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 beautiful 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, 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.