Essay: Wordsworth's Preludes

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Wordsworth's Preludes

The Prelude, Wordsworth's autobiographical poem, is long-winded and sometimes unevenly moving. He seems to know very well what matters to him but he cannot predict its presence nor beckon it. In a very real sense The Prelude is about the actual power of memory and not so much about the associative recall that goes along with memory. It deals with the kind of memory that is superseding, powerful and knocks you off your feet with the unchanged impact of the original experience. This memory almost depends upon a kind of forgetfulness. It is almost as if one has to sort through all the thoughts that they have ever saved in order to get back to the original experience itself (Coley, 2008).

William Wordsworth wrote the first version of The Prelude while in Germany in 1799. It was called the two-part Prelude and it contained almost all the major parts that are included in the later versions. By the year 1804, he had written a five-book version. He then decided to expand it into 13 books and it was finished by 1805. He spent the rest of his life revising the poem and performing major revisions from 1816-19 and from1832-39 (The Prelude, n.d.). In this poem, he discusses in detail the intellectual and emotional journey that he went through as he watched history unfold before his very eyes. William Wordsworth looked upon the negative things that had happened to him and with hope used his poetry in to bring positive change to the future (Bloom, 2007).

Wordsworth's poems started the Romantic era by stressing feelings, instincts, and pleasure instead of formality and mannerism. Wordsworth was the first to give expression to undeveloped human emotion. It is curious to note that for a poet whose work points so directly toward the future, so many of Wordsworth's works were preoccupied with the past, not only of his lost childhood but also of the historical past (Wordsworth's Poetry, 2009).

The Prelude quite openly promotes its subject matter as the growth of the poet's mind. In doing so it gives a clear endpoint, which is Wordsworth's status as a mature poet. When the poem was published in 1850 shortly after his death, Wordsworth's status as a Poet Laureate would lend strong evidence that Wordsworth's goal had been reached. Within the text of his poems, Wordsworth often ensured that that the reader was certain of the end of the plot, from the very beginning. He did this by having the poem look forward to the outcome; he did this even while examining the distant past of his childhood. This allowed even a first-time reader to know the end of each episode, and therefore to know its significance even before reading it. He did it this way rather than having the readers wait until the end of the text for a retrospective significance to be presented on what had come before it (Morgan, 2008).

In The Prelude, Wordsworth uses narrative structures to promote lyric effects. All of these suggestions depend on one central argument. One that Wordsworth encourages his audience to read with prospective, constantly looking forward to a conclusion the reader already knows from the beginning. Wordsworth's status as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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