William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
"There is a comfort in the strenth
of love;/ 'Twill make a thing endurable, which else/ Would
overset the brain, or break the heart..."-William Wordsworth
Wordsworth lived a happy childhood, and
was schooled in Latin, Greek, and mathematics by a teacher
who encouraged his poetic imagination. During the eight
years he lived in Hawkshead while attending the local grammar
school, Wordsworth spent his time engaging in activities
in the open countryside. These years shaped his love for
nature and the basis of his poetry. At St. John's College
in Cambridge, Wordsworth enjoyed the classics as well as
the moderns, grasped the Italian language, and dreamed of
nature. He left St. Johns in 1791 without distinction and
utterly beyond himself of what he was to do in the future.
He decided, however, to become a traveling tutor and set
out for France in November. In France, he fell in love,
fathered a child, and devoted himself to French Republicanism.
A subsequent war between France and England brought him
back to his native country. During 1893, he acquainted himself
with William Godwin, Joseph Fawcett, Thomas Paine, and Mary
Wollstonecraft. Consequently, he converted to Godwin's social
radicalism. In 1797, he and his sister Dorothy collaborated
with Coleridge in the production of Lyrical Ballads.
In 1800, Wordsworth finished The Prelude. In 1802
he reunited with his lover and his daughter and wrote Ode:
Intimations of Immortality. He offered to support his
daughter financially, yet he married another woman. The
next ten years, he fathered 5 children and published more
poems and a political tract. In 1812, he experienced the
loss of two of his children and reconciled with Coleridge.
From 1814 to the end of his life, he traveled extensively
and published a great many volumes of poetry, sketches,
and other miscellaneous prose work. He died a Poet Laureate
Wordsworth possessed a unique perception of his surroundings.
He saw things in nature that others did not see, and this
power over his contemporaries allowed him to write the most
graceful, imaginative and fantastic poetry. His regard for
commonplace things was directly displayed in many of his
poems, which in effect changed the diction of English poetry
considerably. He professed an awareness for human emotions
which shaped his original and individualistic form of poetry.
With the failure of the French Revolution, he and Coleridge
determined to improve the world with their poetry. Wordsworth
also believed in his own version of the "oversoul:"
And I have felt
A presence that distrubs 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. (Noyes 239-240)
Wordsworth's poetry was a little ahead of its time; however,
it instigated Romanticism in England through its emotional
nature and its allusions to nature. His work has had a profound
legacy on Victorian and twentieth-century literature as
well. Yet his ultimate goal was the betterment of mankind
through the discovery of an individual's own joy and emotions.
An Evening Walk (1793)
Descriptive Sketches (1793)
Lyrical Ballads (1798)
"The Tables Turned"
The Prelude (1805)
Poems in Two Volumes (1807)
"Ode to Duty"
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality"
The Excursion (1814)
"White Doe of Rylstone" (1815)
Memorials of a Tour of a Continent (1822)
"Yarrow Revisited" (1835)
Noyes, Russell. English
Romantic Poetry and Prose. New York: Oxford University