William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

William Wordsworth, the son of an attorney, was born in 1770. After the death of his mother in 1778 and his father in 1783, Wordsworth was sent away to be educated at Hawkshead Grammar School in the Lake District. Wordsworth went to St. John's College, Cambridge where he developed radical political views. Influenced by the ideas of William Godwin, Wordsworth was an early supporter of the French Revolution.

Wordsworth went on a walking tour of France in 1790 and returned the following year and had an affair with Annette Vallon, the result of which was an illegitimate daughter, Ann Caroline. After the outbreak of war with France in 1793, Wordsworth returned to England. The poem, Guilt and Sorrow reveals that he still held strong views on social justice. He also wrote, Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff (1793), a pamphlet that gave support to the French Revolution. However, after the Reign of Terror (September 1793-July 1794), Wordsworth became disillusioned with radicalism. This was reflected in his verse drama, The Borderers (1796).

In 1796 Wordsworth set up home at Alfoxden in Somerset with his sister, Dorothy Wordsworth. His friend, Samuel Coleridge, who had also renounced his early revolutionary beliefs, lived three miles away at Nether Stowey. In 1798 they published the book Lyrical Ballads, which achieved a revolution in literary taste and sensibility. Lyrical Ballads included Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey and Coleridge's famous poems, the Ancient Mariner and The Nightingale.

In 1799 Dorothy and William moved to Grasmere in the Lake District. Three years later William Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson. Over the next five years Wordsworth suffering several distressing experiences, including the death of two of his children, his brother being drowned at sea and Dorothy's mental breakdown. During this period Wordsworth worked on two major poems, The Recluse, which was never finished, and The Prelude, a poem that remained unpublished until after his death.

Wordsworth published Poems in Two Volumes in 1807. This including the poems: Ode to Duty (about the death of his brother), Resolution and Independence and Intimations of Immortality. Although attacked by William Hazlitt, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, for renouncing his early radicalism, Wordsworth was popular with most critics. The Excursion (1814) was well received and this was followed by The White Doe of Rylstone (1815), Miscellaneous Poems (1815) and The Waggoner (1819).

Wordsworth, now established as a conservative and patriotic poet, succeeded Robert Southey as poet laureate in 1843. William Wordsworth died at Rydal Mount, Ambleside in 1850.

Twenty-five millions of Frenchmen have felt that they could have no security for their liberties under any modification of monarchical power. They have in consequence unanimously chosen a Republic. You cannot but observe from that they have only exercised that right in which, by your own confession, liberty essentially resides. Slavery is a bitter and a poisonous draught. We have but one consolation under it, that a Nation may dash the cup to the ground when she pleases. Do not imagine that by taking from its bitterness you weaken its deadly quality; no, by rendering it more palatable you contribute to its power of destruction. We submit without repining to the chastisement of Providence, aware that we are creatures, that opposition is vain and remonstrance impossible. But when redress is in our own power and resistance is rational, we suffer with the same humility from beings like ourselves, because we are taught from infancy that we were born in a state of inferiority to our oppressors, that they were sent into the world to scourge, and we to be scourged. Accordingly we see the bulk of mankind, actuated by these fatal prejudices, even more ready to lay themselves under the feet of the great than the great are to trample upon them.

With settling judgements now of what would last

And what would disappear; prepared to find

Ambition, folly, madness, in the men

Who thrust themselves upon this passive world

As Rulers of the world; to see in these,

Even when the public welfare is their aim,

Plans without thought, or bottomed on false thought

And false philosophy; having brought to test

Of solid life and true result the books

Of modern statists, and thereby perceived

The utter hollowness of what we name

'The Wealth of Nations', where alone that wealth

Is lodged, and how increased; and having gained

A more judicious knowledge of what makes

The dignity of individual man,

Of man, no composition of the thought,

Abstraction, shadow, image, but the man

Of whom we read, the man whom we behold

With our eyes - I could not but inquire -

Not with less interest than heretofore,

But greater, though in spirit more subdued -

Why is this glorious creature to be found

One only in ten thousand? What one is,

Why may not many be? What bars are thrown

By Nature in the way of such a hope?

Our animal wants and the necessities

Which they impose, are these the obstacles?

If not, then others vanish into air.

Such meditations bred in anxious wish

To ascertain how much of real worth

And genuine knowledge, and true power of mind

Did at this day exist in those who lived

By bodily labour, labour far exceeding

Their due proportion, under all the weight

Of that injustice which upon ourselves

By composition of society

Ourselves entail.

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was born in Cookermouth, Cumberland, on April 7, 1770, the second child of an attorney. Unlike the other major English romantic poets, he enjoyed a happy childhood under the loving care of his mother and in close intimacy with his younger sister Dorothy (1771-1855). As a child, he wandered exuberantly through the lovely natural scenery of Cumberland. At Hawkshead Grammar School, Wordsworth showed keen and precociously discriminating interest in poetry. He was fascinated by "the divine John Milton," impressed by George Crabbe's descriptions of poverty, and repelled by the "falsehood" and "spurious imagery" in Ossian's nature poetry.

From 1787 to 1790 Wordsworth attended St. John's College, Cambridge, always returning with breathless delight to the north and to nature during his summer vacations. Before graduating from Cambridge, he took a walking tour through France, Switzerland, and Italy in 1790. The Alps gave him an ecstatic impression that he was not to recognize until 14 years later as a mystical "sense of usurpation, when the light of sense/ Goes out, but with a flash that has revealed/ The invisible world"—the world of "infinitude" that is "our beings's heart and home."

From William Wordsworth to Extinction Rebellion: a history of Britain’s green activists

As Extinction Rebellion throws the spotlight on the threat of climate change, Karen R Jones chronicles the history of environmental campaigning in the UK – from William Wordsworth's vivid descriptions of the Lake District to the dystopia of Doomwatch

This competition is now closed

Published: October 22, 2019 at 12:19 pm

Climate change, plastic waste and industrial pollution have rocketed up the news agenda in recent months. From David Attenborough addressing crowds at this year’s Glastonbury festival to the Extinction Rebellion protests taking place across British towns and cities, ideas of environmental responsibility are prominent in today’s public discourse. In fact, concepts of environmental responsibility, appreciation and activism have a long and vibrant history. It’s a history that takes in a diverse array of historical actors, among them Romantic poets, Victorian campaigners for factory reform, advocates for the countryside and anti-nuclear protesters, and adds a valuable (and often understudied) dimension to the understanding of modern Britain.

Thinking about the beginnings of any ‘ism’ is a complicated endeavour, but many would point to the 18th-century Romantic movement as an important example of Nature (with a capital N) being invested with uplifting and aesthetic qualities beyond the demands of basic utility. Writing in A Guide Through the District of the Lakes (1810), William Wordsworth famously described the Lake District as a “sort of national property” that he felt everyone “with an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy” should have a right to: an early example of an appreciation for beautiful landscapes translating into a call for their protection. Two decades earlier, the naturalist Gilbert White, who is popularly credited as Britain’s first ecologist, wrote his Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789) out of an abiding connection to the landscape, gained through close observation of local fauna and flora.

Looming large in an environmental and environmentalist history of Britain is the industrial revolution. While many celebrated this new manufacturing age, with its capital gains, factories and technological wizardry – postcards of sulphurous clouds and belching smokestacks lionised the productive spirit of ‘Beautiful Manchester’ – others were less sanguine. The modern city brought optimism and progress, but also environmental problems: cholera and various communicable diseases, chemical contamination and atmospheric pollution, to name but a few.

Victorian environmental concerns came in many guises, from fretting over the endemic smoky haze that covered the northern manufacturing centres of Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield to fears sparked by the ‘Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894’ and a capital drowning in equine faeces (a prospect avoided, somewhat ironically, by the invention of the internal combustion engine). Factory reformers, green space advocates, smoke abatement societies and activists against animal cruelty all became pioneers in environmental activism, drawing significant connections between a healthy environment and a healthy society.

As the urban world encroached, conservation became an important motif. The RSPB was founded in 1889 and, led by female campaigners, agitated for the protection of birds (and especially a limit on their use in millinery). The National Trust, founded by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley in 1895, began to lobby for the preservation of sites on the basis of their “beauty or historical interest”, abetted by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England (which was later joined by sister bodies in Wales and Scotland), established in 1926.

A passion for the countryside, alongside concerns over the privatisation of commons land since the early 1700s, invited an activist response on Sunday 24 April 1932, when hundreds of workers (many of whom belonged to ramblers’ societies) engaged in a mass trespass of Kinder Scout in Derbyshire: an important act of civil disobedience that demanded a “right to roam”. Such campaigns for nature conservation led to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act (1949), and the dedication of the Peak District National Park in 1951.

Smog and seabirds

The post-1945 era augured a new phase in British environmentalism, one symbolised by the atomic bomb and a capacity for Homo sapiens to transform the biosphere on a hitherto unprecedented scale. Walkers marched from Aldermaston to London in Ban-the-Bomb protests led by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (founded in 1958). Concerns about nuclear contamination were also joined by worries about pesticides and other encompassing threats to life, eloquently articulated by the US biologist Rachel Carson in her seminal tract Silent Spring (1962).

In postwar Britain, this sentiment was galvanised by striking examples of environmental crisis. London’s Great Smog of 1952 – a deadly conjugation of fog and smoke emissions – led to the deaths of 12,000 people, days of near-zero visibility and the removal of prized plants from Kew Gardens to Kent. The deleterious impact of modern industrialism was also made clear by the stricken Torrey Canyon oil tanker dumping more than 100,000 tonnes of crude off the Cornish coast in March 1967 images of mired seabirds capturing the public attention in an early example of TV environmentalism in action.

William Wordsworth

One of England’s most beloved poets and a pioneer of Romanticism, William Wordsworth was made Poet Laureate in 1843.

William was born in Cockermouth in Cumbria on 7th April 1770 to John Wordsworth, a legal agent and his wife Anne, and was the second of five children. He would remain close to his sister Dorothy throughout his life like William she also became a poet.

He grew up in an impressive mansion house in the Lake District. However his childhood was not a happy one: the children’s relationship with their father was not close and would remain so until his death.

Nevertheless, despite their strained relationship, John Wordsworth did leave an important impression on young William, instilling in him the importance of literature. Wordsworth’s wealth afforded William the opportunity to use his father’s library to learn and be inspired by some of the literary greats.

Whilst his exposure to literature was critical, it was his childhood in the Lake District and his time spent at his grandparents’ house at Penrith which would have a notable impact on Wordsworth’s subject matter in his poetry. It was in this setting that Wordsworth, for long periods of time, would find himself out in the countryside, an escapism both figuratively and literal.

Tragically William’s mother died when William was seven years old and his father passed away just six years later. William was taken in by his mother’s family, sadly separating him from his sister Dorothy with whom he had developed a close bond, as she was sent away to live in Halifax with their mother’s cousin. He remained at Penrith where his initial education was based on tradition and religion.

Dorothy Wordsworth

To complete his schooling he was sent to Hawkshead Grammar School which had a much stronger emphasis on scholarly pursuits and was a stepping stone to higher education. William’s time at Hawkshead was productive, as his new curriculum embraced mathematics and literature as well as Latin which became a particular favourite for Wordsworth. With the assistance of his schoolmaster he was also encouraged to write poetry, an important influence for this talented young boy.

Whilst at Hawkshead he boarded with Hugh and Ann Tyson at a local hamlet. It was whilst staying in this community with its strong Quaker tradition that he began to formulate his own opinions on matters pertaining to religion, society and nature.

He had already become strongly influenced by his natural surroundings whilst staying at Penrith, choosing to wander away from his sad and stifling family life and embracing the natural world instead. This became a critical influence on Wordsworth’s work, his focus on nature forming the backbone of the Romantic Movement and its spiritual journey through literature and art.

After Hawkshead School, in October 1787 Wordsworth moved on to St John’s College Cambridge where, as he himself would later note, he did not achieve any particular brilliance. However it had an important effect on challenging his ideas and evolving attitudes to life.

In his final summer as a Cambridge student, he decided to tour the Alps with his friend Robert Jones. Departing from Dover in July 1790, the two young men set off on a walking tour of Europe, an experience which would influence his literary work as well as his political and social conscience.

Whilst living in France, Wordsworth became increasingly aware of social issues affecting everyday men and women. The context of the French Revolution and the rise of democratic values based around equality were concepts which would influence him. His travels also had an impact on his personal life, conceiving a daughter called Caroline in France. Leaving before her birth, he would later return to France in 1802 with his sister to meet her.

It was in France that some of Wordsworth’s earliest poetry, “An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches”, was published in 1793. He would continue to travel, finding further inspiration for his poetry.
Back in Britain, he would go on to marry his childhood sweetheart Mary Hutchinson with whom he would have five children, sadly only three of whom would reach adulthood. His family eventually settled down in Grasmere in the Lake District.

William Wordsworth, 1798

Wordsworth’s literary career really took off when in 1795 he met fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Together, they composed “Lyrical Ballads”, first published in 1798, a collection of poems that instigated an entire literary, artistic and cultural movement: Romanticism.

The two poets had intended to embrace poetry using the vernacular which would make it more accessible to the everyday man. Wordsworth himself explained that the whole process was experimental, embracing new ideas on style, form and structure to create an entirely new kind of poetry.

The natural world would take on a didactic quality in many of his works, as in the poem “The Tables Turned” written in 1798 and included in his collection of “Lyrical Ballads”.

“Come forth into the light of things, Let nature be your teacher”.

This characterises Romantic poetry as a genre as well as Wordsworth’s focus on nature as a guide for human knowledge, themes echoed in other works completed in the same era.

Hand-written manuscript of Wordsworth’s ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’, also known as ‘Daffodils'(1802).

One of his most famous poems, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, was inspired by a bed of daffodils witnessed by William and his sister on a visit to Ullswater. Nature proved to be a pervasive theme throughout his literary career.

One of Wordsworth’s most prolonged projects, which he failed to see published, was his famous work “The Prelude”. This esteemed work is an autobiographical poem which he initially began working on in 1798 and continued to refine throughout his life.

The content of the poem reflects the different stages of his life his youth, childhood, education and later years are divided into fourteen sections, using style, structure and form to enhance the impact. His stages of life are conveyed symbiotically with the personification of nature, reflecting his spiritual and personal growth.

Wordsworth’s contribution to poetry was eventually recognised in 1843 when he became Poet Laureate. Only seven years later he passed away from pleurisy on 23rd April 1850.

“The Prelude” was published three months later by his wife Mary, a fitting tribute to a great poet with a striking literary career and incredible legacy in British literature.

Jessica Brain is a freelance writer specialising in history. Based in Kent and a lover of all things historical.

Census records can tell you a lot of little known facts about your William-wordsworth ancestors, such as occupation. Occupation can tell you about your ancestor's social and economic status.

There are 3,000 census records available for the last name William-wordsworth. Like a window into their day-to-day life, William-wordsworth census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 642 immigration records available for the last name William-wordsworth. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 1,000 military records available for the last name William-wordsworth. For the veterans among your William-wordsworth ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

There are 3,000 census records available for the last name William-wordsworth. Like a window into their day-to-day life, William-wordsworth census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 642 immigration records available for the last name William-wordsworth. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 1,000 military records available for the last name William-wordsworth. For the veterans among your William-wordsworth ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

5. Hart-Leap Well

The Knight had ridden down from Wensley moor
With the slow motion of a summers cloud
He turn’d aside towards a Vassal’s door,
And, “Bring another Horse!” he cried aloud.

“Another Horse!”—That shout the Vassal heard,
And saddled his best steed, a comely Grey
Sir Walter mounted him he was the third
Which he had mounted on that glorious day.

Joy sparkled in the prancing Courser’s eyes
The horse and horsemen are a happy pair
But, though Sir Walter like a falcon flies,
There is a doleful silence in the air.

A rout this morning left Sir Walter’s Hall,
That as they gallop’d made the echoes roar
But horse and man are vanish’d, one and all
Such race, I think, was never seen before.

Sir Walter, restless as a veering wind,
Calls to the few tired dogs that yet remain:
Brach, Swift and Music, noblest of their kind,
Follow, and weary up the mountain strain.

The Knight halloo’d, he chid and cheered them on
With suppliant gestures and upbraidings stern
But breath and eye-sight fail, and, one by one,
The dogs are stretch’d among the mountain fern.

Where is the throng, the tumult of the chase?
The bugles that so joyfully were blown?
—This race it looks not like an earthly race
Sir Walter and the Hart are left alone.

The poor Hart toils along the mountain side
I will not stop to tell how far he fled,
Nor will I mention by what death he died
But now the Knight beholds him lying dead.

Dismounting then, he lean’d against a thorn
He had no follower, dog, nor man, nor boy:
He neither smack’d his whip, nor blew his horn,
But gaz’d upon the spoil with silent joy.

Close to the thorn on which Sir Walter lean’d
Stood his dumb partner in this glorious act
Weak as a lamb the hour that it is yean’d,
And foaming like a mountain cataract.

Upon his side the Hart was lying stretch’d:
His nose half-touch’d a spring beneath a hill,
And with the last deep groan his breath had fetch’d
The waters of the spring were trembling still.

And now, too happy for repose or rest,
Was never man in such a joyful case,
Sir Walter walk’d all round, north, south and west,
And gaz’d, and gaz’d upon that darling place.

And turning up the hill, it was at least
Nine roods of sheer ascent, Sir Walter found
Three several marks which with his hoofs the beast
Had left imprinted on the verdant ground.

Sir Walter wiped his face, and cried, “Till now
Such sight was never seen by living eyes:
Three leaps have borne him from this lofty brow,
Down to the very fountain where he lies.

I’ll build a Pleasure-house upon this spot,
And a small Arbour, made for rural joy
‘Twill be the traveller’s shed, the pilgrim’s cot,
A place of love for damsels that are coy.

A cunning Artist will I have to frame
A basin for that fountain in the dell
And they, who do make mention of the same,
From this day forth, shall call it Hart-leap Well.

And, gallant brute! to make thy praises known,
Another monument shall here be rais’d
Three several pillars, each a rough hewn stone,
And planted where thy hoofs the turf have graz’d.

And in the summer-time when days are long,
I will come hither with my paramour,
And with the dancers, and the minstrel’s song,
We will make merry in that pleasant bower.

Till the foundations of the mountains fail
My mansion with its arbour shall endure
—The joy of them who till the fields of Swale,
And them who dwell among the woods of Ure.”

Then home he went, and left the Hart, stone-dead,
With breathless nostrils stretch’d above the spring.
And soon the Knight perform’d what he had said,
The fame whereof through many a land did ring.

Ere thrice the moon into her port bad steer’d,
A cup of stone receiv’d the living well
Three pillars of rude stone Sir Walter rear’d,
And built a house of pleasure in the dell.

And near the fountain, flowers of stature tall
With trailing plants and trees were intertwin’d,
Which soon composed a little sylvan hall,
A leafy shelter from the sun and wind.

And thither, when the summer days were long,
Sir Walter journey’d with his paramour
And with the dancers and the minstrel’s song
Made merriment within that pleasant bower.

The Knight, Sir Walter, died in course of time,
And his bones lie in his paternal vale.—
But there is matter for a second rhyme,
And I to this would add another tale.

Part Second

The moving accident is not my trade.
To curl the blood I have no ready arts
‘Tis my delight, alone in summer shade,
To pipe a simple song to thinking hearts.

As I from Hawes to Richmond did repair,
It chanc’d that I saw standing in a dell
Three aspens at three corners of a square,
And one, not four yards distant, near a well.

What this imported I could ill divine,
And, pulling now the rein my horse to stop,
I saw three pillars standing in a line,
The last stone pillar on a dark hill-top.

The trees were grey, with neither arms nor head
Half-wasted the square mound of tawny green
So that you just might say, as then I said,
“Here in old time the hand of man has been.”

I look’d upon the hills both far and near
More doleful place did never eye survey
It seem’d as if the spring-time came not here,
And Nature here were willing to decay.

I stood in various thoughts and fancies lost,
When one who was in Shepherd’s garb attir’d,
Came up the hollow. Him did I accost,
And what this place might be I then inquir’d.

The Shepherd stopp’d, and that same story told
Which in my former rhyme I have rehears’d.
“A jolly place,” said he, “in times of old,
But something ails it now the spot is curs’d.

“You see these lifeless stumps of aspen wood,
Some say that they are beeches, others elms,
These were the Bower and here a Mansion stood,
The finest palace of a hundred realms.

“The arbour does its own condition tell,
You see the stones, the fountain, and the stream,
But as to the great Lodge, you might as well
Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream.

“There’s neither dog nor heifer, horse nor sheep,
Will wet his lips within that cup of stone
And, oftentimes, when all are fast asleep,
This water doth send forth a dolorous groan.

“Some say that here a murder has been done,
And blood cries out for blood: but, for my part,
I’ve guess’d, when I’ve been sitting in the sun,
That it was all for that unhappy Hart.

“What thoughts must through the creatures brain have pass’d!
To this place from the stone upon the steep
Are but three bounds, and look, Sir, at this last!
O Master! has been a cruel leap.

“For thirteen hours he ran a desperate race
And in my simple mind we cannot tell
What cause the Hart might have to love this place,
And come and make his death-bed near the well.

“Here on the grass perhaps asleep he sank,
Lull’d by this fountain in the summer-tide
This water was perhaps the first he drank
When he had wander’d from his mother’s side.

“In April here beneath the scented thorn
He heard the birds their morning carols sing,
And he, perhaps, for aught we know, was born
Not half a furlong from that self-same spring.

“But now here’s neither grass nor pleasant shade
The sun on drearier hollow never shone:
So will it be, as I have often said,
Till trees, and stones, and fountain all are gone.”

“Grey-headed Shepherd, thou hast spoken well
Small difference lies between thy creed and mine
This beast not unobserv’d by Nature fell,
His death was mourn’d by sympathy divine.

“The Being, that is in the clouds and air,
That is in the green leaves among the groves,
Maintains a deep and reverential care
For them the quiet creatures whom he loves.

“The Pleasure-house is dust:—behind, before,
This is no common waste, no common gloom
But Nature, in due course of time, once more
Shall here put on her beauty and her bloom.

“She leaves these objects to a slow decay
That what we are, and have been, may be known
But, at the coming of the milder day,
These monuments shall all be overgrown.

“One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she shows, and what conceals,
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.”

This is a somewhat overlooked poem which appears early in the second volume of the 1800 Lyrical Ballads. It deserves much more attention since it is perhaps Wordsworth’s most successful and mature fable. It relates what Wordsworth himself calls in a headnote to the poem ‘a remarkable Chase’ (that is, a hunt) which gives the well its name. Appropriately, the poem begins in storm and tempest, but also, surprisingly, stillness:

‘The Knight had ridden down from Wensley Moor
With the slow motion of a summer’s cloud,
And now, as he approached a vassal’s door,
“Bring forth another horse!” he cried aloud.’

The knight is later named as Sir Walter (probably not Sir Walter Scott, of whom Wordsworth was a friend). In this stanza already one begins to see the obsessions and recurring themes in Wordsworth’s work: in ‘Daffodils’ (entry 8) he ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’ here the knight rides ‘With the slow motion of a summer’s cloud’. The idea of the chivalric tale briefly appeared in the first ‘Lucy’ poem (entry 7), and here appears again in full swing. But Wordsworth is careful not to allow a bustling tale of adventure to overtake the more earnest communication of his writing. We see this in ‘the slow motion of a summer’s cloud’, and then again more forcefully in stanza 3:

‘Joy sparkled in the prancing courser’s eyes
The horse and horseman are a happy pair
But, though Sir Walter like a falcon flies,
There is a doleful silence in the air.’

The poem is in two discrete parts, the first of which relates the tale: Sir Walter relentlessly hunts the hart and finds it dead by a spring after leaping a tremendous distance (which he deduces from the number of hoofprints in the earth). The element of the mysterious is strongly suggested by Wordsworth himself:

‘Where is the thong, the tumult of the race?
The bugles that so joyfully were blown?
—This chase it looks not like an earthly chase
Sir Walter and the Hart are left alone.’

At the site of the hart’s demise, where its snout just touches the spring, Sir Walter vows to build a pleasure palace, ‘to make thy praises known’ (he tells the stag), which he shall name Hart-Leap Well. Wordsworth spends a few stanzas on a stunning description which I cannot include here, and so concludes the first part, or tale:

‘The Knight, Sir Walter, died in course of time,
And his bones lie in his paternal vale.—
But there is matter for a second rhyme,
And I to this would add another tale.’

And Wordsworth begins the second by reminding us of his poetic seriousness, and (implicitly) his adoration of Spenser, whose influence on Wordsworth is everywhere evident, but especially here:

‘The moving accident is not my trade
To freeze the blood I have no ready arts:
‘Tis my delight, alone in summer shade,
To pipe a simple song for thinking hearts.’

The style is pure Spenser. However by the second stanza he is himself again, riding ‘from Hawes to Richmond’. He comes across the site of the well and is mystified, concluding only that ‘Here in old time the hand of man hath been’. A shepherd approaches and enlightens him of the history we have just read in the first part. What he adds is that the place is now ‘curst’:

‘There’s neither dog nor heifer, horse nor sheep,
Will wet his lips within that cup of stone
And oftentimes, when all are fast asleep,
This water doth send forth a dolorous groan’.

The shepherd ascribes the cause to the Hart, and eulogises it movingly:

‘Here on that grass perhaps asleep he sank,
Lulled by the fountain in the summer-tide
This water was perhaps the first he drank
When he had wandered from his mother’s side.

‘In April here beneath the flowering thorn
He heard the birds their morning carols sing
And he perhaps, for aught we know, was born
Not half a furlong from that self-same spring’.

Wordsworth concludes with the shepherd that

‘This Beast not unobserved by Nature fell
His death was mourned by sympathy divine’.

The conclusion is unapologetically didactic, and one of Wordsworth’s best:

‘One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she [nature] shows, and what conceals
never to blend our sorrow or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.’

If we could take such a lesson more seriously, we might today occupy a better world than we do. But Wordsworth is wise enough (after his early revolutionary years) to know that real revolution is impossible: humanity is, for the most part, much as it is, as it has always been, as (most likely) it shall always be.

Cambridge Authors

Undergraduate Rachel Thorpe's essay traces the history of Wordsworth's critics. He has meant very different things to different historical periods, but he has consistently been provocative. Where some poets have long periods of neglect, Wordsworth has been distinctive in persistently causing profound, worthwhile problems to later generations.

'An Eddy of Criticism'

Wordsworth is a poet who never seems far from critics' minds. From the moment of his first publication (in 1793), there has been no shortage of critics ready both to dismiss him and to idolise him. His close friend and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, recognised early on that the sheer amount of critical attention threatened the poems themselves: '[His work] produced an eddy of criticism, which would of itself have borne up the poems by the violence, with which it whirled them round and round'. (This, and the other references in this article, can be followed up in 'Further Reading' below). It is within this whirlpool of critical voices that Wordsworth's poetry exists for us today.

It seems that new generations of critics never tire of evaluating and re-evaluating the ideas found within Wordsworth's poetry, and reinterpreting their significance for a new generation. Whether they love him or hate him, critics of every age have felt it important to communicate their views on his verse and his critics include Hazlitt, DeQuincey, Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliot and Harold Bloom. Just what is it about the poetry of Wordsworth which seems to provoke such disparate responses?

Reactions of Wordsworth's Contemporaries

Early readers of Wordsworth were confused by Wordsworth's poetry. They objected to his thoughts about language, metrical arrangement, his poetics and his seemingly low subject matter. Despite his having written a large amount of prose discussing his new style of poetry, readers often found this prose yet more infuriating and perplexing (a mood which perhaps Wordsworth registered by writing more and more prose in the early nineteenth century). Coleridge voiced this frustration with poetry that required an explanation, stating: 'nothing can permanently please, which does not contain in itself the reason why it is so, and not otherwise'. Thus readers largely set the prose aside in order to interrogate the poems themselves.

wrote damning reviews of a number of Wordsworth's poems. Most notoriously, he wrote an especially stinging review of The Excursion in Edinburgh Review, beginning with the infamous line 'This will never do'. He claimed that Wordsworth was arrogant, irresponsible, and 'silly'. Jeffrey found the moral of Wordsworth's poem obscure, and objected to his use of diction, his lowly subject matter and what Jeffrey imputed as an abstruse system in the poem. He concluded that, 'The case of Mr Wordsworth, we perceive, is now manifestly hopeless, and we give him up as altogether incurable, and beyond the power of criticism'.

But other critics had less aggressive reservations. agreed that Wordsworth was not a truly great poet, and even called him the 'spoiled child of disappointment'. However, he suggested that 'his strength lies in his weakness' and that while his poetry was limited, he was still 'the most original poet now living'. This respect for him is evident in Hazlitt's prose which is bestrewn with allusion to and citation from Wordworth's verse.

Hazlitt also noted that the tide seemed to be turning in Wordsworth's favour, something that anticipated. In fact De Quincey felt sure that he had discovered Wordsworth's genius at least thirty years before the reading public, who were sure to recognise it soon. He attributed the growing critical disregard for Wordsworth to the fact that people needed time to see the 'eternal truths' behind them. He predicted that the poems were destined to increase in popularity as people recognised his 'sympathy for what is really permanent in human feelings'. Memorably, he claimed 'whatever is too original will be hated at first. It must slowly mould a public for itself'.

And he seemed to be right. Critics such as Wordsworth's friend Charles Lamb wrote favourable reviews, in which flaws were highlighted within the context of friendly teasing. Coleridge too catalogued at length what he saw to be Wordsworth's faults, not unlike Jeffrey had. However, his aim was to prove that despite all of these, Wordsworth was still a truly great poet. He claimed that his synthesis of meditative solitude and an energetic excitement of the mind meant that he was capable of producing 'the first genuine philosophic poem'. Whether he ever in fact achieved this has been a recurrent critical debate, as we shall see.

Artistic Responses

Coleridge was not only a critic of Wordsworth - he was a fellow poet. His engagement with the poetry was creative as well as intellectual. He and Wordsworth had worked together on the Lyrical Ballads, and Coleridge was keen to point out that their collaboration did not mean that they held identical views about the task of poetry, or indeed on the Lyrical Ballads themselves. Indeed, as the years passed, their friendship became increasingly strained. Perhaps this was partly due to Coleridge's constant awareness that Wordsworth was the greater poet, and the dissipation of his own poetry as Wordsworth's grew into maturity. However, it was also undoubtedly due in some part to Wordsworth's growing contribution and dominance over the Ballads after 1798. Coleridge was highly concerned to articulate his own position, and often when he appears to be discussing Wordsworth, it is because he states Wordsworth's arguments, and then deliberately distances himself from them in order to highlight his own aesthetic theories and practices.

One novelist who gravitated towards Wordsworth was George Eliot. Her novels show the extent to which she admired Wordsworth as a simple poet of nature and rural beneficence. They shared an identification with the English rural landscape. His influence is perhaps most felt in her novel Silas Marner, where the epigraph is a snippet of one of his poems. She herself commented that she had doubted anyone at all would appreciate the novel seeing as 'Wordsworth is dead'. But it was not only Wordsworth's poetic style, but his philosophy which was inspiring people. John Stuart Mill, the famous economist and philosopher, was profoundly moved by the sentiments he found in Wordsworth. He became inspired by Wordsworth's visions of individuality and the dignity of the human. Wordsworth's concerns with aspects of existence that touch us on the profoundly personal level added nuances to Mill's thoughts about social justice and reform.

The Victorians

A recent critic, Stephen Gill, noted that Wordsworth is often approached by critics in the Victorian period not because of his poetry, but because their own 'visibility [their prominence as critics] is enhanced by a full-dress re-appraisal of Wordsworth's contemporary significance'. Wordsworth was becoming central to literary culture, not only because of his poetry but because of his reputation. The name 'Wordsworth' sold books, and so people began to write about him to gain fame for themselves. Everyone had an opinion on Wordsworth and wanted to share it. People even began to travel to Wordsworth's home in Grasmere on a poetic pilgrimage of sorts. 'The Sage of Rydal Mount', as Wordsworth became known, was now the living relic of a shrine. People journeyed there to take clippings from the garden, or even to converse with the master himself. And indeed they still do today, to partake of the 'famous Grasmere gingerbread'.

Matthew Arnold, an important Victorian social and literary critic, wrote of Wordsworth 'I, for one, must always listen to him with the profoundest respect'. However, he thought that ultimately, Wordsworth could never be a truly great and permanent poet of the stature that Coleridge had suggested he might be. He felt the poetry of Wordsworth and the other Romantic poets to be 'premature', produced 'without sufficient materials to work with'. Arnold summarises: 'In other words, the English poetry of the first quarter of this century, with plenty of energy, plenty of creative force, did not know enough'. This was a shortcoming not of the poets themselves, but of the society in which they were writing this response is ironic in that both Coleridge and Wordsworth read copiously in numerous fields. But for Arnold, both the strength and the weakness of Wordsworth's poetry would always be that it had its 'source in a great movement of feeling, not in a great movement of mind'.

Modernist Discussions

The modernists framed Wordsworth as their point of departure from the poetry of emotions. rebutted the idea that good poetry was 'the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling', instead suggesting that it was in fact an escape from emotion and personality. He felt that critics should be turning their attention away from the feelings and opinions of the poet to re-focus on the poetry. A modernist preference for concrete imagery and language meant that Wordsworth was often considered suggestive and vague.

A few critics tried to reclaim purpose within this haze. M.H. Abrams characterised Wordsworth's poetry as having an outward-looking intention not entirely dissimilar from that at the centre of the Modernist project. He claimed that everything in Wordsworth's poems calls us to look beyond, always to something higher, deeper, better, something beyond the self. In contrast, Geoffrey Hartman claimed that Wordsworth's poetry calls us not out into nature, by deep into the mind of the poet himself. He was interested in Wordsworth as a poet of a of thought, or what he labelled Wordsworth's 'consciousness of consciousness', his thinking about his own thinking. The focus was clearly on Wordsworth's ideas, as he became the 'poet-philosopher'.

Specificity vs. Transcendence

critics such as Marjorie Levinson and Jerome McGann began to treat Wordsworth's expansiveness and introspection with suspicion. They considered a poem not only to be an aesthetic construction of language, but also a cultural product. Their approach was not only linguistic, but also conceptual and ideological. Their focus was on the historical aspect of the poems, which they felt had been much ignored since divorced poetry from its context. In reclaiming what had become known as 'cultural contamination' they looked through what they considered to be Wordsworth's elusive and generalising poems to find the specific historical moments which they thought lay behind them They claimed that any sense that his poetry transcends material history was an illusion, created by displacement and evasion. Thus theirs was the approach of analysing the unmentioned things behind the poem. Unfortunately, for many this implied that Wordsworth had focused on nature and beauty at the expense of recognising the harsh reality of the world around him. However, Levinson has been keen to suggest that in fact far from being divorced from his surroundings, he was so deeply affected by them that he could only bear to mention them in passing and so feigned aloofness.

Recently, however, a critical challenge to this approach has returned to a serious consideration of Wordsworth as a philosophical poet. David Bromwich and Simon Jarvis have both argued against criticism that attacks what is supposedly absent from Wordsworth's work. Instead they argue that Wordsworth's arguments in verse might still have ramifications for our own philosophising today. Bromwich was keen to suggest that Wordsworth did write this 'philosophical song' and Jarvis more generally suggests that, 'His [Wordsworth's] writing is always breaking through to some experience for which the available fails'. They believe his poetry to be a living moment of human truth, which exists beyond any one historical event, cultural cause, or life circumstance. This is not because they think that Wordsworth was not interested in 'the '. Jarvis is deeply interested in Wordsworth's response to its own cultural movement, but is keen to point out that his poetry might also take in a broader historical sweep of thought. Using theorists like , Jarvis argues that we must consider how Wordsworth treats a continuum of ideas and forms in his poetry - ideas and forms that have their own histories.

Bromwich has in fact called for a complete reappraisal of Wordsworth, suggesting that we cast aside idealised visions of him as the prophet of nature, and remembering that he was a man - at times a disagreeable one - who wrote poetry. By remembering this, we can perhaps gain a more realistic picture both of the poet and the poetry. And the debate is not over. While Wordsworth maintains his honoured position in the English canon, he will continue to be a centre of critical activity. For, whatever the reason, we can surely agree with Coleridge when he wrote that the sheer volume of critical writings 'leave no doubt in my mind, that Mr. Wordsworth is fully justified in believing his efforts to have been by no means ineffectual'.

Further Reading

Here you will find a list of the sources for quotations above. Other opinions (e.g. Lord Jeffrey quoted above) can be found in The Cambridge Companion to Wordsworth, ed. Stephen Gill (Cambridge, 2003), or indeed in William Wordsworth: The Critical Heritage, ed. Robert Woof, vol. I: 1793-1820 (London, 2001).

  • Abrams, M.H., Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (Oxford, 1971).
  • Blake, William. Complete Writing, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (Oxford, 1957).
  • Bromwich, David, Disowned By Memory: Wordsworth's Poetry of the 1970s (London, 2000).
  • Coleridge, S.T, Biographia Literaria ed. J. Shawcross (Oxford, 1907).
  • De Quincey, Thomas, Recollections of the Lake Poets, ed. Edward Sackville-West (London, 1984).
  • Gill, Stephen, Wordsworth and the Victorians (Oxford, 1998).
  • Hartman, Geoffrey H., Wordsworth's Poetry 1787 - 1814 (Yale, 1964).
  • Hazlitt, William, The Spirit of the Age: Contemporary Portraits (London, 1825).
  • Jarvis, Simon, Wordsworth's Philosophic Song (Cambridge, 2006)
  • Lamb, Charles,Lamb's Criticism (ed.) E.M.W. Tillyard (Cambridge, 1923).
  • ---- Selected Writings (ed.) J.E. Morpurgo (Manchester, 1993).
  • Levinson, Marjorie, Wordsworth's Great Period Poems (Cambridge, 1986).
  • McGann, Jerome J, The Romantic Ideology: A Critical Investigation (London, 1983).

The George Eliot quotation comes from a letter she wrote to her publisher, John Blackwood, on 24th Feb 1861 and can be found in the introduction by Terence Cave to the Penguin edition of Silas Marner.

Further Thinking

Rachel Thorpe quotes Simon Jarvis saying that Wordsworth is always 'breaking through' to something that words struggle to express. Can you find moments in the poems where this seems to be happening? Or would you put it another way?

It seems as if people have, for a variety of reasons, reacted against Wordsworth. Are there things that you react against - even if overall you are persuaded of his merits?

If you have a comment on any of the issues raised here, or if you have read something really good about Wordsworth, you can leave a reply here.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 at 10:10 pm and is filed under Wordsworth. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Lucy Poems Literary Criticism

Hall, Spencer. "Wordsworth's Lucy Poems: Context and Meaning." Studies in Romanticism 10, 3 (Summer, 1971), pp. 159-175 [free at jstor].

Jackson, H.J. "Lucy Revived." On the connections between Wordsworth's Lucy Poems and Lord Lyttelton's poems about Lucy Fortescue. Romanticism on the Net 13 (1999) [open access journal].

Matlak, Richard E. "Wordsworth's Lucy Poems in Psychobiographical Context." PMLA 93, 1 (Jan. 1978), pp. 46-65 [free at jstor].

Ferguson, Frances C. "The Lucy Poems: Wordsworth's Quest for a Poetic Object." ELH 40, 4 (Winter, 1973), pp. 532-548 [free at jstor].

Thomson, Douglass H. "Wordsworth's Lucy of 'Nutting.'" Studies in Romanticism 18, 2 (Summer, 1979), pp. 287-298 [free at jstor].

Romanticism on the Net 24 (2001).

Graver, Bruce and Ronald Tetreault. "Editing Lyrical Ballads for the Electronic Environment." Romanticism on the Net 9 (1998).

Halmi, Nicholas. "Lucy, Lucia, and Locke." Halmi considers madness in opera and literature. Special issue on Opera and Nineteenth-Century Literature, Romanticism on the Net 34-35 (2004).

Hanley, Keith. "Wordsworth's Revolution in Poetic Language." Examines Lyrical Ballads in the light of Julia Kristeva's 1974 doctoral thesis, La Révolution du langage poétique. Romanticism on the Net 9 (1998).

Jones, Chris and Li-Po Lee. "Wordsworth’s Creation of Active Taste." The authors write, "Building on Bakhtinian approaches to Wordsworth's early poems, we extend their findings to The Prelude , using analytical tools from narratology and film criticism to trace the interplay of different views and voices." Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 54 (2009).

The Greatness of William Wordsworth

Two hundred and fifty years ago, on April 7, 1770, the English poet William Wordsworth was born. We are also close to the anniversary of his death, which occurred 80 years later on April 23, 1850. Wordsworth's intense sensitivity to the beauty and power of the natural world made him the archetypal Romantic poet, and the most influential poet of the 19th century.

He spent most of his life in one of the most beautiful areas of England, the Lake District, and his poems are full of detailed descriptions of the sublime, awe-inspiring landscapes of the region. One of the most famous poems in the English language—particularly in the UK, where every child reads it at school—is "The Daffodils," a simple lyric in which Wordsworth describes his joy at the blazing beauty of thousands of daffodils fluttering along the side of a lake.

Wordsworth is a massively significant figure for a number of reasons. First of all, he originated a new kind of poetry. Whereas previous poets had mainly dealt with political and moral issues (often in a satirical and whimsical way), Wordsworth believed that poetry should be subjective, an expression of the inner life of the author, or a lyrical description of the beauty of the natural world. He defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." In other words, poems arise when we feel powerful emotions, such as moments of great joy and deep sadness. They are a way of capturing powerful feelings and transmitting them to the reader. To us nowadays, it seems obvious to describe poetry in this way, but at the end of the 18th century, this was revolutionary.

Wordsworth's major work is a massive autobiographical poem called The Prelude, which explored "the growth of a poet's mind." The only previous poems of a similar length had been epics like Paradise Lost or The Fairie Queen, which told long and convoluted stories. But over hundreds of pages of blank verse, Wordsworth describes his childhood and youth in intricate detail, describing all of his formative experiences—most notably, all of his significant encounters with nature. Some of Wordsworth's contemporaries accused him of gross egotism, but the poem (and Wordsworth's work in general) was really just the expression of a new kind of subjectivity. It was almost as if he had discovered a whole new dimension of human beings' inner life, a kind of terra incognita which he had decided to explore and depict in as much detail as possible. As the literary critics Harold Bloom and Lionel Trilling put it, "Before Wordsworth, poetry had a subject. After Wordsworth, its prevalent subject was the poet's own subjectivity… and so a new poetry was born."

Wordsworth's Awakening Experiences

This brings me to the second way in which Wordsworth is so significant. This is because of the spiritual aspects of his poetry. Earlier European poets had written about spiritual experiences, but always in the context of religion. Wordsworth was the first poet to write about spiritual experiences in a secular way, without explaining them in religious terms.

I call such experiences "awakening experiences" and have spent many years studying them from a psychological perspective. They are moments when our awareness becomes more intense and expansive. Our perception becomes more intense so that the world becomes more vivid and beautiful. We feel a sense of connection to nature, to other human beings and animals, and to a deeper part of our own being. All things seem to be interconnected, too, as if they are expressions of an underlying oneness. There is a sense of meaning to life and a sense of harmony in ourselves and in the world.

Wordsworth's poetry is full of descriptions of such experiences. He has many passages where he describes his awareness of a spirit-force pervading the natural world, some of which come very close to descriptions of the all-pervading presence of brahman (or Spirit) in the Indian Upanishads (which Wordsworth almost certainly never read). For example, in one of his most beautiful and profound poems, "Tintern Abbey," he writes:

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, 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.

In another of his most beautiful poems, "Intimations of Immortality," Wordsworth describes how children's fresh, intense perception enables them to see a world "apparell'd in celestial light" with "the glory and freshness of a dream." However, as we become adults, we move away from the "heaven" of our infancy. "Shades of the prison-house begin to close," and the glorious vision of childhood fades "into the light of common day."

The Romantic Movement

The Romantic movement that began with Wordsworth became a major cultural phenomenon during the 19th century and was the expression of a collective psychological or even spiritual change. There were three main aspects to romanticism, two of which I've mentioned already in connection to Wordsworth: a new attitude to nature—a sense of connection to nature, and a sense of the beauty and purity of the natural world—and the exploration and expression of inner feelings. The third aspect was social and political idealism. The romantics rebelled against injustice and oppression, and against traditions such as Christianity and the feudal system. They were idealists who believed in a better and fairer world.

In my view, the romantic movement represented the emergence of a new state of being and a new kind of consciousness. As I suggest in my book The Leap, evolution has an inner dimension, as well as an outer physical one. At the same time as being a process by which life forms become divergent and physically complex, it is a process by which life forms become more conscious—that is, they develop a more intense awareness of their environment and increased sentience and subjectivity.

The reason why the romantic movement was so important was that it was part of the evolution of consciousness. The romantics had a more intense awareness than previous human beings. Their awareness was more intense in that they felt a strong sense of connection with nature, a strong sense of empathy and compassion (which gave rise to their social idealism), and also an intense subjective awareness. As I suggest in The Leap, before the second half of the 18th century, the standard human mode was an intensified sense of ego, with a strong sense of separation from nature, from other human beings, and from the body itself. But from the second half of the 18th century, this separation began to fade away. There was a new sense of connection and compassion.

Wordsworth was so important because he expressed these aspects of romanticism more than any other author. Although he became a conservative in his later life, as a youth, he had many radical ideas. In his early 20s, for example, he traveled through France and supported the revolutionary forces.

Shades of the Prison House

Although I've long been familiar with Wordsworth's poetry, I didn't know much about his life until a couple of years ago, when I read a book called Wordsworth: A Life in Letters. I was sad to learn that Wordsworth's life was tragically blighted by bereavement—in particular, the death of his children. In 1812 (at a time when he was distraught by the death of his brother a few years earlier), two of Wordsworth's five children died. First, it was his daughter Catherine (who had suffered from ill-health since birth and wasn't expected to survive into adulthood) and then his 6-year-old son Thomas, who died of pneumonia after contracting measles. (The three other children became seriously ill with measles, and their lives hung in the balance for days.)

Both Wordsworth and his wife were in a deep state of grief for years afterward. As he wrote movingly to a friend after the death of his son, "I dare not say in what state of mind I am I loved the Boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me—yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it." Three years later, he wrote a beautiful short poem called "Surprised by Joy" about the "most grievous loss" of his daughter and the pain of knowing that "my heart's best treasure was no more" and that nothing "could to my sight that heavenly face restore."

One of the puzzling things about Wordsworth is that although he lived till the age of 80 and wrote hundreds of poems, all of his best poetry was written before the age of 40. Critics generally agree that he wrote little of any real merit after this and have often puzzled over the dramatic decline in the quality of his work. His later poems lack so much of the freshness and insight of his earlier work that they seem to come from a different author. I think it's likely that this was the result of his grief, beginning with the loss of his brother and later with the loss of his children. Bloom and Trilling remark that it is almost as if Wordsworth "iced over," and this was probably due to the trauma of his bereavements.

However, it is refreshing to know that, even during his difficult later years, what he called "the visionary gleam" did not disappear entirely. Even at the age of 74, Wordsworth was still able to write a poem like "So Fair, So Sweet, Withal So Sensitive," where the intricate beauty of nature amazes him and enables him to "Converse with Nature in pure sympathy":

So fair, so sweet, withal so sensitive,
Would that the little Flowers were born to live,
Conscious of half the pleasure which they give

That to this mountain-daisy's self were known
The beauty of its star-shaped shadow, thrown
On the smooth surface of this naked stone!

William Wordsworth - History

William Wordsworth (1770-1850), the foremost of the English Romantic poets, was clearly unhappy with the effects of Industry.

Meanwhile, at social Industry's command
How quick, how vast an increase. From the germ
Of some poor hamlet, rapidly produced
Here a huge town, continuous and compact
Hiding the face of earth for leagues - and there,
Where not a habitation stood before, >
Abodes of men irregularly massed
Like trees in forests, - spread through spacious tracts.
O'er which the smoke of unremitting fires
Hangs permanent, and plentiful as wreaths
Of vapour glittering in the morning sun.
And, wheresoe'er the traveller turns his steps
He sees the barren wilderness erased,
Or disappearing triumph that proclaims
How much the mild Directress of the plough
Owes to alliance with these new-born arts!
- Hence is the wide sea peopled, - hence the shores
Of Britain are resorted to by ships
Freighted from every climate of the world
With the world's choicest produce. Hence that sum
Of keels that rest within her crowded ports
Or ride at anchor in her sounds and bays
That animating spectacle of sails
That, through her inland regions, to and fro
Pass with the respirations of the tide,
Perpetual, multitudinous! . . .
. . . I grieve, when on the darker side
Of this great change I look and there behold
Such outrage done to nature as compels
The indignant power to justify herself
Yea, to avenge her violated rights.
For England's bane.

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University. Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 20 January 2021 [CV]