely person.

To me this section reflects the idea of sadness, that he feels this need and love for nature but by connecting to it and absorbing himself into it, he is also very alone and unable to connect to man. This idea with the inability to connect to man is also shown with his description of the works of man as “mean and vulgar” (435). This shows the inability for Wordsworth to accept man due to the power and influence of nature taking over and forming his soul and spirit.  


I feel like nature itself is presented in a beautifu
l and pristine way through Wordsworth’s words. However I don’t think we understand the hardship that he had to endure to make this great connection that we see. It is as though Wordsworth has let nature into himself to shape him into the man that he is but has also accepted this isolation from humanity. I think it is sad that this man who is able to connect and find peace within nature is unable to do so around individuals of his own kind.

           Wordsworth

 Wordsworth, William. The 1805 Prelude Book First. Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume D The Romantic Period 9th ed. 6 vols. New York: NY, 2012. Print.

 

“Solitude”. “Find a Therapist. http://findatherapist.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/solitude1.jpg. Jan 21 2013.

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7 Responses to The Beauty and the Hardship

  1. danethibeault4 says:

    Hayley,

    In response to reading your inquiry, I was intrigued by your reflection upon the significance of isolation within Wordsworth’s text. While the Prelude celebrates the vibrancy and prospects for emotional reprieve associated with nature, in effect, such opportunities are treated with a subtle irony, by my estimation, in that, while Wordsworth conveys himself into the liberating natural setting from the alienating experiences of industrialization and the stifling urban scene, he is, in effect, once again alienated from human society. Thus, when Wordsworth assumes habitation within the proximity of the human community, he experiences an emotional segregation or disconnect, while, though less overtly, experiencing much the same when entering into nature, which, as you have identified, further distances Wordsworth from his human peers. Therefore, I am prompted to consider this contemplation in response to your observations: Is the Prelude a recollection of Wordsworth’s cherished past memories and comprehensive engagement with nature, or, by contrast, is it a commentary upon insecurity, and a more subtle sense of loss or disorientation? Is nature truly a reprieve from emotional toil, or is it, in effect, an amplifier of grief and alienation? Perhaps, in considering this question, it may be alternatively inferred that the Prelude is not as celebratory of a poem as one might be led to believe. Regards,

    -Dane Thibeault

    • hayleydunmire says:

      Hi Dane

      I think no matter where Wordsworth is I think he will always feel this lack of absence and connection with people. I think he is unable to find solace among humans and relate to them. Perhaps this is why he enjoys nature so much in that it is away from everyone. However this may lead to the idea or assumption that he enjoys being alone and away from everyone. I am sorry but I am not too sure how to answer your question. I feel like I need Wordsworth in person to understand him and his poetry since so much of his work is like a diary to him where he only knows the true answer. I think your question is amazing and thought provoking and if you have any idea what the poem says please let me know!

      Thanks

      -Hayley

  2. thetheresak says:

    Hayley,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post. Great work! I especially liked the first idea you proposed, that is, the idea of The Prelude being Wordsworth’s diary or record of his life in nature-filled poetry. For me, The Prelude is much more than his autobiography. It was a reworked version of his feelings and perceptions within his ageing life. And I believe you chose great examples of these feelings and perceptions being expressed.

    I found your comment of nature being his “parental figure” thought-provoking. I never had thought of nature as a parental figure, but rather a guide. But you brought up an interesting point, which drew up some questions:

    • What is Wordsworth’s relationship with his parents?
    I had to find the answer to this one, mostly because it was interesting in association with nature being a “parental figure”. So, according to our Norton his mother died when he was eight and his father died when he was thirteen (270). Assuming that he did not have a mother-son relationship with his mother’s ghost – which is particularly likely – Wordsworth probably did not have a strong relationship with either of his parents after the age of fourteen.

    • For Wordsworth, was nature the “figure” to become himself or to grow alongside?

    • Did this relationship with nature bloom from the sadness of losing his parents?

    • Did he use nature – something that is truly immortal – as a way to have a constant in his life?

    • Is that why nature is so effective and prominent in his works?

    • Could The Prelude be an expression of this attachment to nature?
    I couldn’t find answers to it all – and I doubt anyone will ever find the real answers – but I did find this good BBC article about Wordsworth and the The Prelude written by Pamela Woof. It suggests that in The Prelude “Wordsworth evokes the child’s fear, and his sense that, alone and small amid the great hills and the universe of night” (Woof).

    From this, I think we have all seemed to forget that this young man in the rolling hills of his beloved nature was not only innocent and free, as you noted, but also parentless and trying to understand nature as something “far bigger than he is” (Woof).

    Once again, great post. It lead to me to do some digging.

    Oh! And here’s link to the BBC article!

    • hayleydunmire says:

      Oh my goodness! I did not realize my post created so many questions! I am amazed at what you were able to pull from my post and work with! You found some amazing background information which I think is key to understanding Wordsworth and his poetry better. I am so glad you shared this article with me it is wonderful!

  3. Athena G. Csuti says:

    I just wanted to say that I think this is an excellent post. I feel like there has been a lot of focus on the positivity of his relationship with nature but what is most poignant are the negative implications of this. From the biographical information we have received plus reading the poetry it is clear that he did indeed struggle and was not an entirely happy person. It is beautiful he could remember his childhood in such a way and connect with nature, but tragic that he could not seem to find the same beauty in humanity or adulthood. When reading his poetry in light of the negative implications (his loneliness, isolation, discontent with humanity/civilization) there is a whole new layer of depth that for me personally makes the work much more enjoyable.

  4. OliviaH says:

    Hayley,

    First off, great post! What you wrote about how he was unable to connect to man really stuck out for me. On my post, Athena raised the question of whether it was nature that brought out the connection in Wordsworth, or was it his own childhood curiosity and lack of understanding of the world around him. You talked about how Wordsworth loves and needs nature and connects to it but at the price of isolation from man. He feels this deep connection with nature that builds up the passion in his soul. Your post is kind of related to the question because I think that it is nature’s doing that brought out the connection with the passion, but childhood curiosity could be the reason why he is disconnected from man. He may have chosen to absorb himself completely into nature because its connection with him was so strong.
    It is as though Wordsworth has let nature into himself to shape him into the man that he is but has also accepted this isolation from humanity.
    I think nature creates that powerful emotional connection to childhood, but it is up to the person to decide how to respond to that connection. Do you think being isolated from man is a choice that he made? Or did he accept the isolation because there was no choice but to be connected to nature?

    • hayleydunmire says:

      Thanks Oliva! I really liked what you had to say and I thought you made some really good points! I think in some sense people choose if they want to connect with others or if they prefer to be left alone. We have discussed in class how Wordsworth had a strong relationship with Coleridge and I think when things were going good between them I feel like both individuals felt like they connected with someone that understood where the other was coming from with their ideas of nature and poetry like never before. However they did have a falling out and I think that left Wordsworth very alone in that Coleridge was his companion. I am not sure if Wordsworth decided to be alone because he wanted to or because he felt like he had nobody. But, it is a sad thought that Wordsworth in some sense may have welcomed his loneliness because of his lack of connection or interest with others.
      Poor Wordsworth

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