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'Dark passages' in Wordsworth's poetry : a study of Wordsworth's exploration of life's baffling phenomena… Ogbang, Peter Mego Ogem 1973

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THE "DARK PASSAGES" IN WORDSWORTH'S POETRY: A STUDY OF WORDSWORTH'S EXPLORATION OF LIFE'S BAFFLING PHENOMENA IN RELATION TO THE CHALLENGE OF IMAGINATIVE ILLUMINATION OF MANKIND. by PETER MEGO OGEM OGBANG B.A. , U n i v e r s i t y o f N i g e r i a , 1965 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY i n the Department of ENGLISH We a c c e p t t h i s t h e s i s as conforming t o the r e q u i r e d s t a n d a r d THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August, 1973 In p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f t h e r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r an advanced degree a t the U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree t h a t the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e and s t u d y . I f u r t h e r agree t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e c o p y i n g o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y p urposes may be g r a n t e d by the Head o f my Department o r by h i s r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s u n d e r s t o o d t h a t c o p y i n g o r p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l n o t be a l l o w e d w i t h o u t my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . Department o f £ N Cr- L. \ $ H The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada Date ABSTRACT The purpose of t h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n i s t o e s t a b l i s h the f u l l range and n a t u r e of Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n of the dark passages of l i f e i n r e l a t i o n t o the c h a l l e n g e of i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n o f mankind. By c o n c e n t r a t i n g on a t h e m a t i c s t u d y of t h o s e poems w r i t t e n between 1798-1814, I have i n d i c a t e d b o t h the scope and the p a t t e r n of h i s e x p l o r a t i o n of l i f e ' s b a f f l i n g phenomena. T h i s s t u d y i s t h e r e f o r e a s e a r c h f o r the e s s e n t i a l q u a l i t i e s o f t h a t bed-rock humanity which account f o r Wordsworth's c e n t r a l i t y among h i s c o n t e m p o r a r i e s and among a l l r e f l e c t i v e r e a d e r s ; i t i s a s e a r c h f o r meaning and v a l u e , s t r e n g t h and o r i g i n a l i t y , and weight and s a n i t y o f thought and f e e l i n g encompassed i n h i s p o e t r y . The i n t e n t i o n i s t o show how Wordsworth's i m a g i n a t i v e genius o f f e r s h e l p and courage to p e r p l e x e d minds i n s e a r c h of t h a t genuine p o e t i c i n s i g h t which n e i t h e r v i o l a t e s the p r i n c i p l e of beauty n o r a f f r o n t s e m p i r i c a l r e a s o n and the e x p e r i e n c e of common humanity. The i n t r o d u c t o r y c h a p t e r d e f i n e s the f u l l e x t e n t of Wordsworth's concern w i t h the dark passages of human l i f e as a c c e n t u a t e d i n h i s age by the break i n c o n t i n u i t y of i m a g i n a t i v e v i s i o n . He r e c o g n i z e d t h a t h i s age had become i n c r e a s i n g l y s c e p t i c a l o f any r e a l m of thought t r a n s c e n d i n g t h e b o u n d a r i e s -i i d e c l a r e d by e m p i r i c a l thought, but he a l s o r e c o g n i z e d t h e need of something s t e a d y i n g and deepening to n o u r i s h man's i m a g i n a t i v e l i f e . G iven the absence of l a r g e i n t e l l e c t u a l and i m a g i n a t i v e s t r u c t u r e s w i t h which the poet c o u l d s u f f i c i e n t l y i d e n t i f y h i m s e l f , Wordsworth sought to r e - d e f i n e s t r u c t u r e s of i m a g i n a t i v e p e r c e p t i o n which c o u l d enable him to s e r v e mankind i n h i s c a l l i n g as a p o e t . N e v e r t h e l e s s , Wordsworth had f i r s t t o c o n f r o n t the darkness of h i s own mind b e f o r e he c o u l d undertake to e s t a b l i s h t h e p r i n c i p l e of i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n of mankind. In the d r a m a t i c l y r i c s of 1798-1805, e s p e c i a l l y , the poet t u r n e d t o the mode of i m a g i n a t i v e d i s c o v e r y of s e l f . Chapters I I and I I I d e a l w i t h the poems i n which Wordsworth g r a p p l e d w i t h complex e m o t i o n a l and p h i l o s o p h i c a l a n x i e t i e s which p r e s s e d i n upon him as he pondered on the c h a l l e n g e of h i s chosen t a s k of p r o v i d i n g i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n f o r the c h i l d r e n of the e a r t h . These poems i n c l u d e " T i n t e r n Abbey," the "Matthew" poems, " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" and the F i f t h Book o f The P r e l u d e . The I m m o r t a l i t y Ode and the P e e l e C a s t l e v e r s e s a r e d i s c u s s e d i n Chapters IV and V as f o r m i n g a t r a n s i t i o n o f p o e t i c thought between the e a r l y l y r i c s and The E x c u r s i o n . These two poems d e a l w i t h t h e problem of o r i e n t a t i o n t o the v i s i b l e u n i v e r s e and they h e l p the poet t o r e c o g n i z e more c l e a r l y h i s f u n c t i o n as the p o e t - e l e g i s t of h i s age. Chapters VI and V I I I d i s c u s s The E x c u r s i o n as the c u l m i n a t i o n of Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n o f the dark passages o f i i i human l i f e , and the conclusion reached is that the later poems offer no significant advance in the substance of poetic thought in his elegiac contemplation of human experience. The point is that, given Wordsworth's complex combination of an empirically oriented imagination with a deepening elegiac mode of vision, The  Excursion has to be seen not as a fragment but as the expression of his fullest awareness of the reality of the human condition. The prevailing critical attitude in this dissertation is that of a view of Wordsworth's poetry as a mental act. I have presented Wordsworth as a poet whose special relationship with language enables him to achieve structures of poetic thought that deserve the closest syntactical analysis, particularly in those poems that are generally considered as dull and obscure. TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter Page I . I n t r o d u c t i o n . 1 I I . The B u r t h e n of t h e Mystery 47 I I I . K i n d r e d Hauntings 92 IV. Shadings o f M o r t a l i t y 116 V. Shadings of M o r t a l i t y , P a r t I I 143 V I . The Darkness of the Grave 173 V I I . The V a l e o f F i n a l Eminence 224 V I I I . C o n c l u s i o n 258 BIBLIOGRAPHY 2 76 INTRODUCTION I have taken the h i n t f o r my d i s s e r t a t i o n from K e a t s ' s d e s c r i p t i o n o f Wordsworth's genius as " e x p l o r a t i v e o f [the] dark Passages" o f human l i f e . The phrase o c c u r s i n the seven-page l e t t e r to John H a m i l t o n Reynolds i n which Keats i s p r e o c c u p i e d w i t h "the c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f Wordsworth's g e n i u s " "as a help""'"; i n c o n t e m p l a t i n g the p u z z l e s of human l i f e . A l t h o u g h Keats does not o f f e r much more than a h i n t i n my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f the dark passages i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y , I w i s h f i r s t t o d i s c u s s the n a t u r e and c o n t e x t o f K e a t s ' s h i n t b e f o r e d e f i n i n g the dark passages. The seven-page l e t t e r t o Reynolds i s so dense i n t e x t u r e and so m e d i t a t i v e i n tone t h a t i t d e s e r v e s t o be quoted as f u l l y as p o s s i b l e : An e x t e n s i v e knowledge i s n e e d f u l to t h i n k i n g p e o p l e — i t t a k es away the heat and f e v e r ; and h e l p s , by w i d e n i n g s p e c u l a t i o n , t o ease the Burden of the M y s t e r y : a t h i n g I b e g i n to u n d e r s t a n d a l i t t l e , and which weighed upon you i n the most gloomy and t r u e sentence i n your L e t t e r . . . . You say " I f e a r t h e r e i s l i t t l e chance of any-t h i n g e l s e i n t h i s l i f e . " You seem by t h a t t o have been g o i n g w i t h a more p a i n f u l and a c u t e z e s t the same L a b y r i n t h t h a t I h a v e — I have come to the same c o n c l u s i o n thus f a r . My B r a n c h i n g s out t h e r e f r o m have been numerous: one of them i s the c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f Wordsworth's genius and as a h e l p , i n the manner of g o l d b e i n g the m e r i d i a n L i n e o f w o r l d l y w e a l t h , — h o w he d i f f e r s from M i l t o n . . . . In r e g a r d to h i s [Wordsworth's] ge n i u s . . . we f i n d what he says t r u e as f a r as we have e x p e r i e n c e d and we can judge no f u r t h e r but by l a r g e r e x p e r i e n c e — f o r axioms i n p h i l o s o p h y a r e not axioms u n t i l they a r e proved upon our p u l s e s : We r e a d f i n e t h i n g s but n e v e r f e e l them to the f u l l u n t i l we have gone the same s t e p s as the Author . . . I w i l l r e t u r n t o Wordsworth . . . And . . . I w i l l 2 put down a s i m i l e of human l i f e as f a r as I now p e r c e i v e i t ; t h a t i s , t o t h e p o i n t to which I say we b o t h have a r r i v e d a t — W e l l — I compare human l i f e t o a l a r g e Mansion of Many Apartments, two o f which I can o n l y d e s c r i b e , t h e doors of th e r e s t b e i n g as y e t shut upon me. The f i r s t we s t e p i n t o we c a l l the i n f a n t o r t h o u g h t l e s s Chamber, i n which we remain as l o n g as we do n o t t h i n k — W e remain t h e r e a l o n g w h i l e , and n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g the doors o f th e second Chamber remain wide open, showing a b r i g h t appearance, we c a r e not to h a s t e n t o i t ; but a r e a t l e n g t h i m p e r c e p t i b l y i m p e l l e d by t h e awakening of t h i s t h i n k i n g p r i n c i p l e w i t h i n u s — we no sooner get i n t o the second Chamber, which I s h a l l c a l l the Chamber o f Maiden-Thought, than we become i n t o x i c a t e d w i t h t h e l i g h t and the atmosphere, we see n o t h i n g but p l e a s a n t wonders, and t h i n k o f d e l a y i n g t h e r e f o r e v e r i n d e l i g h t : However among the e f f e c t s t h i s b r e a t h i n g i s f a t h e r of i s t h a t tremendous one o f s h a r p e n i n g one's v i s i o n i n t o the h e a r t and n a t u r e o f M a n — o f c o n v i n c i n g one's n e r v e s t h a t the w o r l d i s f u l l of M i s e r y and H e a r t b r e a k , P a i n , S i c k n e s s and O p p r e s s i o n — whereby t h i s Chamber of Maiden Thought becomes g r a d u a l l y darken'd and a t the same time on a l l s i d e s of i t many doors a r e s e t o p e n — b u t a l l d a r k — a l l l e a d i n g t o dark p assages—We see n o t the b a l l a n c e [ s i n ] o f good and e v i l . We are i n a M i s t . WE a r e now i n t h a t s t a t e — W e f e e l t h e "burden of the M y s t e r y , " to t h i s P o i n t was Wordsworth come, as f a r as I can c o n c e i v e when he wrote ' T i n t e r n Abbey' and i t seems to me t h a t h i s Genius i s e x p l o r a t i v e o f those d a r k Passages. Now i f we l i v e , and go on t h i n k i n g , we too s h a l l e x p l o r e them—he i s a Genius and s u p e r i o r {to] us, i n so. f a r as he can, more than we, make d i s c o v e r i e s , and shed a l i g h t i n t h e m — H e r e I must t h i n k Wordsworth i s deeper than M i l t o n — f r o m the P a r a d i s e L o s t and o t h e r works o f M i l t o n . . . h i s P h i l o s o p h y , human and d i v i n e , may be t o l e r a b l y u n d e r s t o o d by one n o t much advanced i n y e a r s , In h i s time Englishmen were j u s t emancipated from a g r e a t s u p e r s t i t i o n — a n d Men had got h o l d of c e r t a i n p o i n t s and r e s t i n g p l a c e s i n r e a s o n i n g which were too newly b o r n t o be doubted . . . . M i l t o n , whatever he may have thought i n the s e q u e l , appears to have been c o n t e n t w i t h those by h i s w r i t i n g s — H e d i d not t h i n k i n t o the human h e a r t , as Wordsworth has done.2 The main t h r u s t of t h i s l o n g l e t t e r i s the c o n s i d e r a t i o n of Wordsworth's genius as a h e l p to two young and p e r p l e x e d E n g l i s h Romantic p o e t s . Wordsworth's p o e t r y i s t h e s u b j e c t of K e a t s ' s c o n s c i o u s m e d i t a t i o n . A few p o i n t s s t a n d out i n h i s c o n c l u s i o n : Wordsworth's g e n i u s i s e x p l o r a t i v e of the dark passages of h i s l i f e ; Wordsworth i s a s u p e r i o r g e n i u s because 3 he can make d i s c o v e r i e s , and shed a l i g h t i n them; Wordsworth i s deeper than M i l t o n because M i l t o n d i d not t h i n k i n t o the human h e a r t as Wordsworth has done. These a r e pregnant b u t , n e v e r t h e l e s s , undeveloped phrases which c a l l f o r i m a g i n a t i v e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n f o r any c r i t i c a l v a l u e t o be a t t a c h e d t o them. K e a t s ' s c r i t i c i s m o f Wordsworth, and of o t h e r p o e t s , i s o c c a s i o n a l and u n s y s t e m a t i c ; t h i s i s perhaps as i t should, be f o r , as a p o e t , Keats h i m s e l f r e a l i z e d t h a t One o f the most m y s t e r i o u s of s e m i - s p e c u l a t i o n s i s , one would suppose, t h a t o f one Mind's i m a g i n i n g i n t o a n o t h e r . . . A poet can seldom have j u s t i c e done to h i s i m a g i n a t i o n — f o r men a r e as d i s t i n c t i n t h e i r c o n c e p t i o n s of m a t e r i a l shadowings as they a r e i n m a t t e r s o f s p i r i t u a l u nderstanding.3 In s p i t e o f the t e n t a t i v e and e x p l o r a t o r y views of Keats on Wordsworth, however, K e a t s ' s comments r a i s e a few b a s i c , even i f somewhat b a f f l i n g , q u e s t i o n s r e l a t e d t o the e x p l o r a t i o n o f the dark passages i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y . In K e a t s ' s l e t t e r s (which a r e g e n e r a l l y r e g a r d e d as a major c r i t i c a l document), h i s comments on Wordsworth rank second o n l y t o those on Shakespeare i n q u a n t i t y but' i t i s noteworthy t h a t w h i l e many of the r e f e r e n c e s t o Shakespeare a r e l i g h t - h e a r t e d q u o t a t i o n s , those to Wordsworth n e a r l y always i n v o l v e Keats i n a t h o u g h t f u l c r i t i c a l p o s i t i o n . A l t h o u g h many s t u d i e s have attempted to e s t a b l i s h the e x t e n t o f the Keats-Wordsw<3rth''-literary r e l a t i o n s h i p , t h e s u b j e c t seems i n f i n i t e l y i n e x h a u s t i b l e as the f o l l o w i n g comments from a s c h o l a r who has s t u d i e d Keats b o t h i n r e l a t i o n to Shakespeare and Wordsworth w i l l i l l u s t r a t e : 4 I t i s o n l y when Wordsworth's and K e a t s ' s p o e t r y are e q u a l l y f a m i l i a r , and e q u a l l y i n t i m a t e , t h a t we can a p p r e c i a t e the depth and s u b t l e t y o f Wordsworth's i n f l u e n c e on K e a t s . In p a r t Keats had, as Goethe s a i d o f h i m s e l f i n r e l a t i o n t o S p i n o z a , " d i s c o v e r e d h i m s e l f " i n Wordsworth. I am i n c l i n e d t o be t h a n k f u l t h a t when I wrote Keats and Shakespeare, I d i d not know Wordsworth so i n t i m a t e l y as I have come to know"him s i n c e . An a c u t e c o n s c i o u s n e s s :of Wordsworth's i n f l u e n c e on Keats would have d i s t o r t e d the c l e a r o u t l i n e o f my p i c t u r e . 4 More r e c e n t s t u d i e s do not seem to have exhausted the t o p i c , e i t h e r . " ' N e v e r t h e l e s s , my aim i s n o t t o attempt another s t u d y of Wordsworth's i n f l u e n c e on K e a t s ; i t i s s i m p l y t o r e l a t e a few c l u e s i n K e a t s ' s response t o Wordsworth's genius t o my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the dark passages i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y . T h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n i s t h e r e f o r e on Wordsworth's p o e t r y and a l t h o u g h I may a l l u d e to K e a t s ' s poems and l e t t e r s , Keats w i l l remain l a r g e l y a f o o t n o t e t o t h i s s t u d y . In h i s c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f Wordsworth's gen i u s Keats appears t o have g l i m p s e d the c o m p l e x i t y o f the q u e s t i o n s i n v o l v e d and I i n t e n d to take the h i n t f u r t h e r by p i n p o i n t i n g the ar e a s t o be e x p l o r e d i n Wordsworth's concer n w i t h the dark passages. K e a t s ' s c r y p t i c comments on Wordsworth's p o e t i c genius demand a r e c o g n i t i o n o f a p r o c e s s of c r e a t i v e c r i t i c i s m . The l e t t e r s o f 1816-1820 r e v e a l K e a t s ' s determined i n t e r e s t i n sounding the depth and c o m p l e x i t y of Wordsworth's p o e t r y , and h i s b r i e f but p e r s i s t e n t comments suggest a unique way of g r a p p l i n g w i t h Wordsworth's p o e t i c themes and a t t i t u d e s . K e a t s ' s approach t o Wordsworth takes t h e form o f a p r o c e s s of arduous m e d i t a t i o n , l i k e t h e l i f t i n g . o f m ental w e i g h t s ; i t i s the p r o c e s s o f c o n t e m p l a t i n g l i t e r a t u r e i n r e l a t i o n t o the problems of "the burden o f m y s t e r y . " Keats came t o r e a l i z e u l t i m a t e l y 5 that the movement of imaginative consciousness such as is expressed in Wordsworth's poetry is a mental activity which can be understood only by putting oneself in the author's place by sharing the same anxieties about human nature and the condition of human existence in this world. It is this nature of Keats's deeply sympathetic response to Wordsworth's central concerns that has encouraged me to take the hint for my thesis from his description of the nature, of Wordsworth's unique genius. I am inclined to consider very highly the views—no matter how brief—of the one English Romantic poet who had the most affinity with Wordsworth as to the fundamentals of poetry and l i f e , and who was yet sufficiently distanced from Wordsworth to have left us a few hints- of a generally disinterested nature on Wordsworth's poetry. The generally disinterested nature of Keats's comments ought tb-be stressed because his method of pondering on Wordsworth's poetry suggests a creative and heuristic response; he does not bring unnecessary theoretical considerations to bear, whereas Coleridge, with his eyes forever-"fixed on problems of apparently greater importance to him in working out his metaphysical system, sometimes reached rather obfuscating conclusions in his generally theoretical discourse on Wordsworth's poetry. Keats's thoughtful but tentative approach suggests different grounds for working one's way into the core of thought in Wordsworth's poetry. For Wordsworth, of course, every significant poetic activity was an exploration into self-knowledge in relation to the complex nature of his deepening imaginative insight into the nature of man and the condition of his existence in this world. The desire to contribute imaginative insight which is illuminative of man's perplexity in this 6 world is a central motivating urge in Wordsworth's poetry and for Wordsworth the need to explore the dark passages of li f e became the highest ideal in poetry; and to achieve this ideal the stress on actual human experience as the basis and material of poetry led Wordsworth inevitably to the exploration of those themes which relate to the general anxiety of humanity: the puzzles of li f e and the riddles of death. His capacity for drawing a large meaning from actual incidents and things, his process of establishing imaginative significance from his experience in nature and among human beings is connected with the principle of imaginative contemplation whereby objects and situ-ations derive their essential function from their use as metaphors of. thought on human l i f e . This imaginative principle has to be under-stood in order to reach at Wordsworth's mode of exploring the dark passages of l i f e . There are, of course, other more obvious questions involved in discussing Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages. The first is a matter of definition: What are the dark passages in Wordsworth's poetry? The second relates to the poetics and attitude: How did Wordsworth manage to explore the dark passages and at the same time display a mode of perception and expression whose validity does not affront our reason and common humanity? The first questions calls for a definition which will form a large part of the premise of this thesis, and i t is a definition which I will give in this chapter, but the second question relates to the structure of syntax and the movement of thought in the relevant poems? and these aspects will form the burden of sub-sequent chapters of this dissertation. The dark passages have been described by Keats as the challenge of "misery and heartbreak, pain, sick-7 ness and oppression", and the difficulty of seeing "the ballance [sic] of good and evil" of our mortal state. He describes the concern with the dark passages as an expression of "anxiety for Humanity"^ in relation to the "Burden of the mystery." When seen in this light, the dark passages relate to listlessness, despondency and man's mortality— interrelated factors which tend to prevent a young poet from achieving an imaginative view of l i f e , and which tend to deny to lif e itself any sense of meaning and value. The dark passages are therefore centrally related to the challenge of establishing an imaginative view that is sufficiently illuminative of man's nature and the condition of his earthly existence. From this i t follows that there is equal concern with the mystery of lif e as with the riddle of death; there is equal interest in the creative resources of the human imagination and in the final questions raised by the inexplicable finality of death. The dark passages concern the task of poetry as much as they concern the problems of lif e and death. Wordsworth uses many phrases to refer to the dark passages: these include the "weal and woe" of humanity, the "weight of sadness" that is in l i f e , the thought of "man's mortality" and the fear of the "senseless grave." In some poems, however, he is helpfully more specific and descriptive: in "Tintern Abbey" we have "the burden of the mystery," which is further described as "the heavy and the weary weight / of a l l this unintelligible world;" in the same poem we have "solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief"; in "Resolution and Independence" we have "Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty," then "despondency and madness" and "mighty Poets in their misery dead." In Book V of The Prelude we have "life's 8 mysterious weight / of pain, and doubt, and fear." In the same book, man's condition, when not sustained by a fortifying imaginative vision, is described as "abject, depressed, forlorn, disconsolate." Other variants include "the weary strife of f r a i l humanity" ("Ode to Duty"), and the "strife and ferment in the minds of men" (The Excursion, Book VII). Finally, there is the immense concern in The Excursion with this mortal existence where Man grows old, and dwindles, and decays And countless generations of mankind Depart; and leave no vestige where they trod. (Bk. IV, II. 760-762) Words and phrases which relate to listlessness, perplexity and despondency abound in Wordsworth's poetry, and the following are representative: "listlessness from vain perplexity," "bewildered and forlorn," "solitude / or blank desertion," "that worse evil, vexing thoughts," "the vacant and the vain," "weariness," "fever" "fret" and "restless world." Wordsworth uses these cognate words to describe both a mood and a condition of human existence but the really significant things is the way he analyses the factors that create the mood and condition by exploring the dark passages of l i f e . His exploration goes beyond the analysis of the dark passages to a quest for an imaginative view which should enable man to see the balance of good and evil of our earthly l i f e . My dissertation will establish that the dark passages in Wordsworth encompass a range of human experience comparable to that described by Ovid in the "Vicissitude of Things" in the 15th Book of The Metamorphosis. Furthermore, I intend to demonstrate that there .is a personal dimension as well as a historical (Romantic) contingency of thought which informs the nature of the exploration of the dark passages in Wordsworth's poetry. 9 These a s p e c t s can be seen from the f o u r h e a dings under which I have chosen t o group the dark passages as they a r e e x p l o r e d i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y : The c h a l l e n g e of t h e p o e t i c v o c a t i o n ; the darkness of the age; the darkness of the i m a g i n a t i o n and the problem of o r i e n t a t i o n t o the u n i v e r s e ; the darkness of the 'grave. The c h a l l e n g e of the p o e t i c v o c a t i o n ; the young Poet's Dilemma. From the e v i d e n c e of the poems and l e t t e r s , no group o f poets has t a l k e d so much about the c h a l l e n g e o f w r i t i n g i m a g i n a t i v e p o e t r y as Wordsworth and h i s c o n t e m p o r a r i e s d i d . I t i s perhaps a measure of t h e i r r a r e l y r e c o g n i z e d sense of r e a l i s m t h a t the b e s t of the E n g l i s h Romantic poets were aware of the c h a l l e n g e of the p o e t i c v o c a t i o n i n t h e i r own age, and i t i s u n d e r s t a n d a b l e t h a t the c e n t r a l f i g u r e among t h e s e poets s h o u l d have undertaken the t a s k of e x p l o r i n g the dark passages connected w i t h t h e c h a l l e n g e of the v o c a t i o n . F o r Wordsworth t h e s e dark passages were much more complex than the f e a r a r i s i n g from the c o n t e m p l a t i o n of the e a r l y death o f a young p o e t , as i t i s g e n e r a l l y b e l i e v e d to be M i l t o n ' s case i n r e l a t i o n t o Edward K i n g i n " L y c i d a s . " The o t h e r f a c t o r s which h e i g h t e n Wordsworth's sense o f dilemma range i n n a t u r e from p r a c t i c a l but important p e r s o n a l concerns to the more gen e r a l ' a n x i e t i e s r e l a t e d to the c h o i c e o f the v o c a t i o n of p o e t r y . The complex n a t u r e of t h e s e concerns i s t o be seen i n " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" and i n Book V of The P r e l u d e , though o t h e r poems i n which the v o i c e of p e r s o n a l a n x i e t y i s h e a r d a l s o produce t e x t u a l e v i d e n c e . In t h e s e poems Wordsworth d e f i n e s the a l t e r n a t i v e s o f c h o i c e f o r the i m a g i n a t i v e mind and e s t a b l i s h e s the need of c o n v i n c i n g o n e s e l f t h a t the c h a l l e n g e of commitment t o the 10 poetic task involves both, recognition and acceptance of the dark passages that go with such a vocation. He expressed this in a paradox of grim recognition in "Resolution and Independence": We Poets in our youth begin in gladness; But thereof come in the end despondency and madness. Wordsworth's courage in the face of such dark passages is the equally firm recognition that By our own spirits are we deified. My interpretation of "Resolution and Independence", Book V of The Prelude and the poems on Burns will indicate the role of social oppression, solitude and poverty in relation to the dark passages which create a sense of dilemma for a young poet; I intend also to show how the dark passages which every thoughtful young poet must confront become, for Wordsworth, the very material for poetry. Wordsworth's high conception of the duties and obligations of the poetic vocation led him to an exploration, in the poems of 1799-1805, of the dark passages which tend to stifle the creative energies of a young poet. The issue concerns the need to preserve the essential poetic self in the face of the practical concerns of everyday existence, such as "getting and spending," "the dreary intercourse of daily l i f e , " the demands and obligations of a settled domestic life,- and the expectations of family and society generally. These should not be relegated to biographical.' studies for they are central to a literary study of Wordsworth because Wordsworth made them the themes of his poems written before The Excursion. The whole question of the making of a poet, the doubts about his own powers in relation to the vocation of 11 p o e t r y , and t h e q u e s t i o n o f the purpose the poet s e r v e s i n s o c i e t y were a l l m a t t e r s t h a t Wordsworth c o n s i d e r e d cogent enough i n h i s own age t o be t a c k l e d i n v e r s e . My a n a l y s i s w i l l show t h a t C h a t t e r t o n and Burns, l i k e the v i s i o n a r y Arab f i g u r e i n Book V o f The P r e l u d e , a r e metaphors of thought f o r Wrodsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n of the dark passages which c r e a t e a dilemma f o r him as he ponders on the g r i m c h a l l e n g e of h i s chosen v o c a t i o n . The F i f t h Book of The P r e l u d e has not r e c e i v e d the a t t e n t i o n w h i c h I t h i n k i t d e s e r v e s i n t h i s c o n n e c t i o n , and I hope to i n d i c a t e how Wordsworth's c o n t e m p l a t i o n of the dark passages r e l a t e d to the p o e t i c t a s k c a s t s a l o n g shadow over t h i s poem. I t i s t h e same shadow t h a t i s c a s t over " T i n t e r n Abbey", the Matthew poems, " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" and the poems on Burns. My argument h e r e i s t h a t Wordsworth r e a l i z e d t h a t the c h o i c e of a p o e t i c v o c a t i o n meant f o r him not o n l y a commitment t o the h i g h e s t a s p i r a t i o n o f i m a g i n a t i v e i d e a l b u t a l s o a t o t a l commitment t o the l i f e of e n d l e s s h a r d s h i p , and the poems of 1799-1805 r e v e a l the measure of the i n n e r d i s t a n c e t r a v e l l e d by the poet i n t h e e x p l o r a t i o n of h i s i n n e r t u r m o i l . The s y m b o l i c f i g u r e s whom the poet encounters i n t h e s e poems w i l l be d i s c u s s e d p r i m a r i l y i n r e l a t i o n t o the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the whole i m a g i n a t i v e e x p e r i e n c e to show how the poet h e i g h t e n s t h e r e a l i t y o f l i f e which he f a c e d through the medium of the r e a l i t y o f v i s i o n . My i n t e r p r e t a t i o n w i l l c o n c e n t r a t e on the poet i n t h e s e poems i n o r d e r to show the way i n which he c o n f r o n t s t h e dark passages through the p r o c e s s of i m a g i n a t i v e p r o j e c t i o n of h i s f e a r s . To some e x t e n t , the i n t e n s e s e l f - q u e s t i o n i n g i n these poems was caused by what Wordsworth and some of h i s c o n t e m p o r a r i e s 12 r e g a r d e d as the darkness o f the age. The darkness o f t h e age, as d i s c u s s e d i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y , i s r o o t e d i n the problems c r e a t e d by the a r t i c u l a t e d w orld-view o f the E i g h t e e n t h Century p h i l o s o p h i c a l t h i n k e r s . The v a r i o u s t h e o r i e s about the n a t u r e o f human under-s t a n d i n g r a i s e d p e r p l e x i n g q u e s t i o n s c o n c e r n i n g the powers o f the mind i n r e l a t i o n t o the e x t e r n a l u n i v e r s e . The whole m a t t e r of i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n was c a l l e d i n t o q u e s t i o n because p e r c e p t i o n i t s e l f became p r o b l e m a t i c . T h i s i s a m a t t e r which I w i l l pursue more f u l l y i n the second h a l f o f t h i s c h a p t e r t h a t i s devoted t o a d e s c r i p t i o n o f the i n t e l l e c t u a l background o f the Romantic Age. P e r p l e x i t y i s a c e n t r a l theme i n E n g l i s n Romantic p o e t r y and t h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n w i l l demonstrate t h a t Wordsworth's range o f p o e t i c t h o u g h t " s u f f i c i e n t l y e x p l o r e s the n a t u r e o f such p e r p l e x i t y . The c h a l l e n g e of the p o e t i c t a s k i n Wordsworth's age took on an overwhelming dimension because of the t h r e a t posed by the extreme t e n d e n c i e s of the r a t i o n a l i s t t r a d i t i o n which d e n i e d c r e a t i v e v a l u e to the human h e a r t and so caused a sense o f emptiness and o f a l i e n a t i o n from the u n i v e r s e . T h i s sense o f emptiness i s one of the dark passages which Wordsworth e x p l o r e s i n the poems t o be d i s c u s s e d i n t h i s s t u d y . Th.es e x p l o r a t i o n of t h i s problem w i l l be seen i n the way i n which he c o n f r o n t s l i f e ' s b a f f l i n g phenomena and r e - a s s e r t s v a l u e f o r the human s p i r i t a g a i n s t t h e m e c h a n i s t i c view p o s i t e d by extreme r a t i o n a l i s t t h e o r i e s . I i n t e n d t o t r a c e t h i s p r o c e s s o f i m a g i n a t i v e r e g e n e r a t i o n o f the human h e a r t i n such poems as " T i n t e r n Abbey," the F i f t h Book o f The  P r e l u d e , the " I n t i m a t i o n s of I m m o r t a l i t y " and The E x c u r s i o n , e s p e c i a l l y . Another f a c t o r which c o n t r i b u t e d t o the darkness o f the age was what 13 Wordsworth regarded as the break in continuity of poetic vision. Wordsworth did not;believe that the line of poetic vision in English g literature developed significantly beyond Milton and he was determined to demonstrate that the continuity of poetic vision must itself be a part of any significant imaginative view of the world. Wordsworth recognized the need for imaginative illumination of the children of the earth in successive generations as a psychological fact of human nature; and he recognized the role of the poet in this task of imaginative illumination. In this connection, I shall show that Wordsworth's concern in most of the poems of 1799-1805 is also with the exploration of the dark passages created by the sense of discontinuity in poetic vision; and that in the poems after 1805 and especially in The Excursion Wordsworth moves beyond this exploratory venture to a thorough-going contemplation of the dark passages which each generation of mankind must confront on its own terms. The third aspect of the dark passages which Wordsworth explores is the darkness of the imagination. It is again the problem of imaginative continuity, not this time from one age to another, but from youth to old age in each person's l i f e . The realm of exploration here is the shadowed depths of consciousness, but the central issue has to do with the need for the maturing mind to seek an orientation to the universe. When the sense of childhood radiance and harmony has been severely threatened and man is no longer in immediate touch with the visible intimations of the vast range of his imaginative potentiality, how can such a 14 person be remanded to this world of hard reality? How can mari cope with these "shadings of mortality" which raise inexplicable questions about the meaning and value of human life and threaten to stifle the creative energies of the mind? How can man deal with the gloomy feeling that "there is l i t t l e chance of anything else in this life?" The theme of the darkness of the imagination is a large one in Wordsworth but my analysis will concentrate on the "Intimations of Immortality", The Excursion and "Peele Castle," with references to relevant passages in The Prelude. In these poems Wordsworth establishes a sense of continuity as well as a sense of deepening of imaginative vision between childhood and old age. Since my emphasis here is with the problem of orientation to the universe I have chosen to focus much of the discussion of this particular aspect of the dark passages on the "Intimations of Immortality". My interpretation of the Ode will question the general emphasis on mysticism and solipsism and will stress the positive value which Wordsworth attaches to "the light of common day;" for since Wordsworth's unique genius is his ability to explore the dark passages by making discoveries and shedding a light on them, the metaphors of darkness and light call for the kind of imaginative interpretation that can relate them to the nature of Wordsworth's discovery in his exploration of the dark passages. My point is that Wordsworth's exploration of the darkness of the imagination in the Ode is a much more thorough-going description of the process of the growth of the imaginative faculty in relation to the burden of the mystery than is generally realized. "Tintern Abbey," "Intimations of Immortality", ahd^tThec'Excursion will-be 15 discussed to show Wordsworth's capacity to indicate how feelings of littleness and listlessness can be banished through the re-discovery of the sources of imaginative power in the mind of man. The Darkness of the Grave: The dark passages arising from the shadings of mortality naturally lead in Wordsworth's poetry to the exploration of the darkness of the grave. The view of this world as a place where "restless, and restless generations" "come and go" and leave no vestige where they trod" pressed more and more on Wordsworth in the poems which he wrote after 1805. He explored this dark passage of human lif e from many angles in many poems and through varied metaphors. Is man's lif e like a sparrow's flight, from darkness even on to darkness? Is man's li f e "but a tale of morning grass / Withered at eve?" "Is Man / A child of hope?" My interpretation of The Excursion and some of the miscellaneous poems and sonnets in which these thoughts occur will stress a uniquely Wordsworthian attitude toward death. I will analyse his use of vegetation imagery in Books VI and VII of The Excursion in order to establish the poet's firm recognition and acceptance of death as a process of organic completion within the natural cycle of l i f e ; I also intend to indicate how the exploration of these dark passages leads also to a concept of immortality founded on a supposition of an imperishable element in the mind of man. The argument will be based on the view that Wordsworth's concept of immortality is essentially a search for an imaginative perspective which can lighten the burden of thought provoked by the unmitigated sense of death as a process of organic completion. As my inter-16 p r e t a t i o n of the N i n t h Book of The E x c u r s i o n w i l l show, h i s concept of i m m o r t a l i t y i s based on a n a t u r a l i s t i c p r o c e s s of a g r a d a t i o n . i n the n a t u r e of the e x t e r n a l and i n t e r n a l senses of our b e i n g . In t h i s r e g a r d , h i s view of Age as a "VALE of f i n a l EMINENCE" w i l l be d i s c u s s e d t o e s t a b l i s h t h e p r o f o u n d , e g o t i s t i c a l s u b l i m e mode of Wordsworth's i m a g i n a t i v e o r d e r i n g of the b a f f l i n g phenomena of human e x p e r i e n c e i n t h i s seemingly i r r a t i o n a l w o r l d . The emphasis w i l l be p l a c e d on the c o n t e m p l a t i v e mode of Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n of the p r a c t i c a l and p h i l o s o p h i c a l a n x i e t i e s of our common humanity, but I i n t e n d to show t h a t what i s i m p o r t a n t i n h i s e x p l o r a t i o n i s n o t to be found i n any d o c t r i n a l answers but i n the p e n e t r a t i n g and s y m p a t h e t i c n a t u r e of h i s p r o c e s s o f i m a g i n a t i v e r e a s o n i n g . H i s sane and s o b e r r e c o g n i t i o n of the f o r c e of e a r t h l y c i r c u m s t a n c e i s t o be seen i n the s e a r c h i n g i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f human e x p e r i e n c e which a l l o w s no room f o r any s e n t i m e n t a l f a l s i f i c a t i o n of the h a r d f a c t s o f l i f e , or f o r any form of c o n f i d e n t optimism. I n g e i i c i - ' ' Iny gjaneral^e'IByL Ift-terpr&t-atilon . o f i ;The. E x c u r s i o n w i l l r e v e a l unorthodox and b a s i c a l l y s c e p t i c a l a t t i t u d e t h a t i s i n t e l l e c t u a l l y i n f o r m e d by the e m p i r i c a l h e r i t a g e of the E i g h t e e n t h Century. The T h i r d Book of The E x c u r s i o n , f o r example, d e a l s w i t h the f a i l u r e o f "The g r e a t t r u t h s of R e l i g i o n " t o p r o v i d e a s a t i s f y i n g i m a g i n a t i v e view o f l i f e f o r a t h o u g h t f u l mind i n Wordsworth's age; i t a l s o d e a l s w i t h the f a i l u r e o f Lockean e p i s t e m o l o g y to p r o v i d e a f o r t i f y i n g i m a g i n a t i v e view of the w o r l d . The way i n which Wordsworth s t e e r e d h i s c o u r s e between t h e s e extremes to r e g e n e r a t e the human 9 h e a r t and to " g i v e the World a n o t h e r H e a r t / And o t h e r P u l s e s " w i l l 17 emerge from my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of The E x c u r s i o n . The mode o f i n t e n s e p o e t i c thought which Wordsworth d e v e l o p e d t o move p o e t r y toward t h e achievement o f p s y c h o l o g i c a l statement through c o n c e n t r a t i o n on the p r o c e s s of s o u l - c r e a t i n g i n c o n f r o n t a t i o n w i t h e a r t h l y c i r c u m s t a n c e w i l l be examined and r e l a t e d t o t h e r e g e n e r a t i n g f o r c e of Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n of the dark passages i n The E x c u r s i o n . T h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n p l a c e s e q u a l emphasis on Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n o f the dark passages as on h i s e x p l o r a t i o n o f the n a t u r e of the i m a g i n a t i v e f a c u l t y i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e p r o c e s s o f r e g e n e r a t i n g the g e n i a l s p i r i t s o f man i n the f a c e o f the g r i m r e a l i t y of human e x p e r i e n c e . T h i s demands a r e c o g n i t i o n o f the s c e p t i c a l a t t i t u d e toward any f a c i l e t h e o r y o f redemption, but i t a l s o demands a r e c o g n i t i o n o f the d i r e c t i o n o f p o e t i c thought as i t c u l m i n a t e s i n The E x c u r s i o n . There i s a quest f o r redemption i n The E x c u r s i o n but t h i s redemptive quest does not a c h i e v e t h e p r o p h e t i c , m a n i f e s t scheme of C h r i s t i a n redemption w h i c h C o l e r i d g e hoped f o r . Wordsworth's quest i s f o r a p r i n c i p l e o f i m a g i n a t i v e c o n t e m p l a t i o n which can o f f e r a f o r t i f y i n g view o f l i f e on e a r t h ; such a view s h o u l d transmute c e r t a i n a s p e c t s o f human e x p e r i e n c e — d a r k n e s s , s o l i t u d e , b l a n k d e s e r t i o n , change arid d eath — which, viewed by t h e m s e l v e s , a r e s e n s e l e s s and i n e x p l i c a b l e phenomena t h a t t h r e a t e n s t o d e p r i v e man not o n l y o f h i s s a n i t y b u t a l s o o f h i s sense o f j o y and v a l u e i n l i f e . The im p o r t a n t t h i n g i n The E x c u r s i o n i n t h i s c o n n e c t i o n i s n ot Wordsworth's " t h e o l o g y " o r " p h i l o s o p h y " but the i n t e r r o g a t i v e and s c e p t i c a l mode o f h i s c o n t e m p l a t i o n o f the human c o n d i t i o n . The  E x c u r s i o n i s a poem of d i s c o v e r y because the sense o f a s h a r p e n i n g 18 of our v i s i o n i n t o the n a t u r e of t h i n g s i s v e r y s t r o n g , but the l i g h t which the poet sheds on h i s d i s c o v e r y cannot be e a s i l y f o r m u l a t e d i n f i n a l answers. The t r u e n a t u r e of t h e p o e t ' s redemptive work i s n o t the s e a r c h f o r the p a r a d i s e w i t h o u t but the s e a r c h f o r the i n n e r c o n t e m p l a t i v e p a r a d i s e . A c c o r d i n g l y , w h i l e I w i l l i n d i c a t e how the poet d e a l s b o l d l y and i m a g i n a t i v e l y w i t h the sense of c r i s i s and d e s p a i r a t t e n d a n t on the F r e n c h R e v o l u t i o n i n the case of the S o l i t a r y , my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f The  E x c u r s i o n w i l l c o n s i d e r temporary s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l i s s u e s as d i s -t r a c t i o n s from t h e p o e t ' s p r i m a r y t a s k of p r o v i d i n g i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n f o r a l l ages. In o t h e r words, I s h a l l argue t h a t such phenomena as the F r e n c h R e v o l u t i o n and R a t i o n a l i s t P h i l o s o p h y f a i l e d t o p r o v i d e a c o h e s i v e and c r e a t i v e s o c i e t y and t h a t b o t h l e f t s o c i e t y more, fragmented and more opp r e s s e d and b e w i l d e r e d than e v e r and t h e poet sought t o achieve a u n i f i e d v i s i o n through i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n . I t i s w i t h i n t h i s c o n t e x t o f a r e t u r n to the l i n e o f i m a g i n a t i v e v i s i o n t h a t I i n t e n d to s t u d y The E x c u r s i o n as t h e most im p o r t a n t poem i n Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n o f the dark passages. When my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i s seen from t h i s c o n t e x t the r a t i o n a l e f o r my c h o i c e of poems s h o u l d become o b v i o u s . My emphasis i s on thfose poems where the poet g r a p p l e s w i t h the f a c t o r s which cause the darkness of the i n n e r eye. I have chosen poems which are t h e m a t i c a l l y i n t e r r e l a t e d and where the movement i s from p e r p l e x i t y t o i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n , from darkness to l i g h t . In the s h o r t e r poems my f o c u s i s on the poet i n the poems, t h a t i s , on the deepening of i n s i g h t as the i m a g i n a t i v e mind a c h i e v e s a g r e a t e r s h a r p e n i n g o f 19 p e r s p e c t i v e i n t o the n a t u r e o f man and of the u n i v e r s e . The p a t t e r n of the argument i s based on the movement of t h e thought from t h e c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f "sad p e r p l e x i t y " i n " T i n t e r n Abbey" through t h e e x p l o r a t i o n o f " a l l t h a t i s a t enmity w i t h j o y " i n the Ode t o the achievement of j o y i n d i s c o v e r y i n the VALE o f f i n a l EMINENCE i n The E x c u r s i o n . The d e s i r e t o f o l l o w the movement o f i m a g i n a t i v e c o n s c i o u s n e s s as c l o s e l y as p o s s i b l e means of cou r s e t h a t my p r i m a r y and main i n t e r e s t w i l l depend on my a n a l y s i s o f the s t r u c t u r e o f thought i n the poems. My method o f i n t e r p r e t a t i o n w i l l be e q u a l l y e x p l o r a t o r y , p r o b i n g i n t o p o s s i b l e meaning and advancing t e n t a t i v e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n which w i l l emerge w i t h g r e a t e r c l a r i t y as t h e study approaches the i m a g i n a t i v e h e i g h t s i n the l a s t book of The E x c u r s i o n . The f a c t t h a t I have taken the h i n t f o r t h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n from K e a t s ' s c o n s i d e r a t i o n of Wordsworth's genius "as a h e l p " has c e r t a i n l y i n f l u e n c e d my d e c i s i o n t o c o n s i d e r Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n o f the dark passages i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e problems o f i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n i n t h e Romantic Age g e n e r a l l y , and I i n t e n d to argue i n the second h a l f o f t h i s c h a p t e r f o r the c e n t r a l i t y o f Wordsworth i n t h i s r e g a r d . W h i l e I am aware o f t h e danger o f c o n f l a t i n g the Romantic p o e t s , I i n t e n d t o r e f e r to ways i n which Wordsworth was r e g a r d e d as a g u i d i n g l i g h t by Keats and members of the Keats' c i r c l e : Benjamin Robert Haydon, John H a m i l t o n R e y n o l d s , Benjamin B a i l e y . The p o i n t h e r e i s t h a t t h e r e i s o f t e n too much o f a tendency to speak o f the f i r s t Romantics and of the younger or second g e n e r a t i o n Romantics, but the i n t e l l e c t u a l problems which c o n f r o n t e d them were 20 the same, and it is perhaps more historically accurate to consider them not in the context of two different and isolated historical situations but of one; and I intend to argue that i t is because of this shared sense of intellectual and poetic crisis that Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages sharpened the alternatives for the younger poets of the Romantic Age. h ;:• Another perspective which I will bring to bear on my interpretation is related to Wordsworth's own personal experience. In doing this^ however, I do not wish to replace critical criteria with biographical speculation but rather to refer to biographical details to supplement literary judgments based on the evidence of the text. I intend to adduce evidence from The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth to show how the dimension of personal experience informs and deepens Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages in the poems written after 1805. This is a worthwhile perspective for my interpretation of the dark passages because,walthougheliterary sources and analogues may help to place The Excursion, for example, within a literary genre and tradition, they do not sufficiently account for the depth of human experience and for the authentic voice which informs a few passages in the poem. Although the format of Socratic dialogue enables the poet to distance his feelings and experience, i t is easy to establish that the astonishing correspondence between several passages in The Excursion and in The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth show that the significance which arises from Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages derives its force of universal application from the fact that the poet speaks 21 of what he knows and of "what we feel within." And I hope to use such evidence to supplement my conclusion derived from the evidence of the text that the Solitary (as opposed to the Wanderer who is the optimistic alter ego), being the sceptical alter ego of the poet, could not be silenced because the poet would not violate the integrity of his own experience. I shall take this a step further by indicating that what Wordsworth offers in his exploration of the dark passages is not solutions but an imaginative mode of contemplating the good and evil of our mortal state with manly fortitude. I have already suggested that one context for studying Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages of li f e is to place the poet within the line of vision in literature. When seen from this context a sense of concern with the dark passages in Wordsworth's poetry is accentuated. For instance, one of the features of European poetry of imaginative vision from Homer to Milton is the sense of a recognisable world-view that is definable as the philosophical background against which the reader can view the themes and values inherent in the poetic thought. A reader from an essentially non-Christian culture may have l i t t l e sympathy with the Christian frame of reference in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, but his recognition of such a frame of reference could enable him to appreciate the important themes and attitudes in poems whose concern with the Fall and the Resurrection would otherwise have very l i t t l e appeal for him. In the poetry of Wordsworth and his Romantic 22 contemporaries, however, one finds no such clearly recognisable philosophical frame of reference against which to view their poetry though one finds a discernible sense of urgency in the themes and attitudes explored in English Romantic poetry. The overwhelming impression which Wordsworth's poetry conveys to me is that of a sense of perplexity and there is a note of poignant urgency which underlines this perplexity. The fu l l force of Wordsworth's poetry is devoted to confronting this feeling of perplexity and to exploring the implications which i t has for the poet in his age. From a philosophical point of view, perhaps nothing expresses a major aspect of the artist's dilemma better than Wordsworth's own description of the poet as "alone / seeking the visible world, nor knowing why.""'"^  The sense of loneliness expressed here is not sheer literary melancholia, it is an expression of a sense of intellectual crisis; the consciousness of alienation is a reflection of the philosophical anxiety of the age. In his poetry Wordsworth imaginatively explored the themes of the artist's alienation and analysed the cause as accentuated by factors peculiar to his age. It is against this intellectual background that Wordsworth's • exploration of the dark passages is to be considered. The theme of loneliness in the universe is related to the change in world-view created by the scientific discoveries and rationalist concepts of the Age of Reason. The change as reflected in poetry is best seen in a comparison of Wordsworth's poetry—and Keats's—with Milton's. For Milton a providential world order with heaven and hell was a prime matter of belief and the noblest theme for poetry, but Wordsworth and his contemporaries stood more or less 23 o u t s i d e the orthodox t r a d i t i o n i n concepts o f b e l i e f and t h e o r i e s of human knowledge, and they had t o grope f o r v a l i d and r e l e v a n t p h i l o s o p h i e s of t h e i r own. P a r a d i s e L o s t has been d e s c r i b e d as "the swan-song o f a p a s s i n g w o r l d o f u n t r o u b l e d certitude"'*'"'" and t h i s d e s c r i p t i o n i s p a r t i c u l a r l y a p p r o p r i a t e when we t u r n from P a r a d i s e L o s t t o The E x c u r s i o n . Thevr s e r i o u s concerns i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y a r e i n f l u e n c e d b y ? a n d suggest^an emerging w o r l d - v i e w which forms a c r i t i q u e o f the cosmology i n M i l t o n ' s p o e t r y . There i s , f o r example, b o t h c r i t i c a l q u e s t i o n i n g and i m p l i c i t r e j e c t i o n i n Wordsworth's d e c i s i o n n o t to d e a l w i t h " J e h o v a h — w i t h h i s thunder, and t h e 12 c h o i r / Of s h o u t i n g A n g e l s " ; t h i s d e c i s i o n i s based on Wordsworth's f i r m r e c o g n i t i o n of the need i n the Romantic age to t a c k l e themes of g r e a t e r u r g ency, such as the need to e x p l o r e the dark passages which i n v o l v e the heavy and t h e weary weight Of a l l t h i s u n i n t e l l i g i b l e world.13 I am not t r y i n g here t o p r e s e n t Wordsworth and h i s co n t e m p o r a r i e s as members of a g e n e r a t i o n which was world-weary and melancholy and t h e r e f o r e r e g a r d e d the human s i t u a t i o n as h o p e l e s s l y p e r p l e x i n g , but the p a t t e r n of wa v e r i n g between seeming b e l i e f and d i s b e l i e f , between p o e t i c c e r t a i n t y and p h i l o s o p h i c doubt which predominates i n t h e i r p o e t r y c o n s t i t u t e s t h e k i n d o f i n t e n s e p r e - o c c u p a t i o n w i t h l i f e , knowledge and m a t t e r s o f b e l i e f which i s t y p i c a l o f i m a g i n a t i v e l y r e f l e c t i v e m i n d s i n a p e r i o d of deep i n t e l l e c t u a l c r i s i s . The depth and scope o f the movement of thought i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y r e f l e c t s an index of mounting s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s i n r e l a t i o n t o the p o e t i c t a s k i n t h e f a c e o f such p h i l o s o p h i c a l p e r p l e x i t y . I am r e f e r r i n g 24 here to the complexity of self-consciousness of the poet in the Romantic age — that intense and more or less exclusive pre-occupation with imaginative consciousness which remains the clearest discernible poetic affinity between Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and Keats. From several points of consideration, Wordsworth's poetry reveals the most concentrated evidence of imaginative power confronting the world on the poet's own terms without losing sight of metaphors of reality which can be shared by people in a l l cultures and generations. The epistemological passages in The Prelude and the somewhat philosophical positions in The Excursion, together with suggestions of both import in the shorter poems, reveal Wordsworth's determined aspiration to seek through poetry a human orientation to the universe. His poetry displays the most astonishing effects of the efforts of any Romantic poet to confront and transmute the critical thought of Eighteenth century 14 epistemological and moral philosophers. Although Wordsworth speaks of the truth of poetry as "general" and "operative", he does make clear that his notion is of truth "not standing upon external testimony but carried alive into the heart by passion; 15 truth which is its own testimony." For Wordsworth the meaning of an experience must derive from the dynamic relationship between the imaginative sensibility and things as reality. The points of contact between Wordsworth's poetry and the broad range of ideas in the Western intellectual heritage are impressive and, when carefully analysed, reveal a subtle combination of poetic imagination and intellectual depth, but Wordsworth achieves a deepening and 25 transmutation of such ideas in a way that is uniquely his; the uniqueness lies in the peculiar method which Wordsworth developed of focussing on the creative interchange between the imaginative mind and the visible external universe. This enables Wordsworth to achieve a sense of immediacy of experience while presenting at the same time its human significance as seen through the contemplative imagination. It is in this sense that Wordsworth's poems represent the effort of an imaginative mind facing the dilemma of the poet in the pest-empirical age and responding with originality by grappling with the most basic problems of vision and knowledge without claiming a dependence on a supernatural agency of illumination. Part of Wordsworth's imaginative achievement is his capacity to express in poetic form the experience potentially common to a l l in such a way that the process of expressing the experience of an individual consciousness is presented as a universal problem of human illumination accentuated in the Romantic age by various philosophical and literary developments. When the poet found himself "left alone / Seeking the visible world, nor knowing why," he was keenly aware of the break in continuity of imaginative perception. He saw this break in continuity in personal and historical terms, and he turned to poetry as a mode of active thought, thereby establishing imaginatively that the continuity of vision implied a creative contribution to imaginative literature in each age. He did not wish simply to return to older cosmologies and to worn-out literary structures, but he sought to establish that each generation must be able tfofind a way of seeing the perennial 26 16 reality behind the flux of things with "undisordered sight;" this explains Wordsworth's attack on the rationalistic presumption of his age. The theme of imaginative illumination of his generation is the pre-occupation of the Fifth Book of The Prelude and of the Fourth Book of The Excursion. Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages leads to a search for a principle of imaginative illumination; he was convinced that the active universe, the very world, which is the world Of a l l of us,—the place where in the end We find our happiness, or not at all,17 must be the external and eternal constant in this struggle of imaginative perception against the endless multiplicity of the flux of things which impinge on the human consciousness. Hence he engaged himself in the paradox inherent in one being within this universe and yet seeking the visible universe. In this search Wordsworth believed in his own peculiar resources and, above a l l , in the imagination as a source of poetic power over the hard and harsh facts of the world. Again and again in his poetry and prose, Wordsworth detailed those peculiar resources that he was convinced he possessed which enabled him to pursue the poetic mission. The best way into this is to realize how Wordsworth perceived the challenge of the poet in his own age: For a multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the dis-criminating powers of the mind, and unfitting i t for a l l voluntary exertion to reduce i t to a state of almost savage torpor.... The invaluable works of our elder writers... are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse. 27 These a r e n o t a l l t h e causes and e f f e c t s o f t h e t o r p o r . In The P r e l u d e and The E x c u r s i o n Wordsworth makes i t c l e a r t h a t s c i e n c e a l s o p l a y e d a major r o l e . But the way Wordsworth sees (and p r o v e s ) h i m s e l f to be undaunted by a l l t h e s e f o r c e s i s the measure of h i s c a p a c i t y t o c o n f r o n t the l i t e r a r y and p h i l o s o p h i c a l problems of h i s age. He makes the f o l l o w i n g c l a i m f o r h i m s e l f : And r e f l e c t i n g upon t h e magnitude of the g e n e r a l e v i l , I s h o u l d be o p p r e s s e d w i t h no d i s h o n o r a b l e m e l a n c h o l y , had I n o t a deep i m p r e s s i o n of c e r t a i n i n h e r e n t and i n d e s t r u c t i b l e q u a l i t i e s o f the human mind, and l i k e w i s e of c e r t a i n powers i n the g r e a t and permanent o b j e c t s t h a t a c t upon i t which a r e e q u a l l y i n h e r e n t and i n d e s t r u c t i b l e . 1 9 In the passage under d i s c u s s i o n Wordsworth d e f i n e s a t once the c a r d i n a l p o i n t s i n the r e a l m o f h i s p o e t r y : t h e i m a g i n a t i o n and the v i s i b l e u n i v e r s e . Through t h i s emphasis on t h e e n n o b l i n g i n t e r c h a n g e between the i m a g i n a t i o n and the e x t e r n a l u n i v e r s e , Wordsworth s t e e r e d the b a l a n c e between the s e n s e - i m p r e s s i o n i s t s (Locke and H a r t l e y ) and the s u b j e c t i v e i d e a l i s t s ( B e r k e l e y and Kant) whose t h e o r i e s of human u n d e r s t a n d i n g were such a weight of h e r i t a g e on the minds of t h e E n g l i s h Romantic p o e t s . Wordsworth's e q u a l emphasis on the e x t e r n a l u n i v e r s e (as on the mind of man) s t r e s s e s h i s r e c o g n i t i o n , which I have i n d i c a t e d e a r l i e r , t h a t t h e r e has always been a common.world to t h i n k about, and t h a t our p e r c e p t u a l e x p e r i e n c e does t e l l us o f a common, o b j e c t i v e w o r l d . Wordsworth's p o s i t i o n i s t h a t the i m a g a i n a t i o n , i n s p i r e d and p r o p e r l y d i s c i p l i n e d , c o u l d r e c o g n i z e the e x i s t e n c e of a r e l a t i o n s h i p o f v a l u e beyond the p o e t ' s mind. I f our p e r c e p t u a l e x p e r i e n c e does t e l l us o f a common o b j e c t i v e w o r l d , then t h e r e must be a c o n t i n u i t y of perception in the concrete experience of mankind. Wordsworth realized that it is in poetry that the concrete psychological experience of humanity in relation to the visible universe receives its expression, and he seeks in earlier writers a means to validate his own insight, especially since he believes in that "metropolitan temple in the hearts of mighty poets." But although he believes in the continuity of perception in this way, Wordsworth is vividly aware that the problem facing the poet in his age is the need to create new metaphors of thought with which to express the enduring reality of the interchange between the imaginative mind and the external universe. This explains why the concern in Wordsworth's poetry is more with the role of poetry and the poet himself than with a subject in the traditional sense. As Wordsworth put i t in The Preface to The Excursion, with the thing Contemplated, describe the Mind and Man Contemplating; and who, and what he was— The transitory Being that beheld This Vision. This concern with both the thing contemplated and the mind and man contemplating was Wordsworth's approach toward the task of locating the creative resources of imaginative power within man in his experience in the visible world. Wordsworth could not accept Necessitarian philosophy which tended to deny to the mind its vital soul and free creative will, and he could not accept the extreme of subjective idealism which tended to deny the evidence of the external senses. His challenge was to establish a sense of creative balance, but first he had to restore a sense of life-giving 29 forces within the mind of man and in external nature* in other words, he had first to establish the principle of vitality and freedom before he could assert a perception of creative forces in the human mind, or of meaning and value in human experience. When Wordsworth gave up rationalist speculations and "yielded up moral questions in despair," he turned a l l his attention toward exploring the life-giving force in himself and in the universe; this was a search for the creative principle that would regenerate the human spirit and lead i t from dim perplexity to the light of imaginative insight. His method was to turn away from abstract and perplexing speculations to the medium of the heart as the touchstone of a l l human experience. Instead of pursuing rationalist speculations on theories of epistemology or moral philosophy, Wordsworth resolved to sound the depths of every Art ^ That seeks its wisdom through the heart. This preference in Wordsworth explains his concentration on the poetry of experience. My study of his exploration of the dark passages of l i f e will similarly ^mpbasizes1^ Jgag&fttiafe-interpretation of human experience rather than attempt to formulate ideas to establish his "philosophy." One of the most distinctive qualities in Wordsworth's poetry is the way in which the intellectualizing observer within the poems isolates those crippling factors which stifle the imagination in order to indicate those life-giving experiences that strengthen i t . The strengthening of the imagination and the making of men whole simply as mortal men is a chief pre-occupation in Wordsworth's poetry. 30 With the loss of faith in the truths of religion, with notions of knowledge and reality challenged by empirical thinkers and with the mechanistic world of iron necessity posited as the only alternative, there was the acute need to create fresh concepts of reality. 'j.«-.!•-. p i 1 =^ -e£inaineproljlemer'esolyedrQi^ vwUeJ:h§-s: there was:,such a thing as a free creative spirit; and i f the spirit was free and creative, what could validate the insights of such creative freedom? In Wordsworth's poetic account offhis release from rationalist speculation in The Prelude, Tintern Abbey and The Excursion, Wordsworth points especially to the life-giving qualities of human interrelationships and to his imaginative awareness of the vital processes in nature. In the opening passage of The Prelude, for example, what we sense most keenly is the renewed sense of l i f e , with the life-processes in external nature awakening or corresponding to the inner life-stirrings within the poetic imagination. We read of living or moving things: groves, streams, a river, the refreshing breeze. This stirs his imagination to a sense of joy and wonder. The images of organic nature help to reassert his confidence in a free creative spirit, for what they suggest is a sense of l i f e , a sense of vitality which promises that "genuine freedom" which he speaks of in The Preface to The Excursion. Such genuine freedom releases the imaginative spirit from the dead and spiritless world of Necessity. In its creative freedom, the imaginative will is free to explore the universe with fresh and original insight. This realization of the sense of l i f e and joy is one of the distinguishing aspects of Wordsworth's poetry. 31 In the opening passages of Tintern Abbey, Intimations of Immortality, The Prelude and Resolution and Independence, we have the realization of this principle of li f e and joy embodied in the fresh and limpid way in which li f e is presented—as an original, self-sustaining force, which finds in itself its principle and strength, not enitrely derived or projected from the poet's imagination. Life is depicted in these poems as a process of intrinsic, self-sustaining actuality, not ruled by relations of extrinsic conditionality. I am not at a l l unaware that this sense of li f e and joy as embodied in some of the poems actually functions as a prelude to a contrast with larger anxieties in the poet's mind, but I wish to establish at this stage one basic fact: that the principle of vital l i f e is a pervasive motive-value in Wordsworth's poetry. In "A Poet!— He hath put his heart to school," i t is this principle of inner vitality and inward freedom that is stressed: How does the meadow flower its bloom unfold? Because the lovely l i t t l e flower is free Down to its root, and, in-that freedom, bold; And so the grandeur of the Forest-tree Comes not by casting in a formal mould But from its own divine vitality.22 The principle of creative freedom is based on the active principle, on the agent's own ever-fresh self-realization. This sense of the active principle strengthens the consciousness of the poet as to the ultimate foundation of the concept which is most vital in imaginative activity. To Wordsworth original value—and power—lies in the ever-new discovery and realization of the intrinsic character of poetic activity. The very vocation of poetry calls the poet to vindicate value and spirit, to express the value of experience 32 against the thralldom of the senses. I have spoken of Wordsworth's endeavour to grasp the very principle of life which he sees as sustaining this active and visible universe; but Wordsworth does not just look for the abstract principle, he penetrates and creates passages of l i f e in 0 r his poetry, and i t is in these live passages, as in the active world, that he grasps the principle. Similarly, before examining the single poems I wish to state here that beauty—both as an aesthetic experience and a value-principle—is the most intimate quality which can be apprehended, and that Wordsworth sees beauty as the most palpable form of contact, with the principle of lif e and joy. It is Wordsworth's belief in the principle of Beauty which enableshim to grasp the principle of lif e as a deeply held aesthetic conviction based on his human psychic response rather than as a static and abstract rule of belief. In much of Wordsworth's poetry I get the impression that this principle of beauty both sustains his creative urge and raises questions for the poet concerning the meaning of l i f e ; and one of the greatest motivating factors in Wordsworth's poetic endeavour is the need not only to create beauty but also to find through poetry some meaning and some recognisable order for the universe which his imagination perceives as inherently beautiful. A number of important questions do arise here, of course: the first is whether or not Wordsworth was the first poet to recognize the principle of beauty as a source-motivation for poetry; the second is whether Wordsworth's mere awareness of nature's vitality and the sense of imaginative l i f e 33 and freedom derived from this is sufficient to explain perplexing problems concerning the nature of the universe and man's condition and place in i t , or whether his insight is too fragmentary to form a body of ideas which could serve as a view of reality. This last point is closely related to Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages and will receive fuller discussion in subsequent chapters. The first question touches at the very heart of my main point in this chapter: Wordsworth's contribution to the nature of imaginative insight through his recognition of beauty as an eternal quality and principle, and through his perception of the perennial vitality in nature as an active principle of l i f e . The concept of an active principle in l i f e did not originate with Wordsworth for, as Leone Vivante has pointed out, The consciousness of a principle of inward light ...has found in English poetry one of its richest and highest expressions. The concept of an active principle, not entirely derivable from its conditions, has been, under different names, the main object of philosophical studies for-over two thousand years.23 Vivante has traced this active principle in English poetry ranging from Shakespeare's to Francis Thompson's. Vivante's method reveals a number of attitudes which I might describe as forming a bias: in the first place, the book deals with too many poets—seventeen in all—and tends to become generalized and cursory; in the second place, Vivante has some difficulty in dealing with the English Romantic poets. This last point is particularly obvious in the fact that Vivante devotes approximately as much space to Shelley as he gives to the discussion of Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats combined. He maintains, for example, that Blake and Wordsworth 34 2 A perceived the active spirit "in Children," and i t is revealing that the Preface to The Excursion plays no significant role in Vivante's discussion of Wordsworth. My point is that Wordsworth's consciousness of an active principle is so basic to his concept of imagination that i t is of supreme thematic significance. I have claimed above that the recognition of the principle of beauty is Wordsworth's most immediate grasp of the active principle which pervades the universe. Wordsworth is always concerned in his poetry and prose with the principle of l i f e , the principle of beauty, the principle of pleasure and the principle of human affection, and I intend to demonstrate in this chapter that his unique recognition and speculation on the force inherent in the principle of beauty is his most fundamental and distinctive approach to his exploration of a l l the other vital principles that constitute the psychological unity of his poetry. Wordsworth's recognition of the principle of beauty is expressed in passages that reach at the heart of the problem of vision and perception which confronted the English Romantic poets. In The Prelude, for instance, one of the most cherished hopes of the poet is to instruct future generations on how the mind of man becomes A thousand times more beautiful than the earth On which he dwells, above this frame of things... In beauty exalted, as i t is itself Of quality and fabric more divine.^ This lsTKi'sdi'soWbrdwortWs' feco'gniti6heof-the: creative power^of the min in its sublime consciousness. It is an assertion of the poet's capacity to make sense of this apparently unintelligible world. This is an assertion of an intellectual and imaginative freedom in the mind of man. The imaginative mind possesses the creative capacity 35 to c l a r i f y the b a f f l i n g phenomena of human e x i s t e n c e by o r i g i n a t i n g a sense o f o r d e r from w i t h i n . The mind o f man can c r e a t e i m a g i n a t i v e o r d e r out of apparent chaos. The a s s e r t i o n t h a t the i d e a l poet can t e a c h o t h e r s to r e a l i z e how the mind o f man becomes A thousand times more b e a u t i f u l t h a n the e a r t h On which he d w e l l s , above t h i s frame of t h i n g s i s an a f f i r m a t i o n o f t h e p a r a d i s e w i t h i n . The r e l a t i o n of t h i s t o the e x p l o r a t i o n of the dark passages ought t o be borne i n mind: the d i s c o v e r i e s which w i l l emerge from Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n o f human e x p e r i e n c e w i l l be e s s e n t i a l l y d i s c o v e r i e s of the i n n e r i m a g i n a t i v e l i f e , and the p r o c e s s o f the e x p l o r a t i o n w i l l become a l s o a s e a r c h f o r t h e l i g h t o f the i n n e r mind. T h i s r e a l i z a t i o n on the p a r t o f the poet l e d to h i s deep sense of awe c o n c e r n i n g h i s theme when seen i n the c o n t e x t of e a r l i e r themes i n l i t e r a t u r e : Not Chaos, not - a r T h e n d a f k e s f p i t u o f l o w e s t s E r e b u s , Nor aught of b l i n d e r v a c a n c y , scooped out By h e l p of d r e a m s — c a n b r e e d such f e a r and awe As f a l l upon us o f t e n when we l o o k I n t o our minds, i n t o the Mind o f M a n — ^ My h aunt, and th e main r e g i o n of my song. Here the f u l l f o r c e of the darkness of the i n n e r eye i s e s t a b l i s h e d . In t h i s r e a l m of i m a g i n a t i v e e x p l o r a t i o n the poet w i l l t r e a d on "shadowy ground;" i t i s an a w e - i n s p i r i r i g t a s k and at t h e same time the more t a n t a l i z i n g because of i t s e l u s i v e n e s s , y e t Wordsworth ta k e s i t upon h i m s e l f because i t i s the c e n t r a l c h a l l e n g e of the i m a g i n a t i v e mind i n h i s age. The c h a l l e n g e i s t o seek a u n i f y i n g i m a g i n a t i v e p r i n c i p l e which can o r d e r human e x p e r i e n c e and endow i t w i t h a sense of beauty, meaning and v a l u e . With h i s f i r m sense o f 36 reality and of contemporaneity, however, Wordsworth would not retreat simply to the wishful idealism of extreme subjectivity or to obscure claims of supernatural inspiration. The harmonizing principle can be found also in this visible universe, and one does not need to dwell nostalgically on poetic fictions about imaginary lands: Beauty—a living Presence of the earth, Surpassing the most fair ideal Forms Which craft of delicate Spirits hath composed From earth's materials—waits upon my steps; Pitches her tents before me as I move, An hourly neighbour. Paradise and, groves Elysian, Fortunate Fields—like those of old Sought in the Atlantic Main—why should they be A history only of departed things, ^-j Or a mere fiction of what never was? The creative beauty in the mind of man has earlier been indicated, and in this passage the beauty in the visible universe is also indicated; the two considered together form Wordsworth's.recognition of a creative interchange between the inner perceiving mind and the external world perceived: For the discerning intellect of Man, When wedded to this goodly universe In love and holy passion, shall find these A simple produce of the common day.28 I intend to establish in my interpretation of the poems that this firmly held conviction of a creative interchange is an illuminating context for any meaningful interpretation of the dark passages in his poems. His determination to indicate how the imaginative mind could make the realization of paradise "A simple produce of the common day" will be related to the process of exploring the darkness of the inner eye and the discovery of "the light of common day" which 37 emerges from that exploration in the Ode. Wordsworth's main aim was to create, through words "which speak of nothing more than what we are," the kind of imaginative beauty that should arouse the sensual from their sleep Of Death, and win the vacant and the vain To noble raptures.29 These words reveal the extent and depth of the anxiety and mental depression in Wordsworth's age. For the poet l i f e is imagination and the loss of the vital continuity in imaginative perception will result in the separation from the harmony of the universe. The relation of each mind, or what he calls the "mind of man" to the reality of the universe demands imaginative exertion so that men may continue to see the inherent nature of things with "undisordered sight." Otherwise "the waters of the deep" may gather upon us. Despite a l l that has been said about the egotism and revolutionary confidence of the Romantic poets, the impression which I get from reading their early poems and letters is an overwhelming sense of a crisis of confidence in poetry and in the imaginative process. This impression is very strong in Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats and Byron (in his early poetry). In Coleridge the whole matter is closely related to his metaphysical speculations and the self-doubt and disillusionment contingent on these tended to desiccate 30 his imaginative spirit and stifle his poetic creativity. In the early poems of Shelley, Byron and Keats, the crisis of confidence in poetry tended to produce a morbid sensibility and vagueness of 31 mood and expression. In Wordsworth's poetry, however, the confrontation 38 with this crisis of confidence is a salutary exercise which re-establishes confidence in poetry as a mode of perception and in his own creative imagination. One of the props in this confrontation is the recognition by Wordsworth that there is only one true society, "the noble living and the noble dead." The impression which Wordsworth often gave that he "feared competition only with 32 Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton," must be understood in this light. It is not really competition in the rather pejorative sense of the word but a sober creative desire to make some contri-bution, as the elder writers did, to the question of human knowledge and imaginative insight; i t is an urge on the part of Wordsworth to recover for himself and for his age a way of tackling the problems of imaginative thought through the poetic mode. Although Wordsworth, like Keats after him, seemed to derive his unrelaxing creative urge from the examples of his great poetic predecessors, he realized nevertheless that mere aspiration was not enough; he also realized that he needed to express his imaginative discoveries through new metaphors of reality. He could no longer maintain the conviction of an inward, God-inspired will which sustained Milton in his task 33 of self-election to the status of poet and prophet. Wordsworth realized that the task of attaining the heights of imaginative vision was infinitely more arduous than Milton's somewhat misleading claim of an inward, supernatural source of illumination would tend to suggest. Wordsworth aimed at restoring a sense of continuity in poetic vision but'he realized also that the extreme rationalist tendency in his own age had created a crisis of confidence in poetry as a valid and 39 illuminating mode of ordering human experience—of perceiving reality. In this case, the grand march of intellect became a mixed blessing: Alas! the Genius of our age, from Schools Less humble, draws he-r lessons, aims, and rules. To Prowess guided by her insight keen^ Matter and Spirit are as one Machine. Here the poetic inversion in "insight keen"'and the half-rhymes in "machine" and "keen" defines the poet's sarcastic attitude toward the "Genius" of the rationalist Age which mechanically equates matter with spirit and ddenies vital functions of creative value to the human spirit. Wordsworth was concerned with confronting this darkness of the age. He realized that the way out of such baffling theories was to rediscover and assert images of thought which could express an imaginative perception of the f u l l reality of.: our experience. Wordsworth here sought to write from an imaginative principle which would reveal the significance of the baffling phenomena of his own world, and such imaginative principle was the unifying faculty revealing the significance out of the multiplicity of the experience of the mere senses; in this sense Wordsworth was to demonstrate the role of the poet as the discoverer or maker of order out of chaos. The poet was to achieve much more, for the theme' of The Excursion is how the discerning intellect of man, When wedded to this goodly universe shall find Paradise and groves Elysian, Fortunate Fields... A simple produce of the common day. 40 This passage defines a shift of priorities in poetic attitude and theme. The shift from the quest for a spiritual and fictitious paradise to the real imaginative experience of this "goodly universe" indicates the locus of Wordsworth's poetry. The preface to The Excursion is rich in multifold meaning for a l l its epic rhetoric. The poet in the preface is concerned with the humanity and concreteness of poetry, with the discerning intellect of man and its creative interchange with the external universe. His emphasis is on the constants or the basic universals in the task of illumination from generation to generation. He is especially con-cerned with the dignity and responsibility of the poet's imaginative role: that of arousing his readers from their sleep of death. Metaphorically speaking, this is what Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages amounts to; his role is to provide some guiding light and to regenerate the spirit of man. Wordsworth elsewhere describes the poet as "a man speaking to men" of their own most deeply felt experience; a man who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him" and "in the goings-on of the 36 Universe around him." The poet is a man endowed with the sense of delight and imaginative freedom, qualities which enable him to deal with The tendency too potent in itself Of use and custom to bow down the soul And substitute a universe of death For that which moves with light and li f e instinct Actual, devine, and free.37 Wordsworth emphasizes imaginative freedom in the following passage: 41 Oh! who I s he t h a t h a t h h i s whole l i f e l o n g P r e s e r v e d , e n l a r g e d , t h i s freedom i n h i m s e l f ? F o r t h i s a l o n e i s genuine l i b e r t y . 3 8 I t i s t h e awareness o f i m a g i n a t i v e freedom which e n a b l e s the poet t o r e c o g n i z e "how l i f e pervades t h e und e c a y i n g mind." I t p r e -s e r v e s the poet from t h e s l e e p of Death. The p r i n c i p l e of Beauty and the sense o f i m a g i n a t i v e freedom s e r v e as l i b e r a t i n g f a c t o r s which s t i m u l a t e the sharpened sense o f the t r a n s c e n d i n g powers of the mind ov e r the c o n f u s i o n s and p e r p l e x i t i e s - o f the u n i v e r s e . T h i s a c c e p t a n c e o f the a c t of the p o e t i c i m a g i n a t i o n as the s o u r c e of human power over the g e n e r a l l y h a r s h and p e r p l e x i n g f a c t s o f l i f e i s Wordsworth's bulwark a g a i n s t m elancholy f e a r . I t i s when we have i s o l a t e d a l l t h e s e elements o f Wordsworth's p o e t i c g e n i u s t h a t we can f u l l y a p p r e c i a t e the b a s i s o f Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n of the dark passages. Wordsworth s t r e s s e s h i s r e c o g n i t i o n o f t h e p r i n c i p l e of beauty and of a p r i n c i p l e o f i m a g i n a t i v e freedom based on the c o n v i c t i o n o f an a c t i v e c r e a t i v e mind as f a c t o r s c a p a b l e of r e g e n e r a t i n g the f a c u l t i e s o f men i n ev e r y g e n e r a t i o n . There i s no g r e a t e r r e c o g n i t i o n o f a b a s i c u n i v e r s a l i n the concept o f c o n t i n u i t y of i m a g i n a t i v e v i s i o n than Wordsworth's f i r m b e l i e f i n the s u b s t a n t i a l r e a l i t y o f the e n n o b l i n g i n t e r c h a n g e between the i m a g i n a t i v e mind and the outward frame o f t h i n g s . Wordsworth was m o t i v a t e d >by a d e s i r e t o c o n t r i b u t e f r e s h i n s i g h t t h a t i s i l l u m i n a t i v e of man's p e r p l e x i t y i n t h i s w o r l d . He was t h e r e f o r e concerned w i t h e x p l o r i n g the dark passages p e c u l i a r t o h i s age and w i t h e x p l o r i n g the g e n e r a l t r u t h s o f our human c o n d i t i o n as seen 42 through a l l ages. These two aspects come together in a passage in Book I of The Prelude, where the poet speaks of subjecting himself to a "rigorous inquisition" as becomes a man who would prepare for such an "arduous work." He finds the result encouraging because he neither seems ' To lack that first great gift, the vital soul, Nor general Truths, which are themselves a sort Of elements and Agents, Underpowers, Subordinate helpers of the living mind: Nor am I naked of external things Forms, images, nor numerous other aids Of less regard.39 I have already commented in detail on "that first great gift, the vital soul" and its relation to the principle of Beauty as stimulating poetic vitality by rousing the creative faculty from the "sleep of Death." It is what makes possible the liberation of the imaginative spirit and effects a transcending of the bounds of a materialistic determinism; this in turn offers to the poetic imagination a sense of power over the world of circumstance. Wordsworth felt a keen sense of urgent preoccupation with the role and nature of poetry in his age and he measured himself against his deeply held conviction of the need for a sense of continuity in imaginative vision. The strength and originality of Wordsworth's discovery derives from the fact that he was the one poet whose genius in the exploration of the dark passages offered help and courage to perplexed minds in search of that genuine poetic insight which neither violates the principle of beauty nor affronts empirical reason and common humanity. The proof of this claim is the burden of this dissertation. 43 CHAPTER I Footnotes John Keats to John Hamilton Reynolds, Sunday 3 May, 1818, in The Letters of John Keats, ed. Maurice Buxton Forman, 4th edn. (London, 1952), p. 140. 2Ibid., pp. 138-144. 3 John Keats, "Annotations to Paradise Lost"; in The Romantics  on Milton, ed. Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr. (Cleveland, 1970), p. 554. J. Middleton Murry, Studies in Keats Old and New, pp. 137, 129, 141. T^he extensive notes to Oxford edition of The Poems of John Keats, edited by E. de Selincourt, remain invaluable. An important study of "Echoes" of Wordsworth in Keats's poems and letters is Thora Balslev's Keats and Wordsworth; A Comparative Study (Scandinavian University Books: Mun^s^aartl, Copenhagen, 1962). See especially p. 17 and the bibliography for his l i s t of critical predecessors in this field of research. Of the biographical studies Robert Crittings' John Keats (London, 1968) deserves special notice in this connection. See also C. deWitt Thorpe's "Wordsworth and Keats: A Study in Personal and Critical Impressions"', PMLA, 1927, 1025. For Keats's confession of his growing realization of the relevance of Wordsworth's preoccupations in poetry, see the letter to Miss Jeffrey, Monday 31 May 1819, in The Letters of John Keats, pp. 343-344, where Keats quotes two lines (11. 181-2) of the Intimations of Immortality and adds, significantly, "I once thought this a melancholist' s dream." ^See the letter to Reynolds, already cited, on p. 140 of The  Letters of John Keats, where Keats speaks of "Milton's apparently less anxiety for Humanity." g See Wordswroth's "Advertisement to Lyrical Ballads, with a  few other Poems (1798)" and subsequent prefaces and supplementary essays in Literary Criticism of William Wordsworth, ed. Paul M. Zall (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1966). 44 9 This is taken from Keats's sonnet, "Great Spirits now on Earth are Sojourning" in which Wordsworth is placed at the head of the "Great Spirits." See The Letters of John Keats, p. 10. 1 0The Prelude, II, 277-8. All references are to the 1850 text, unless otherwise indicated. Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York, 1960), p. 117. 12 The "Prospectus" to The Recluse in Preface to the 1814 edition of The Excursion, 11, 33-4. 13 "Tintern Abbey," 11. 38-41. Cf. Keats concept of his perplexed imagination which Lost in a sort of Purgatory blind, Cannot refer to any standard Law Of either earth or heaven in "Epistle to John Hamilton Reynolds," 11. 80-81. 14 This has generally been recognized by contemporary philosophical thinkers who have written on the period. See especially Basil Wllley's The Eighteenth-Century Background (London, 1949), and his The Seventeenth-Century Background (London, 1934). Alfred North Whitehead's Science and the Modern World, op. cit., and M.H. Abrams, The Mirrorearidv'the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (New York, 1958). "^"Preface to Lyrical Ballads" in Literary Criticism of William  Wordsworth, p. 50. 16 The Prelude, III, 154. The emphasis here is on an imaginative quest for order, a search for the discovery of a principle of imaginative illumination. 17"French Revolution", Poetical Works, p. 166, 11. 38-40, also The Prelude, xi, 142-4. 18 Literary Criticism of William Wordsworth, p. 21. See Bks. VII, VIII, IX, X, XI (especially), and XII and XIII for factors contributing to "torpor" and for how Wordsworth confronted those forces; see also The Excursion, Bks. II, III, and IV. 19T, ., Ibxd. 45 20 Compare Whitehead's more eloquent way of phrasing this: "We are within a world of colours, sounds, and other sense-objects, related in space and time to enduring objects...."; "the world disclosed in sense-perception is a common world, transcending the individual recipient," in Science and the Modern World, pp. 129, and 132 respectively (emphasis his). 2 1"Effusion" in "Memorials of a Tour of Scotland, 1814." 22 The emphasis is Wordsworth's. 23 Leone Vivante, English Poetry and its contribution to the  Knowledge of a Creative Principle (London: Faber and Faber, mcml), p. 1. See also Judson Stanley Lyon, The Excursion: A Study (New Haven, 1950), pp. 108-110 on possible sources of Wordsworth's concept of an active principle. 2 4Ibid., p. 204. 2 5The Prelude, XIV, 448-454. 26 Preface to The Excursion, 11, 35-41. 27 Preface to The Excursion, 11, 42-51. 2 8Ibid., 11, 52-55. 29 "Prospectus" to The Recluse, 11. 58-614 30 See Coleridge's own confession in his poems, especially in "Dejection: an ode". 3 1See Shelley's "Alastor", Byron's "Childe Harold" and Keats's "Endymion". 32 There are several versions of this though H. Crabb Robinson's version in his On Books and their Writers is perhaps the best known. See also Preface to Lyrical Ballads, and The Prelude III, 276-293. 33 It should be obvious by now that I am not studying Wordsworth in the line of Christian, prophetic vision which Blake tried to maintain after Milton. For an illuminating discussion of the specifically Christian line of prophecy from ancient times through Milton to Blake, see "Opening the Seals: Blake's Epics and the Milton Tradition" by 46 Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr., in Blake's Sublime Allegory: Essays  on the Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem, eds. Stuart Curran and Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr. (Madison, 1973), pp. 23-58. 34 See Wordsworth to William Rowan Hamilton, Nov. 22, 1831, where Wordsworth speaks at some length about the arduous task of poetry and the place of the various faculties in the creative process. See especially this: "Milton talks of 'pouring easy his unpremiditated verse.' It would be harsh...to say there is anything like cant in this; but i t is not true to the letter, and tends to mislead....," in The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, The Later Years, Vol. II, p. 586. 3 5"ltinerary Poems of 1833," XI, 154-156. 36 Literary Criticism of William Wordsworth, p. 48. 37_ „ „• . ,r_ ,,n 39 !The Prelude l The Prelude CHAPTER II The Burthen of the Mystery My concern in this and the next chapter is with those poems in which Wordsworth grappled with complex problems, ranging in nature from practical but important concerns to the personal and philosophical anxieties related to the poetic vocation, which pressed in upon him as he pondered on the challenge of his l i f e -long task. The emphasis will be on those poems in which the distant and impersonal voice of some of his very early poems is replaced by the voice of personal anxiety. Poems such as "Alice Fell," "The Idiot Boy," "The Complaint of a forsaken Indian Woman," "The Female Vagrant" a l l belong to the former group in which the narrative voice is impersonal and dramatic rather than personal and reflexive. These poems have their main interest in the affecting emotions evoked by the tales; but in the poems which I am about to analyze, the main value is derived from the symbolic significance of the poetic experience with regard to the poet-narrator. The concern in these chapters is with those poems (written mostly between 1798 and 1804) in which the poetic persona occupies a deeply symbolic rather than fictional narrative role; I wish to treat these poems in relation to the distraction and intense self-questioning which motivated the writing of The Prelude as a poem of self-exploration preparatory 48 to the great task of The Recluse. The poet himself tended to regard these short poems as exploratory efforts in which he sought to fix the wavering balance of his imaginative soul;"'' I wish to demonstrate that the mood of preoccupation with practical and philosophical anxieties cast a long shadow over these poems and compelled the poet to explore the dark passages of l i f e even in these relatively early poems. I will also attempt to prove from the analysis of these poems that the dark passages, as my introduction suggests, refer to problems relating to the task of poetry as well as to those relating to death. It is generally assumed that i t was only after "Peele Castle" (1805) that Wordsworth developed the sympathetic or humanized imagination, but I have deliberately excluded "Peele Castle" from the first block of poems which I wish to consider because I intend to trace the development of Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages in the poems written between 1798 and 1814. Since my concern in these poems is with poetic themes and attitudes, my critical analysis will operate through concentration on the significance of structural patterns. My analysis will reveal that these poems move through structures of imaginative deliberation which are complex. "Tintern Abbey," the "Matthew" poems and "Resolution and Independence" will be discussed in this chapter while the poems on Burns and the Fifth Book of The Prelude will form the basis for discussion in the next chapter. "Tintern Abbey" (composed July 13, 1798; published 1798) is one of those poems of puzzlement which deserves to be studied in relation to Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages. Much of 49 the critical controversy surrounding "Tintern Abbey" has centred on lines 22-57 and 107-111 where we have such memorable phrases as "the l i f e of things," "gleams of half-extinguished thought" and "soul of a l l my moral being." My emphasis will be on the total progression of poetic thought rather than on explicating isolated phrases, for it is only through a careful consideration of the movement of thought in this poem that I hope to establish the f u l l significance of the dark passages in "Tintern Abbey." Though the poem is written in the 18th century tradition of meditation on a landscape, Wordsworth introduces significant devices into the genre which enable him to achieve variety and scope as well as depth of thought and feeling. One of these features is the introduction of his sister into the poem. The address to his "dear, dear friend," who is at his side, provides the opportunity for the poet to combine elements of conventional meditation on a landscape with a searching description of the stages of his own imaginative growth; i t also enables him to generalize subtly on the human condition by dwelling on the con-cerns of two individuals. The poet in "Tintern Abbey" has reached the stage of the awakening of the thinking principle, and the sense of pleasure which he derives from contemplating the landscape is now described as "sober pleasure," and contrasted with what he felt "in the hour of / Thoughtless youth." This earlier stage is vividly portrayed through the direct description of those "coarse pleasures," "glad animal movements," "aching joys," and "dizzy raptures," so that i t is easy for the reader to see that i t was a time when the senses, especially the sense of sight, held sway. The poet is careful enough to indicate that these youthful pleasures were not depraved 50 sensations; he is also equally careful to suggest that they lacked that "remote charm / by thought supplied." These two points come together in his description of his sister. Her "wild eyes" and "wild ecstasies" recall the poet's past "aching joys" and "dizzy raptures" and contrast with his present soberly meditative mood. That thought-less stage is not condemned because the poem derives its central impetus from the vital link between the three main stages of imaginative growth: the unreflective past, the soberly meditative present, and the unknown but unflattering .future. Some aspects of that vital link are emphasized for example in the following lines: Nor perchance, If I were not thus taught, should I the more Suffer my genial spirits to decay: For thou art with me here upon the banks Of this fair river; thou my dearest friend, My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch The language of my former heart, and read My former pleasures in the shooting lights Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a l i t t l e while v May I behold in thee what I once was Here the positive values of instinctive, sensuous delight of youth in the wonders of nature are emphasized, and the values of such sensations are emphasized as helping to preserve genial spirits from decay. The mood of the poet is largely retrospective, but the note of anxiety about the future is disturbing in the last two lines. The coarser pleasures of boyhood and the raptures of youth have given way to "sober pleasure," thought and reflection. The stages leading to this deeply contemplative growth are'described in the poem. The opening lines of "Tintern Abbey" present a sense of ordered harmony in the Wye valley and the poet asserts that his experience of this ordered harmony, perceived five years earlier, has remained avail-51 able to him. It has not been to him "As is a landscape to a blind man's eye." Even in the noise of towns and cities, or in moods of weariness and loneliness, this sense of harmony has con-tinued to remind him of his imaginative capacity for an equally harmonious relationship with other people and with the world around him. The poet says that he may have owed to the "beauteous forms" "another gift of aspect more sublime;" that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of a l l this unintelligible world, Is lightened. Here the intricate syntax literally enacts the rhythm of thought in the imaginative consciousness. The distribution of tonal emphases is one of the interesting strategic devices in this regard. The prolonged duration of sounds falls on such words as "burthen," "mystery," "heavy," "weary" and "weight", a l l of which build up in sombre effect and culminate in the polysyllabic "unintelligible." These words are unusually expressive in the context in which they operate; their rounded and prolonged sounds together with the pattern of doubling of words and phrases set up a pattern of harrowing resonance which suggests the depth of the dark passages explored in "Tintern Abbey." Within a unit of poetic thought covering barely five lines of blank verse, the darkness of the mind is thus vividly enacted and the light of discovery is indicated as the movement of syntax comes to rest effortlessly on the word'lightened." This word with its liquids and unrounded sounds expresses a relaxation as well as psychic tension. It looks back to the "blessed mood" and "heavy and weary weight", emphasizing by implication the blessedness of the mood and the weight 52 of u n i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y of the w o r l d which i s l i g h t e n e d , though not t o t a l l y removed. In the l i n e s t h a t f o l l o w , the poet d e s c r i b e s t h i s mood f u r t h e r by p o i n t i n g out t h a t the memory of t h e Wye v a l l e y , o f the beauteous forms, c r e a t e i n him a mood and a p h y s i o l o g i c a l d i s p o s i t i o n which conduce t o i m a g i n a t i v e r e f l e c t i o n . Through h i s e x p e r i e n c e o f o r d e r and harmony of the Wye v a l l e y he i s encouraged -to a c h i e v e a s i m i l a r i m a g i n a t i v e o r d e r i n g o f t h i s a p p a r e n t l y u n i n t e l l i g i b l e w o r l d . In a l o w - t e n s i o n passage whose unassuming tone has u s u a l l y been m i s u n d e r s t o o d , t h e r e i s a q u i e t but n e v e r t h e l e s s f i r m emphasis on the v a l u e o f t h a t e a r l i e r e x p e r i e n c e : I f t h i s Be but a v a i n b e l i e f , y e t , oh! how o f t — In darkness and amid the many shapes Of j o y l e s s d a y l i g h t , when the f r e t f u l s t i r U n p r o f i t a b l e , and t h e f e v e r of the w o r l d , Have hung upon the b e a t i n g s of my h e a r t — How o f t , i n s p i r i t , have I t u r n e d t o thee 0 s y l v a n Wye! thou wanderer t h r o ' the woods How o f t e n has my s p i r i t t u r n e d t o th e e ! I t i s a passage i n which the wa v e r i n g movement of the v e r s e h e l p s t o convey the sense of r e s t l e s s a n x i e t y ; y e t the s y n t a c t i c a l p a t t e r n of " i f . . . y e t , oh! how o f t " i s a c h a r a c t e r i s t i c Wordsworthian p h r a s i n g i n which the f o r c e of " y e t " dwarfs the q u a l i f i c a t i o n e x p r e s s e d i n " i f , " so t h a t what we have i n the passage i s a modest but f i r m a s s e r t i o n of the s i g n i f i c a n c e o f the Wye e x p e r i e n c e which i s f i n a l l y s t a t e d w i t h such g r e a t p o e t i c e f f e c t i n the r e g u l a r and emphastic l i n e s : How o f t , i n s p i r i t , have I t u r n e d t o t h e e , 0 s y l v a n Wye! thou wanderer t h r o ' the woods How o f t e n has my s p i r i t t u r n e d t o thee! 53 These lines express a unit of poetic thought which anticipates the conviction expressed in " a l l that we behold / From this green earth . . ." of lines 102-109. In lines 49-57, Wordsworth does not necessarily establish a link between the memory of the Wye and the power of intellectual insight; what is important is that he indicates sufficiently the imaginative way of contemplating those anxieties connected with the burden of the mystery of human existence. When we are overwhelmed by the "fretful stir / Unprofitable, and the fever of the world," or by "the heavy and the weary weight / Of a l l this unintelligible world," in what way should we confront such anxieties? It is in answer to this poetic thought that the poet offers the description of his own passionate gratitude to the memory of the Wye Valley. The poet describes his earlier instinctive delight in nature as well as the more mature condition of mind that has replaced the youthful response; he describes other gifts which have followed and the extra value which he has found in contemplating the ordered and harmonious experience of the Wye valley: For I have learned To look on nature, not as in the hour Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes The s t i l l , sad music of humanity, No>r harsh nor grating, though of ample power To chasten and subdue. And I have felt A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts. This passage has been the basis for extended literary controversy, but when the complex structural pattern of the whole poem is considered, some of the phrasing should f a l l into clearer perspective. In the final lines of the opening paragraph of "Tintern Abbey," the poet describes a humanized landscape, and this later passage simply-54 elaborates on what was earlier suggested; the poet now sees Nature in relation to the condition of human li f e because he has now realized a sense of interconnectedness between a l l things and a l l beings. Nature has acquired a higher significance because i t offers the setting for elevated thoughts, for the philosophic contemplation of the universe and of the condition of man in i t ; also, nature remains a source of beauty and of the creative principle. It is both elements of this realization which give particular syntactic force to the word "therefore" at the beginning of the lines which express the poet's central thought: Therefore am I s t i l l A lover of the meadows and the woods, And mountains; and of a l l that we behold From this green earth; of a l l the mighty world Of eye, and ear, — both what they half create And what perceive; well pleased to recognise In nature and the language of the sense The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul Of a l l my moral being. The recognition of the ultimate harmony of this world and of the "one l i f e " that interpenetrates a l l l i f e leads the poet toward a further recognition of the world as created by the imaginative inter-change of the mind and the senses. We are thus enabled to see the poet-perceiver as now an active, creative agent rather than a simple, passive receiver of sensations as in his thoughtless youth. Also, the poet deliberately affirms that this world is a l l that he needs for his moral and imaginative growth; through his mature imaginative insight, the poet now realizes that the appearance of unintelligibility is largely an appearance because the contemplative imagination is capable of perceiving the world as basically rational, orderly, harmonious 55 and significant. In the light of this realization, therefore, man's place is in this green earth, in this mighty world of eye and ear, and the prime business is to seek an orientation (or, in Wordsworth's 2 words, to seek to be "remanded" ) to this world rather than aspire to a transcendental world. This is a conscious rejection of established religious doctrines with their undue emphasis on the after-life. So in the endiWordsworth rejects the world of sheer sensations, even of undepraved sensations, as well as the conventional emphasis on the after-life. In the final analysis, i t is this green earth, this mighty world of eye and ear, as i t is transformed by the imaginative mind which Wordsworth affirms. The hieratic beauty of external nature does lead to a recognition of an active, creative principle, but external sensations alone, even when undepraved, are not sufficient in themselves; on the other hand, Wordsworth also rejects extreme subjective transcendental idealism whether expressed as a religious doctrine or as a theory of the imagination. The ultimate faith is in al l that we behold From this green earth; of a l l the mighty world Of eye, and ear, — both what they half-create And what perceive. These lines have much relevance when seen in relation to the search for "a recourse somewhat human independant [sic] of the 3 great Consolations of Religion and undepraved Sensations." Furthermore, the lines have much epistemological significance. Wordsworth takes up the ideas of Locke, which regarded the human mind as a passive agent to be played upon by a l l impressions, and makes the mind a more positive creative agent. Since John Locke's 56 t i m e , i t had been g e n e r a l l y a c c e p t e d t h a t s e n s a t i o n was the o n l y mode of p e r c e i v i n g the w o r l d . Wordsworth emphasizes the r e f l e c t i v e powers of the mind. He does not put h i s f a i t h i n any t r a n s c e n d e n t a l 4 r e v e l a t i o n as e x p r e s s e d by C o l e r i d g e ; r a t h e r h i s f a i t h i s based on the powers of the p o e t i c i m a g i n a t i o n w o r k i n g w i t h and upon the e x t e r n a l o b j e c t s and s e n s a t i o n s t o t r a n s f o r m what i s p e r c e i v e d . T h i s theme, f i r s t g i v e n s i g n i f i c a n t e x p r e s s i o n i n " T i n t e r n Abbey," i s f u r t h e r d e v e l o p e d i n The P r e l u d e and The E x c u r s i o n . The q u e s t i o n of the mind of man and i t s o p e r a t i o n s i n r e l a t i o n t o the e x t e r n a l w o r l d became c e n t r a l to Wordsworth's p o e t r y . I have i n d i c a t e d i n the i n t r o d u c t o r y c h a p t e r t h a t the problem of i m a g i n a t i v e i n s i g h t i n the p o s t - e m p i r i c a l age was one of t h e most p e r p l e x i n g t o the Romantic p o e t s , and I b e l i e v e t h a t Wordsworth's sense of b a l a n c e — as s u g g e s t e d i n " T i n t e r n Abbey" i s one i m p o r t a n t a s p e c t of h i s e x p l o r a t i o n of t h e dark passages i n r e l a t i o n t o the problem of i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n i n h i s age. T h i s l e a d s us to the c o n s i d e r a t i o n of t h e complex n a t u r e o f the Wordsworthian mode of p o e t i c thought. The poet speaks of h i s e a r l i e r , u n r e f l e c t i v e s e n s a t i o n s "and t h e i r g l a d a n i m a l movements." T h i s l a s t p h rase d e s c r i b e s the way he had e x i s t e d almost i n s t i n c t i v e l y on s e n s a t i o n s , even though some of those s e n s a t i o n s ( e s p e c i a l l y t h o s e caused by the sounding c a t a r a c t , t h e t a l l r o c k , the mountain and the deep and gloomy wood, t o g e t h e r w i t h t h e i r c o l o u r s and t h e i r forms) were of t e r r o r and of unknown and p e r p l e x i n g f o r c e s of the u n i v e r s e . The r e c o l l e c t i o n of h i s e a r l i e r t h o u g h t l e s s mood ("Sensations") p r e p a r e s us f o r the complementary h a l f o f the Wordsworthian i m a g i n a t i o n ("thought") which the b o y i s h 57 a c t i v i t i e s , l a c k e d : "a remoter charm / By thought s u p p l i e d . " Here we see the poet as a complex mind who e x i s t s p a r t l y on s e n s a t i o n , p a r t l y on thought. T h i s i s a r e c u r r e n t i m a g i n a t i v e p a t t e r n i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y ; i t i n f o r m s the movement o f p o e t i c r e a s o n i n g f o r example i n the " I n t i m a t i o n s o f I m m o r t a l i t y . " And, i n c o n n e c t i o n w i t h " T i n t e r n Abbey," i t i s q u i t e m i s l e a d i n g t o t a l k , as G e r a r d does, o f t h e i r r e c o v e r a b l e n a t u r e of the l o s s of h i s " i d e a l i s t i c v i s i o n . " " ' What we have i n " T i n t e r n Abbey" i s Wordsworth's e x p r e s s i o n of the workings of h i s i m a g i n a t i o n , and o f h i s immense f a i t h i n the powers o f the c o n t e m p l a t i v e mind i n i m a g i n a t i v e i n t e r c h a n g e w i t h the forms and images of e x t e r n a l n a t u r e . The poet shows (t h r o u g h the power o f images of n a t u r e t o s t i m u l a t e s a l u t a r y s e n s a t i o n s ) t h a t n o t h i n g i n n a t u r e e x i s t s i n " a b s o l u t e s i n g l e n e s s " but i n the co n t e x t o f a l l p a s t e x p e r i e n c e and i n r e l a t i o n t o the p r e s e n t s t a t e o f the mind p e r c e i v i n g i t . The measure o f Wordsworth's concer n w i t h e x p r e s s i n g the growth o f h i s own mind — of the p o e t i c mind — i s r e f l e c t e d i n " T i n t e r n Abbey" i n the a p p l i c a t i o n which he makes of h i s growing i n s i g h t i n t o the n a t u r e o f t h e human c o n d i t i o n . " T i n t e r n Abbey" c o u l d be r e g a r d e d as a l o n g , i n v o l u t e d sentence whose c h i e f c h a r a c t e r i s t i c i s i t s complex s y n t a x which i s d e s i g n e d to c a r r y t h e weight o f a m e d i t a t i v e thought. The development of thought p r o g r e s s e s f a i r l y c l e a r l y through s y n t a c t i c a l c o n n e c t i v e phrases such as "once a g a i n , " " i f t h i s be," " y e t , oh!", "and so I d a r e , " " t h e r e f o r e , " "now p e r c h a n c e , " e t c . These f u n c t i o n t o produce the f o l l o w i n g p o i n t s : the poet e s t a b l i s h e s h i s r e c o g n i t i o n of the v a l u e o f sense p e r c e p t i o n ; demonstrates the c r e a t i v e i n t e r -58 change which enables the poetic mind to endow this apparently unintelligible world with order and significance, and he discovers the propitious mood and setting for contemplating the condition of man in the universe. These aspects of imaginative recognition, so dramatically enacted in the poem, provide the illuminating context for the force of the conclusion (expressed in the emphatic repetition of "therefore") in "Tintern Abbey." The first "therefore" (line 102) sums up the experience developed through imaginatively retrospective contemplation of concrete images of the Wye experience. The second "therefore" (line 134) has an even wider context for i t derives its syntactical force from a l l that has gone before in the poem and i t is also prospective to what the poet is about to turn our attention. The "exhortation" to his sister is based on the value that is derivable from both'.the thoughtless delight in, as well as the thoughtful contemplation of, nature: Nature provides images of excited joy and beauty; she also provides the setting for "lofty thoughts." This two-fold function leads to the following thought: Therefore let the moon Shine on thee in thy solitary walk; And let the misty mountain-winds be free To blow against thee: and, in after years, When these wild ecstasies shall be matured Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind Shall be a mansion for a l l lovely forms, Thy memory be as a dwelling-place For a l l sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief, Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts Of tender joy wilt thou remember me And these my exhortations! 5 9 The word " p o r t i o n " c a r r i e s a g r e a t weight o f thought and meaning; i t i m p l i e s something a l l o t e d by f a t e t o the c o n d i t i o n of human e x i s t e n c e . " S o l i t u d e , or f e a r , or p a i n , o r g r i e f " c o u l d be the f a t e o f t h e p o e t ' s s i s t e r because she i s n o t exempt from t h e r e a l i t y of the human c o n d i t i o n . I t i s i n such words and ph r a s e s — i n such s t r u c t u r e s o f p o e t i c r e a s o n i n g — t h a t Wordsworth a c h i e v e s t h e s h a r p e n i n g o f v i s i o n i n t o the h e a r t and n a t u r e o f man and r e c o g n i s e s the need o f c o n v i n c i n g one's n e r v e s o f the dark passages i n l i f e . The poet does not i n " T i n t e r n Abbey" e x p l o r e t h e s e passages a t any g r e a t l e n g t h , but he c o u r a g e o u s l y a l l u d e s t o h i s own f u t u r e ("If I s h o u l d be where I no more can hear / Thy v o i c e . . . " ) , and d i s c u s s e s h i s s i s t e r ' s f u t u r e i n r e l a t i o n to t h e s e human f e a r s . In " T i n t e r n Abbey" the poet s u g g e s t s the mode of c o n t e m p l a t i n g the dark passages i n l i f e — " s o l i t u d e , o r f e a r , o r p a i n , or g r i e f . " The r e a l i z a t i o n t h a t " i n t h i s moment t h e r e i s l i f e / F o r f u t u r e y e a r s " i s d r a m a t i c a l l y a c h i e v e d through the i n t e n s e p o e t i c e x p e r i e n c e e n a c t e d i n the poem. I t i s from t h i s e x p e r i e n c e t h a t the poet a f f i r m s a n e v e r - f a i l i n g p r i n c i p l e o f j o y i n the e l e v a t e d c o n t e m p l a t i o n of l i f e i n t h e s e t t i n g o f e n d u r i n g o b j e c t s of n a t u r e ; he has done t h i s p r i n c i p a l l y by r e p r e s e n t i n g f a m i l i a r o b j e c t s so as to awaken the minds of o t h e r s t o a l i k e f r e s h n e s s o f s e n s a t i o n and thought c o n c e r n i n g them. The memory o f the beauteous forms of the Wye v a l l e y has s u s t a i n e d him i n the hours of l o n e l y w e a r i n e s s ; i t a l s o c o n f i r m e d h i s f a i t h i n man's i m a g i n a t i v e c a p a c i t y t o m a i n t a i n a harmonious r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the w o r l d around him and w i t h o t h e r human b e i n g s . T h i s i s one of those " s e n s a t i o n s sweet" which pass i n t o the mind w i t h " t r a n q u i l r e s t o r a t i o n . " 60 T h i s s t a t e o f mind i s a s o u r c e of inward j o y which makes a human b e i n g a more mo r a l p e r s o n ; t h a t i s , i t makes him more p o s s e s s e d of i m a g i n a t i v e sympathy w i t h o t h e r human b e i n g s . By the end of " T i n t e r n Abbey" the poet sees v a l u e i n such e x p e r i e n c e s and memories f o r h i m s e l f as w e l l as f o r h i s s i s t e r . H i s p a s t w e a r i n e s s and l o n e l i n e s s a r e p a r a l l e l e d by h i s s i s t e r ' s p r o b a b l e " s o l i t u d e , or f e a r , or p a i n , or g r i e f . " Though t h e r e i s a deepening n o t e of a n x i e t y i n the i n t i m a t i o n of t h e s e dark p a s s a g e s , the poet sees hope i n the p r i m a l sympathy o r i m a g i n a t i v e l o v e which w i l l s u s t a i n h i s s i s t e r . L i n e s 134-159, which open w i t h " T h e r e f o r e " and i n c l u d e two " i f . . . n o r " c o n s t r u c t i o n s , c a r r y the weight of t h i s p o e t i c thought. " T i n t e r n Abbey" thus l e a d s to a key concept which i s p e r v a s i v e i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y ; i t i s a l s o a concept which h e l p s to account f o r Wordsworth's t h i n k i n g deep i n t o the h e a r t o f man. A g a i n s t the s e l f i s h p u r s u i t s and v a i n d i s t r a c t i o n s i n the towns and c i t i e s ( l i n e s 24-25, 128-132), Wordsworth p o s i t s o b j e c t s which e l e v a t e our thoughts beyond our poor weak s e l v e s . Man i s e s s e n t i a l l y c a p a b l e of drawing i n s p i r a t i o n and m e n t a l r e f r e s h m e n t from the c o n t e m p l a t i o n o r " r e c o l l e c t i o n i n t r a n q u i l l i t y " of " o b j e c t s " and e x p e r i e n c e s o f i m a g i n a t i v e v a l u e , such as a r e e n a c t e d i n " T i n t e r n Abbey." T h i s i s a t o p i c c overed at l e n g t h i n The P r e l u d e and The E x c u r s i o n ; but i n " T i n t e r n Abbey" Wordsworth g i v e s i t a m o r a l dimension. He s u g g e s t s i n t h i s poem t h a t such p o e t r y o r i m a g i n a t i v e c o n t e m p l a t i o n i s c a p a b l e of r e -awakening human sympathies; i t i s p o e t r y whose c o n t e m p l a t i v e f o r c e e l e v a t e s the i m a g i n a t i o n and s e t s the a f f e c t i o n s i n r i g h t tune. A g a i n s t the d e t e r m i n i s t i c p h i l o s o p h y of s e l f - l o v e p o s t u l a t e d by Hobbes, 61 Wordsworth explores the capacity of the imaginative mind to identify itself with objects and persons in a community of feeling and thought. This is what accounts for the quiet but firm and positive tone of the ending of the poem. The lines that make the implied connection include the following: Nor wilt thou then forget That after many wanderings, many years Of absence, these steep woods and lofty c l i f f s , And this green pastoral landscape, were to me More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake! The landscape has a value in itself, but i t has been endowed with an even greater value by being connected with the human being, with the affections which the poet feels for his sister. It is the same value of imaginative love or primal sympathy which is also urged on the poet's sister in lines 142-146. As I have indicated above, this concept of imaginative love is pervasive in Wordsworth's poetry: i t is mentioned in the "Intimations of Immortality" as one of the deep consolations of life;'' i t is elaborated upon in The Excursion: "We live by Admiration, Hope, and Love; And, even as these are well and wisely fixed, In dignity of being we ascend." (Bk. IV, 11. 763-5) It is less discursively stated in "Tintern Abbey," of course, but the thought is there a l l the same, and there is a passage in Wordsworth's letters which contains verbal echoes of "Tintern Abbey" and functions as commentary on the poem. Wordsworth speaks of the "honest ignorance" "in which a l l worldlings of every rank and situation must be enveloped, with respect to the thoughts, feelings, and images, on which the lif e of my Poems depends." He goes on to 62 make the distinction between the distractions and vain concerns of city l i f e and his own poetic concerns: The things which I have taken, whether from within or without, — what have they to do with routs, dinners, morning calls, hurry from door to door, from street to street, on foot or in Carriage . . .; in a word, for I cannot stop to make my way through the hurry of images that present themselves to me, what have they to do with endless talking about things nobody cares anything for except as far as their own vanity is concerned, and this with persons they care nothing for but as their vanity or selfishness is concerned; what have they to do (to say a l l at once) with a life without love? in such a lif e there can be no thought; for we have no thought (save thoughts of pain) but as far as we have love and admiration.8 In this letter, as in "Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth establishes imaginative love as one of those concepts in which the meaning of lif e is to be found. Life in the long run must be energy of imaginative love. It is in such concepts that we see Wordsworth's poetic exertions in the cause of human nature; i t is here that we find justification for his own claim that his poetry is "in its nature well adapted to interest mankind permanently, and likewise important 9 in the multiplicity and quality of its moral relations." Wordsworth placed "Tintern Abbey" at the top of "Poems relating to natural objects and their influence on the mind either as growing or in an advanced state." He also described i t as the most "highly imaginative" of poems in this class.^ It is necessary to bear these comments in mind because several themes are indicated in "Tintern Abbey." The concluding sections of the poem (lines 111-159) are generally overlooked in the discussion of "Tintern Abbey" and yet i t is in those sections that much of the poetic thought comes together. I have deliberately avoided any unduly long discussion 63 of the overworked opening section of the poem as well as of those passages which supposedly describe his "mystical" vision; my concern has been with the structure of poetic thought and with the points of imaginative insight as these are brought together in the concluding sections of the poem. I have indicated Wordsworth's contribution to the knowledge of the imaginative process through his insistence on the creative interchange between the imaginative mind and external nature, and I have also related the significance of this to the epistemological problems of the age by contrasting its sense of balance with the Lockean epistemology on the one hand, and with the extreme of transcendentalism on the other. More significantly, perhaps, I have emphasised Wordsworth's further recognition of the human mind as not only active and creative but as also active and sympathetic, as capable of primal sympathy. In "Tintern Abbey," the poet treats the mind as i t is affected by salutary sensations in external nature; he indicates that this .-.leads to inspiration as well as to insight into the nature and the condition of man. He recognises the dark passages to which elevated contemplation leads but he also indicates one philosophical consolation ("healing thoughts," line 144) which an imaginative mind has in pondering on the dark passages; that philosophical consolation is to be found in the concept of imaginative love. In my analysis of other poems I intend to indicate the ways in which Wordsworth explored those dark passages and I hope also to point out what other philosophical consolations he did or did not offer in-those poems. 64 The "Matthew" poems c o n s t i t u t e a s e r i e s i n which Wordsworth f i r s t made a s u s t a i n e d e f f o r t to e x p l o r e the dark passages o f l i f e i n r e l a t i o n t o the p o e t i c t a s k . In " T i n t e r n Abbey" the a l l u s i o n t o h i s own u n f l a t t e r i n g f u t u r e i s muted, but i n t h e "Matthew" poems t h a t human f e a r i s c o n f r o n t e d i n d r a m a t i c a l l y s y m b o l i c terms. These three'''"'" poems, a l l w r i t t e n i n 1799 (the y e a r a f t e r " T i n t e r n Abbey" was w r i t t e n ) and p u b l i s h e d i n 1800, form a c o h e r e n t t h e m a t i c b l o c k w i t h i n the "Poems of Sentiment and R e f l e c t i o n . " The f i r s t o f them, e n t i t l e d "Matthew," Is a m e d i t a t i o n on the g i l t l e t t e r o f Matthew's name on a t a b l e t l i s t i n g the names of former s c h o o l m a s t e r s . I t soon becomes e v i d e n t , however, t h a t Matthew i s a composite figure*- , and t h a t the r e a l theme o f c o n t e m p l a t i o n i s t h e l i f e of man and the l i f e of the poet — as t h e s e are seen t o be i n t e r d e p e n d e n t . The m e d i t a t i v e s p i r i t o f t h i s poem i s i m p o r t a n t f o r any m e a n i n g f u l a p p r e c i a t i o n of i t s s i g n i f i c a n c e . These poems are w r i t t e n i n the t r a d i t i o n a l b a l l a d i c metre but Wordsworth f i n d s s e v e r a l r e s o u r c e s f o r i r o n y and drama w i t h i n t h i s form. In "Matthew," t h e o l d man i s a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e f i g u r e . He was a man p o s s e s s e d o f an u n u s u a l c a p a c i t y f o r j o y ; he c o u l d r e j o i c e i n the l i f e t h a t i s i n him as w e l l as i n the goings-on o f the u n i v e r s e (11. 17, 2 2 ) ; but he a l s o p o s s e s s e d t h e c a p a c i t y f o r deep thought: Yet sometimes, when the s e c r e t cup Of s t i l l and s e r i o u s thought went round, I t seemed as i f he drank i t up — He f e l t w i t h s p i r i t so p r o f o u n d . Here the n a t u r e o f Matthew's i n t e r e s t i s i n d i c a t e d as " s e r i o u s thought"; h i s i m a g i n a t i v e s p i r i t as " p r o f o u n d . " In Matthew we have Wordsworth's i d e a of the good man and the poet merged i n one. T h i s view i s 65 r e i n f o r c e d by what the p o e t - n a r r a t o r a d d r e s s e s t o the r e a d e r : I f N a t u r e , f o r a f a v o u r i t e c h i l d In thee h a t h tempered so h e r c l a y That every hour thy h e a r t runs w i l d , Yet n e v e r once d o t h go a s t r a y , Read over t h e s e l i n e s . The n a r r a t o r c a l l s Matthew " s o u l of God's b e s t e a r t h l y mould." But Matthew has run h i s r a c e of l i f e and i s now as s i l e n t i n the grave "as a s t a n d i n g p o o l . " The n a r r a t o r ponders on t h e example o f Matthew's l i f e and death. In Matthew we have a f i g u r e i n whom Nature "hath tempered so h e r c l a y " t h a t he c o u l d be d e s c r i b e d as "happy s o u l " ; but what remains of t h i s paragon of humanity? T h i s r h e t o r i c a l q u e s t i o n does not r e c e i v e any c l e a r answer perhaps because the r e a l s i g n i f i c a n c e i n t h e c o n t e m p l a t i o n of Matthew's l i f e i s t o see i n what human ways he has become an example of the happy s o u l , and t h a t has been e s t a b l i s h e d . The tone of q u i e t r e s t r a i n t i n "Matthew" does n o t , however, suggest t h a t the awareness o f the p r i c e of human c o n s c i o u s n e s s i s toned down; the poet e x p l o r e s t h i s w i t h courage by t r e a t i n g f u r t h e r of Matthew's e x p e r i e n c e s i n "The Two A p r i l M o r n i n g s . " The t i t l e s u g g e s t s the l o o p s of time i n v o l v e d i n the n a r r a t i v e . The poem b e g i n s , l i k e " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" and many o t h e r poems of Wordsworth, i n a r a d i a n t atmosphere and the n a r r a t o r i s i n a buoyant mood. But the o l d man i s n o t . Matthew's melancholy i s i n e x p l i c a b l e because t h e b r i g h t day o f f e r s b r i g h t hopes; f u r t h e r m o r e , he has e v e r y r e a s o n t o be c o n t e n t e d i n s o c i e t y : 66 A village schoolmaster was he, With hair of glittering grey; As blithe a man as you could see On a spring holiday. The narrator questions Matthew about his sudden reversal of mood, and the old man stops for a second time and gives a thoughtful response: 'Yon cloud with that long purple cleft Brings fresh into my mind A day like this which I have left Full thirty years behind. 'And just above yon slope of corn Such colours, and no other, Were in the sky, that April morn, Of this the very brother. Here the poet suggests that impulses of deeper birth have come to Matthew in the solitude of his heart. The past and the present a l l come together for him at one instant of time in one complex configuration of imagery. Wordsworth's use of natural objects as his own peculair metaphors of reality is achieved here with unusual compression and force. The cloud, the colours, the whole scope of images perceived on a bright April morning, only evoke an upswelling of painful memories from Matthew. Here we have, in quiet but significant poetic icons, a central thought that Wordsworth was to express more eloquently in the "Intimations of Immortality": The clouds that gather round the setting sun Do take a sober colouring from an eye That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality. (11. 220-222) The implication is that man's present mood, no matter the apparently joyful occasion, is inevitably coloured by the past, and no deeply thoughtful man can afford to live only in the present; in the case of Matthew, the configuration of imagery and circumstances which I have 67 described function to evoke a painful memory within a memory in Matthew's l i f e . This is a l l related to the death of his daughter: 'Six feet in earth my Emma lay . . .' The narrator details Matthew's recollection of what the daughter was as well as what she might have become; and we see her even more concretely through a further reminder. Matthew recalls that a further reminder, besides that of natural phenomena, was given him by a girl who happened to cross his path of vision and whose resemblance and general appearance at that time made the pain of his own loss too poignant to bear. She is described in imagery and verse which help to endow her with the quality of gaiety and vitality: 'No fountain from its rocky cave E'er tripped with foot so free; She seemed as happy as a wave That dances on the sea. This description contrasts very vividly with "Six feet in earth my Emma lay." It helps to explain the irony that follows. Although this girl is an object of pure delight, Matthew does not wish her his : 'I looked at her, and looked again: And did not wish her mind!' His attitude is in itself a profound commentary on human l i f e . Such love and pure delight that one may derive from being the proud father of this girl inevitably leads to the extreme of painful depression by the memory of inevitable loss, just as Matthew's loss of Emma s t i l l haunts his most delightful moments. The consciousness of human mortality is the factor which Matthew recognizes. Wordsworth ends "The Two April Mornings" on a note of mythical significance: 68 Matthew is in his grave, yet now, Methinks, I see him stand, As at that moment, with a bough Of wilding in his hand. The mythical transformation is achieved through a process of another shift in the loop of time which distances the events and isolates their enduring significance for the poet and the reader. This is Wordsworth's subtle way of re-creating mythical experiences and of quietly restoring a sense of continuity of imaginative vision with his great poetic predecessors. The shift into the present tense, which is syntactically heralded by one of Wordsworth's favourite connectives in "yet now / methinks, I see him stand, / As at that moment," give Matthew (as it gives the old men in Wordsworth's poetry) a sense of ahistorical timelessness, a poetic, or rather mythical, significance which links him with a l l monitory figures in Literature. Matthew's figure is imaged indelibly in the poet's heart and this is the chief value and significance of the poetic experience. The old man has been imaginatively transformed into a composite figure in the narrator's consciousness, linked mythically with a l l monitory figures in imaginative literature of a l l ages. Matthew will live in the poet's memory; he is also consecrated in the poem because the deathless and timeless nature of art elevates him above the physical aspect of dissolution in death. In the last of these three poems, "The Fountain," Wordsworth spans another loop of time in his contemplation of Matthew's l i f e and brings together some of the themes implicit in the first two poems. There is a minute fidelity to details which one could mis-take for sheer literalmindedness. Matthew's age is given very 69 precisely — "seventy-two" — and the narrator is described as young. This is very significant for i t sets one of the contexts for the conversation that follows: the context of age, time and death. The bond between them is that of friendship; they "talked with open heart and tongue / Affectionate and true." We later discover an even more significant bond: they are both poets, each is a singer of songs, a man of mirth. This helpful clue should enable us to place the significance of their conversation. As in the opening stanzas of "The Two April Mornings," the young man is in a buoyant mood, in apparent harmony with nature; he requests Matthew to join him in singing a catch "that suits a summer's noon" or "witty rhymes" which Matthew had composed to mock the church-clock. However, it is no more the mood of summer's noon with Matthew and instead of singing in harmony with the running stream Matthew meditates on the laws that govern the stream and man: 'No check, no stay, this Streamlet fears; How merrily i t goes! 'Twill murmur on a thousand years, And flow as now it flows. 'And here, on this delightful day, I cannot choose but think How oft, a vigorous man, I lay Beside this fountain's brink. The word "brink" has a double meaning in the context: i t denotes the edge of the stream but i t also tends to suggest the brink of death which the old man at seventy-two must be thinking about. By contrast with the stream (and the birds), man is reminded of his own mortality, for though his li f e may, like Matthew's, run merrily for seventy-two years, in the end man must submit to other laws; i t is an awareness which troubles man's most intense moments of joy. The o l d man i s , perhaps, mourning h i s own humanity as F e r r y c o n c l u d e s , but I b e l i e v e he i s d o i n g much more i n the c o n t e x t : he i s con-t e m p l a t i n g t h e laws t h a t govern a l l n a t u r e s i n o r d e r t h a t he may u n d e r s t a n d h i s own n a t u r e . Wordsworth i s more e x p l i c i t on t h i s i n The E x c u r s i o n : 'Happy i s he who l i v e s t o u n d e r s t a n d , Not human n a t u r e o n l y , but e x p l o r e s A l l n a t u r e s , — to the end t h a t he may f i n d The law t h a t governs each . . .' (Bk. IV, 11. 332-5) For Matthew, the c o n s c i o u s n e s s of what he i s i s h a b i t u a l l y i n f u s e d through every thought; he r e a l i z e s the l i m i t a t i o n s b u i l t i n t o t h e c o n d i t i o n of man. He l o o k s back t h o u g h t f u l l y t o h i s v i g o r o u s days and c o n t r a s t s them w i t h h i s p r e s e n t days — which p l a c e him a t death's b r i n k . The g u r g l i n g sound o f the stream o n l y reminds him of h i s own l o s s o f v i g o r . He contemplates h i s decay and a c c e p t s i t as i n e v i t a b l e , f o r a f t e r a l l the w i s e r mind Mourns l e s s f o r what age takes away Than what i t l e a v e s b e h i n d . I t i s the burden o f c o n s c i o u s n e s s which d e f i n e s man's e s s e n t i a l c o n d i t i o n ; man i s p r e s s e d by heavy laws, and he i s c a p a b l e o f f e e l i n g a n x i e t y f o r the f u t u r e ; even more d i s t u r b i n g , he p o s s e s s e s p a i n f u l memories o f the p a s t . Matthew, l i k e most of the o l d men i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y , i s a p r e - f i g u r a t i v e image of the young poet's f u t u r e , f o r the c o n d i t i o n o f e x i s t e n c e d e s c r i b e d i n t h i s poem i s shown to be p a r t i c u l a r l y a p p l i c a b l e t o t h e p o e t , the man of m i r t h . The p o e t i c thought moves from the c o n t e m p l a t i o n of an i n d i v i d u a l l i f e t o the c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f the human c o n d i t i o n and 71 back a g a i n to the c o n s i d e r a t i o n of Matthew's i n d i v i d u a l l i f e as a p o e t - f i g u r e i n h i s e s s e n t i a l s o l i t u d e : 'My days, my F r i e n d , a r e almost gone, My l i f e has been approved, And many l o v e me! but by none Am I enough b e l o v e d . ' I t i s easy t o m i s i n t e r p r e t the meaning of t h i s compressed th o u g h t , as the n a r r a t o r appears to do by h i s o f f e r : 'And, Matthew, f o r thy c h i l d r e n dead I ' l l be a sone to t h e e ! ' Matthew's response shows t h a t h i s words c a r r y more p r o f o u n d meaning; b o t h h i s g e s t u r e and h i s b r i e f r e p l y a r e s i g n i f i c a n t : At t h i s he g r a s p e d my hand, and s a i d , ' A l a s ! t h a t cannot be.' There i s , f i r s t , Matthew's r e c o n g i t i o n of t h e i n e v i t a b i l i t y o f l o s s ; and, s e c o n d l y , t h e r e i s h i s courageous r e c o g n i t i o n o f the e s s e n t i a l l o n e l i n e s s o f every human b e i n g , e s p e c i a l l y of the p o e t . T h i s theme of s o l i t u d e a l s o runs through " T i n t e r n Abbey" and " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence." In t h ese poems Wordsworth e x p l o r e s the themes of j o y , Time, human decay and death and the f e a r of s o l i t u d e , and emerges w i t h a g r i m r e c o g n i t i o n of t h e c h a l l e n g e of human e x i s t e n c e and of the p o e t i c t a s k . The poet i s not unnerved by the sense o f r e a l i t y . Matthew has c o n f r o n t e d the h a r d c i r c u m s t a n c e s of l i f e and h i s l i f e i s approved. The young poet has t o c o n f r o n t them t o o . In my a n a l y s i s o f the complex s t r u c t u r e and s o p h i s t i c a t e d s t y l e of the poems, I have t r i e d t o show t h a t the "Matthew" poems d e a l w i t h the e x p l o r a t i o n of the dark passages. They a r e poems which r e p r e s e n t a p r o c e s s of f i r m i m a g i n a t i v e courage i n the s u b t l e p e n e t r a t i o n i n t o 72 the mystery o f human e x i s t e n c e . The "Matthew" poems r e p r e s e n t those poems i n which Wordsworth e x p l o r e d the dark p a s s a g e s , f i r s t i n d i c a t e d i n " T i n t e r n Abbey," and emerged w i t h a g r i m sense o f the human r e a l i t y . These poems communicate deep human f e e l i n g w i t h o u t s e n t i m e n t a l i t y or even p h i l o s o p h i c a l c o n s o l a t i o n , but a l s o w i t h o u t c y n i c i s m . Perhaps Wordsworth c o u l d n o t a t t h i s time o f f e r any r e c o u r s e o t h e r than the s t a r k sense o f t h e i r o n y o f human c o n s c i o u s -ness i n r e l a t i o n to the c o n d i t i o n of m o r t a l e x i s t e n c e and the p o e t i c t a s k . In " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence," composed i n 1802 and p u b l i s h e d i n 1807, Wordsworth b r o u g h t t o g e t h e r the themes which he had e a r l i e r t o u ched on i n " T i n t e r n Abbey" and t h e "Matthew" poems. The mood out of which " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" grows i s t y p i c a l of the mood i n the o t h e r e a r l i e r poems. What immediately impresses the r e a d e r i n t h i s poem i s the sensuous q u a l i t y o f the l y r i c v e r s e ; the sense o f j o y i n the d e l i g h t o f f e r e d by a b r i g h t morning i n the f i r s t f o u r t e e n l i n e s of the poem compares most f a v o u r a b l y w i t h the p o e t i c e f f e c t o f f e r e d by t h e f i r s t f o u r t e e n l i n e s o f Chaucer's " P r o l o g u e " t o The Ca n t e r b u r y T a l e s . The f o l l o w i n g l i n e s from " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" convey something o f t h i s e f f e c t : A l l t h i n g s t h a t l o v e the sun a r e out of do o r s ; The sky r e j o i c e s i n the morning's b i r t h ; The g r a s s i s b r i g h t w i t h r a i n - d r o p s ; — on the moors The h a r e i s r u n n i n g r a c e s i n h e r m i r t h . ( s t a n z a 2, l i n e s 8-11) In t h e s e s h o r t but l i m p i d l i n e s Wordsworth e f f e c t i v e l y embodies the sense o f j o y , beauty and f e r t i l i t y — the whole atmosphere o f l i f e and d e l i g h t i n n a t u r e . I t i s an atmosphere which spreads o v e r a l l t h e e a r t h and extends t o the sun and t h e sky. The n a r r a t o r - t r a v e l l e r 73 absorbs this wholesome harmony and i t puts him in an unreflecting mood: My old remembrances went from me wholly; And al l the ways of men, so vain and melancholly. Nevertheless, the poet's habitual thoughtfulness of mind is quite incompatible with a complete absorption in the luxury of His own sensations. It is a vein of melancholy based on his critical insight into the human condition which prevents him from remaining contented. He may like to think of himself as part of the earthly harmony: Even such a happy Child of earth am I; Even as these blissful creatures do I fare; Far from the world I walk, and from a l l care; but "fears and fancies", "dim sadness — and blind thoughts" suddenly overwhelm him because he.is painfully aware that though he may rejoice unreflectingly in the harmony of the universe which he feels around him, his.lot is essentially different: there may come another day to me — Solitude, pain of heart, distress and poverty. The link with the dark passages alluded to in "Tintern Abbey" and explored in the "Matthew" poems is quite obvious in these lines. Thus the characteristic pattern and context are established in the first few stanzas: sudden melancholy corresponding to the intensity of joyful experience and the movement from the objective description of natural harmony to the exploration of the subjective mood of the poet. The poet makes a general statement about the sudden transition: 74 But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might Of joy in minds that can no further go, As high as we have mounted in delight In our dejection do we sink as low. This helps us to understand both the nature and the condition of this sudden melancholy; more important, i t helps to turn our attention to the fact that the poem is neither simply about natural harmony nor simply about the poet's fleeting mood but that i t is centrally concerned with the conditions and primary laws of human nature. The sudden melancholy that overwhelms the poet is not only the result but the condition of the greatest intensity of joyful experience. The implication in "Resolution and Independence" is that it is the law of human nature which compels the narrator-poet to feel a sorrow corresponding to the joy of an earlier experience, because the thoughtful man (the man of more than usual organic sensibility) is ever aware of the reality of the human condition. This is the case of the poet in "Resolution and Independence" as 13 i t is the case of Matthew in "The Fountain." The transition from the seemingly unreflecting delight in external nature (stanzas I-III) to the exploration of the resulting innerr turmoil and anxiety follows a pattern that is typical (though not generally recognized) in those poems of imaginative meditation in which Wordsworth explores the dark passages. The sudden reversal of feeling is not mere splenetic indulgence; the intense experience of delight leads inevitably to the intense mood of thoughtfulness, and under the inspiration of this higher seriousness the poet is disturbed by the sense of elevated thoughts, as in "Tintern Abbey." In "Resolution and Independence," especially, the poet is helpfully specific about 7 5 those anxieties which trouble his spirits — they are specific human problems: "Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty." These are some of the dark passages in the journey of human existence; they define both the nature and the condition of human life and the price of human consciousness has to be seen in relation to these human fears. In the next stanza (VII) we see clearly that the note of personal anxiety in relation to these concerns has to do with the consideration of the poetic vocation. The poet would wish to preserve his poetic self and disregard the practical concerns of "getting and 14 spending," as well as other demands and obligations of l i f e , but the memory of the misery of Chatterton and Burns presses too hard upon the poet for that. Chatterton perished in his solitary pride and Burns in his independent-minded pursuit of glory and joy. Their example is too strong to be overlooked: We Poets in our youth begin in gladness, But thereof come in the end despondency and madness. By the use of the first person plural, Wordsworth makes i t more than suggestive that what is involved is not just the consideration of the misery and fate of two contemporaries, but of a l l poets — and, in this particular case, the hard choice before Wordsworth himself. There is, on the one hand, the everyday demands of an ordinary comfortable existence and there i s , on the other hand, the threat of misery and defeat involved in the choice of a poetic career. The problem is how to avoid being unnerved by these apparently conflicting pressures; the point is how to accommodate the demands of an ordinary existence to the need to preserve the poetic self so that the choice 76 of a p o e t i c v o c a t i o n does n o t n e c e s s a r i l y i n v o l v e m i s e r y and d e f e a t or even u n t i m e l y d e a t h . Here we are g i v e n Wordsworth's h i g h con-c e p t i o n of the d u t i e s of the p o e t i c v o c a t i o n . In s t a n z a s I - I I I of " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" the poet d e s c r i b e s the j o y s of the p o e t i c i m a g i n a t i o n through h i s v i v i d e v o c a t i o n of a S p r i n g morning scene; i n s t a n z a s I V - V I I he d e s c r i b e s the m e l a n c h o l l y thoughts t h a t always accompany the c o n t e m p l a t i o n o f such j o y f u l e x p e r i e n c e ; so t h a t a f r i g h t f u l impasse i s r e ached at the end o f s t a n z a V I I as t h e poet c r e a t e s a p a r a l l e l s i t u a t i o n by c o n t e m p l a t i n g t h e c o n t r a d i c t i o n between the y o u t h f u l g l a d n e s s and the l a t e r despondency and madness of P o e t s . These are the dark thoughts which the poet must put to h i m s e l f and the c h i e f s i g n i f i c a n c e of " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" i s t o be found i n the way i n which Wordsworth i m a g i n a t i v e l y e x p l o r e s t h e s e dark passages by c o n f r o n t i n g h i s own a n x i e t i e s and a c h i e v i n g an e n r i c h e d s e l f - a w a r e n e s s which e n a b l e s him t o overcome the weight of d e p r e s s i o n c r e a t e d by t h e c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f the m i s e r y o f P o e t s . Much of the d i s c u s s i o n of " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" o f t e n c o n c e n t r a t e s on t h e s i m i l e s and metaphors employed i n the d e s c r i p t i o n of the l e e c h g a t h e r , but s i n c e my i n t e r e s t i n t h i s t h e s i s i s on themes and a t t i t u d e s my emphasis w i l l be p l a c e d l a r g e l y on the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the whole p o e t i c e x p e r i e n c e . I take the p o s i t i o n t h a t t h e poem i s not j u s t an a f f e c t i n g t a l e l i k e "The I d i o t Boy" or "The Complaint o f a F o r s a k e n I n d i a n Woman," b u t t h a t i t r e p r e s e n t s i n p o e t i c or s y m b o l i c terms a measure of the i n n e r d i s t a n c e t r a v e l l e d by the poet i n the e x p l o r a t i o n of h i s own dark depths of c o n s c i o u s n e s s . I t i s 77 p a r t i c u l a r l y s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" ends on a n o t e o f e n r i c h e d s e l f - a w a r e n e s s . I have a l r e a d y o b s e r v e d t h a t at the end o f s t a n z a V I I t h e r e i s an impasse when the poet reaches the lowest depth of d e p r e s s i o n ; but the g r e a t e r p a r t o f the poem ( s t a n z a s VIII-XX) shows the poe t ' s s t e r n d e t e r m i n a t i o n n ot to g i v e h i m s e l f up t o the a n n i h i l a t i n g power o f h i s sad p e r p l e x i t y . T h i s , however, i s not a c h i e v e d through sheer a c t o f w i l l or through d i v i n e i n t e r v e n t i o n but thr o u g h i m a g i n a t i v e i n s i g h t based on t h e enc o u n t e r w i t h the l e e c h g a t h e r e r . The s t r u c t u r a l p a t t e r n — i n c l u d i n g e s p e c i a l l y the complex s y n t a x — i s p a r t i c u l a r l y i m p o r t a n t i n t h e a n a l y s i s and i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f t h i s poem. I t i s n e c e s s a r y , f o r example, to show t h a t t h e sense of f o r t i t u d e ( o f r e s o l u t i o n and independence) which the poet a c h i e v e s i s n o t s i m p l y g i v e n as a message communicated through any d i v i n e means but i s d e r i v e d from the a c t u a l p o e t i c o r i m a g i n a t i v e e x p e r i e n c e based on an e n c o u n t e r w i t h another human b e i n g . As I p o i n t e d out e a r l i e r , one important f e a t u r e of " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" i s the way i n which the c h i e f s i g n i f i c a n c e o f the whole e x p e r i e n c e i s r e l a t e d to t h e i n n e r t u r m o i l o f the p o e t . The i n t e n s i t y o f j o y f u l e x p e r i e n c e l e a d s t o the o t h e r extreme o f melancholy t h o u g h t s , t h a t i s , to the i n n e r t u r m o i l . There i s a p a r a l l e l s t r u c t u r e to t h i s p a t t e r n i n s t a n z a s VIII-XX: the en c o u n t e r w i t h t h e l e e c h g a t h e r e r l e a d s t o an i m a g i n a t i v e c o n f r o n t a t i o n w i t h the i n n e r t u r m o i l . So t h a t the main impetus o f the poem i s g e n e r a t e d i n the p o e t ' s d i s c o v e r y of h i m s e l f as b o t h o b s e r v e r and p a r t i c i p a n t , and the encounter w i t h t h e l e e c h g a t h e r e r becomes, on one l e v e l a t l e a s t , a p r o c e s s through which Wordsworth u n f l i n c h i n g l y c o n f r o n t s h i s 78 own fears concerning his poetic task. Stanza VIII has received varying interpretations from critics and the main point of controversy is whether Wrodsworth was saved from melancholy despair by divine intervention or otherwise. Critics who emphasize what they believe to be Wordsworth's orthodox views have insisted that Wordsworth was saved through divine intervention; but I think one must note the tentative formulation of the crucial lines. Wordsworth's own prose explanation in the letter to Sara Hutchinson of 14 June 1802 is as carefully formulated: "I consider the manner in which I was rescued from my dejection and despair almost as an interposition of Providence." To attribute the appearance of the old man to a divine intervention is to underrate the poet's imaginative projection of his fears and his bold confrontation with them in purely human terms. What Words-worth achieves in this poem is a method of imaginative salvation, which 16 does not exhibit much sense of dependence on other than human aid; Wordsworth does not exactly suggest that a message is sent to him from "above"; the modest phrasing should not mislead us into this conclusion. The structural pattern of the poem is more illumin-ating than the verbal echoes of conventional language and similes ("Such as grave Livers," "Religious men") which Wordsworth employs to tone down the force of the egotistical sublime. If we consider the structure of stanza VIII very carefully we can easily see the main point which stands out: Yet i t befell that . . . I saw a Man before me unawares: The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs. 79 The s y n t a c t i c a l f o r c e of " y e t " dwarfs the s t u m b l i n g toward the s e a r c h f o r e x p l a n a t i o n of causes e x p r e s s e d e a r l i e r i n "whether," so t h a t what i s s t r e s s e d i s the e v o c a t i v e power of the i m a g i n a t i o n . The n a r r a t o r - t r a v e l l e r - p o e t becomes suddenly aware o f another t r a v e l l e r . Wordsworth's own p r o s e commentary emphasises the n a t u r e of t h i s i m a g i n a t i v e v i s i o n : 'A l o n e l y p l a c e , a Pond' 'by which an o l d man was, f a r from a l l house or home' — not s t o o d , n o t s a t , but 'was' — the f i g u r e p r e s e n t e d i n the most naked s i m p l i c i t y p o s s i b l e . 17 We a r e g i v e n the d e s o l a t e s e t t i n g : the l o n e l y p l a c e , the p o o l b a r e to the eye of heaven, and the n o i s e l e s s and sudden appearance of the man, and f i n a l l y h i s g r e a t o l d age; a l l the d a r i n g and e l e m e n t a l s i m i l e s and metaphors of s t a n z a s V I I I - X I f u r t h e r h e l p t o r e i n f o r c e the v i s i o n a r y n a t u r e o f the p o e t i c e x p e r i e n c e . The s t a t e o f e l e m e n t a l and m y s t e r i o u s s i m p l i c i t y t o which the o l d man i s reduced p r e p a r e s us f o r the supreme metaphor i n t o which the p o e t ' s i m a g i n a t i o n f i n a l l y t r a n s f o r m s him. The i m p o r t a n t s t a n z a s i n t h i s c o n n e c t i o n a r e X I I - X V I I , t h a t i s , t h o s e s t a n z a s t h a t d e a l w i t h what the o l d man d i d and s a i d . The poet employs obvious s t a n z a i c as w e l l as more s u b t l e s y n t a c t i c d i v i s i o n s t o mark the s t a g e s of i m a g i n a t i v e t r a n s f o r m a t i o n . Thus i n s t a n z a X I I we have the movement away from the d e s c r i p t i o n of the appearance of th e o l d man t o t h e c o n s i d e r a t i o n of what he does and s a y s . The s t r a t e g i c p h r a s e , "At l e n g t h , " p l a c e d a t the opening o f s t a n z a X I I s e r v e s as a s y n t a c t i c a l r e c a l l w hich d i r e c t s our a t t e n t i o n t o the more d a r i n g i m a g i n a t i v e t r a n s -f o r m a t i o n t h a t i s about to o c c u r : 80 At length, himself unsettling, he the pond Stirred with his staff, and fixedly did look Upon the muddy water, which he conned, As. i f he had been reading in a book. The meticulous attention to details of movement and gesture on the part of the old man is an element of conscious poetic design. The lines have a ponderous weight about them characteristic of the Wordsworthian syntax of careful selection; this rhythmic pattern also conveys something of the burden of age against which the leechgatherer's every action is viewed. The first two lines with their long duration of sounds and prolonged pauses reveal the pattern of deliberative choice. The repetition of phrases and pronouns relating to the old man, and the somewhat awkward inversion in "himself unsettling, he the pond / Stirred with his staff", a l l help to focus our attention on the activity of the leechgatherer. But while our attention is thus rivetted, the poet is no longer at our sides; he has travelled ahead of us to take "a stranger's privilege" (1. 82), while his syntax deliberately slows down our reading and thinking and compels us to contemplate the significance of the leechgatherer's ritualistic activities. When we examine the structure of these lines as carefully as we should we will recognize that they represent the beginning of the mythical (not mystical) transformation. First, we are reminded of a l l the old men in Wordsworth's poetry and more immediately of "the stooping Old Man" who cons the engraven record 18 like a second horn-book;" secondly, we are reminded of that universal figure in imaginative literature: the soothsayer or seer. The water is muddy and the implication is that only a diviner could see anything in the muddy pond (here the practical economic search and 81 the i m a g i n a t i v e quest f o r i n s i g h t o p e r a t e s i m u l t a n e o u s l y on the d e n o t a t i v e and c o n n o t a t i v e l e v e l s r e s p e c t i v e l y ) . The p r a e t e r n a t u r a l l i n k o f the o l d man w i t h the e l e m e n t a l f o r c e s o f the u n i v e r s e , h i s "extreme o l d age," t h e weight of human s u f f e r i n g which he b e a r s , t h e s t a f f , t o g e t h e r w i t h h i s a c t i o n s , a l l h e l p t o make him a p r o t o t y p e o f a l l s e e r s and wise men — such as T i r e s i a s i n t h e underworld. T h i s p r e p a r e s us t o t r e a t the a c t u a l , l o n g - d e l a y e d v e r b a l c o n t a c t between the p o e t - t r a v e l l e r and the l e e c h g a t h e r e r - t r a v e l l e r as r e a l l y more s i g n -i f i c a n t than t h e c a s u a l tone o f the c o n v e r s a t i o n would s u g g e s t . The opening o f the c o n v e r s a t i o n i s so c a s u a l l y put as to seem even t r i v i a l : ' This morning g i v e s us promise o f a g l o r i o u s day.' ( s t a n z a X I I , l i n e 4 8). T h i s :.is n o t j u s t the p r o v e r b i a l B r i t i s h exchange on the weather, f o r the l e e c h g a t h e r e r ' s " c o u r t e o u s " b u t non-committal answer does not s a t i s f y the p o e t . There i s some i r o n y o f s i t u a t i o n h e r e which har k s back t o the f i r s t few s t a n z a s o f the poem: i t i s i r o n i c t h a t the poet s h o u l d say 'T h i s morning g i v e s us promise o f a g l o r i o u s day,' f o r i n s t a n z a IV we have a l r e a d y seen howjshor-fcilived such promise may be. When we extend t h i s imagery o f morning and day to co v e r the l i f e - s p a n of a man, we wonder i f the poet i s not i n f a c t t r y i n g t o ask a q u e s t i o n about the f u t u r e , h i s own f u t u r e ! The o l d man's u n s t a t e d b u t non-committal r e p l y tends t o r e i n f o r c e t h i s view. The poet goes on to e n q u i r e about the o l d man's o c c u p a t i o n and we a r e i n f o r m e d t h a t He t o l d , t h a t t o t h e s e waters he had come To g a t h e r l e e c h e s , b e i n g o l d and po o r : Employment hazardous and wearisome! And he had many h a r d s h i p s t o endure: From pond t o pond he roamed, from moor t o moor. 82 In t h e s e l i n e s we p e r c e i v e the e s f s e n t i a l u n i t y o f human f e e l i n g and human e x p e r i e n c e ; the analogy between the t a s k o f the l e e c h g a t h e r e r and the t a s k of the poet b e g i n s t o emerge. The l e e c h g a t h e r e r i s an image o f commitment t o a v o c a t i o n of e n d l e s s h a r d s h i p which o f f e r s him the b a r e s t reward o f an "honest maintenance"; he i s a metaphor of human e x i s t e n c e , the supreme example o f commitment t o a "hazardous and weaisome" t a s k . I t i s t h e r e a l i z a t i o n o f t h i s m e t a p h o r i c a l analogy which accounts f o r the i n t e n s e l y v i s i o n a r y mood o f s t a n z a XVI; i n t h i s s t a n z a we see the complex, meandering s t r u c t u r e of the poem which r e f l e c t s the p e r p l e x e d mood of the p o e t . There i s a p e r c e p t i b l e s h i f t i n approach between s t a n z a s XV and XVI: a movement away from the t h i n g contemplated t o the B e i n g t h a t b e h e l d t h i s v i s i o n , and i f we f o l l o w t h i s s t r u c t u r a l p a t t e r n c a r e f u l l y we cannot f a i l t o r e a l i z e the u l t i m a t e s i g n i f i c a n c e of " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" as a " t i m e l y u t t e r a n c e , " as an e x p l o r a t i o n df t h o s e dark passages which the poet must c o n f r o n t b e f o r e he can undertake the immense t a s k o f h i s l i f e . The s h i f t which I have mentioned i s e v i d e n t i n the c o n t r a s t between what i s observed and what imagined. There i s n o t h i n g s o l i p s t i c about t h i s s t a n z a ; the c o n c r e t e h o l d on e x t e r n a l r e a l i t y i s m a i n t a i n e d , f o r example, i n "The o l d man s t i l l s t o o d by my s i d e " ; but we a r e a l s o g i v e n some i n s i g h t i n t o the workings o f "the mind's e x c u r s i v e power" i n the s e v e r a l s i m i l e s i n l i n e s 107-112: But now h i s v o i c e t o me was l i k e a stream S c a r c e h e a r d ; nox word from word c o u l d I d i v i d e ; And the whole body of the Man d i d seem L i k e one whom I had met w i t h i n a dream; Or l i k e a man from some f a r r e g i o n s e n t , To g i v e me human s t r e n g t h , by apt admonishment. 83 I speak h e r e o f t h e s y n t a x e n a c t i n g the movement of t h e mind's e x c u r s i v e power because the movement of the i m a g i n a t i o n i s from one l e v e l o f c o n s c i o u s n e s s (outward s e n s a t i o n s ) to another l e v e l ( o f inward thought) i n a s i n g l e unbroken a c t o f p e r c e p t i o n and e x p r e s s i o n ; the "stream" imagery r e i n f o r c e s t h i s sense o f s i m u l t a n e i t y and c o n t i n u i t y . The a l l u s i o n t o the man met w i t h i n a dream i s n o t mere f a n c i f u l s p e c u l a t i o n . Wordsworth wanted h i s poems t o be con-19 7 s i d e r e d as u n i t s w i t h i n a s i n g l e a r c h i t e c t u r a l s t r u c t u r e , and i t i s o f t e n h e l p f u l t o n o t e c r o s s r e f e r e n c e s w i t h i n h i s p o e t r y . The o t h e r r e f e r e n c e i n h i s p o e t r y t o one met w i t h i n a dream o c c u r s i n the o n l y s i g n i f i c a n t i n s t a n c e o f d r e a m - v i s i o n i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y : i n Book V of The P r e l u d e (see be l o w ) . In each case the man "met w i t h i n a dream" performs the f u n c t i o n o f p r e s e n t i n g the p r i c e t o be e x a c t e d from a t o t a l commitment t o the p o e t i c t a s k . In " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence," however, t h e poet p e r c e i v e s the o l d man's q u i e t a c c e p t a n c e and hence he l i k e n s him f u r t h e r t o a man from some f a r r e g i o n s e n t "To g i v e me human s t r e n g t h , by apt admonishment." A l l these s i m i l e s f u n c t i o n t o t u r n our minds toward what f o r t h e poet i s the e s s e n t i a l s i g n i f i c a n c e o f the whole e x p e r i e n c e . The o l d man may be, i n a way of s p e a k i n g , l i k e a v i s i t a n t from another w o r l d , b u t , i n r e a l i t y , he i s from, and o f , the human w o r l d , the r e a l s t a t e of man's w o r l d l y e x i s t e n c e which i s the s u b j e c t m a t t e r f o r the p o e t . The sense o f growing knowledge, m a t u r i n g c o n v i c t i o n and q u i e t a c c e p t a n c e which i n f o r m s the po e t ' s a t t i t u d e i n the l a s t t h r e e s t a n z a s i s f u r t h e r e v i d e n c e o f my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . At the b e g i n n i n g 84 of s t a n z a XVII we have the t y p i c a l i m a g i n a t i v e r e t u r n c h a r a c t e r i s t i c 20 o f Wordsworth s poems of p e r p l e x i t y : My former thoughts r e t u r n e d : the f e a r t h a t k i l l s ; And hope t h a t i s u n w i l l i n g to be f e d ; C o l d , p a i n , and l a b o u r , and a l l f l e s h l y i l l s ; And mighty Poets i n t h e i r m i s e r y dead. P e r p l e x e d , and l o n g i n g to be c o m f o r t e d , My q u e s t i o n e a g e r l y d i d I renew. T h i s p i c k s up the theme of a n x i e t y e x p r e s s e d f o r c e f u l l y i n s t a n z a s IV, V, VI and V I I . In s t a n z a X V I I , however, the poet i s now concerned more g e n e r a l l y w i t h "mighty Poets i n t h e i r m i s e r y dead;" the poet has become concerned w i t h l a r g e r problems which d e f i n e human e x p e r i e n c e g e n e r a l l y as w e l l as i n s p e c i a l r e l a t i o n t o the f a t e o f a l l p o e t s . The problem i s how to c o n f r o n t "the f e a r t h a t k i l l s " and "hope t h a t i s u n w i l l i n g t o be f e d . " These are the human f e a r s which c r e a t e such a dilemma f o r the p o e t . I t i s s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t Wordsworth c o n f r o n t s them through the s e a r c h f o r human s t r e n g t h ; t h i s i s what i s e x p r e s s e d i n the p o i n t e d q u e s t i o n put t o the l e e c h g a t h e r e r : "'How i s i t t h a t you l i v e , and what i s i t you do?'" The second p a r t of t h i s q u e s t i o n may s t r i k e us as r e p e t i t i o u s ( s i n c e we a l r e a d y know what the o l d man does) but the f i r s t p a r t ought ot s t r i k e us as a t l e a s t s u r p r i s i n g . I t has t h i s i m p l i c a t i o n : how can you b ear the burden o f e x i s t e n c e when i t i n v o l v e s so much p r e s e n t s u f f e r i n g and p a i n f u l awareness of more to come i n the f u t u r e ? The l e e c h g a t h e r e r ' s answer r e v e a l s the r i g h t a t t i t u d e w i t h which t o c o n f r o n t the p o e t ' s a n x i e t y : He w i t h a s m i l e d i d then h i s words r e p e a t ; And s a i d t h a t , g a t h e r i n g l e e c h e s , f a r and wide He t r a v e l l e d ; s t i r r i n g thus about h i s f e e t The waters of the p o o l s where they a b i d e . 'Once I c o u l d meet w i t h them on every s i d e ; But they have d w i n d l e d l o n g by slow decay; Yet s t i l l I p e r s e v e r e , and f i n d them where I may.' 85 The f l a s h o f s m i l e from t h i s d e c r e p i t l e e c h g a t h e r e r shows t h a t , i n s p i t e o f the gr i m r e a l i t y o f h i s m i s e r a b l e m a t e r i a l c o n d i t i o n , h i s t a s k i s not w i t h o u t j o y . The s y n t a c t i c a l t u r n o f p h r a s e i n the l a s t l i n e which opens w i t h " y e t , " a word o f s t r a t e g i c importance i n Wordsworth, conveys the s t r o n g sense o f d e t e r m i n a t i o n i n the o l d man; he i s r e s o l v e d t o p e r s e v e r e . T h i s passage has i m p l i c a t i o n s t h a t r e a c h out beyond t h i s poem. I t p r e p a r e s us as another t i m e l y u t t e r a n c e f o r t h e c e n t r a l q u e s t i o n i n the " I n t i m a t i o n s o f I m m o r t a l i t y . " The analogy between the poet's t a s k .and the l e e c h g a t h e r e r ' s i s not pushed by the poet but i t i s i m p l i e d i n the l i n e s quoted immediately above, e s p e c i a l l y i n these l i n e s : Once I c o u l d meet w i t h them on e v e r y s i d e ; But they have d w i n d l e d l o n g by-slow decay. The p a t t e r n o f p a r a l l e l c o n s t r u c t i o n i s of p a r t i c u l a r i n t e r e s t : what i s s t a t e d about the p a s t i n the f i r s t h a l f i s c o n t r a s t e d w i t h t h e r e a l i t y of t h e p r e s e n t s i t u a t i o n i n the second h a l f . In the p a s t the g a t h e r i n g o f l e e c h e s d i d n o t r e q u i r e a s e a r c h f o r he " c o u l d meet w i t h them on every s i d e . " No e f f o r t whatsoever was r e q u i r e d , no s e a r c h . Now, however, they have dwindled. The p r o c e s s has come about through l o n g and slow decay, b u t the word " d w i n d l e d , " so c a r e f u l l y chosen, s u g g e s t s a s h r i v e l l i n g i n time and space. The s e a r c h f o r l e e c h e s now i m p l i e s a l o n g and p a i n f u l j o u r n e y i n time and space. The quest f o r i m a g i n a t i v e i n s i g h t i s j u s t as tough, and compounded by the p a i n f u l awareness t h a t the p o e t , l i k e the d e c r e p i t l e e c h g a t h e r e r , i s a l s o s u b j e c t t o slow decay. I t i s t h e a t t i t u d e toward such a tough quest i n the f a c e of t h i s g r i m r e a l i z a t i o n which i s i n d i c a t e d i n the l a s t l i n e o f t h e passage under c o n s i d e r a t i o n : 86 Yet s t i l l I p e r s e v e r e , and f i n d them where I may. There i s no easy c o m f o r t , but p e r s e v e r a n c e l e a d s t o d i s c o v e r y ( " f i n d " ) . The p r o c e s s of slow decay i s n o t q u e s t i o n e d but an a t t i t u d e toward i t i s f o r m u l a t e d : the f i r m r e s o l v e to p e r s e v e r e , wherever the s e a r c h may l e a d . "I c o u l d meet w i t h them on e v e r y s i d e " i s now r e p l a c e d by the more sober r e c o g n i t i o n o f the need to p e r s e v e r e ti and f i n d them where I may." In t h i s l i g h t , " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence" ( l i k e the " I n t i m a t i o n s o f I m m o r t a l i t y " ) i s about 21 what Wordsworth r e f e r s t o as the " p r o p e r t y of f o r t i t u d e ; " and i t i s u n d e r s t a n d a b l e t h a t the t i t l e of the poem s h o u l d have been 22 changed from "The L e e c h - g a t h e r e r " to " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence." The s i g n i f i c a n c e o f the p o e t i c e x p e r i e n c e goes f a r beyond the a f f e c t i n g i m p r e s s i o n t h a t the d e s c r i p t i o n o f the o l d man makes upon us. The o l d man's example o f f e r s human s t r e n g t h by apt admonishment because the poet t r a n s f o r m s him i n t o an image of the human t a s k , o f commitment t o a v o c a t i o n even i n the grim c o n s c i o u s n e s s of the p r i c e t o be e x a c t e d . The p r o c e s s of t h i s i m a g i n a t i v e t r a n s f o r m a t i o n c u l m i a n t e s i n s t a n z a XIX where Wordsworth d i s p e n s e s w i t h s i m i l e s and p r e s e n t s a b o l d and m y t h i c a l v i s i o n : W h i l e he was t a l k i n g t h u s , the l o n e l y p l a c e , The o l d Man's shape, and speech — a l l t r o u b l e d me: In my mind's eye I seemed t o see him pace About the weary moors c o n t i n u a l l y , Wandering about a l o n e and- s i l e n t l y . The l e e c h g a t h e r e r i s t r a n s f o r m e d i n t o a f i x e d f i g u r e i n the-.:poet's i m a g i n a t i v e c o n s c i o u s n e s s ("mind's e y e " ) ; he i s endowed w i t h a t i m e l e s s q u a l i t y which i s of the v e r y essence of myth. 87 The t i m e l e s s n e s s i s conveyed through the v e r b a l mode where "pace" and "wandering" r e i n f o r c e the i m p r e s s i o n of a n e v e r -c e a s i n g p r o c e s s and movement. The f i n a l i m p r e s s i o n i s o f a m y t h i c a l f i g u r e which i s t i m e l e s s w i t h i n time. The s i g n i f i c a n c e o f the p o e t i c e x p e r i e n c e i s summed up i n what i s imaged i n the p o e t ' s h e a r t , or r a t h e r i n what shapes h i s own a t t i t u d e : " I ' l l t h i n k of the L e e c h - g a t h e r e r on the l o n e l y moor!" T h i s i s t h e l a s t l i n e of the poem. No message i s g i v e n i n any e x p l i c i t ( w a y , but the i m p r e s s i o n s t h a t the poet c a r r i e s away from t h i s e x p e r i e n c e amount to a f o r m u l a t i o n of an a t t i t u d e , o f a s i m i l a r a t t i t u d e of r e s o l u t i o n and independence, toward h i s own d u a l t a s k of p o e t r y and l i v i n g . The poet w i l l remember the m i s e r y and d e c r e p i t u d e of the o l d l e e c h - g a t h e r e r , but he w i l l a l s o remember the s p i r i t o f p e r s e v e r a n c e , the m o r a l d i g n i t y , t h e s t r e n g t h of c h a r a c t e r , as w e l l as the s m i l e and f l a s h of g l e e which the l e e c h g a t h e r e r d i s p l a y e d . In t h i s way we can see how t h e r e a l i t y of l i f e i s h e i g h t e n e d t hrough the medium of the r e a l i t y of v i s i o n . T h i s i s what I mean when I say t h a t Wordsworth c o n f r o n t s h i s a n x i e t i e s i m a g i n a t i v e l y and overcomes them. The l e e c h g a t h e r e r as an image performs a d u a l f u n c t i o n : he i s b o t h the p o e t ' s a l t e r ego and a p r e m o n i t o r y f i g u r e . T h i s second f u n c t i o n d e s e r v e s f u r t h e r a n a l y s i s . To i n s i s t unduly on the "message" t h a t t h e poet i s g i v e n i s t o f a i l t o r e c o g n i z e the most a p p e a l i n g p a r t o f the poem: i t s complex i m a g i n a t i v e p r o c e s s . Wordsworth d e s c r i b e s the complex t o t a l i t y o f a mood which i n c l u d e s b o t h elements of knowledge and of h a l f - k n o w l e d g e . The l e e c h g a t h e r e r i s p r e s e n t e d as b e a r i n g the accumulated weight o f a g e l e s s i n s i g h t but what t h a t i s remains muted. We r e a c h our c o n c l u s i o n s from c l u e s , 88 and half-stated questions and answers, and from the final impression created by the whole poem. We see the narrator-poet in the imaginative act of sharing that insight, but i t is not expressed as an elaborately articulated message. The ultimate significance of the poem resides in the degree of enriched self-awareness gained by the poet in relief from the intense experience described. The leechgatherer's speech is described as "above the reach / Of ordinary men;" i t is "a lofty utterance" expressed in "choice word and measured phrase" suggesting a sense almost of ritual solemnity. This'is clearly in contrast to the perplexed mood of the poet; perhaps the sense of perplexity which the poet now feels was also experienced by the old man in times long past, then confronted and overcome to give way to the calm of mature acceptance of the reality of the human 23 condition. It is quite clear, however, that such wisdom as the leechgatherer possesses refers to purely human problems and experiences. The weight of thought which lingers on the mind at the end of the poem arises from the power of metaphorical language to l i f t and transform the leechgatherer from the desolate circumstances of his occupation into a metaphor ,of poetic contemplation which offers both range and depth of insight. There is a sense of homecoming at the end of the poem because the poet has boldly confronted his anxieties in relation to the harsh reality of lif e and poetry and he has found this imaginative confrontation illuminating. One of the most remarkable things about "Resolution and Independence" is the bringing together of themes that are explored in other poems of Wordsworth. In order to see this more fully we must turn now to those related poems. CHAPTER II Footnotes See Wordsworth's Letter to S i r George Beaumont of June 3, 1805 i n which he speaks of the preparatory nature of The Prelude i n The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Early Years, 1787- 1805. Ernest de Selincourt, 2nd edn. rev. Chester L. Shaver. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967. See also, e s p e c i a l l y , Wordsworth's elaborate d e s c r i p t i o n of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between his poems and the p r i n c i p l e of c l a s s i f y i n g them i n h i s long l e t t e r to S.T. Coleridge of May 5, 1809 i n The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Middle  Years, 1806-1811, pp. 334-336, and the "Preface to The Excursion, 1814." F i n a l l y , see Wordsworth's Letter to Walter Scott i n which he speaks of h i s own a t t i t u d e toward the shorter poems, i n The  Middle Years, pp. 95-96. 2 "Reply to 'Mathetes' (1809-1810)," i n L i t e r a r y C r i t i c i s m of Wordsworth, ed. Paul M. Z a l l . L i n c o l n , Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1966, p. 85. 3 The Letters of John Keats, p. 59. These l i n e s point to the search for human values "within the pale of the World." ^Cf. Coleridge's "Dejection: An Ode," stanza IV. ^Albert S. Gerard,English Romantic Poets. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1968, p. 114. Cf. Wordsworth's attack on Macpherson's Ossian: "In nature everything[sic] i s d i s t i n c t , yet nothing defined into absolute independent singleness," i n "Essay, Supplementary to The Preface," Z a l l , p. 179. ^"Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," l i n e 185. As t h i s "primal sympathy" or "imaginative love" i s a key concept of value i n Wordsworth's prose and poetry, I intend to devote more discussion to i t i n the chapter on The Excursion. The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Middle Years, pp. 145-146. The emphasis on " s e l f i s h n e s s " i s Wordsworth's. 90 9 Literary Criticism of William Wordsworth, p. 62. "*"^The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The  Middle Years, pp. 335-6. ''"''"There are actually four Matthew Poems for "The Address to the Scholars of the Village of — 1 1 (1798, published 1842) belongs here; see my next chapter for a discussion on this poem. 12 David Ferry, The Limits of Mortality: An Essay on  Wordsworth's Major Poems. Wesleyan University Press: Middletown, Connecticut, 1965, p. 62. Ferry's attitude is dogmatic and cynical, and he fails to recognize Wordsworth's courage in the exploration, of the dark passages of l i f e . 13 The theme of melancholy is central to this thesis, as i t is central to Wordsworth and Keats. The dark passages refer to melancholy thoughts that arise from the contemplation of the challenge of the poetic task in the Romantic Age as well as to those that arise from the contemplation of death. Cf. the 3rd stanza of Keats's "Ode on Melancholy." 14 Sonnet XXXIII of Wordsworth's Miscellaneous Sonnets. This sonnet was composed before 1807 and published in 1807. Wordsworth tackles here the same practical concerns which raise the challenge of value and significance in l i f e and relate to the task of preserving the poetic self — matters covered in "Resolution and Independence" and other poems under consideration. "*""*The Letter of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The  Early Years, p. 366. The emphasis on "almost" is mine, but the qualification is strong enough as i t stands, however. 16 Elizabeth Geen, "The Concept of Grace in Wordsworth's Poetry," PMLA, LVIII, 1943, 689-715; Geen maintains that i t indicates a "sense of dependence on other than human aid." ^The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The  Early Years, p. 366. Both points of emphasis are Wordsworth's. 18 "Essay upon Epitaphs — 1st number (1810)," in Literary  Criticism of William Wordsworth, p. 103. 19 See footnote one in this chapter. 91 20 See e s p e c i a l l y l i n e s 57-61 o f " T i n t e r n Abbey": And now, w i t h gleams of h a l f - e x t i n g u i s h e d thought, With many r e c o g n i t i o n s dim and f a i n t , And somewhat of a sad p e r p l e x i t y , The p i c t u r e of the mind r e v i v e s a g a i n . 21 The L e t t e r s of W i l l i a m and Dorothy Wordsworth; The  E a r l y Y e a r s , p. 557. Wordsworth quotes t h i s p hrase from A r i s t o t l e ' s E t h i c s . The phrase has even more r e l e v a n c e f o r " P e e l e C a s t l e " and o t h e r poems w r i t t e n a f t e r 1805, but I r e f e r t o i t h e r e i n o r d e r to i n d i c a t e the p h i l o s o p h i c a l d i r e c t i o n o f Wordsworth's i m a g i n a t i v e j o u r n e y even b e f o r e 1805. 22 J a r e d R. C u r t i s has t r a c e d the importance of t h e s e changes and has p u b l i s h e d b o t h v e r s i o n s of the poem. See h i s Wordsworth's  Experiments w i t h T r a d i t i o n : The L y r i c Poems of 1802; w i t h Texts  of the Poems Based on E a r l y M a n u s c r i p t s . C o r n e l l U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s : I t h a c a and London, 1971, pp. 97-113, and 186-195. 23 Compare Wordsworth's d e s c r i p t i o n o f a n o t h e r m o n i t o r y f i g u r e , the o l d s o l d i e r i n Bk. IV of The P r e l u d e : ". . . i n a l l he s a i d / There was a s t r a n g e h a l f - a b s e n c e , as of one / Knowing too w e l l the importance o f h i s theme / But f e e l i n g i t no l o n g e r . " (11. 442-5). CHAPTER I I I K i n d r e d Hauntings In c h a p t e r I I , I have examined Wordsworth's concer n w i t h the dark passages i n " T i n t e r n Abbey," the t h r e e Matthew poems, and " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence." My i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s u g g e s t s t h a t " T i n t e r n Abbey" i s l a r g e l y concerned w i t h the d e f i n i t i o n o f themes and a t t i t u d e s r e l a t e d t o the dark passages of l i f e , w h i l e the o t h e r poems p r o v i d e c o n c r e t e examples of s u s t a i n e d e x p l o r a t i o n of the dark thoughts which overwhelm a young poet when he contemplates the c h a l l e n g e of the p o e t i c t a s k i n r e l a t i o n t o the f a t e of "mighty Poets i n t h e i r m i s e r y dead." In t h i s c h a p t e r , I w i l l d i s c u s s the poems and sonnets on Burns, the sonnets t o Haydon and G i l l i e s , the f o u r t h Matthew poem, and the F i f t h Book of The P r e l u d e t o show how Wordsworth f u r t h e r e x p l o r e d the " k i n d r e d h a u n t i n g s " r e l a t e d t o the g e n e r a l problem of the "burthen of t h e c m y s t e r y " i 6 f - l i f i e and the s p e c i f i c c h a l l e n g e of the need f o r i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n o f mankind. The c h a l l e n g e of the p o e t i c t a s k i n v o l v e d the q u e s t i o n of h a p p i n e s s , o f m o r a l c h o i c e , and of economic s e c u r i t y ; i n s h o r t , i t i n v o l v e d the problem of how t o l i v e and how t o be the Poet — which was Wordsworth's i d e a l . Burns and C h a t t e r t o n o f f e r examples f o r the p o e t ' s s p e c u l a t i v e adventure i n t o the dark passages r e l a t e d t o the 93 task of the poetic vocation. Burns and Chatterton are not presented in "Resolution and Independence" as "romantic" figures but rather as contemporary poets each of whose choice presents a hard example for the living poets. There is no condemnation involved, but they are not held up as examples to be emulated either. Wordsworth wrote always with the overpowering idea of the memory of his great poetic predecessors in his mind; there are at least two reasons for this: in the first place Wordsworth believed ardently in the need for maintaining a sense of continuity of imaginative vision in poetry; he therefore sought to measure his own achievement in poetry against that of great original poets of the past; secondly, Wordsworth, like other ambitious poets, occasionally grew melancholy from the thought that even such mighty poets succumbed to death — a thought which made him fear that he might not live long enough to complete his poetic task. These are some of the most anxious thoughts in the poems and letters of Wordsworth. The "fear that k i l l s " arises from the turmoil and anxiety created by these dark thoughts. These are fears which a l l human beings feel, or should feel, but the poet feels them more intensely in proportion to his greater sensibility and in relation to his special task of illuminating the lives of men. The main problem for Wordsworth was how to preserve the poetic self in the face of such turmoil and anxiety. While for Keats such dark thoughts were sometimes so overwhelming that he could "think poetry itself a mere Jack a Lanthen [sic] to amuse whoever may chance to be struck with its brilliance,""'' Wordsworth displayed in his poetry a steadyexploration of these dark passages, and even made them the theme of much of his poetry. Wordsworth's spirit in such poems was one of stern 94 and determined fight against dejection; this spirit led toward a reaffirmation of faith in poetry as a means of achieving imaginative insight. He recognized that a poetry which was concerned with exploring the dark passages in life presupposed a more complex attitude and process than any kind of pure sensation. The Poet's contemplation of the examples of Chatterton and Burns set the thoughtful tone for his more prolonged meditation on the fate and role of poets. Apart from "Resolution and Independence," Wordsworth also meditated on the fate of Burns in three other significant poems and in a long prose passage entitled "A Letter to a Friend of Robert Burns (1816)." In a l l these, Wordsworth shows a clear sympathy for, and gratitude to, Burns. In lines composed "At the Grave of Burns, seven years after his Death," Wordsworth expresses both his sympathy for Burns and his gratitude to his memory: I mourned with thousands, but as one More deeply grieved, for He was gone Whose light I hailed when first i t shone, And showed my youth How Verse may build a princely throne On humble truth. Burns is presented here as a symbol of light; he was a light to his generation because those who sought imaginative illumiantion could find i t in the "humble truth" of his verse. The young poet is "more deeply grieved" at the death of Burns because he did learn from Burns. With the death of a man of light a whole generation is threatened with darkness. In the same poem Wordsworth describes the "weight" of "dark thoughts" which oppresses him. In a sequel, entitled "Thoughts: Suggested the Day following, on the Banks of 95 N i t h , n e a r the Poet's R e s i d e n c e , " Wordsworth shows h i m s e l f s t i l l e x p l o r i n g those dark t h o u g h t s . In a t h i r d poem, e n t i t l e d "To the Sons of Burns, a f t e r V i s i t i n g t h e Grave of t h e i r F a t h e r " (com-posed p a r t l y between June 1805 and Feb. 1805; p u b l i s h e d 1807), Wordsworth a g a i n speaks of the "melancholy and p a i n f u l r e f l e c t i o n s " w i t h which he l o o k e d a t Burns's grave. A l l t h e s e poems a r e v a r i a t i o n s on the theme of "mighty poets i n t h e i r m i s e r y dead." The poet i s v e r y s y m p a t h e t i c t o Burns and the emphasis throughout i s on h i s g l o r i o u s achievement and on h i s c o n s e c r a t i o n as a member of t h a t g r e a t s o c i e t y o f the n o b l e l i v i n g and the n o b l e dead. The same sym p a t h e t i c and r e v e r e n t i a l s p i r i t i n f o r m s Wordsworth's acknowledgment of t h e g e n i u s o f Burns i n "A L e t t e r to a F r i e n d o f Robert B u r n s . " Wordsworth r e c o g n i z e d t h a t Burns was a l s o d e i f i e d as a p o e t i c genius by h i s own s p i r i t . The thought of the g e n i u s and the m i s e r y o f C h a t t e r t o n and Burns, and of t h e l a n d which l e t them d i e o f unkindness and n e g l e c t was always a cause f o r a n x i e t y w i t h Wordsworth and h i s p o e t i c contem-2 p o r a r i e s . I t i s not merely t h e q u e s t i o n of the u n t i m e l y and, i n the case o f C h a t t e r t o n , r u t h l e s s manner of t h e i r d eath but the g r i m f a c t o f the m i s e r y of t h e i r l i v e s . There i s Wordsworth's keen r e c o g n i t i o n of the p o e t i c s e n s i b i l i t y which C h a t t e r t o n and Burns p o s s e s s e d , and t h e r e i s the e q u a l l y keen r e a l i z a t i o n of the i n e v i t a b l e c o n f l i c t between such p o e t i c s e n s i b i l i t i e s and the d r e a r y and con-f o r m i s t p r e s s u r e s imposed by s o c i e t y . S o c i e t y w i l l n ot c a r e f o r the poet even though h i s c o n v i c t i o n may be a b s o l u t e t h a t h i s t a s k i s t o p r o v i d e i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n f o r t h a t v e r y s o c i e t y . Every o r i g i n a l 96 poet has t o rec k o n w i t h the degree of mor a l and s o c i a l o p p r e s s i o n which s o c i e t y can impose on poets who dare t o c h a r t t h e i r i m a g i n a t i v e freedom and defy the demands imposed on the freedom o f s p i r i t . The theme of s o c i a l o p p r e s s i o n i n r e l a t i o n t o Burns, e s p e c i a l l y , i s t e l l i n g l y e x p l o r e d i n " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence." Wordsworth d e s c r i b e s Burns i n a l l h i s freedom as Him who walked i n g l o r y and i n j o y F o l l o w i n g h i s p l o u g h , a l o n g the m o u n t a i n - s i d e (11. 45-46) The l i q u i d s i n most o f th e s e words h e i g h t e n the l a p i d a r y q u a l i t y of the v e r s e and the sense o f g l o r y and j o y can be f e l t . And what e l s e does a poet want b u t the achievement of g l o r y and j o y ? Wordsworth, b e i n g the r e a l i s t i n h i s poems, adds, s i g n i f i c a n t l y , t h e p r i c e t h a t s o c i e t y e x a c t s o f the poet i n such i m a g i n a t i v e independence. We Poets i n our yout h b e g i n i n g l a d n e s s ; But t h e r e o f come i n the end despondency and madness. (11. 48-49) The slow b r o o d i n g cadences o f th e s e l i n e s c o n t r a s t w i t h the smooth t r i p p i n g v e r s e s which d e s c r i b e the g l o r y and j o y o f Burns. L i n e s 48-49 d e s c r i b e the dark passages which e v e r y r e a l i s t i c poet has to r e c o g n i z e and e x p l o r e . T h i s i s why the whole m a t t e r i s e x p r e s s e d w i t h such.a sense of p e r s o n a l urgency. The m a t t e r o f h a p p i n e s s and freedom, o f s e c u r i t y from s o c i a l o p p r e s s i o n and economic needs, i s no l i g h t one w i t h "unromantic" Wordsworth. There i s the need t o adopt a f i r m and courageous a t t i t u d e which can c o n f r o n t the f e a r o f s o l i t u d e , p o v e r t y and the u n f l a t t e r i n g awareness o f "poets i n t h e i r m i s e r y dead." The poems on Burns, l i k e " R e s o l u t i o n and Independence," a f f o r d him the o p p o r t u n i t y t o a c h i e v e a measure of d i s c o v e r y i n t o t h e r e a l i t y o f h i s 97 c h o i c e . He d i s c o v e r s t h a t t h e r e i s no easy c h o i c e and r e s o l v e s to p e r s e v e r e and t o p r e s e r v e the p o e t i c s e l f i n a k i n d of i r o n - w i l l e d i s o l a t i o n f o r , a f t e r a l l , "By our own s p i r i t s a r e we d e i f i e d . " I t i s i n such c a p a c i t y t o g e n e r a l i z e s u b t l y , c o n s i s t e n t l y and d r a m a t i c a l l y about the c h a l l e n g e of l i f e and p o e t r y t h a t Wordsworth e x p l o r e s the dark passages and t h i n k s i n t o the h e a r t of man. I t a l s o e x p l a i n s the c e n t r a l i t y of Wordsworth i n r e l a t i o n t o Keats and o t h e r young and p e r p l e x e d Romantic poets who were o f t e n so overwhelmed by the dark passages of l i f e t h a t they c o u l d sometimes d e c l a r e t h a t t h e r e was l i t t l e chance of d o i n g a n y t h i n g e l s e i n l i f e 3 except to succumb to despondency and d i s s o l u t i o n i n death. I t i s s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t R e y n o l d s , l i k e Keats and o t h e r s i n the Keats C i r c l e , always t u r n e d t o Wordsworth's p o e t r y when overwhelmed by the burden of the mystery and the c h a l l e n g e o f the p o e t i c t a s k . The f o l l o w i n g q u o t a t i o n from a l e t t e r o f Reynolds t o James Hessey i s r e l e v a n t i n t h i s c o n n e c t i o n : I am c o n f i n e d to my room . . . l e a d i n g a l i f e o f p a i n , s l e e p l e s s n e s s and b l e e d i n g . . . I b e l i e v e I must take Wordsworth's l e e c h g a t h e r e r [ s i c ] i n t o keeping. 1^ Wordsworth's e x p l o r a t i o n of the dark passages r e l a t e d to the c h a l l e n g e of the c r e a t i v e v o c a t i o n can a l s o be seen i n two sonnets t o Benjamin Robert Hayd'on and Robert G i l l i e s . The sonnet t o Haydon-, , w i t h i t s s i g n i f i c a n t opening l i n e "High i s our c a l l i n g , F r i e n d ! — C r e a t i v e A r t " , c o u l d be r e g a r d e d as an open l e t t e r t o Haydon i n which Wordsworth was a l s o a d d r e s s i n g a l l p e r p l e x e d p o e ts and a r t i s t s of h i s generation."* The s e s t e t of t h i s sonnet b e a r s d i r e c t l y on Wordsworth's courageous a t t i t u d e toward the dark passages 98 which poets and other creative artists have to confront: And, oh! when Nature sinks, as oft she may, Through long-lived pressure of obscure distress, S t i l l to be strenuous for the bright reward, And in the soul admit of no decay, Brook no continuance of weak-mindedness— Great is the glory, for the strife is hard. The last line, especially, and indeed the whole sonnet, is a variation on the theme explored in "Resolution and Independence" and in the poems on Burns. Against the strife and anxiety, Wordsworth posits the great glory and bright reward (of the spirit) which the creative artist can expect from fulf i l l i n g his task of providing imaginative illumination for his generation. Human nature is sensitive and vulnerable and therefore bound to droop, especially when subjected to "long-lived pressure of obscure distress." Into this compact phrase with its loaded adjective, "obscure," we can f i l l in "solitude, pain of heart, distress and poverty," and perhaps even the dreadful thought of "despondency and madness." In his tough-minded realism, Wordsworth recognizes what "long-lived pressure of obscure distress" can do; human nature tends to "droop" because the human spirit needs the light of discovery into the nature of things as much as vegetable plants need the light of sunshine to sustain their growth. In his equally stern-minded determination, Wordsworth's recognition is " s t i l l to be strenuous . . . / And in the sould admit of no decay." In the sonnet to Gillies (composed 1814, published 1815), Wordsworth again explores the dark passages which the young artist has to traverse: 99 From the dark chambers of d e j e c t i o n f r e e d , S p u r n i n g the u n p r o f i t a b l e yoke of c a r e , R i s e , GILLIES, r i s e : the g a l e s of y o u t h s h a l l b e a r Thy genius forward l i k e a winged s t e e d . Though b o l d B e l l e r o p h o n (so Jove d e c r e e d In wrath) f e l l h e a d l o n g from the f i e l d s o f a i r , Y e t a r i c h guerdon w a i t s on minds t h a t d a r e , I f aught be i n them of immortal seed, And r e a s o n govern t h a t audacious f l i g h t . (11. 1-9) F i r s t , t h e r e i s the "dark chambers o f d e j e c t i o n " c r e a t e d by the u n p r o f i t a b l e yoke of c a r e . " T h i s yoke of c a r e may r e l a t e t o p e r s o n a l or p h i l o s o p h i c a l a n x i e t y ; whatever i t i s , i t i s u n p r o f i t a b l e because i t can o n l y s t i f l e the c r e a t i v e e n e r g i e s of the mind and cause the s p i r i t to "droop" ( l i n e 10). The young poet i s urged t o r i s e b o l d l y , l i k e B e l l e r o p h o n on winged Pegasus, and d e f y whatever t h r e a t e n s to suppress h i s g e n i u s . The image of d e f i a n c e h e r e i s a p p r o p r i a t e because the Poet i s i n quest of g o d l y i n s i g h t and t h e Wordsworthian approach toward t h a t achievement i s through t h e e x p l o r a t i o n o f the powers of the i m a g i n a t i v e mind. When the young poet has c o n v i n c e d h i m s e l f t h a t he p o s s e s s e s the complex combination of c r e a t i v e s e n s i b i l i t y and t h o u g h t f u l mind, he s h o u l d dare and s o a r as h i g h as h i s i m a g i n a t i o n w i l l range. These two sonnets b e l o n g to t h e " l a t e " poems of Wordsworth. They i l l u s t r a t e how Wordsworth r e s o l v e d h i s own " k i n d r e d h a u n t i n g s " through p o e t i c r e a s o n i n g i n h i s e a r l y poems and emerged by 1814-15 as the sage and mentor o f h i s g e n e r a t i o n . In o r d e r to i l l u s t r a t e more f u l l y how Wordsworth c o n f r o n t e d those k i n d r e d h a u n t i n g s i n h i s e a r l y poems, I w i l l now,return c h r o n o l o g i c a l l y to the l a s t of the Matthew poems and the F i f t h Book of The P r e l u d e . In the "Address t o the S c h o l a r s of the V i l l a g e S c h o o l of — (composed 1798; p u b l i s h e d 1842), Matthew, who: i s a composite f i g u r e 1 0 0 of s c h o o l - m a s t e r - s a g e - p o e t , i s a p e r s o n a f o r the s p e c u l a t i v e thoughts on the dark passages r e l a t e d to the theme of i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n of mankind. The s p e c i a l , p r i v i l e g e d r e l a t i o n s h i p between Matthew and the poet i s e s t a b l i s h e d : I come, ye l i t t l e n o i s y Crew q Not l o n g your pastime t o p r e v e n t ; I h e a r d the b l e s s i n g which t o you Our common F r i e n d and F a t h e r s e n t . ( 1 1 . 1 - 4 ) The p o e t - n a r r a t o r i s s e t a p a r t as t h e t h o u g h t f u l one among a n o i s y , t h o u g h t l e s s crowd of s c h o o l - c h i l d r e n . He i s t h e b e a r e r of b l e s s i n g s from the d y i n g s c h o o l m a s t e r . The l o s s of the o l d man has a s p e c i a l meaning f o r the p o e t - n a r r a t o r , and he emphasizes the sense of f i n a l i t y o f death i n such a way t h a t the t h o u g h t l e s s band may a p p r e c i a t e what has happened: " h i s b r e a t h was f l e d , " h i s hand "dropped l i k e l e a d " ; Ne'er w i l l the b e s t o f a l l your t r a i n P l a y w i t h the l o c k s of h i s w h i t e h a i r , Or s t a n d between h i s knees a g a i n . ( 1 1 . 1 3 - 1 5 ) The i m p r e s s i o n of death as a s t a t e of u l t i m a t e a t r o p h y i s v i v i d l y stamped on the c o n s c i o u s n e s s of a l l . Death i s p r e s e n t e d as the end of a l l s e n s a t i o n , the t o t a l d e p r i v a t i o n of the v i t a l senses o f even the most p o e t i c s e n s i b i l i t i e s : he c o u l d see the woods and p l a i n s , Could h e a r the wind and mark the showers Come s t r e a m i n g down the s t r e a m i n g panes. Now s t r e t c h e d beneath h i s g r a s s - g r e e n mound He r e s t s a p r i s o n e r of the ground. He l o v e d the b r e a t h i n g a i r He l o v e d the sun, but i f i t r i s e Or s e t , t o him where now he l i e s , B r i n g s not a moment's c a r e . ( 1 1 . 1 7 - 2 5 ) i 101 H i s p o e t i c s e n s i b i l i t y i s d e t a i l e d i n what he c o u l d " s e e " and "hear" and " l o v e . " He was, c l e a r l y , a man of more than u s u a l o r g a n i c s e n s i b i l i t y w h o v c o u l d r e j o i c e i n t h e goings-on o f the w o r l d . But now the g r a s s - g r e e n mound of n a t u r e i s a l l t h a t i d e n t i f i e s the remains of h i s p h y s i c a l e x i s t e n c e . The poet goes on t o e x p l o r e the l o s s i n r e l a t i o n t o the l i v i n g , and he i n d i c a t e s the " s o l a c e " which the l i v i n g can d e r i v e from c o n t e m p l a t i n g t h e l o s s o f such a man whose r i c h l i f e has reached i t s f u l l e s t c o m p l e t i o n i n the o r g a n i c c y c l e o f d e a t h : L e t sorrow o v e r c h a r g e d w i t h p a i n Be l o s t i n t h a n k f u l n e s s and p r a i s e . And when our h e a r t s s h a l l f e e l a s t i n g From i l l we meet o r good we m i s s , May touches o f h i s memory b r i n g Fond h e a l i n g , l i k e a mother's k i s s . (11. 51-56) The o l d Mas t e r has now become c o n s e c r a t e d through p o e t i c c o n t e m p l a t i o n and w i l l l i v e i n the memory of h i s s c h o o l - c h i l d r e n . The poem moves from t h e c o n s i d e r a t i o n of the p h y s i c a l a s p e c t of d i s s o l u t i o n i n death to the c o n s i d e r a t i o n ( i n the d i r g e s e c t i o n ) of the sense o f d e p r i v a t i o n o f t h e l i v i n g . The d i s m a y i n g f a c t o f the s c h o o l m a s t e r ' s i r r e v o c a b l e d i s s o l u t i o n i n death i s overcome, but more d i s c o n c e r t i n g i s the f a c t t h a t h i s death t h r e a t e n s t o l e a v e h i s c h i l d r e n ( f o r he was Teacher, F r i e n d , and F a t h e r ) b e r e f t o f the k i n d o f i m a g i n a t i v e guidance w i t h o u t which t h e i r l i v e s would be dark. H i s death r e p r e s e n t s an a s p e c t of a b r e a k i n the c o n t i n u i t y of i m a g i n a t i v e v i s i o n . And t h e r e i s the s u g g e s t i o n t h a t the t a s k of m a i n t a i n i n g a sense o f c o n t i n u i t y o f v i s i o n d e v o l v e s on the p o e t - n a r r a t o r , the t h o u g h t f u l b e a r e r of b l e s s i n g s who " k i s s e d h i s [Master's] cheek b e f o r e he d i e d . " 102 The poet-narrator faces the challenge of becoming the successor; he must provide illumination for the scholars so that their l i f e may not be deprived of imaginative light. In the Fifth Book of The Prelude, the interrelated themes of the dark passages and the task of imaginative, illumination of mankind are discussed from a much wider perspective; what is emphasized in this book is the need to provide illumination rfor the "children of the earth." Wordsworth further describes the dark passages as "life's mysterious weight / Of pain, and doubt, and fear . . ." Although Book Five is entitled simply "Books," the first 165 lines are devoted to problems of continuity of imaginative vision especially in relation to those dark thoughts which tend to stifle the energies of the creative mind. The first few lines are devoted to contemplation on man and his intellectual heritage; there is a lengthy meditation on the influence as well as on the fate of works of intellectual exploration which constitute man's heritage: Thou also, man! hast wrought, For commerce of thy nature with herself, Things that aspire to unconquerable l i f e ; And yet we feel — we cannot choose but feel — That they must perish . . . and yet man, As long as he shall be the child of earth Might almost "weep to have" what he may lose. The things which man has wrought "For commerce of [his] nature with her self" refer to man's highest imaginative achievements; the commerce is with the highest and most wholesome self. The mind of man is represented metaphorically as a topographical landscape, and the imaginative adventure explores the cosmography of the mind. 103 Wordsworth, like Shakespeare and others before him, and like Keats after him, is burdened by the awareness of the vulnerability of the works of the arts and sciences ("The consecrated works of Bard and Sage") to the devouring ravages of time. He is, however, not numbed by this awareness; on the contrary he uses this awareness to re-establish the raison d'etre of imaginative achievements of man's intellect. The poet realizes that "man / As long as he shall be the child of earth / Might almost 'weep to have' what he may lose." In this awareness Wordsworth offers us both a sense of reality and a sense of human value and needs: the sense of the reality of the human condition is expressed in the first lines of the passage; the sense of human values and needs is expressed in the second half of the passage, characteristically signaled by the "and yet" phrasing. Wordsworth is painfully aware of the vulnerability of man's works and even of man himself to time; but he is also fully aware that the imaginative^ and essential qualities of great works of human intellect have the capacity to deepen man's lif e and to illuminate his vision of existence. For such imaginative illumination of lif e to persist in each generation i t is necessary that there be poets and thinkers who can contribute to and enlarge upon the accumulated perceptions of great minds of past ages. This is part of the significance of the dream-vision in Book V. It is a rare instance of dream-vision in Wordsworth's poetry but, like the dream vision in Chaucer or Dante, it is a mode for the expression of a great imaginative thought. The stages leading to the visionary experience are worth tracing, for they help to account for the progression of thought. The poet-104 n a r r a t o r i s s i t t i n g by the se a s h o r e r e a d i n g C e r v a n t e s ' s Don Q u i x o t e when melancholy c o n t e m p l a t i o n overwhelms him ("to h e i g h t u n u s u a l " ) , and he s t r o l l s away musing "on p o e t r y and g e o m e t r i c t r u t h . " Then comes the d r e a m - v i s i o n : I saw b e f o r e me s t r e t c h e d a bo u n d l e s s p l a i n Of sandy w i l d e r n e s s , a l l b l a c k and v o i d , And as I l o o k e d around, d i s t r e s s and f e a r Came c r e e p i n g over me. The c h o i c e of words h e r e i s i m p o r t a n t . The l a n d s c a p e i s a b o u n d l e s s p l a i n and t h e sense o f b o u n d l e s s n e s s i s r e i n f o r c e d by t h e use of the verb " s t r e t c h e d " which, w i t h i t s l o n g d u r a t i o n o f sound, h o l d s our b r e a t h w h i l e we l i t e r a l l y v i s u a l i s e the expanse of l a n d . T h i s sense o f b o u n d l e s s immensity i s p a r t i c u l a r l y a p p r o p r i a t e because the poet has the whole o f E n g l a n d i n mind. I t i s , s i g n i f i c a n t l y , a b o u n d l e s s p l a i n (not h e i g h t ) o f "sandy w i l d e r n e s s , " " b l a c k and v o i d , " s u g g e s t i n g a sense of emptiness and d e s o l a t i o n . There i s no r e c o u r s e f o r the i m a g i n a t i v e s p i r i t h e r e ; i t i s a d r e a r y l a n d s c a p e . " D i s t r e s s and f e a r " came " c r e e p i n g " over the p o e t - n a r r a t o r , and the word " c r e e p i n g " i n t h i s c o n t e x t moves t h e e x p e r i e n c e from the sense o f s i g h t t o the more t h r e a t e n i n g sense o f p h y s i c a l t o u c h . T h i s i s the s y m b o l i c l a n d s c a p e of the i m a g i n a t i v e quest and i t i s h e r e t h a t the poet e n c o u n t e r s t h e uncouth shape upon a dromedary. T h i s v i s i o n a r y f i g u r e s i s an Arab k n i g h t who shows t h e poet a s t o n e , r e p r e s e n t i n g " E u c l i d ' s E l e m e n t s " and the knowledge o f mathematics and the s c i e n c e s ; he a l s o g i v e s the poet a s h e l l r e p r e s e n t i n g "something o f more w o r t h " — p o e t r y and i m a g i n a t i v e v i s i o n . The poet h e a r s a l o u d p r o p h e t i c b l a s t f o r e w a r n i n g d e s t r u c t i o n t o t h e c h i l d r e n o f the e a r t h . The Arab f i g u r e ' s " e n t e r p r i s e " i s t o 105 bury the symbolic books. To the poet's imagination the visionary figure becomes several things at once: he is the Knight Whose tale Cervantes tells; yet not the Knight, But was an Arab of the desert too; Of these was neither, and was both at once. The mysterious knight rides on ahead of "the waters of the deep / Gathering upon us," while the poet-dreamer is left to contemplate the prospect of a drowning world and the seemingly mad enterprise of the visionary figure. The poet feels that reverence is due to a being thus employed because the visionary knight is crazed by love and feeling for humanity, for preserving what illuminates man's vision of earthly existence. This is why the poet is convinced that "in the blind and awful lair / Of such a madness, reason did lie couched." The analogy between the visionary knight and the dreamer-poet is implicit in the whole experience: the poet says Enow there are on earth to take in charge Their wives, their children, and their virgin loves, Or whatsoever else the heart holds dear. As for the poet, I could share That maniac's fond anxiety, and go Upon like errand. The poet indicates clearly that this is no f leetingt'thought: Oftentimes at least Me hath such strong entrancement overcome, When I have held a volume in my hand, Poor earthly casket of immortal verse, Shakespeare, or Milton, labourers divine! (11. 161-165) The whole question of commitment to the poetic task in the face of the challenge posed by the dark passages of l i f e is here resolved — 106 imaginatively at least. The sense of mission which motivates the visionary Arab Knight and the concrete achievements of Shakespeare and Milton, Euclid and Newton, a l l function as examples which motivate the poet to commit himself resolutely toward the intellectual and imaginative task of. providing illumination for the children of the earth. The poet is urged on in his task by the need to preserve a sense of continuity in the imaginative view of the world. There is a paradox in the passage, but i t is a resolvable paradox: the great worksr of men may be earthly caskets, that i s , subject to the ravages of time, but until that time comes there must be poets and other intellectual thinkers who will carry on the task of imaginative illumination of man's spirits from generation to generation. Wordsworth knows that great literature has "voices more than a l l the winds, with power / To exhilarate the spirit" of mankind. He knows from his own "heart-experience" that there is Knowledge and increase of enduring joy From the great Nature that exists in works Of mighty poets. (Book V, 11. 593-95) The question that arises, therefore, is how can the poet, Wordsworth, allow melancholy depression, the fear of the dark passages, or anything else to sway him from the great task of providing imaginative illumination to his own generation? The poet deals with this in the further identification which is established between the poet-dreamer and the Arab-visionary figure. The poet describes "himself as mysteriously keeping pace with the visionary Arab, although the latter travels ahead of him, as well as at his side — initially at least; similarly, 107 Wordsworth d e s c r i b e s h i s own n o t i o n o f the poet as one who "ought to t r a v e l b e f o r e men o c c a s i o n a l l y as w e l l as at t h e i r s i d e s . " 7 The l a n d s c a p e t h a t i s d e s c r i b e d i n Book V of The P r e l u d e ( i n the d r e a m - v i s i o n s e c t i o n ) i s not m e r e l y f i c t i o n a l ; i t has a r e a l l y - h i s t o r i c a l s i g n i f i c a n c e , s y m b o l i c of Wordsworth's v i s i o n o f t h e p o v e r t y o f deep i m a g i n a t i v e p o e t r y i n h i s own days. The c o n n e c t i o n i s n o t u s u a l l y made by c r i t i c s but i t seems to me c l e a r t h a t the f i r s t 165 l i n e s o f Book F i v e e x p r e s s a c e n t r a l t r u t h about Wordsworth's view of the c h a l l e n g e of the p o e t i c t a s k i n h i s own days. The s e c t i o n s of Book V from 166-605 f u n c t i o n as commentary and i l l u s t r a t i o n of t h e dream v i s i o n d e s c r i b e d i n l i n e s 1-165. There i s a c l o s e t h e m a t i c l i n k between the s e c t i o n s of Book F i v e . Wordsworth i m a g i n a t i v e l y c o n f r o n t s t h e q u e s t i o n of m e l a n c h o l y d e p r e s s i o n and reasons h i m s e l f out o f t h i s by r e f a f f i r m i n g the need of commitment t o the h a r d t a s k of a p o e t i c v o c a t i o n , q u i x o t i c as t h a t may appear to be. He then c o n s i d e r s the g e n e r a l i m a g i n a t i v e and i n t e l l e c t u a l atmosphere (Bk. V, 11. 223-363); he does not f i n d i t e n c o u r a g i n g because i t i s a f f l i c t e d by a g e n e r a l e v i l on the l a n d so overwhelming as t o cause even the most d e d i c a t e d to doubt t h e i r own a b i l i t y t o a c h i e v e any i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n o f the w o r l d or t o r e s t o r e a sense o f c o n t i n u i t y o f i m a g i n a t i v e v i s i o n through p o e t r y . He d e s c r i b e s t h i s e v i l w hich t h e s e days hase l a i d Upon the c h i l d r e n o f the l a n d , a p e s t That might have d r i e d me up, body and s o u l . Bk. V, 11. 227-9) The poet i n d i c a t e s how converse w i t h e x t e r n a l Nature and w i t h g r e a t g a u t h o r s p r e s e r v e d him from b e i n g swamped by the g e n e r a l e v i l . The 108 imagery of drowning, as used i n "the f l e e t w a ters of a drowning w o r l d , " d e s c r i b e s Wordsworth's p o s i t i o n p e r f e c t l y . I t i s s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t t h e dream v i s i o n ends w i t h t h i s image; the poet wakes i n t e r r o r because he r e a l i z e s the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the v i s i o n a r y f i g u r e ' s e n t e r -p r i s e . There i s a sense of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n h e r e , u n d e r l i n e d by t h e r e v e r e n t i a l tone: the m y s t e r i o u s j o u r n e y of the A r a b - k n i g h t i s an i m a g i n a t i v e example of the i m a g i n a t i v e adventure o f the poet i n a k i n d r e d t a s k . Whether Wordsworth l i v e d up t o t h i s m a n i a c a l , t o t a l l y s e l f - d e n y i n g , v i s i o n o f the p o e t i c t a s k i s a n o t h e r m a t t e r ; but what i s i n c o n t r o v e r t i b l e i s t h a t the sense of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n between the poet-dreamer and the A r a b - k n i g h t i s v e r y s t r o n g i n the c o n t e x t of P r e l u d e V; the passage i l l u m i n a t e s Wordsworth's views on the g r e a t c h a l l e n g e of p r e s e r v i n g a sense of c o n t i n u i t y of i m a g i n a t i v e v i s i o n i n h i s age. Book F i v e i s c e r t a i n l y one of the most d i f f i c u l t s e c t i o n s of The P r e l u d e ; some of i t s passages a r e q u i t e obscure and h i g h l y a l l u s i v e . However, when the d i f f i c u l t s y n t a x i s c a r e f u l l y a n a l y s e d and t h e range of l i t e r a r y a l l u s i o n s i s r i g h t l y u n d e r s t o o d , our a p p r e c i a t i o n s of the theme of the t a s k of i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n of mankind i s c o n s i d e r a b l y e n r i c h e d . T h i s s e c t i o n of The P r e l u d e i s e n t i t l e d s i m p l y "Books" but as the poet h i m s e l f f r a n k l y concedes, My d r i f t I f e a r Is s c a r c e l y o b v i o u s . (11. 293-4) I t i s n o t u n t i l l i n e 460 (!) t h a t we a r e g i v e n a s u s t a i n e d d i s c u s s i o n on books and t h e i r i n f l u e n c e on growing minds, so t h a t about two-t h i r d s o f Book F i v e ar e devoted t o o t h e r n o t u n r e l a t e d m a t t e r s . These i n c l u d e " C o n t e m p l a t i o n " on the theme of t r a n s i e n c e as i t 109 a f f e c t s a uthors and t h e i r works (11. 1-49); " k i n d r e d h a u n t i n g s " of the poet and the encounter w i t h the v i s i o n a r y k n i g h t (11. 50-156); a d i s c u s s i o n on t h e n a t u r e of t h e " e v i l which t h e s e days has l a i d / Upon the c h i l d r e n o f the l a n d , a p e s t " (11. 223-263); t h e " s p o t s of t i m e " i n "There was a Boy" and the drowning e p i s o d e (11. 426-454). These are i n d e e d seemingly d i s p a r a t e t o p i c s encompassed w i t h i n 605 l i n e s , but my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n has attempted t o r e l a t e most of them t o the e x p l o r a t i o n of the dark passages r e l a t e d t o the c h a l l e n g e of i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n o f mankind i n s u c c e s s i v e g e n e r a t i o n s . The whole c o n t e x t of Book F i v e and of The P r e l u d e s u p p o r t my i n t e r -p r e t a t i o n . In the F o u r t h Book of The P r e l u d e , the poet d e d i c a t e s h i m s e l f to the t a s k of p o e t r y . T h i s takes p l a c e d u r i n g h i s summer v a c a t i o n . A f t e r a s e r i e s o f i m a g i n a t i v e renewals w i t h t h e s o u r c e s and c r e a t i v e r e s o u r c e s of h i s p o e t i c n a t u r e at Hawkshead, the poet a g a i n Conversed w i t h p r o m i s e s , had glimmering views How l i f e pervades the undecaying mind; How the immortal s o u l w i t h G o d - l i k e power Informs, c r e a t e s , and thaws the deepest s l e e p That time can l a y upon h e r ; how on e a r t h Man, i f he do but l i v e w i t h i n t h e l i g h t Of h i g h endeavours, d a i l y spreads abroad His b e i n g armed w i t h s t r e n g t h t h a t cannot f a i l . (11. 164-171) T h i s i s t h e p o e t ' s r e d i s c o v e r y of h i s t r u e p o e t i c s e n s i b i l i t y which the s o p h i s t i c a t e d f o l l i e s at Cambridge c o u l d n o t e n t i r e l y s t i f l e . H i s mind r e t a i n s i t s a c t i v e , c r e a t i v e s p i r i t and has power to r e g e n e r a t e i t s e l f ; i t has n o t become e n t i r e l y f r o z e n (Wordsworth i s h e r e f a l l i n g back on h i s r e c o g n i t i o n o f the a c t i v e , i n d e s t r u c t i b l e , c r e a t i v e p r i n c i p l e which I d i s c u s s e d as i m p o r t a n t i n h i s e p i s t e m o l o g y ) . 110 The s e r i e s o f r e d i s c o v e r i e s l e a d t o the dawn scene d u r i n g which h i s d e d i c a t i o n takes p l a c e : M a g n i f i c e n t The morning r o s e , i n memorable pomp, G l o r i o u s as e'er I had b e h e l d — i n f r o n t , The s e a l a y l a u g h i n g a t a d i s t a n c e ; n e a r , The s o l i d mountains shone . . . (11. 323-325) The c r e a t i v e s o u l t h a t can c r e a t e t h i s sense of harmony and u n i t y by i m a g i n a t i v e l y l i n k i n g the s e a and the sky, the e a r t h and the cl o u d s i n such m e a n i n g f u l o r d e r and beauty need n ot be a f r a i d o f d e d i c a t i n g i t s e l f t o p o e t r y : Ah! need I say, dear F r i e n d ! t h a t t o the b r i m My h e a r t was f u l l ; I made no vows, b u t vows Were made f o r me; bond unknown t o me Was g i v e n , t h a t I s h o u l d be, e l s e s i n n i n g g r e a t l y , A d e d i c a t e d s p i r i t . (11. 333-336) The p a s s i v e mode o f t h i s p r o c e s s o f d e d i c a t i o n i s i m p o r t a n t . The vows a r e made f o r the p o e t ; he i s a chosen s p i r i t . The vows a r e made at the c l i m a x o f the s e r i e s of f i t f u l r e c o g n i t i o n s ("glimmering v i e w s " ) . There i s as y e t n o t st e a d y i l l u m i n a t i o n ; the quest f o r i n d i v i d u a l i l l u m i n a t i o n must go on. The poet has committed h i m s e l f ( o r has been committed?) t o the t a s k of o f f e r i n g i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n t o o t h e r s but h i s j o u r n e y i n t o s e l f - k n o w l e d g e must go on and he s t i l l has t o e x p l o r e the dark passages i n the cour s e o f t h i s j o u r n e y b e f o r e he can become a g u i d i n g l i g h t t o o t h e r s . The e ncounter w i t h the o l d s o l d i e r p r e s e n t s one o c c a s i o n f o r a glimpse i n t o a l i f e o f commitment t o a v o c a t i o n . The o l d man i s p r e s e n t e d as almost e n t i r e l y consumed by the e f f o r t o f h i s j o u r n e y : 111. He was of stature t a l l , A span above man's common measure, t a l l , Stiff, lank, and upright; a more meagre man Was never seen before by night or day. Long were his arms, pallid his hands; his mouth Looked ghastly in the moonlight: from behind, A mile-stone propped him; I could also ken That he was clothed in military garb, Though faded, yet entire. Companionless, No dog attending, by no staff sustained, He stood, and in his very dress appeared A desolation, a simplicity . . . (11. 391-402) This old soldier has travelled through the dark passages involved in a lif e of commitment to a vocation. He is now a representative figure; that i s , representative of what such a li f e holds in store. The monitory nature of his existence is emphasized in the condition of l i f e associated with him: solitude, desolation, simplicity. These qualities suggest the arduous hardship of the task. This is why, unlike in the buoyant dedicatory passage, Book Four of The Prelude ends on a note of thoughtful, sober recognition and chastened determination: Back I cast a look And lingered near the door a l i t t l e space, Then sought with quiet heart my distant home. (11. 467-469) In Book Five of The Prelude the poet continues to explore what commitment to poetry really means. The question of the need for continuity of imaginative vision is asserted but the poet weighs his powers against the demands imposed by the task of providing imaginative illumination for humanity. Wordsworth's acceptance of the role of Poet even in the face of his grim realization of the sacrifices to be made is to be seen in his sympathetic identification of himself with the quixotic, visionary figure: 112 Nor have I pitied him; but rather felt Reverence was due to a being thus employed And thought that, in the blind and awful lair Of such a madness, reason did lie couched. (11. 149-152) Not pity, not tolerance; any of these would imply a feeling of presumptuous superiority which the poet cannot afford. There is too much at stake for feelings of presumption or levity; what is at stake is the challenge of human illumination. The poet cannot afford to pity this symbolic figure without seeming to pity himself. The visionary figure is engaged in saving that which can offer illumination to the children of the earth. It may seem like a mad venture but it is not. The Arab visionary is engaged in that which represents the poet-narrator's highest aspiration. We may here compare Wordsworth's view of himself in Book Three. Speaking of the early discovery of himself and of the contradictory expectations of his family and university, he says: Some called i t madness . . . But leaving this, It was no madness. (11. 146-155). !§tfa. *ke- poM and "t&eivislon/ary ra'Tjea,ehgagred3 inm.a'i "Mad'"- venture•'; but their "madness" represents divinest sense to a discerning eye. The parallel between the visionary Arab figure and the poet is now obvious: the former is largely a symbolic and heightened projection of the convictions and anxieties of the latter. This is the significance of the dream vision in Book Five. Wordsworth's recognition of the need for continuity of imaginative vision was absolute; his sense of dedication to that 113 t a s k o f human i l l u m i n a t i o n was a l s o a b s o l u t e ; but what was n o t so a b s o l u t e was h i s c o n v i c t i o n o f h i s own powers o f w i l l and i m a g i n a t i o n . H i s image of h i m s e l f i n t h e F i r s t Book of The P r e l u d e i s im p o r t a n t i n t h i s c o n n e c t i o n : B a f f l e d and p l a g u e d by a mind t h a t every hour Turns r e c r e a n t t o h e r t a s k ; takes h e a r t a g a i n , Then feete immediately some h o l l o w thought Hang l i k e an i n t e r d i c t upon h e r hopes. T h i s i s my l o t . . . I r e c o i l and droop, and seek repose In l i s t l e s s n e s s from v a i n p e r p l e x i t y , U n p r o f i t a b l y t r a v e l l i n g toward t h e g r a v e , L i k e a f a l s e steward who h a t h much r e c e i v e d And r e n d e r s n o t h i n g back. (11. 256-269) Here the poet d e f i n e s t h e p e r p l e x i t y o f h i s mind i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e d i f f i c u l t t a s k o f p r o v i d i n g i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n t hrough p o e t r y . T h i s p e r p l e x i t y of h i s own mind has to be d e a l t w i t h . In Book V the poet d r a m a t i c a l l y p r o j e c t s h i s f e a r s and c o n f r o n t s them; he d e f i n e s h i s c h o i c e and r e s o l v e s t o p l a y h i s r o l e i n the chosen t a s k o f p r o v i d i n g i l l u m i n a t i o n f o r the c h i l d r e n of the e a r t h . L i k e a l l the s o l i t a r y f i g u r e s i n Wordsworth's p o e t r y , the q u i x o t i c v i s i o n a r y f u n c t i o n s as a m o n i t o r y c h a r a c t e r who admonishes t h e poet and encourages him thr o u g h apt example t o pursue h i s t a s k even i n t h e f a c e o f the dark passages a s s o c i a t e d w i t h such v e n t u r e s . In Book F i v e , t h e r e f o r e , Wordsworth i s n e i t h e r c oncerned s i m p l y w i t h w r i t i n g a t r a c t on t e x t - b o o k s n o r w i t h d e s c r i b i n g a t r a n s i t o r y mood; he i s m e d i t a t i n g on the dark passages r e l a t e d t o the c h a l l e n g e o f p r o v i d i n g i m a g i n a t i v e i l l u m i n a t i o n f o r humanity. There i s something o b s e s s i v e about Wordsworth's concern i n Book V, but t o argue t h a t t h i s Book i s about " o b s e s s i v e u n c o n s c i o u s thoughts 114 about a traumatic experience of death which have persisted since 9 childhood in the survivor" is _ to employ a reductive psychoanalytic theory which is not supported by the evidence of the text. And to assert further that the whole context of Book V, I think, supports this interpretation of a death in the past as the impending revelation-^ is to carry psychoanalysis too far. Any careful reading which dispenses with extra-literary perconceptions will recognize that the Fifth book of The Prelude is, like "Tintern Abbey," the Matthew poems, and "Resolution and Independence", concerned with the exploration of the dark passages related to the problem of imaginative illumination. CHAPTER III Footnotes The Letters of John Keats, p. 110. 2 See especially Keats's prolonged comments on Burns in the letter to Reynolds, Saturday 11th - Monday 13 July 1818 in The Letters of John Keats, p. 174 ff; see also other letters written at this period during Keats's tour of Scotland. 3 See Reynolds' despondent comments which occasioned Keats's consideration of the genius.of Wordsworth as a help against such dark thoughts in The Letters of John Keats, pp. 138-144. Also, the letters of Reynolds and Haydon to Wordsworth indicate how much support these young artists expected and received from Wordsworth. 4 Quoted in The Letters of John Keats, pp. 119-120n. "*Apart from the Keats' circle, other young artists who looked up to Wordsworth as sage and mentor included Thomas De Quincey, John Wilson ("Christopher North"), William Matthews, Robert C. Gillies, William Rowan Hamilton, Edmund Quillinan, Mrs. Felicia Hemans, Elizabeth Barret (Browning). Wordsworth invariably urged "resolution and spirits" against the "morbid tendencies" of most of these correspondents. It is sign-ificant that Wordsworth always endeavoured to return these young poets to the line of great imaginative poetry, the line of vision as represented by Milton, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Spenser, Dante, Virgil, Homer. This poem belongs to the group generally known as the Matthew Poems though the schoolmaster in this poem is not named. 7"Letter to John Wilson (1802)," in Literary Criticism of  William Wordsworth, p. 72. Q See Bks. XI, XII, and XIII of The Prelude for more on the "general evil." 9 Richard J. Onorato, The Character of the Poet: Wordsworth  in The Prelude. Princeton, New Jersey, 1971, p. 374. -lbid, p. 376. CHAPTER IV Shadings of Mortality The "Immortality Ode" and "Peele Castle" are poems which deal with ways of apprehending li f e and they are closely connected with reflections on the imaginative faculty. They are both products of the working of the imagination as well as descriptions of imaginative growth. Of a l l the poems published in the 1807 volumes, these two best represent the transition between Wordsworth's early and late poems. It is not surprising that Wordsworth placed them quite close together; chronologically also, they were written within the same period. These poems have a unity of purpose; they move in the direction of the poet's fullest maturity and the emotional tension which exists in them gains its dynamic impetus from the fact that the problem of imaginative vision is seen within a context of time and its effects. Both raise cogent questions which concern the problems of poetic vision and of human li f e . My approach will be to analyse very closely the pattern of thought in which general significance is derived from the poet's grappling with his urgent personal problem. The "Ode, Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" was written during the period 1802-1806,"'' and published in 1807. It was placed at the head of the poems published that year and this textual arrangement, together with Wordsworth's -117-comments in his sketch to Coleridge of his plan for the arrangement of his shorter poems for a collected edition, should challenge us to realize what importance Wordsworth attached to the poem. He referred to it as the "grand Ode" and placed i t at the head of "Poems relating to childhood, and such feelings as rise in the mind in after l i f e in 2 direct contemplation of that state." These hints and Wordsworth's later comments of 1815 are useful indications of Wordsworth's attitudes and intentions in the Ode. In a letter to Catherine Clarkson (January 1815), Wordsworth has the following comments: This poem rests entirely upon two recollections -of childhood, one that of a splendour in the objects of sense which is passed away, and the other an indisposition to bend to the law of death as applying to our own particular case. A reader who has not a vivid recollection of these feelings having existed in his mind in child-hood cannot understand that poem.3 I am aware, of course, that the poet's own comments ought to be taken with the necessary critical caution but I am strongly inclined to regard these hints as helpful suggestions in which Wordsworth trains us how to read the poem in question. His comments on "a splendour in the objects of sense which is passed away"should help us to deal with two dominant critical positions which have*vbeen advanced in the reading of the Ode: the first is the metaphysical or "true philosophical Critique" of the Ode (and other poems of Wordsworth) published by Coleridge in the Biographia Literaria in 1817. "At what time," Coleridge asked, questioning the whole idea of the Immortality Ode, "were we dipped in the Lethe, which has produced such utter oblivion 4 of a state so godlike." The other position is less sophisticated and quite simplistic: it is the popular view which regards the Ode -118-as "Wordsworth's conscious farewell to his art, a dirge sung over his departing powers.""' This last position is also applied to "Peele Castle" and I intend to question this attitude in my reading of both poems. Like "Peele Castle," the Ode looks back to earlier poems as well as forward to later poems, and is therefore so central to Wordsworth's poetry that in the course of this discussion allusions to the longer poems will be relevant and almost inevitable. These other poems function as commentary on the Ode and the Ode in turn serves as commentary on the other poems. The contentious and so-called philosophic generalities in the Ode are also given more or less elaborate expression in Wordsworth's other poems and I intend to refer generally to Wordsworth's poetry and prose to show how the puzzling passages in the Ode f a l l into place once seen in this wider context. The significance of the Ode must reside in the capacity of Wordsworth's genius to make a discovery about the reality of the imagination and the reality of l i f e , and in the ability to shed a light on this discovery; in other words, the significance of the poem resides primarily in its ability to illuminate man's experience of his life in this world, and it is not fortuitous that the dominant imagery in the poem is that of light which functions at both literal and metaphorical levels. The poem is based on an early experience in childhood: i t is the sense of childhood response, of primal joy: There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, The earth, and every common sight, To me did seem Apparelled in celestial light, The glory and the freshness of a dream. -119-These f i r s t few l i n e s e s t a b l i s h t h e d o u b l i n g p a t t e r n which t h e poet uses t o a c h i e v e emphasis of thought throughout the poem. The sense o f a s u f f u s i o n o f c e l e s t i a l l i g h t i s c r e a t e d by the d i s t r i b u t i o n o f c e l e s t i a l l i g h t n o t o n l y over "meadow, grove, and e a r t h " but a l s o over "The e a r t h and ev e r y common s i g h t , " so t h a t the p a r t i c u l a r and the g e n e r a l melt i n t o an atmosphere of harmonious s p l e n d o u r . The same i t e r a t i v e p a t t e r n i s used i n the l a s t two l i n e s quoted where c e l e s t i a l l i g h t i s e l a b o r a t e d i n t o "The g l o r y and the f r e s h n e s s of a dream." The v i t a l i t y o f lhythms h e l p s t o convey the c h i l d h o o d sense o f j o y and harmony, and t h i s i n t u r n c o n t r a s t s v i v i d l y w i t h the. gloomy t e n o r - of thought i n t h e second h a l f of t h e s t a n z a . In t h i s f i r s t s t a n z a the e m o t i o n a l t e n s i o n which s u s t a i n s the f o r c e of p o e t i c argument i s c l e a r l y i n d i c a t e d : the f i r s t f i v e l i n e s a r e devoted t o d e s c r i b i n g t h a t sense o f c h i l d h o o d response w h i l e the re m a i n i n g l i n e s are devoted t o e x p r e s s i n g j u s t as f o r c e f u l l y the sense of l o s s and d e p r i v a t i o n . The o p p o s i t i o n i s s i g n a l l e d by t h e s t r a t e g i c opening phrases i n each s e c t i o n : the sense o f c h i l d h o o d e x p e r i e n c e i s t h r u s t i n t o the p a s t i n "There was a t i m e " and con-t r a s t e d w i t h the p r e s e n t s i t u a t i o n i n " I t i s not now as i t h a t h been of y o r e . " The poet then proceeds i n the r e s t o f t h e poem to examine human l i f e as a s t a t e o f e x i l e from an e a r l i e r s t a t e . The s t o r y o f human l i f e i s t o l d as t h a t o f a j o u r n e y away from the so u r c e of p r i m a l j o y and t h e r e i s conveyed t h e i m p r e s s i o n t h a t t h e everyday way of e x i s t e n c e i s l a r g e l y f o r e i g n t o man's e s s e n t i a l b e i n g . The o p p o s i t i o n i s e x p r e s s e d a l s o i n the images which the po e m . c a l l s up: t h e r e i s , f o r example, the happy c h i l d ( r e p r e s e n t e d by the Shepherdboy who i s d e s c r i b e d as " C h i l d of Joy") c o n t r a s t e d -120-w i t h the r e s t l e s s , despondent p o e t . In the f i r s t f o u r s t a n z a s we have an i n t e r p l a y o f mood and images: on the one hand t h e r e i s the sense of c h i l d h o o d response to the u n i t y o f b e i n g and s o u r c e of s p l e n d o u r and, on the o t h e r , t h e f i r m n e s s of awareness of l o s s , a l i e n a t i o n and d e p r i v a t i o n . I t i s t h i s c o n f l i c t which c r e a t e s the q u e s t i o n i n g and e l e g i a c mood i n the f i r s t f o u r s t a n z a s . The mood i s e x p r e s s e d i n an i t e r a t i v e p a t t e r n : Turn wheresoe'er I may, By n i g h t o r day, The t h i n g s I have seen I now can see no more CH. 7-9) But y e t I know, where'er I go, That t h e r e h a t h p a s t away a g l o r y from t h e e a r t h . (11. 17-18) Whither i s f l e d the v i s i o n a r y gleam? Where i s i t now, the g l o r y and the dream? (11. 56-57) T h i s p o i g n a n t n o t e i n d i c a t e s the f o r c e o f u n r e s o l v e d t e n s i o n and the r e s t o f the poem r e p r e s e n t s Wordsworth's i m a g i n a t i v e e f f o r t to g r a p p l e w i t h t h e r e a l i t y o f man's e a r t h l y c o n d i t i o n a f t e r the c h i l d h o o d sense o f mystery and of g l o r y has been l o s t . " P e e l e C a s t l e " p r e s e n t s much the same s i t u a t i o n but w i t h the s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e t h a t the sense of d e l i b e r a t e c h o i c e i s more obvious i n i t than i n t h e Ode; however, the sense of change, of the e f f e c t s of time and c i r c u m s t a n c e s — the whole sense o f i n e v i t a b i l i t y — i s j u s t as p o i g n a n t h e r e as i n t h e Ode: Ah! t h e n , i f mine had been the P a i n t e r ' s hand, To e x p r e s s what then I saw; and add the gleam, The l i g h t t h a t n e v e r was, on s e a o r l a n d , The c o n s e c r a t i o n , and the Poet's dream . . . (11. 13-16 f f . ) -121-A Picture had i t been of lasting ease . . . (1. 25 ff.) So once i t would have been, — 'tis so no more. (1. 33) There is the same reference to a past stage emphasized by the repetition of "then" and the contrast with "now." But the images of poetic thought are somewhat different. In the Ode Wordsworth uses a rather theistic metaphor and a language which makes the idea seem more mystical than naturalistic. But, as he himself would say elsewhere, these features form only the letter and not the g spirit of the poetic experience. Tm stanzas V-VIII of the Ode Wordsworth uses an extended metaphor — the myth of pre-existence — to describe the experience and loss of childhood joy described in the earlier stanzas, and to deal with the pressures imposed on the mind in relation to the problems of living in this world. The traveller motif is dominant in the poetic thought, and the l i f e of man is seen as a journey from childhood to maturity. Within the extended metaphor Wordsworth achieves points of contact.with earlier poets and thinkers by using myths and metaphors which have been traditionally employed in describing the path of man's life on earth. Thus he uses the Platonic myth which has continuing force in Western thought; he also alludes to the seven ages of man described by melancholy Jacques in Shakespeare's As You Like It. It i s , however, the use of the Platonic myth as a frame-work for expressing a naturalistic experience which has provoked some of the most controversial arguments about the meaning of the poem; this mythical metaphor deserves to be carefully analysed in order to emphasize the essentially non-transcendental mode of poetic - 1 2 2 -thought and the s o u r c e of i m a g i n a t i v e s t r e n g t h which combine to g i v e the poem i t s independent power of l i f e and s i g n i f i c a n c e . Words-worth r e f e r s t o " c l a s s i c l i t e r a t u r e " as the s o u r c e of the myth t h a t human b e i n g s a r e born i n t o t h i s e a r t h l y e x i s t e n c e from an e a r l i e r s t a t e o f p r i m a l j o y . But he i s a l s o c a r e f u l enough to emphasize i t as a myth and n o t h i n g more: Though the i d e a i s not advanced i n r e v e l a t i o n t h e r e i s n o t h i n g t h e r e t o c o n t r a d i c t i t and the f a l l o f man p r e s e n t s an analogy i n i t s f a v o u r . A c c o r d i n g l y , a p r e - e x i s t e n t s t a t e has e n t e r e d i n t o the p o p u l a r creeds o f many n a t i o n s ; and among a l l persons a c q u a i n t e d w i t h c l a s s i c l i t e r a t u r e , i t i s known as an i n g r e d i e n t i n t h e P l a t o n i c p h i l o s o p h y . ^ What i s s i g n i f i c a n t here i s t h a t Wordsworth's i n d i v i d u a l p o e t i c i d e a i n the Ode has been t r a n s l a t e d i n t o more or l e s s i m p e r s o n a l and u n i v e r s a l terms by h i s use o f such a myth, though t h i s ought not p r e v e n t us from r e c o g n i z i n g the f o r c e o f o r i g i n a l thought i n the poem. The P l a t o n i c myth i s used f o r the f i r s t time i n S t a n z a V which i n t r o d u c e s the c e n t r a l argument of the poem: Our b i r t h i s but a s l e e p and a f o r g e t t i n g . Even i n t h i s opening l i n e which e x p r e s s e s a g r i m paradox ( f o r how can our b i r t h be a s l e e p and a f o r g e t t i n g ? ) the P l a t o n i c n o t i o n of the p r i s o n - h o u s e (1. 67) has a l r e a d y been i n t r o d u c e d . The sense of i n e v i t a b i l i t y , even of s t e r n n e c e s s i t y , i s conveyed i n the metaphor of "The Youth, who d a i l y f a r t h e r from the e a s t / Must t r a v e l " In the l a s t two l i n e s o f the same s t a n z a the poet makes a s i g n i f i c a n t s w i t c h away from the c h i l d t o the man; s p e a k i n g of the s p l e n d i d v i s i o n o f y o u t h , the poet says At l e n g t h t h e Man p e r c e i v e s i t d i e away, And fade i n t o the l i g h t o f common day. (11. 75-76) 123 The rhythm h e r e i s so even and the tone so q u i e t and n e u t r a l t h a t I f i n d i t h a r d t o a c c e p t the n e g a t i v e v a l u e which i s u s u a l l y a t t r i b u t e d t o the p h r a s e "the l i g h t o f common day." (My own i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s t r e s s e s the p o s i t i v e v a l u e — see e s p e c i a l l y the second h a l f of t h i s c h a p t e r ) . Having s k e t c h e d the s t a g e of growth, the poet next t r e a t s o f Man's p l a c e i n t h i s w o r l d . Man i s an inmate o f t h i s w o r l d and " E a r t h f i l l s h e r l a p w i t h p l e a s u r e s 8 of h e r own i n o r d e r to "remand", o r to " b i n d " , the s o u l to t h e e a r t h . I t i s i n t h i s s t a n z a (VI) t h a t Wordsworth's ambivalence emerges and i t i s an ambivalence which p r e p a r e s us f o r the i r o n y of s t a n z a V I I I . The c e n t r a l q u e s t i o n of the whole poem may be s t a t e d s i m p l y t h u s : what i s the v a l u e of l i f e once the p r i m a l s p l e n d o u r has faded and man i s l e f t w i t h the l i g h t o f common day? What i s man's r e l a t i o n t o t h i s e a r t h ? The paradox of o r g a n i c growth i s d e v e l o p e d i n s t a n z a s V and V I , and r e i n f o r c e d i n a l l e g o r i c a l terms i n s t a n z a s V I I and V I I I . The sense of ambivalence i n s t a n z a VI i s e l a b o r a t e d upon i n the i r o n y o f s t a n z a s V I I and V I I I . The ambivalence of s t a n z a V a r i s e s from t h e f a c t t h a t t h e poet seems b o t h to r e s i s t and a c c e p t growth. I t i s w i t h "no unworthy aim" t h a t mother E a r t h t r i e s t o make man F o r g e t the g l o r i e s he h a t h known, And t h a t i m p e r i a l p a l a c e whence he came. (11. 83-84) But a l t h o u g h the double n e g a t i v e i n "no unworthy aim" l i t e r a l l y f o r c e s the p o s i t i v e on us, the touch of i r o n i c humour i n the s k e t c h e s of e a r t h l y a c t i v i t i e s s u g g e s t s t h e r a t h e r absurd n a t u r e of r o u t i n e e a r t h l y p r e o c c u p a t i o n s . The c l u s t e r of a c t i v i t i e s which c l u t t e r the 124 movement of the verse is expressed in a doubling pattern whose somewhat indifferent and half-mocking tone reinforces the impression of absurdity: See, at his feet, some l i t t l e plan or chart A wedding or a festival, A mourning or a funeral. Then will he f i t his tongue To dialogues of business, love, or strife. (11. 90 ff.) The impression of frenzied activity is conveyed in a parallel pattern where "wedding" contrasts with "mourning," "festival" with "funeral," and where "business, love, or strife" are catalogued without any suggestion of distinction in psychological value. The sense of sardonic humour is compressed into the single word " f i t " which suggests both conscious vanity and stage-acting. The fu l l force of this ironic humour is driven home very forcefully in the imagery of the child as an actor who plays various meaningless roles, As i f his whole vocation Were endless imitation. (11. 106-107) The child is blindly enacting the inevitable pattern of adult existence. At this stage the poet does not see it as a necessarily desirable pattern and this is very significant, for there is not here in Wordsworth the conventional faith in the "fortunate f a l l . " This is made clear in stanza VIII where the halting mode of thought resolves itself into a series of apostrophes, and the question of the whole complex allegory is pointedly expressed: 125 Why w i t h such e a r n e s t p a i n s d o s t thou provoke The y e a r s t o b r i n g the i n e v i t a b l e yoke, Thus b l i n d l y w i t h thy/ b l e s s e d n e s s at s t r i f e ? F u l l soon thy S o u l s h a l l have h e r e a r t h l y f r e i g h t , And custom l i e upon thee w i t h a w e i g h t , Heavy as f r o s t , and deep almost as l i f e ! The d i r e c t i o n o f thought i n Stanzas V I I and V I I I d e s e r v e s some c l o s e a t t e n t i o n . Both s t a n z a s c a l l a t t e n t i o n t o the c h i l d i n i t s e a r t h l y j o u r n e y o f l i f e ; but w h i l e the Poet's tone i n s t a n z a V I I i s s a r c a s t i c and detached, t h e r e i s an i n c r e a s i n g sense o f anxious c o n c e r n f o r the c h i l d e v i d e n t i n the b a r r a g e of angu i s h e d q u e s t i o n s i n S t a n z a V I I I , and thetone o f l e v i t y i n St a n z a V I I g i v e s way t o t h e tone o f deep human f e e l i n g i n the l a s t l i n e s of S t a n z a V I I I quoted immediately above. The heavy rhythms o f t h e l a s t t h r e e l i n e s r e f l e c t the sombre and m e d i t a t i v e mood; f u r t h e r m o r e , words such as " f r e i g h t , " "custom," "weight," "heavy," "deep" and " f r o s t " w i t h t h e i r l o n g sounds a l l f u n c t i o n t o r e i n f o r c e the sense o f t h e darkness of the mind which i s b e i n g d e f i n e d . The Ode i s a s u f f i c i e n t l y s e l f - c o n t a i n e d poem and a c a r e f u l r e a d i n g of the s t r u c t u r e s of thought i n the v a r i o u s s t a n z a s s h o u l d e n a b l e us to t a c k l e the c r i t i c i s m u s u a l l y aimed a t the r i c h l y m e t a p h o r i c a l p o r t i o n s . What i s i n v o l v e d in<~the c h i l d a l l e g o r y i s a paradox: the c h i l d i s a "best p h i l o s o p h e r " i n the sense t h a t i t i s n a t u r a l l y c l o s e t o the s o u r c e of p r i m a l j o y ; i n t h i s sense the c h i l d s t i l l p o s s e s s e s t h e t r u t h s "which we a r e t o i l i n g a l l our l i v e s to f i n d . " But t h e i r o n y i s t h a t the c h i l d does n o t know t h i s and so i t e a g e r l y and a b s u r d l y p r o v o k e s , t h a t i s , h a s t e n s , "the y e a r s to b r i n g t h e i n e v i t a b l e yoke." The image o f the c h i l d i s t h a t o f one i n a s t a t e o f b l e s s e d n e s s h a s t i l y t a k i n g on the t o i l and 126 s t r i f e o f the a d u l t w o r l d , t h a t i s , p l a y i n g at the darkness of the a d u l t w o r l d r a t h e r than e n j o y i n g the c e l e s t i a l l i g h t o f c h i l d h o o d . The humour of the two s t a n z a s d e r i v e s from the f a c t t h a t i t i s the sober v o i c e of e x p e r i e n c e which r e f l e c t s so t h o u g h t f u l l y on the whole p r o c e s s of human growth. Is the c h i l d ' s d e s c e n t i n t o the darkness of a d u l t w o r l d a f o r t u n a t e one? I f i t i s n o t f o r t u n a t e , i s i t i n e v i t a b l e ? I f i t i s i n e v i t a b l e , i f i t i s a n e c e s s a r y p a r t of the r e a l i t y of the human c o n d i t i o n , what i s the r i g h t a t t i t u d e toward i t ? In what way i s c h i l d h o o d t h e " h e r i t a g e " (1. I l l ) o f the a d u l t man? I t i s i n t h e s e q u e s t i o n s t h a t a c l u e t o a r e s o l u t i o n of the p a i n f u l impasse a t the end of St a n z a V I I I i s t o be found. In h i s p r o s e r e m i n i s c e n c e s o f c h i l d h o o d , as g i v e n l a t e r i n t h e n o t e s t o the Ode, Wordsworth a l s o p r o v i d e s an i n v a l u a b l e c l u e : I was o f t e n unable t o t h i n k of e x t e r n a l t h i n g s as h a v i n g e x t e r n a l e x i s t e n c e , and I communed w i t h a l l t h a t I saw as something not a p a r t from b u t i n h e r e n t i n , my own i m m a t e r i a l n a t u r e . Many times w h i l e g o i n g t o s c h o o l have I grasped at a w a l l o r t r e e t o r e c a l l m y s e l f from t h i s abyss of i d e a l i s m t o the r e a l i t y . At t h a t time I was a f r a i d o f such p r o c e s s e s . In  l a t e r p e r i o d s o f l i f e I have d e p l o r e d , as we have  a l l r e a s o n t o do, a s u b j u g a t i o n o f an o p p o s i t e  c h a r a c t e r , and have r e j o i c e d over the remembrances.9 The f i r s t two sentences of t h i s statement a r e a l l too w e l l known because they are o f t e n quoted t o prove Wordsworth's s o l i p s i s m or m y s t i c i s m ; b u t the l a s t two s e n t e n c e s which I have u n d e r l i n e d are not o f t e n r e f e r r e d t o . My emphasis i s i n t e n d e d t o i n d i c a t e the sense o f b a l a n c e i n Wordsworth: t h e r e i s a f i r m c o n v i c t i o n t h a t the e x t e r n a l w o r l d i s a t a n g i b l e and s o l i d r e a l i t y , but t h e r e i s a l s o a v i v i d sense of wonder and r e v e r e n c e — even o f awe — w i t h r e g a r d t o the o r i g i n s and s o u r c e s of the human i m a g i n a t i o n which a r e almost 127 anterior to earthly experience. The balance i s to be maintained by deploring the subjugation of eit h e r the one or the other. The one view would have t h i s world as a place of darkness, of t o i l and s t r i f e , a vale of tears and sorrows; but the other would have th i s earth as a dreamland or faeryland"*"^ perpetually i r r a d i a t e d with the gleam, the l i g h t that never was on land or sea — th i s i s the "Abyss of idealism." Neither view i s s a t i s f a c t o r y to Wordsworth, and he therefore deplores the tendency of the subjugation of the one as much as of the other. I t i s i n t h i s l i g h t that the above prose passage serves as commentary on the Ode. The thoughtless blessedness of childhood i s contrasted with l i s t l e s s n e s s , mad endeavour and a l l that i s at enmity with joy. The question i s , must the primal joy experienced i n childhood be replaced with " l i s t -lessness," "mad endeavour" and " a l l that i s at enmity with joy?" This i s the c r u c i a l question which the poet tackles i n Stanza IX and i n the rest of the poem. If we follow the movement of poetic thought i n these stanzas we should understand Wordsworth's process of thinking deep into the human heart. In the Ode the poet deals with growth i n many senses: f i r s t , there i s the process of growing away from one mode of being in t o another (that i s , from C h i l d to Man); there i s also the growing away from one mode of seeing to another ( c e l e s t i a l l i g h t into sober colouring); f i n a l l y , there i s the epistemological — from one mode of knowing into another (the glory and freshness of a dream versus thoughts that l i e too deep for t e a r s ) . I have emphasized each aspect as a process of growing into because the poet sees each aspect as an organic process of human growth. This emphasis 128 is necessary because my position is different from that of critics who argue that Wordsworth wrote imaginative poetry by means of a faculty which depended solely on the visionary gleam or on any other single factor.^ When in Stanza IX Wordsworth takes stock of what remains for man to take delight in in this world we see that what he holds in memory as the guiding heritage of childhood is not exactly the Joy of childhood. What is first enumerated is the memory of childhood, but this is not to be valued simply because i t is a memory of days of delight. In stanza IX, in particular, we have to pay very close and sustained attention to the movement of the argument as expressed in the pattern of careful exclusion and deliberate assertion. It is not for the "delight" or the "liberty" of childhood that the poet sings "The Song of thanks and praise." In this movement of deliberative and argumentative process we feel as if we were present at the birth of a thought whose significance will break upon us only i f we read creatively and follow the shift in thought which the poet now adopts. The language in this stanza works on us creatively as the poet shapes his experience linguistically and before we are aware of i t the thought itself has emerged with convincing clarity. For what then does the poet raise the song of perpetual benediction? It is for those obstinate questionings Of sense and outward things, Fallings from us, vanishings; Blank misgivings of a Creature Moving about in worlds not realised, High instincts before which our mortal Nature Did tremble like a guilty Thing surprised. (11. 145-151) 129 Here we have the f e e l i n g that t h i s i s i t — at l a s t — and we r e a l i z e now why i t took so long to come out; that i s , we now r e a l i z e why i t took so long for the poet to achieve the c a r e f u l r e s o l u t i o n of a complex thought. The l i n e s which I have quoted represent some of those which Bailey reports to have been "deeply f e l t by Keats" "who thought the l a s t two l i n e s were quite awful i n t h e i r a p p l i c a t i o n to a g u i l t y f i n i t e creature, l i k e man, i n the appalling 12 nature of the f e e l i n g which they suggested to a thoughtful mind." Keats here shows h i s keen recognition of the c e n t r a l thought i n the Ode. In h i s reference to the nature of the f e e l i n g which the l i n e s suggest to a thoughtful mind Keats suggests at once the mental energy required to appreciate the central thought i n the Ode. This a t t i t u d e i s t y p i c a l of Keats's h e u r i s t i c method of c r i t i c i s m which I indicated i n chapter IT.i. Coleridge, for example, did recognize somewhat the same e s s e n t i a l aspects of Wordsworth's genius, but h i s eloquent p h i l o s o p h i c a l carpings seem to have been better remembered than his praises. In discussing the " c h a r a c t e r i s t i c excellences of Mr. Wordsworth," Coleridge suggests that the ode was intended for such readers only as had been accustomed to watch the f l u x and r e f l u x of t h e i r inmost nature, to venture at times i n t o the t w i l i g h t realms of consciousness, and to f e e l a deep i n t e r e s t i n modes of inmost being, to which they know that the a t t r i b u t e s of time and space are i n a p p l i c a b l e and a l i e n , but which yet cannot be conveyed save i n symbols of time and space. For such readers the sense i s s u f f i c i e n t l y p l a i n , and they w i l l be as l i t t l e disposed to charge Mr. Wordsworth with b e l i e v i n g the Platonic pre-existence i n the ordinary i n t e r -pretation of the words, as I am to b e l i e v e , that Plato himself ever meant or taught it.13 Even i n h i s pr a i s e , Coleridge's comments seem to make the experience 130 appear more transcendental than the naturalistic spirit of the Ode would permit, but his comment here is gsnerally illuminating. Both Keats and Coleridge are helpful here in their emphasis on "thoughtful minds." Wordsworth himself was much more to the point when he asked later in the Preface to The Excursion for " f i t audience . . . though few." Wordsworth is particularly difficult in passages that describe the dark mysteries of the creative soul — such as in the Ode. The central passage, like the poem itself, deals with an experience in which the developing imaginative experience is itself the substance of the poetic argument. The critical difficulties which arise may reflect the intrinsic problem of the movement, of halting poetic thought but other difficulties could arise from largely extraneous and largely irrelevant assumptions about the poem. Such, I think, is the nature of Coleridge's philosophical or metaphysical carpings. Coleridge does recognize the larger psychological relevance of Wordsworth's thought in the Ode, as indicated above, but the eloquent questions which he raises about the period of childhood tend to undercut the sense of organic development which Wordsworth traces. Coleridge raises the following questions: In what sense is a child of that age a philosopher? In what sense does he read "the eternal deep"? In what sense is he delcared to be "for ever haunted" by the Supreme Being? or so inspired as to deserve the splendid titles of a mighty prophet, a blessed seer? By reflection? by knowledge? by conscious intuition? or by any form or modification of consciousness? These would be tidings indeed; but such as would presuppose an immediate revelation to the inspired communicator, and require miracles to authenticate his inspiration. Children at this age give us no such information of themselves; and at what time were we dipped in the Lethe, which has produced such utter oblivion of a state so godlike?!^ 131 I have already discussed the objections raised here by referring to the paradox which sustains the allegory."^ When Coleridge soars on rhetorically and draws metaphysical comparisons between Wordsworth's unsystematic philosophy and the systematic metaphysics of Spinoza, Behmen, Jacobi, Gleim and others, he introduces dogmatic positions which have l i t t l e bearing on a passage whose significance is essentially psychological; that is, as a description of the working of the growing mind and of the potency of the human spirit- It is this sense of awe at the almost infinite powers of the finite mind that Keats's brief comments challenge us to recognize as the essential thought in the passage. Furthermore, when Coleridge questions the unchristian concept of death in the poem, he seems to reject precisely that unorthodox approach which informs Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages. The point is that Wordsworth's attitude is informed by a frame of reference which is larger than 16 that postulated by Christian dogma; he works toward an affirmation, but i t is not necessarily a Christian or Platonic affirmation. As I have earlier suggested, the Ode illuminates other poems of Wordsworth as much as they illuminate i t , and references to other passages in Wordsworth's poetry may illuminate the central thought in the Ode. Before making any more of these references, however, I intend first to discuss the thought of stanza IX in itself more fully. Quite apart from the "obstinate questionings" "fallings from us," "vanishings," Wordsworth also mentions 132 those first affections, Those shadowy recollections, Which, be they what they may Are yet the fountain-light of a l l our day, Are yet a master-light of al l our seeing. (11. 152-156) They are valued ("perpetual benediction") because they cause the poet to question the absolute value of the fretful world around him. The poet does not — or perhaps could not — attribute any particular meaning to these experiences; he simply describes them as shadowy but nevertheless powerful and salutary influences. They belong to those mysterious promptings which suggest man's perpetual communications with our internal and essential Being; our awareness of them is almost sufficient to sustain us in our journey through the difficult passages of lif e because such a recognition leads us to a realization of the infinite potentiality of the mind of man. The poet does not indulge in systematic philosophising about these shadowy recollections and first affections but he does emphasize their value, and that value resides in the fact that they suggest a potency of spirit and significance in life which make i t hard for us to see our lives as pointless and absurd playing of roles; man's lif e is of infinitely more worth than the dark thoughts which oppress him would seem to suggest. This realization of value in l i f e is related to eternal truths of the human heart: that i s , to truths that wake, To perish never: Which neither listlessness, no mad endeavour, Nor Man nor Boy, Nor a l l that is at enmity with joy, Can utterly abolish or destroy! (11. 160-164) 133 It i s i n such quiet but assured poetic reasoning that Wordsworth suggests both a value i n l i f e and a mode of thought which can l i f t the human s p i r i t above t h i s world of darkness. This i s the poet's process of thinking deep into the heart of man. The whole thought of the Ode i s a very complex one. The contemplation of childhood leads the poet to the contemplation of the stages of ordinary human l i f e i n i t s various stages; what the poet depicts i s a sense of the absurdity of ordinary earthly a c t i v i t y ; but the poet also sees man i n h i s i d e a l nature because the contemplation of the or i g i n s of early imaginative v i s i t i n g s and of f i r s t a f f e c t i o n s leads to a consciousness of a p r i n c i p l e i n the human mind which i s rela t e d to immortal and i n f i n i t e forces. It i s t h i s i d e a l v i s i o n of man — t h i s recognition of immortal and i n f i n i t e elements that form the heritage of h i s early Being — which rescues l i f e from absurdity. The image of human l i f e — as metaphorically depicted i n stanzas VII and VIII — which ends with custom imposing "a weight, / Heavy as f r o s t , and deep almost as l i f e ! " i s grim and forbidding indeed. But i n stanza IX the poet shows c l e a r l y that what remains untouched by the deepening f r o s t of custom i s "those f i r s t a f f e c t i o n s , " those shadowy r e c o l l e c t i o n s which foster genial warmth and counter-balance the sense of emptiness which we would otherwise f e e l . Hence there i s i n the ending of stanza IX a sense of cheerful a f f i r m a t i o n , even of thoughtful optimism, which leads to the chant-like hymn of joyous song i n stanzas X and XI. It i s not easy to make sharp d i v i s i o n s between the f i r s t a f f e c t i o n s and the shadowy r e c o l l e c t i o n s i n the Ode because they are ultimately r e l a t e d to the development of the same human i n d i v i d u a l ; but i t i s h e l p f u l to discuss the f i r s t a f f e c t i o n s as separate 134 though r e l a t e d to the "obstinate questionings," " f a l l i n g s from us," "vanishings" and "blank misgivings." The passage i n Wordsworth's poetry which most elaborately embodies his thoughts on those f i r s t a f f e c t i o n s i s that i n Book II of The Prelude: Blest the infant Babe, (For with my best conjecture I would trace Our Being's earthly progress,) b l e s t the Babe, Nursed i n h i s Mother's arms, who sinks to sleep, Rocked on h i s Mother's breast; who with h i s soul Drinks' i n the fee l i n g s of h i s Mother's eye! For him, i n one dear Presence, there exists A v i r t u e which i r r a d i a t e s and exalts Objects through widest intercourse of sense. No outcast he, bewildered and depressed.17 Here Wordsworth i s expressing i n somewhat paraphrasable argument what the poetic thought of the Ode expresses so c r y p t i c a l l y . The phrases which I have underlined suggest the clearest connection between the Ode and t h i s portion of The Prelude. "Our Being's earthly progress" describes a major aspect of the theme of the Ode. The difference between the dark passages of adult existence and the b l i s s f u l state of childhood i s pointedly stated i n "No outcast he, bewildered and depressed." The problem i n the Ode i s that Man reaches a state when he f e e l s l i k e a l i s t l e s s e x i l e , bewildered and depressed ("in darkness l o s t " ) . In h i s analysis of the blessedness of the c h i l d and of the sense of organic connection between the Child and the Man, Wordsworth does, i n Book I I , provide us with further i n s i g h t into those f i r s t a f f e c t i o n s and shadowy r e c o l l e c t i o n s which are "the f o u n t a i n - l i g h t of a l l our day," "the master-light of a l l our seeing": No outcast he, bewildered and depressed: Along h i s infant veins are interfused The g r a v i t a t i o n and the f i l i a l bond Of nature that connect him with the world. Is there a flower, to which he points with hand 135 Too weak to gather i t , already iLove Drawn from Love's purest earthly fount for him Hath beautified that flower . . . . Emphatically such a Being Lives Frail creature as he is , helpless as f r a i l An inmate of this active universe: For feeling has to him imparted power That through the growing faculties of sense Doth like an agent of the one great Mind Create, creator and receiver both, Working but in alliance with the works Which i t beholds. (1850 text, 11. 241-260) In such passages where Wordsworth is grappling with concepts of human understanding and growth his poetry tends to become prosaic, and there is a discernible lack of the sense of immediacy of experience; the verse is evenly meditative in tone and movement, and the semblance of expository philosophic argument is created. The direction of poetic; reasoning is from the description of a mode of feeling to an analysis of an epistemological process* The emphasis on the physiological process ("interfused"), and on "thi active universe" and what the creative perceiving mind beholds in i t , a l l indicate the firm empirical basis of Wordsworth's thought. This passage is as crucial to the thought of The Prelude as i t is to that of the Ode. As Wordsworth himself states elsewhere, the task of tracing "our Being's earthly progress" is like a path That in its broken windings we shall need The chamois' sinews, and the eagle's wing. Nevertheless, the thought of the passage could be restated thus: the child sees value in objects which he perceives because maternal love ("Love's purest earthly fount") is connected with his perception; the warmth and security which he derives from his mother' 1 3 6 love i s a happy condition which leads him to the sense of belonging i n the universe; t h i s f e e l i n g of kinship i s known inwardly through the upsurge of l i v e l y consciousness and outwardly through an inte r p l a y of response and recognition. This f i l i a l bond makes the c h i l d f e e l p e r f e c t l y at home i n the universe — at home with himself, with h i s mother, and at home as an active inmate of t h i s active universe. When the Child grows into the darkness of adult l i f e , t h i s sense of harmonious r e l a t i o n s h i p i s often l o s t and the Man becomes, as i n the Ode, a l i s t l e s s e x i l e , bewildered and depressed But i n those whom the mode of f e e l i n g has been preserved and matured into a wider sympathy, the organic l i n k i s preserved, and those f i r s t a f f e c t i o n s remain the fou n t a i n - l i g h t of a l l our day: Such, v e r i l y , i s the f i r s t Poetic s p i r i t of our human l i f e By uniform control of a f t e r years, In most, abated or suppressed; i n some, Through every change of growth and of decay, Pre-eminent t i l l death. (11. 260-265, 1850 text) The "uniform control of a f t e r years" here corresponds to the heavy weight of custom i n the Ode; and "change" and "growth" and "decay" also express the pattern of recognition i n the Ode: a movement of thought from the timeless and "immortal" condition to the mode of existence that i s subject to the i n e v i t a b l e e f f e c t s of time; that i s , change, growth, and decay. L i f e i t s e l f i s seen as a journey throu time and, on one l e v e l , i t i s subject to organic completion i n time; but there i s the awareness of an imaginative p r i n c i p l e which grows with time and can illum i n a t e the darkened path through l i f e . The shadowy r e c o l l e c t i o n s and f i r s t a f f e c t i o n s are shown to be the formative influences of our e s s e n t i a l , creative human nature ("poetic 137 spirit of our human l i f e " ) . In the gravitation and the f i l i a l bond that connects him with the world, we have the human and the non-human brought together; there is a sense of an order of things outside the child, which presses upon his consciousness; he becomes aware of i t as a reality outside himself, other than himself but with which he is nevertheless connected. There is thus both a sense of the mystery of things as well as a sense of the mystery of our Being — a sense of largely unrealized power: "fallings from us," "vanishings," etc. It is this sense of greater reality, together with the un-sounded depths of human nature and of the first notions of the life of imaginative love which Wordsworth affirms. It is an affirmation which is essentially human, based as i t is on the general experience of the human mind. Man is preserved from listlessness or mad endeavour by a firm realization that this l i f e of our mortal senses has a significance and some relationship to the totality of the universe. Wordsworth says of the shadowy recollections "be they what they may" because in the Ode at least he is not concerned with any systematic philosophical speculation on them; and even in The  Prelude he is more concerned with the value of the shadowy recollections and first affections than with their philosophical origins. Wordsworth emphasizes again and again that their value is primarily that they are intimations of human power. This is why he dwells so fondly on those recollected hours which can almost make remotest infancy ^ A visible scene on which the sun is shining. 138 In the Ode the poet is very precise in indicating that i t is not delight and liberty — which after a l l form only "the simple creed / Of childhood" (11. 140-141) — that he values, but a certain desirable mode of perception and relationship. The sense is reinforced by the following passage in Book II of The Prelude: Thence did I drink the visionary power; And deem not profitless those fleeting moods Of shadowy exultation: not for this, That they are kindred to our purer mind  And intellectual l i f e ; but that the soul, Remembering how she felt, but what she felt  Remembering not, retains an obscure sense  Of possible sublimity, whereto With growing faculties she doth aspire, With faculties s t i l l growing, feeling s t i l l That whatsoever point they gain, they yet Have something to pursue. (11. 311-322; emphasis mine) The sense of obscurity is similar to that in the corresponding passage in stanza IX of the Ode, but the poet is more prosaic here and therefore helpfully more analytic in this passage. What he presents is a strong sense of awareness of something to be realized. He expresses a feeling, an intimation of something almost anterior to conscious experience but he has difficulty stating exactly what that thing is. Through the pattern of careful exclusion and thoughtful assertion ("not for this" . . . "but that") he does, however, indicate clearly that imagination is not exactly what he is suggesting. Both in The Prelude and in the Ode the significance which the poet finds in these childhood experiences is that in them he discovers and recovers the foundations of human li f e , the basis of stability and the sources of joy. The range and depth of thought and feeling which inform the verses in stanzas X and XI of the Ode derive their firm quality 139 of affirmation from the intense meaning which the contemplation of earlier experiences has for the adult Man. The meaning of primal childhood experience dawns upon the poet's reflective mind like the birth of a guiding thought on human l i f e . It is this sense of significance which leads the poet to discover that though we inevitably travel away from childhood it is s t i l l possible for us to return imaginatively and see ourselves as children on the shores of immortality. The thoughtful reflection on those first affections and shadowy recollections is an act of mind and will: its imaginative impetus arises from the heed and the effort to confront the disturbing facts of human experience, to grapple with the fear of dejection in the disordered soul, to recover the natural human capacity for joy and hope and to establish some true and stable basis for l i f e . This act of mind and will has the power to make Our noisy years seem moments in the being Of the eternal Silence and these moments into truths that wake, To perish never: Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour, Nor man nor Boy, Nor a l l that is at enmity with joy, Can utterly abolish or destroy. (11. 158-159, 160-165) The meaning of the thoughtful reflection and the realization of the possibility of imaginative return lead to the sense of triumphant homecoming at the end of stanza IX; i t is signalled-, rhetorically by a significant turn of phrase: Hence in a season of calm weather Though inland far we be, 140 Our souls have sight of that immortal sea Which brought us hither, Can in a moment travel thither, And see the Children sport upon the shore, And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore. (11. 166-171; emphasis mine) This is both an affirmative assertion and a creative demonstration of the consciousness of imaginative power. It is the process of imaginative return in a moment of thoughtful contemplation which is given here. The imaginative act is made concrete ih what we can see and hear and in what we can do. The journey alluded to in "travel" is a metaphorical journey in the realm of imaginative consciousness. What we have here is a concrete example of Wordsworth's exploration of the shadowed depths of imaginative experience. Such exploration enables the poet to confront the feeling of being lost "in darkness." This lofty passage, with its powerful evocation of the sense of lively activity on the sea-shore, literally and metaphorically achieves a satisfying fusion of past and present in a unity of feeling. Wordsworth here demonstrates creatively and persuasively that the unity of being pereeived in childhood is an imaginative act which can be achieved by the poet who has preserved the genial creative spirit in him for, after a l l , "The Child is father of the Man." It is with this creative realization that the poet now returns to the images of the opening stanzas of the poem; i t is a return to the images of primal joy, for there is no longer the conflict between the visible beauty of the universe and the poet's vexatious maod: 141 Then sing, ye Birds, s i n g , sing a joyous song! And l e t the young Lambs bound As to the tabor's sound! We i n thought w i l l j o i n your throng, Ye that pipe and ye that play, Ye that through your hearts today Feel the gladness of the May! (11. 172-178) These l i n e s reveal the i n t r i c a t e poetic design i n the Ode. In th e i r pattern of s t r u c t u r a l grouping, theycorrespond to the opening l i n e s of stanza I I I and share strong verbal s i m i l a r i t i e s even i n whole phrases such as "sing a joyous song," "young lambs bound / As to the tabor's sound." This passage represents a return to images of the opening stanzas but there are s i g n i f i c a n t differences : i n stanzas I-IV they had brought joy hardly at a l l (except by an act of sheer a s s e r t i o n ) , and had r e a l l y l e d to a f u l l sense of al i e n a t i o n and deprivation (dramatically and metaphorically narrated i n stanzas V-VIII). Here i n stanza X the separation i s s t i l l there, even d e l i b e r a t e l y and rather emphatically acknoweldged i n the follow-ing i t e r a t i v e pattern: What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now for ever taken from my s i g h t , Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour i n the grass, of glory i n the flower; (11. 179-182) but the separation i s now recognized as imposed only by time, a factor which the imaginative mind can conquer. In the opening stanzas the poet could not yet deal with h i s " s u l l e n " mood and "thought of g r i e f , " and he could only see himself as a l i s t l e s s e x i l e i n darkness l o s t ; he could not then cope with these dark thoughts. In the concluding stanzas he has discovered the greater s i g n i f i c a n c e suggested by the power of imaginative return upon 142 the sources of human strength, and he can now subsume even the thought of grief in the larger view of l i f e . The childhood capacity for a f u l l emotional participation in the l i f e of the natural world through an endless and thoughtless present i s ; . no longer the mature man's aspiration; rather he now desires only the kind of imaginative sympathy which comes from the quality of insight that he has attained: "We in thought w i l l join your throng. . ." "We in thought" is both a qualified and defiant acknowledgment of the state of things. This emphasis on intellectual contemplation should make us aware of the complex mind of the poet in the Ode. With a turn of thought as significant as that encompassed in "we in thought," we should be aware that a new plane of imaginative contemplation is being defined. The Ode, "Intimations of Immortality," 20 i s , therefore, not a "Melancholist's dream;" the Ode neither represents 21 Wordsworth's "sublime sour grapes," nor i t is "a conscious 22 farewell to his art, a dirge sung over departing powers." We are thus challenged to search for the larger meaning of the Ode. In the light of my analysis, the Ode is centrally concerned with tracing "the progress of our Being;" that i s , i t is concerned with the whole process of growth and experience which is common to a l l human beings, but of which the poet is more fully aware because his task is the exploration of the complexity of self-consciousness within the context of time and space in this world. CHAPTER IV Footnotes There i s some controversy about t h i s but I follow E. de Selincourt's dating which i s not contradicted by the evidence of The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. 2 The L e t t e r s , Middle Years, p. 334. 3 The L e t t e r s , Middle Years, Part I I , p. 189. 4 Biographia L i t e r a r i a , ed. J. Shawcross. Oxford University Press. Vol. I I , p. 112. Coleridge's a t t i t u d e contrasts v i v i d l y with Wordsworth's emphasis on the period of childhood. Compare footnote 3 above. ^Dean Sperry, quoted by Lio n e l T r i l l i n g i n The L i b e r a l  Imagination: Essays on Lit e r a t u r e and Society (New York, 1950), p. 129. f T r i l l i n g ' s study of the Ode has been j u s t i f i a b l y i n f l u e n t i a l i n recent years; I have found his analysis invaluable but my emphasis on the dark passages i s d i f f e r e n t from his concern. "Essay upon Epitaphs" i n L i t e r a r y C r i t i c i s m of William  Wordsworth, ed. Paul M. Z a l l , p. 94. The discussion here as i n The Ode i s on "the sense of Immortality." I f i n d an i n t e r e s t i n g sense of continuity of i n t e r e s t which l i n k s Wordsworth's l a t e r prose writings to the thematic preoccupations i n most of the poems. ^Fenwick Notes to "Intimations of Immortality," Cf. also"' Wordsworth's more elaborate comments on "Essay Upon Epitaphs" (No. I, 1810) i n L i t e r a r y C r i t i c i s m of William Wordsworth, p. 90. 8 Endymion, Book I, 1. 7; "remanded" i s Wordsworth's word, i n L i t e r a r y C r i t i c i s m of William Wordsworth, p. 85. The P o e t i c a l Works of William Wordsworth, 5 v o l s . , ed. E. de Selincourt and Helen Darbishire. Oxford, the Clarendon Press, 1940-1949. Vol. IV, p. 463. Emphasis mine. 144 See Wordsworth's "To the Cuckoo" ("0 B l i t h e New-comer! I have heard") for the same c o n f l i c t and f i n a l r e s o l u t i o n ; and see Balslev's Keats and Wordsworth, pp. 45-50, for a discussion of the s i m i l a r i t i e s between Wordsworth's "To the Cuckoo" and Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale." For my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of Wordsworth's view of t h i s world as a "vale of soul-making," see the next three chapters, e s p e c i a l l y my analysis of Wordsworth's "VALE of f i n a l EMINENCE." See T r i l l i n g ' s account of t h i s : "what the biographical c r i t i c s are t e l l i n g us i s that Wordsworth wrote great poetry by means of a fa c u l t y which depended upon h i s r e l a t i o n s with Annette Vallon, or by means of a fa c u l t y which operated only so long as he admired the French Revolution, or by means of a facul t y which f l o u r i s h e d by v i r t u e of a certain attitude toward J e f f r e y ' s c r i t i c i s m or by v i r t u e of a cer t a i n r e l a t i o n with Coleridge," i n The L i b e r a l  Imagination, p. 130. 12 Hyder Edward R o l l i n s , The Keats C i r c l e : Letters and  Papers 1816-1878. 2 v o l s . , Harvard University Press, 1948. Vol. I I , p. 275. 13 Biographia L i t e r a r i a , Vol. I I , pp. 120-121. Coleridge attri b u t e s the state described only to adult stage, while Wordsworth's emphasis i s on the period of childhood continued into adulthood. 14 Biographia L i t e r a r i a , Vol. I I , pp. 111-113. The emphasis i s Coleridge's. 15 For the best account of the i r o n i c humour i n the allegory, see Geoffrey Durrant, William Wordsworth, pp. 102-103. 16 This i s a bold and perhaps shocking claim which I intend to develop further i n the next few chapters. I s h a l l c i t e the highest authority: William Wordsworth himself. 17 11. 232-241 (1850 t e x t ) . The l a s t phrase describes the attitude of most of the Romantics toward the dark passages. I t i s an a t t i t u d e which forces the poet — e s p e c i a l l y the brave poet such as Wordsworth — to explore the dark passages i n order to re - e s t a b l i s h a sense of meaning and purpose i n l i f e . The emphasis indi c a t e d by underlining i s mine. -i p The Prelude, Book I I , 11. 274-75. 1 9 I b i d . , 11. 634-635. 145 It i s to t h i s sober r e a l i z a t i o n that Keats c a l l s our attention by his comments to Miss J e f f r e y : "'Nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour i n the grass and glory i n the flower.' I once thought t h i s a Melancholist's dream...," i n The  Letters of John Keats, p. 344. This comment reveals Keats's ever-increasing appreciation of Wordsworth's poetic genius, i t reveals some of the q u a l i t i e s i n Wordsworth's poetry which gave Keats's response i t s i n i t i a l and prolonged impulsion toward the elder poet. 21 David Ferry, The Limits of M o r t a l i t y : An Essay on Wordsworth's Major [?] Poems. Middletown, 1959, p. 49. See The L i b e r a l Imagination, p. 129. for an account of t h i s p o s i t i o n . CHAPTER V Shadings of Mortality Part II Wordsworth's concern in the Ode is with the maturing sense of reality, that i s , a growing realization of the force of external reality as well as of the reality of the human condition. The childhood mode of perception inevitably develops in the course of human growth into another mode of seeing and understanding the nature of man and of his relations to the universe; and with the poet this also affects his attitude to the materials of his poetry. If we examine Wordsworth's use of pronouns in the Ode very carefully, we should see the way he shifts from the first person singular to the first person plural and back again, even within the same stanza (see especially stanzas V, IX and X). This shift is Wordsworth's way of patterning the movement of thought between general human experience and his own individual experience within the general norm. If we bear in mind what I have insisted upon, that the poet is centrally concerned with tracing the stages common to the development of "our Being's earthly progress," we cannot isolate the loss of childhood "gleam and dream" as the main concern of the Ode. The value of the recollected world of childhood must be seen primarily in the fact that in i t the poet discovers the origins and resources of adult man; in other words, the interest in 147 the splendour of childhood is subsumed in the larger interest which is the development of the human being to maturity. The Peele Castle poem reveals Wordsworth's attitude to the gleam and the dream more than the Ode does, though I believe the difference is one of style rather than of attitude. In "Peele Castle" there is the same shuttling to and fro between loops of time, between "then" and "now," with the final emphasis resting, as in the Ode, on the way things now stand with the mature poet: Ah! then, i f mine had been the Painter's hand, To express what then I saw; and add the gleam, The light that never was, on sea or land, The consecration, and the Poet's dream; I would have planted thee, thou hoary Pile Amid a world how different from this! Beside a sea that could not cease to smile; On tranquil Land, beneath a sky of bliss. A Picture had i t been of lasting ease, Elysian quiet, without to i l or strife. So once i t would have been, — 'tis so no more; I have submitted to a new control: A power is gone, which nothing can restore A deep distress hath humanised my Soul. (11. 13-20, 25-26, 33-36) Thus in the "Peele Castle" verses Wordsworth speaks of the "poet's dream" and, through the same doubling pattern used in the Ode, makes i t synonymous with "gleam", "the light that never was, on sea or land." In his analysis of these phrases Wordsworth is helpfully more explicit than in the Ode. In lines 29-32 the poet carefully attributes "dream," "gleam" "consecration" to "the fond illusion" of the youthful "poet's heart" (line 29; we may compare here "the simple creed / Of childhood" in lines 140-141 of the Ode. The poet almost explicitly suggests that the image of "lasting ease / 148 Elysian quiet, without toil or strife" could only have been depicted by his s i l l y ("fond") fancy ("illusion") , because such an image does not represent a mature and comprehensive view of human reality. It was natural for the youthful poet to employ his fancy in that way but the mature poet cannot afford to remain satisfied with radiant illusion, even though there is qualified regret for the loss of that youthful radiance: "A power is gone which nothing can restore." The gain, or the view that develops in maturity is emphasized: "I have submitted to a new control . . . A deep distress hath humanised my Soul." This is regarded as a gain because the movement of thought is in the direction of the poet's imaginative and human maturity and, as Wordsworth himself emphasizes elsewhere, the contemplative soul invariably travels "in the direction of mortality.""'' It is not enough that the poet know the radiance of childhood; he must also know terror ("The lightning, the fierce wind, and trampling waves" — 1. 51) and, above a l l , the grief or distress which such terror brings to mankind. This is why "the heart that lives alone, / Housed in a dream" is rejected, for Such happiness, wherever i t be known, Is to be pitied; for 'tis sunely blind. (11. 55-56) There could hardly be a more explicit poetic condemnation of what has now become known as "art for art's sake." There is no suggestion that "the gleam, / The light that never was on sea or land, / The consecration, and the Poet's dream" represent Wordsworth's poetic insight. In "Peele Castle," and especially in the Ode and The Prelude, the poet indicates how much he valued the visionary 149 gleam and the youthful dream; but the poet maintains a c e r t a i n balance between these and i n t e l l e c t u a l i n s i g h t as complementary ingredients of the poetic f a c u l t y . This sense of balance has to be understood before we can reach at the Wordsworthian poetic mode; in r e l a t i o n to the Ode, i t has to be understood i n order that we may recognize the p o s i t i v e value attached to the l i g h t of common day. The poet suggests i n stanza V that i t i s e s s e n t i a l to and even c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of our human nature to have, at one time or the other, a sense of the harmonious union of the s e l f and the universe. This sense of splendour and harmony refers to a condition of being and i t i s important to note that the poet ascribes i t at i t s most intense to the period of infancy: Heaven l i e s about us i n our infancy! (V, 66) Furthermore, the home referred to i n l i n e 65 i s e s s e n t i a l l y a symbolic home, that i s , symbolic of a condition i n which the c h i l d had f e l t (not bewildered and ^ depressed as now but) a wholesome sense of belonging. This obviously r e f e r s to a period of somewhat un d i f f e r e n t i a t e d state of harmonious existence. There i s an a e t h e r i a l q u a l i t y about t h i s e a r l i e r state of existence, and the c e l e s t i a l imagery ( l i g h t , heaven, stars) reinforces t h i s impression. The i n t e n s i t y of f e e l i n g which the poet confers on that past condition of being nece s s a r i l y i d e a l i z e s the past, but i t i s important to remember that i t i s e s s e n t i a l l y a condition of being, not a mode of knowing. The elegiac note i n the Ode bemoans this l o s t condition of un d i f f e r e n t i a t e d but harmonious existence; but the poem i s an elegy as we l l as an ode, and i t i s also concerned with a celebration; i t i s much more than a dirge. 150 My i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i s that the "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of early Childhood" i s p r i m a r i l y concerned with the celebration of growth and self-consciousness. The awakening of the p r i n c i p l e of self-consciousness (that i s , the thinking p r i n c i p l e ) i n e v i t a b l y diminishes the pure and timeless state of childhood existence: Heaven l i e s about us i n our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begin to close Upon the growing Boy But He beholds the l i g h t , and whence i t flows, He sees i t i n h i s joy; The Youth, who d a i l y farther from the east Must t r a v e l , s t i l l i s Nature's P r i e s t , And by the v i s i o n splendid Is on h i s way attended; At length the Man perceives i t die; away, And fade into the l i g h t of common day. (11. 66-76) The stages of growth here are c a r e f u l l y delineated. The period of infancy i s described appropriately as a condition of u n d i f f e r e n t i a t e d harmony ("heaven l i e s about us"). The sense of l i f e as a journey i s telescoped i n the b r i e f p o r t r a i t of the infant through boyhood to adolescence to the maturity of manhood. The sense of movement within the context of duration and space i s conveyed i n "who d a i l y . . . must t r a v e l . . . on h i s way," and the extent of t h i s unit of the journey i s i n d i c a t e d i n the s i g n a l turn of phrase i n "At length." The sense of splendour ( " c e l e s t i a l l i g h t " ) diminishes progresively u n t i l i t fades with the maturity of manhood. The sense of the diminution of the visionary splendour i s e f f e c t i v e l y enacted i n the measured and quiet cadence of the l a s t two l i n e s . What i s not usually r e a l i z e d by c r i t i c s of the Ode i s the fact that the calm suggestiveness of the l a s t l i n e (76) of 151 stanza V raises a crucial question about the poet's attitude toward man's lif e on earth. The point is that one mode of existence gives way to another; the celestial light fades into the light of common day. This is the crux of the problem and the poet expresses i t in a baffling enough paradox, for how can one light fade into another? I wish now to indicate how though each child starts in radiant splendour and travels step by step into seeming darkness, the mature imaginative view does not present things as darkness but as the light of common day. In other words, I wish to indicate how Wordsworth's attitude toward the thought of grief and the light of common day illuminates our appreciation of his exploration of the difficulties of imaginative orientation to the universe. This is what the Ode explores. In order to set the f u l l context for the positive value which I ascribe to "the light of common day" in the Ode, I wish first to quote from Wordsworth's "Reply to 'Mathetes' (1809-1810)." This letter, like the Ode, is concerned with exploring the threat posed by "listlessness," "mad endeavour," despondency and a l l other factors that are "at enmity with joy." Like the Ode, the Reply is concerned with tracing the stages of human growth in order to assert the principle of imaginative joy in l i f e . Again, as in the Ode, the challenge is that of a search for an imaginative view which can sustain human orientation to this visible universe: He cannot recall past time; he cannot begin his journey afresh; he cannot untwist the links by which, in no undelightful harmony, images and sentiments are wedded in his mind. Granted that the sacred light of Childhood is and must be for him no more than a remembrance. He may, notwith-standing, be remanded to Nature; and with trust-worthy hopes; founded less upon his sentient than upon his intellectual Being.2 152 This Reply, like the Ode, reveals Wordsworth's brave and sane attitude in the quest for orientation to the visible universe. It warns against sheer sentimental nostalgia: "He cannot recall past time" (a phrase which modern criticism has tended to appropriate exclusively to Proust!)'-" the poet is equally firm and realistic about the attitude toward the celestial light of childhood: "the sacred light of Childhood is and must be for him no more than a remembrance." The challenge is to be "remanded" to this visible world, to live within the light of common day. I have already suggested that the value of the imaginative insight achieved at the end of stanza IX of the Ode is to be found in the fact that through i t the poet realises that what has been lost in childhood may be regarded as in itself a guarantee of man's relationship to a greater world. This is a recognition of man's "imperial" foundation The Soul that rises with us, o.ur life's Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come. To conceive of the mind of man as something less than imperial leads to "listlessness" and a l l other melancholy factors which are "at enmity with joy" (This is the situation with the poet in the early stanzas of the Ode). But to conceive of man as having imperial foundations (with the suggestion of grandeur, dignity and splendour) is to be aware of his true nature and his connection with the universe, and therefore of the significance of human l i f e , even including human suffering and death. This becomes a source of quiet philosophical consolation: 153 Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour i n the grass, of glory i n the flower; We w i l l grieve not, rather f i n d Strength i n what remains behind; In the primal sympathy Which having been must ever be; In the soothing thoughts that spring Out of human s u f f e r i n g ; In the f a i t h that looks through death, In the yearst"that %bring the philosophic mind. (11. 181-190) It i s a passage which more than any other i n the Ode j u s t i f i e s de Selincourt's statement that Keats's Journal-Letter on the vale of Soul-making "might w e l l be taken as a commentary on Wordsworth's 3 Ode on Intimations of Immortality." What Wordsworth indicates c r y p t i c a l l y i n the passage i s elaborated upon i n Book IX of The Excursion where the poet uses the same metaphor of journeying i n t r a c i n g "our Being's earthly progress": Rightly i t i s said That Man descends i n t o the VALE of years; Yet have I thought that we might also speak, And not presumptuously, I t r u s t , of Age, As of a f i n a l EMINENCE; though bare In aspect and forbidding, yet a point On which ' t i s not impossible to s i t In awful sovereignty; a place of power, A throne . . A The quiet but a f f i r m a t i v e tone of the concluding l i n e s of stanza X of the Ode derives i t s ringing note of conviction from the poet's recognition that the man who i s imaginatively aware of the imperial foundations of h i s childhood can ultimately win through to a philosophic mind; that i s , to an i n t e l l e c t u a l competence i n r e c o n c i l i n g l o s t innocence with the world as i t i s . At the end of stanza X, the intense questioning of the value of l i f e (without the radiance of childhood) i s resolved and the poet turns i n the concluding stanza to a recognition of the value that i s to be found 154 in the light of common day. To misunderstand the significance of this last phrase is to misunderstand much that is of value in the Ode. In this connection, one critic has argued, like many others, that When the poet "can no longer see," when he squints at the visible world that has been darkened to "vision" by the simple "light of common day," i t is because the poet no longer feels compelled as a man to keep something long since lost alive to the heart by projecting it into Nature.5 Faced with such mystifying semantic acrobatics, my attitude, as a student of Wordsworth's poetry, is to return in perplexity and seek light in the poems itself. And the first thing I discover is that Wordsworth does not speak of the simple light of common day. Secondly, i f Wordsworth condemns the light of common day, why should his dedication to poetry take place in the light of common day? ,PU • • Magnificent The morning rose, in memorable pomp," Glorious as e'er I had beheld — in front, The sea lay laughing at the distance; near, The solid mountains shone, bright as the clouds,. Grain-tinctured, drenched in empyrean light; And in the meadows and the lower grounds Was a l l the. sweetness of a common dawn— Dews, vapours, and the melody of birds, ^ And labourers going forth to t i l l the fields. So for the imaginative mind this earth has a glory, a bright and shining light of its own. The mind that can, in creative inter-change with external nature, suffuse an ordinary dawn scene with such radiance can establish value in a lif e lived within the light of common day. Such a mind can offer human illumination because the imaginative light that he confers on our every day existence is as illuminating as the brightest in any cosmology ("empyrean"). This 155 realization leads to the dedication to poetry: Ah! need I say, dear Friend! that to the brim My heart was f u l l ; I made no vows, but vows Were made for me; bond unknown to me Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly, A dedicated Spirit. If we turn again to the Ode with this context in mind, we will discover the positive value which the poet attaches to the light of common day and the visible universe. The movement of poetic thought in the Ode is from darkness to light, from what is dim and shadowy and perplexing to what is clear and palpable though sober-coloured. ,sWordsworth's reliance on the power of the contemplative imagination together with his belief in the eternal principle of beauty as perceived in "this world of earth, air, sea u and sky" and a l l its spirit-moving imagery" is at the centre of that weight and sanity of thought and feeling which distinguishes him as a "complex Mind," "one that is imaginative and at the same time careful of its fruits — who would exist partly on Sensation partly on thought — to whom it is necessary that yearrs should bring the philosophic Mind."7 In the last stanza of the Ode Wordsworth returns to the natural imagery of the opening stanzas but this time in a more affirmative, less questioning tone. The contrast between the childhood mode of being and seeing and the adult mode is again obvious. The poet has achieved a deeper and more comprehensive appreciation of the world of external nature in relation to the human condition: 156 I love the Brooks which down t h e i r channels f r e t , Even more than when I tripped l i g h t l y as they; The innocent brightness of a new-born Day Is lovely yet; The Clouds that gather round the s e t t i n g sun Do take a sober colouring from an eye That hath kept watch o'er man's mortal i t y . (11. 196-202) Here the creative r e l a t i o n s h i p between the mind and the external nature i s again obvious. Inner r e a l i t y modifies the perception of outer r e a l i t y . The imaginative soul i s shown as metaphorically wandering i n the caverns of i t s inner landscape; the clouds that gather round the s e t t i n g sun correspond to the clouds of the inner contem-p l a t i v e mind. These clouds of the mind cast a sober colour because the " a u x i l i a r l i g h t " from the thoughtful mind r e f l e c t s the mood of the heart and i s now n e c e s s a r i l y sober-coloured. This i s the clearest i n d i c a t i o n that i t i s not now as i t was of yore. The poet i s defining another plane of experience. The quiet phrasing of l i n e s 196-202 should not prevent us from recognizing the calm expression of the joy of increase i n i n t e l l e c t u a l consciousness. There i s some change and some l o s s , but what i s affirmed i s the growth and gain i n imaginative i n s i g h t into the nature of things. There i s the u n f l i n c h i n g recognition of the i n e v i t a b i l i t y of man's mort a l i t y , but there i s also a sense of deep s a t i s f a c t i o n , a sense of philosophic v i c t o r y expressed metaphorically i n "Another race hath been, and other palms are won." The f i n a l t r i b u t e i s to the human heart (and here we must remember Keats's t r i b u t e to Wordsworth's genius!): Thanks to the human heart by which we l i v e , Thanks to i t s tenderness, i t s joys and fears, To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often l i e too deep for tears. (11. 204-207) 157 The spirit of the poem is to be found in the quiet phrasing which ends the poem. After exploring the disquieting thoughts of the human soul "in darkness lost", the poet returns to a reaffirmation of the l i f e lived in the light of common day. Here the poet achieves what he himself demands of language, that " i f i t do not uphold, and feed, and leave in quiet, like the power of gravitation or the air we breathe, [then it] is a counter-spirit, unremittingly and noiselessly at work, to subvert, to lay waste, to vitiate, and to dissolve. The last stanza of the Ode is Wordsworth's creative demonstration of the way the resources of language should be deployed "to give to universally received truths a pathos and spirit which shall re-admit them into the soul like revelations of 9 the moment." The flurry of images in this last stanza contains a rich suggestiveness which extends almost beyond the Ode. The final tribute to the human heart picks up the theme of the first affection mentioned earlier in stanza IX. Elsewhere, in Book VIII of The  Prelude, Wordsworth speaks of the influence of "the common haunts of the green earth" on the heart of man. He describes at length what he himself calls "a dance of images" which once felt "shall break in upon" the contemplative mind with the force of a fresh discovery. These images are associated with past joy and, more particularly, with present renewal, and i t is the power of such experience which enables the poet to recreate from his inner mind working on the visible universe a paradise fairer far than Gehol's matchless garden's^  or the groves of Arcadia or of Arden. This same thought is developed more fully and expressed with confidence and defiance in 1 5 8 the preface to The Excursion: Paradise, and groves E l y s i a n , Fortunate F i e l d s — l i k e those of old Sought i n the A t l a n t i c Main — why should they be A h i s t o r y only of departed things, Or a mere f i c t i o n of what never was? For the discerning i n t e l l e c t of Man, When wedded to th i s goodly universe In love and holy passion, s h a l l f i n d these A simple produce of the common day. ( 1 1 . 4 7 - 5 4 ) Here the thought comes to rest as e f f o r t l e s s l y as the rays of a Spring sunrise on the phrase, "A simple produce of the common day," and i f we understand the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the thought here we can appreciate the d i r e c t i o n i n which Wordsworth was t r a v e l l i n g from the Ode to The Excursion. The "Fountains, Meadows, H i l l s and Groves" of the Ode are Wordsworth's r e a l i t y metaphors, j u s t as they are h i s metaphors of r e a l i t y i n The Prelude and The E x c u r s i o n . T h e y are metaphors of r e a l i t y because the poet's lof t y s p e c u l a t i o n s are based on them while his r e a l theme i s the nature of man and his condition i n the world; and they are themselves r e a l , they constitute part of the r e a l i t y of the v i s i b l e universe. They remind him of the cycles and interconnections of things — of the order and r e l a t i o n of things i n th i s universe. Through t h e i r example the poet recognizes i n his own consciousness a corresponding power which enables him to see as we l l as create that changeless beauty that i s as r i c h as the simple produce of the common day. The quiet and simple way i n which Wordsworth presents his thoughts and the subtle way i n which even i n h i s highest f l i g h t of imagination he always ends i n the reaffirmation of a profound 159 sanity through the use of reality metaphors may sometimes escape us, but i t is necessary to recognize how such poetic strategy adds to the significance of Wordsworth's poetry. Wordsworth deals in the Ode with disturbing thoughts which arise from the contemplation of human lif e from blissful childhood to the period when the adult Man is "in darkness lost"; but the poet does emerge from the dark passage of l i f e ; the Ode deals with darkness, with intimations of man's mortality but also with recognitions of the props of imaginative power and imaginative sympathy. The recognition of the props of imaginative power leads the poet to a realization of How lif e pervades the undecaying mind; How the immortal soul with God-like power Informs, creates, and thaws the deepest sleep That time can lay upon her.H The recognition of primal sympathy leads to strengthening love for things that we have seen, so that even the intimation of such a sober truth as man's mortality does not lead to idle tears but to steady sympathies: And 0, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves, Forebode not any severing of our Loves! Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might; I only have relinquished one delight To live beneath your more habitual sway. I love the Brooks which down their channels fret, Even more than when I tripped lightly as they; The innocent brightness of a new-born Day Is lovely yet; The Clouds that gather round the setting sun Do take a sober colouring from an eye That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality. (11. 191-202) The obscurity and complexity of growth, and of the complexity of self-consciousness of the poet who assesses that growth, are a l l elements which are important in our interpretation of this passage. 160 One delight has been relinquished and another i s fi r m l y asserted, j u s t as i n stanza V one l i g h t fades into another. The poet accepts l i f e on i t s own terms because the mature contemplative imagination recognizes what value i s to be found i n l i f e . There i s implied here the gladness of thoughtless childhood and the sobered happiness of experience. This imaginative in s i g h t i s an §ehieYemejnt wwMeh represents the poet's triumphant exploration of darkness and his emergence back in t o l i g h t . It i s i n such passages that we must search for those e s s e n t i a l poetic q u a l i t i e s which led Keats to describe Wordsworth as a superior genius who can make a discovery and shed a l i g h t upon i t . Wordsworth's discovery i s that the l i f e of sensation apart from thought i s not s a t i s f y i n g to any true poet because the r e a l i t y of the human condition c a l l s f o r imaginative thought. He sheds a l i g h t upon t h i s discovery by showing himself f u l l y conscious and possessed of those q u a l i t i e s of mind and heart which give to imagination i t s maturity — an in s i g h t i n t o human l i f e and sympathy with the Kind (that i s , human kin d ) , together with an extensive knoweldge which can widen the range of the philosophic or contem-p l a t i v e mind to ease the burden of the challenge of l i f e . These are some of the e s s e n t i a l points which we must recognize i n order to appreciate the f u l l s i g n i f i c a n c e of Wordsworth's exploration of the challenge of orientation to the universe. Some of the themes that are not usually adequately recognized i n the Ode include human l i f e and the a f f e c t i o n s , the aff e c t i o n s and poetry — a l l r e l a t e d to w&at Wordsworth describes as primal joy and primal g r i e f , with a 161 philosophic or harmonious ordering of these seemingly discordant apsects in the recognition of primal sympathy or imaginative love. This final vision comes with the maturing of the philosophic mind, which has nothing necessarily to do with having found a philosophy but which refers to a mode of imaginative contemplation in which human experiences and emotions become themselves the objects of poetic thought. It is this more mature and comprehensive view which makes the meanest flower (stanza XI, line 206), unlike earlier with the pansy (stanza IV, line 54), the occasion not of tears or even simply of the memory of loss, but rather of thoughts that are too deep for tears. The concept of active imaginative sympathy — the concern with li f e and poetry, poetry and the affections — is central to both the Ode and "Peele Castle". Wordsworth's earlier poems are concerned with primal joy or terror: on the one hand there is the radiant poetry whose sole concern is with the might of souls, And what they do within themselves while yet The yoke of earth is new to them, the world ^ Nothing but a wild field where they were sown. This is peotry ofr the stage when the sould is "not yet tamed and humbled down" by the dark passages of l i f e . This was the time when the poet "held unconscious intercourse with beauty / Old as creation." This is the poetic stage celebrated in the opening lines of the Ode and Peele Castle, and in the opening books of The Prelude. Wordsworth makes a careful distinction between these instances of Aeolian visitations and the awful burthen which is the theme of his later Orphean lyre. The early poetic stage is concerned with 162 Those recollected hours that have the charm Of visionary things, those lovely forms And sweet sensations that throw back our l i f e , And almost make remotest infancy ^ A visible scene, on which the sun is shining. There is also the poetry of terror, the poetry of "visionary dreariness" as exemplified in Book Twelve of The Prelude; the poetry of The Borderers and of "Sarum's Plain" also belongs here. Wordsworth himself best describes the early stages of his poetic development in Book XIV, for example: S t i l l , to the very going-out of youth, I too exclusively esteemed that love And sought that beauty, which, as Milton sings, Hath terror in i t . (11. 243-246; emphasis his) He describes himself metaphorically thus: A rock with torrents roaring, with the clouds Familiar, and a favourite of the stars, and the rest of the argument in the extended metaphor is very relevant for my thesis. Wordsworth ascribes to Dorothy and Coleridge the influence which softened down his "oversternness" and the direction in which such influence shaped his poetic growth is very significant. First there is this indication: At a time When Nature, destined to remain so long Foremost in my affections, had fallen back Into a second place, pleased to become A handmaid to a nobler than herself, When every day brought with i t some new sense Of exquisite regard for common things, And a l l the earth was budding with these gifts Of more refined humanity, thy breath, Dear Sister! was a kind of gentler spring That went before my steps. (11. 256-266; emphasis mine) 163 Then there is this: Thus fear relaxed Her overweening grasp; thus thoughts and things In the self-haunting spirit learned to take More rational proportions; mystery, The incumbent mystery of sense and soul, Of life and death, time and eternity. Admitted more habitually a mild Interposition — a serene delight In closelier gathering cares, such as become  A human creature, howsoe'er endowed, Poet, or destined for a humbler name. (11. 282-292; emphasis mine) These passagessijndicate Wordsworth's own recognition of the influence and stages of his imaginative growth; i t is a growth whose movement is from the wanton stage of "wild Poesy" through the period of visionary dreariness to the exploration of the "awful burthen" of the mystery of li f e and death. It is this arduous journey toward the exploration of the dark passages that I have emphasized in my analysis of the Ode and Peele Castle. I have argued, for example, that the momentous turning point toward the awful burthen is signalled by the Ode and not by Peele Castle as i t is generally maintained. My argument in this connection is that the poetry of the mind that has kept watch on man's mortality and the poetry of the mind that has been humanised by a deep distress are concerned with the same theme of the exploration of the dark passages. One motif which suggests the attitude that was to dominate Wordsworth's view of the relation of poetry to human li f e is that of the dreamer. The conflict is expressed very forcefully in Peele Castle: Farewell, farewell the heart''that lives alone, Housed in a dream, at distance from the Kind! Such happiness, wherever i t be known, Is to be pitied; for 'tis surely blind. (11. 53-56) 164 Here the relation between human li f e and poetry is involved and the bearing of poetry on li f e is emphasized. This emphasis extends also to the Ode: the fallings from us, vanishings, and blank misgivings are to be treasured as intimations of the indestructible potency of the human mind, but they need not refer only to dream-worlds, that is, to worlds not realized or not yet made real, for this world of reality — this world of earth, air, sea, and sky — with a l l its spirit-moving imagery and the human emotions of joy and grief form sufficient material for a vision which is compelling enough for the imaginative view of l i f e . This is Wordsworth's larger and more mature view; i t is a deep view of lif e which gives great significance to Wordsworth's quiet but firm emphasis on the light of common day in the Ode or to "A simple produce of the common day" in the Preface to The Excursion. This quiet re-affirmation of the value of the world of external reality and of the power of the mind of man working in creative interchange with i t is typical of the sense of enriched awareness which is so pervasive in Wordsworth's poems; i t is what saves him from dejection or despondency. He can deal with "closelafe'r gathering cares," with grief and man's mortality, and yet emerge with a new sense of exquisite regard for common things because there is an inner assurance based on an acceptance of the world as i t is which enables him to end on that note of quiet sanity. What the lines from Peele Castle and the earlier ones from the con-cluding book of The Prelude suggest is a growth toward greater imaginative or disinterested sympathy with man as man; that is, a deepening awareness and imaginative acceptance of the actual reality of the human condition. Neither the Peele Castle lines nor those 165 from The Prelude represent a humanitarian manifesto in the popular or social science sense; rather they express a maturing imaginative view which emphasises man with a l l his fears and anxieties as the theme and central thought of poetry. This clear direction of Wordsworth's poetry is more obvious in the Peele Castle and related elegiac verses. In the Ode, the thought of man's;mortality signals the turn of imaginative contemplation toward the elegiac mode but i t is in "Peele Castle" that the specific nature of the poet's contact with man's mortality is clearly indicated. The contact with man's mortality is more intimate and poignant in the Peele Castle verses than in the Ode; perhaps this is as i t should be, for the Ode by its very nature imposes a restraint on the extent to which the personal expression of grief can be accommodated while the elegy is traditionally concerned with the expression of such personal grief. In the Ode the fact of man's mortality is only one aspect of the problems of human orientation to the universe. Both poems do, however, derive their sense of urgency from the fact that the problems which they encompass do exert a shaping influence on the direction of the poet's human and imaginative growth. In reading them we never forget the presence of the poet in the poems, and we realize that their significance should be evaluated primarily in relation to their role in the pattern of imaginative growth which the poet explores. In the opening lines of "Peele Castle," as in the Ode, the poet confers a sense of indealized quality on the past; there is even a touch of nostalgia: 166 Four summer weeks I dwelt in sight of thee: I saw thee every day; and a l l the while Thy Form was sleeping on a glassy sea. So pure the sky, so quiet was the air! So like, so very like, was day to day! Whene'er I looked, thy Image s t i l l was there; It trembled, but i t never passed away. (11. 2-8) The impression of perfect calm, of serenity and tranquillity is vividly conveyed in the light rhythm of the verse and reinforced by such adjectives as "pure" and "quiet" and "glassy." And the sense of the length of such a serene period is given in the vdterative pattern in "So like, so very like, was day to day!" The sense of the harmonious relationship, of a perfect blending of a l l into unity, is conveyed by the poet as he imagines the castle and the sea joined, with the castle sleeping on the "glassy" calm of the sea. While we are tempted to dwell on this serene beauty, the movement of the poetic thought in the following lines (9-12) traverse a transition where such words as "seemed" and "fancied" suggest that the opening impression represents only one aspect of the poet's experience. In the past, he says, I could have fancied that the mighty Deep Was even the gentlest of a l l gentle Things. (11. 11-12) He speculates that, had he been himself the painter, then, he would have planted thee, thou hoary Pile Amid a world how different from this! Beside a sea that could not cease to smile; On tranquil land, beneath a sky of bliss. (11. 17-20) He realizes now, hwoever, that such image of "Elysian quiet" would have represented only the golden, almost i d y l l i e , aspect of the shield 167 of human experience. Since he has been subjected to the immediate pressure of loss and grief, the poet now realizes that he has "submitted to a new control," and that a "deep distress" has "humanised" his creative "Soul." "The sea in anger, and that dismal shore," "The lightning, the fierce wind, and trampling waves" are a l l to be commended, not deplored, because they represent the grim truth of the every day reality of human experience. The word "dismal," which is used to describe the shore reinforces the sense of absoluteness of loss earlier expressed in The feeling of my loss will ne'er be old (1. 39) The subject of this elegiac turn of poetic thought is alluded to but not named directly in the poem. However, two other related elegiac poems provide literary context for the subject of elegiac meditation in the poem under discussion. "Elegiac Verses in Memory of my Brother, John Wordsworth" (composed 1805; published 1842) and "To the Daisy" (composed 1805; published 1815) are very explicit poems. In the second poem, the poet is burdened by the disquieting thought of his brother lying in the "senseless grave." In the first he describes himself as "forlorn," though not cheerless. One of his cheerful thoughts is the realization that his verse has power to consecrate the memory of John Wordsworth. In these poems the poet is concerned with exploring the implications of human grief, and his thoughts turn toward the search for the consolations that are left to us in distress. This explains why, in Peele Castle, the poet declares: 168 Farewell, farewell the heart the lives alone, Housed in a dream, at distance from the kind! Such happiness, wherever i t be known, Is to be pitied,; for 'tis surely blind. (11. 53-56) The poet has in earlier poems explored and articulated the mystery of his being in relation to his creative resources. He must now explore the mystery of human existence by confronting the dark passages which we a l l encounter in the journey of l i f e . His task of providing imaginative illumination for humanity has acquired a new perspective. The intimate contact with man's mortality performs a revelatory function: i t forces upon the poet's consciousness a deepening awareness of the fact of man's mortality and the poet adopts an exclusive attitude of intense anxiety for humanity. He will now take his central place among men, become more intimately identified with them in a community of spirit, and employ his greater imaginative consciousness to unravel the burthen of the mystery of human existence. The movement of "Peele Castle" and related verses i s , as in the Ode, toward greater consciousness of the nature of the dark passages and the attitude needed to explore them: welcome fortitude, and patient cheer, And frequent sights of what is to be borne! Such sights, or worse, as are before me here. (11. 58-59) In this way, the elegiac verses of 1805 picked up and developed the thought of "man's mortality", and further defined a new referent for Wordsworth's contemplative poetry. Together with the Ode, these poems serve as the midway point in Wordsworth's exploration of the dark passages of l i f e : they complete the block 169 of poems (1798-1805) i n which Wordsworth deals with h i s personal problems i n r e l a t i o n to the arduous task of o f f e r i n g imaginative i l l u m i n a t i o n to mankind and i n t h i s sense they are concerned with the private voice or character of the poet struggling to become the Poet. But they also suggest most c l e a r l y the elegiac d i r e c t i o n of the poet's contemplative imagination i n h i s subsequent exclusive concern with the exploration of the dark passages of humanity i n general and i n th i s sense they are also concerned with the pu b l i c voice of the poet. I t i s i n the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the d i r e c t i o n which Wordsworth's questioning i n these poems leads to that we have to continue to search f o r that value, wisdom, and general sharpening of imaginative v i s i o n which the poet communicates. This search leads to The Excursion, of course, for i t i s there that Wordsworth explores the greatest of the dark passages i n d i r e c t and mythic terms. CHAPTER V Footnotes Literary Criticism of William Wordsworth, p. 95. 2Ibid., p. 85. 3 The Poems of John Keats, p. xxxvii. 4 The Excursion, Book Ninth, 11. 48-56. The emphasis is Wordsworth's. I believe that Keats's vale of soul-making looks back to Wordsworth's vale of EMINENCE and that this throws much light on Keats's acceptance of Wordsworth's emphasis on the years that bring the philosophic mind. ^Richard J. Onorato, The Character of the Poet: Wordsworth in The Prelude. Princeton, New Jersey, 1971. p. 245. 6The Prelude, Bk. IV, 11. 323-332. The Letters of John Keats, p. 68. g Literary Criticism of William Wordsworth, p. 126. 9 Ibid., p. 124. Wordsworth's gratitude to these metaphors of reality is expressed in several passages. Much of the argument of The  Excursion is based on them. The following passage from The Prelude is typical of the sense of significance which he attached to them: i f , in this time / Of dereliction and dismay, I yet / Despair not of our nature, but retain / A more than Roman confidence, a faith / That fails not, in a l l Sorrow my support, / The belssing of my l i f e ; the gift is yours, / Ye winds and sounding cataracts! 'tis yours, / Ye mountains! thine, 0 Nature! Thou hast fed / My lofty speculations; and in thee, / For this uneasy eart of ours, I find / A never-failing principle of joy / And purest passion (Book II, 11. 440-451) 171 And with c h a r a c t e r i s t i c defiance of orthodox f a i t h , Wordsworth says If t h i s be e r r o r , and another f a i t h Find easier access to the pious mind Yet were I grosly d e s t i t u t e • . . 1 : LThe Prelude, Bk. IV, 11. 165-168. 1 2The Prelude, Bk. I l l , 11. 177-180. 1 3 I b i d . , 631-635. CHAPTER VI The Dark Passages: The Darkness of the Grave Our peace is of the Immortal Soul Our anguish is of clay. 0 Darkness of the Grave! William Wordsworth, "Home at Grasmere." We may meet again—but I am growing old—and a l l is dark. William Wordsworth to Baron Field, Dec. 20th 1828 The last year has thinned off so many of my friends, young and old, and brought with i t so much anxiety, private and public—sad thoughts and remembrances which press upon me.. William Wordsworth to Henry Nelson Coleridge. July 29, 1834 What I lament most is that the spirituality of my Nature does not expand and rise the nearer I approach the grave, as yours does, and as i t fares with my beloved Partner. 9th Sept. 1844. William Wordsworth to Isabella Fenwick, 173 The Excursion provoked a great deal of c r i t i c a l commentary when i t was published i n 1814. It i s i n t e r e s t i n g that although even the favourable reviews attacked the unorthodox views con-tained i n the poem, recent c r i t i c i s m has tended to neglect the poem because of i t s orthodox views."'" A b r i e f reference here must s u f f i c e to i n d i c a t e some of the expectations of Wordsworth's con-temporaries. In an a r t i c l e i n The E c l e c t i c Review, i n 1815, J . Montgomery praised the elevating thoughts contained i n The Excursion 2 but regretted the incompleteness of i t s C h r i s t i a n i t y . A l a t e r review by John Wilson i n Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine deplored the lack of orthodoxy and, e s p e c i a l l y , the "utter absence of 3 Revealed R e l i g i o n " i n The Excursion. The Excursion established Wordsworth as a pagan and a P l a t o n i s t i n the opinion of Blake, who nevertheless s t i l l considered Wordsworth the f i r s t o r i g i n a l 4 poetic genius of the age. The Excursion disappointed Coleridge's "confident hopes" of what Wordsworth could achieve. Coleridge's comments, linked as they are with the genesis of the thought which motivated the w r i t i n g of the long poem, .offer an i n t e r e s t i n g perspective for examining the poem as i t stands. Coleridge's elaborate comments are contained i n h i s six-page l e t t e r to Wordsworth, dated 30 May 1815.^ I t i s an extremely long l e t t e r but the main substance as i t r e l a t e s to The Excursion was l a t e r condensed and repeated i n the Table Talk from which I quote the following: The plan l a i d out, and, I b e l i e v e , p a r t l y suggested by me, was, that Wordsworth should assume the s t a t i o n of a man i n mental repose, one whose p r i n c i p l e s were made up, and so prepared to d e l i v e r upon authority a system of philosophy. He was to treat man as man,— a subject of eye, ear, touch, and taste, i n contact 174 with external nature, and informing the senses from the mind and not compounding a mind out of the senses; then he was to describe the pastoral and other states of society, assuming something of the Juvenalian spirit as he approached the high civilization of cities and towns, and opening a melancholy picture of the present state of degeneracy and vice; thence he was to infer and reveal the proof of, and necessity for, a redemptive process in operation, showing how this idea reconciled a l l the anomalies, and promised future glory and restoration.6 This is Coleridge's imagined plan, or recollections of the plan, for The Excursion and the rest of The Recluse. Wordsworth's anxiety concerning Coleridge's notes for The Recluse7 has tended to give credence to the theory that Wordsworth failed to write a more philosophical poem than we have because he was deprived of Coleridge's intellectual support. Helen Darbishire, for example, has the follow-ing comments: This was what Wordsworth could not do. He had plenty of fertile ideas, but he had no constructive plan; i t may be said without flippancy that in the event a l l that was accomplished of the great philosophical poem, apart from Book I and the magnificent Prospectus, was a Prelude to the main theme, and an Excursion from i t . My response to Coleridge's plan of The Recluse is not whether Wordsworth could undertake such a project but whether Colerdige himself or any other poet could. The question is not merely Coleridge's love of system versus Wordsworth's dislike of—or inability to deal with—elaborate philosophical system; the point is that Wordsworth could not see himself as sufficiently in mental repose and prepared to deliver upon authority a system of philosophy which embraced a redemptive scheme of salvation. My position is that Wordsworth was s t i l l too pre-occupied with the exploration of the dark passages of l i f e to under-175 take anything as dogmatic and as optimistic as Coleridge's imagined plan would suggest, and i t is the exploration of the dark passages which is my main interest in the study of The Excursion. The challenge of Interary criticism is to interpret the poem as i t i s , to study the poet's aims and achievements. Wordsworth stated his aims in the Prospectus and in the letter to Coleridge in which he requested clarification of Coleridge's somewhat perplexing comments in an earlier letter to Lady Beaumont: I have rather been perplexed than enlightened by your comparative censure. One of my principal aims in the Exn: has been to put the commonplace truths, of the human affections especially, in an interesting point of view; and rather to remind men of their knowledge, as i t lurks inoperative and unvalued in their own minds, than to attempt to convey recondite or refined truths.9 Wordsworth's insistence on "commonplace truths, of the human affections especially... and their knowledge as it lurks inoperative and unvalued in their own minds" reflects an emphasis which is different from Coleridge's grand philosophic system that would, among other things, trace the origins of man, affirm a f a l l and point out a manifest scheme of Christian redemption. Wordsworth chose to grapple with human values and human problems in human terms; he chose to grapple with the p roblem of regenerating the human heart in order to redirect, its powers toward a recognition of the positive values in man's lif e within this world. The poet of The Excursion is concerned also with exploring the deep pathos of human l i f e — a meditative as well as human pathos; the poem is therefore on one important level, a contemplation of the weight of l i f e , a contem-plation of what Wordsworth elsewhere describes as a "sadness that has 176 i t s s e a t i n t h e depths of r e a s o n , to which the mind cannot s i n k g e n t l y of i t s e l f — b u t t o which i t must descend by t r e a d i n g the s t e p s of thought""^ The E x c u r s i o n i s , t h e r e f o r e , a h i g h l y contem-p l a t i v e poem. Wordsworth h i m s e l f r e f e r r e d to i t as a " c o n v e r s a t i o n " poem, and t h i s d e s c r i p t i o n s u g g e s t s a s i m i l a r i t y w i t h the method o f the S o c r a t i c d i a l o g u e w i t h each c h a r a c t e r r e p r e s e n t i n g a p h i l o s o p h i c a p o i n t o f view; but Wordsworth has been a t t a c k e d f o r employing a genre which d i d not s u i t h i s s t y l e . Thus C o l e r i d g e mentions as one of the " c h a r a c t e r i s t i c d e f e c t s " of Wordsworth's p o e t r y , and o f The E x c u r s i o n , an undue p r e d i l e c t i o n f o r t h e d r a m a t i c form i n c e r t a i n poems, from which one o r o t h e r of two e v i l s r e s u l t . E i t h e r t h e thoughts and d i c t i o n a r e d i f f e r e n t from t h a t of the p o e t , and then t h e r e a r i s e s an i n c o n g r u i t y of s t y l e ; o r they a r e the same and i n d i s t i n g u i s h a b l e , and then i t p r e s e n t s a s p e c i e s of v e n t r i l o q u i s m , where two are r e p r e s e n t e d as t a l k i n g , w h i l e i n t r u t h o n l y one man s p e a k s . H And T r i l l i n g , whose t h o u g h t f u l d i s c u s s i o n of t h e Ode I have r e f e r r e d t o i n Chapter IV, argues t h a t a l t h o u g h i n the Ode Wordsworth a r r i v e d a t a new d e f i n i t i o n of new p o e t i c powers o f s e n s i t i v i t y and r e s p o n s i v e n e s s (which a r e new n o t so much i n degree as i n k i n d ) , Wordsworth c o u l d n o t e x p l o r e the new s u b j e c t m a t t e r which t h e i r e x e r c i s e r e q u i r e d . The new powers i m p l i e d a d e d i c a t i o n t o the mode of t r a g e d y . But the t r a g i c mode c o u l d n o t be Wordsworth' He d i d n o t have the " n e g a t i v e c a p a b i l i t y " which Keats b e l i e v e d to be the s o u r c e of Shakespeare's power, the g i f t o f b e i n g a b l e to be " c o n t e n t w i t h h a l f - k n o w l e d g e " , t o g i v e up the " i r r i t a b l e r e a c h i n g a f t e r f a c t and r e a s o n , " to remain " i n u n c e r t a i n t i e s , m y s t e r i e s , doubt The r e f e r e n c e to Keats i n r e l a t i o n t o The E x c u r s i o n l o s e s much of 177 i t s force when we remember that Keats considered the poem the f i r s t 13 of the three things of the Age to r e j o i c e i n . Keats recognized the unique genius of Wordsworth i n the exploration of the dark passages of l i f e ; that i s , i n the imaginative grappling with those very themes which T r i l l i n g believes could only be handled through the dramatic mode of tragedy. As I have suggested i n the early chapters of t h i s study, Keats's consideration of the genius of Wordsworth "as a help" and the t r i b u t e which emerges from that thoughtful meditation a l l involved a consideration of most of Wordsworth's poetry, but with The Excursion at the head of them a l l . So that while c r i t i c s such as T r i l l i n g and Arnold may consider Wordsworth's genius to reside only i n the shorter poems, and while Coleridge may express h i s keen disappointment at The Excursion as i t i s , Keats's comments challenge us to re-examine The Excursion and to recognize Wordsworth's exploration of the mystery of human l i f e i n the poem. Arnold tc claims that The Excursion abounds with philosophy, and therefore The Excursion i s to the Wordsworthian what i t never can be to the 14 d i s i n t e r e s t e d lover of p o e t r y — a s a t i s f a c t o r y work." Arnold does not t e l l us what philosophy "abounds" i n The Excursion. Now, Keats was c e r t a i n l y a much more d i s i n t e r e s t e d lover of poetry than Arnold could ever be, so that i f Keats could repeatedly describe The Excursion as the f i r s t of the three things to r e j o i c e i n the Romantic *v Age fhsn the challenge of studying The Excursion cannot be evaded on questionable aesthetic grounds. Another c r i t i c makes an exaggerated claim which i s d i r e c t l y opposed to Keats's comments on Wordsworth. In The Limits of M o r t a l i t y : An Essay on Wordsworth's  Major Poems, Ferry makes no s i g n i f i c a n t reference to The Excursion, 178 and he j u s t i f i e s himself on the grounds of economy even though his book i s s u b t i t l e d "A Study of Wordsworth's Major Poems"; " f o r purposes of economy I have paid no attention to The Excursion, not even to those parts which were written during the period under consideration here [roughly 1798-1805]."^ Ferry's concern i s with the force of the mystical yearning and the pessimism about i t s f u l f i l l m e n t ; and h i s conclusion i s that Wordsworth's genius was his "enmity to man which he mistook for love". Such extreme opinion contrasts v i v i d l y with Keats's view that Wordsworth's "superior" genius [that i s , superior to Milton, and to Keats and the Keats c i r c l e ] resided i n h i s capacity not only to sharpen our v i s i o n into the heart and nature of Man but also to think deep into the heart of many by exploring the anxiety of Humanity. For Keats, Wordsworth's mode of imaginative exploration i s i n i t s e l f a help to Humanity. In other; words, Keats recognized that the sublime contemplative mode i s not incapable of sympathy with man' as man; this recognition o f f e r s c r i t i c a l i n s i g h t i n t o The Excursion as a long r e f l e c t i v e poem. Wordsworth himself had quite a b i t to say concerning t h i s question of the poetic mode: of dramatic, objective representation as opposed to the contemplative, subjective presentation. In a composite rejoinder to the attacks on the non-dramatic features of his poems, Wordsworth offered the following defence: When i t i s considered what has already been executed i n Poetry, strange that a man cannot perceive...this i s the time when a man of genius may honourably take a s t a t i o n upon d i f f e r e n t ground. If he i s to be a Dramatist l e t him crowd his scene with gross and v i s i b l e a ction; but i f a n a r r a t i v e Poet, i f the Poet i s to be predominant over the Dramatist,—then l e t 179 him see i f there are no victories in the world of spirit, no changes, no commotions, no revolutions there, no fluxes and refluxes of the thoughts which may be made interesting by modest combination with the stiller actions of the bodily frame, or with the gentler movements and milder appearances of society, and social intercourse. 16 This is a description of the realm of the • contemplative imagination; it is a passage which also establishes the difference between the genuine pathos of humanity and "Jacobinical pathos", that is, between the thoughts that lie too deep for tears and the gross and morbid sensibility typical of Jacobean and gothic drama.^ Wordsworth's concern is not with terror but with the pathos that is in l i f e . His main interest is to explore ways of moving the human heart to salutary purposes; i t is a concern with the process of regeneration in the human heart. The shift in emphasis in the title of The Recluse from "Views of Nature, Man and Society" to "on Man, on Nature and on Human Life" reveals how far Wordsworth had travelled from the conception of The Recluse to the publication of The Excursion. In the end the Coleridgean panorama was abandoned in favour of a concentrated meditation on the mysteries of being in relation to the momentous themes of l i f e , death and immortality. Wordsworth attempted a breakdown on the main themes in the preface and the following receive much emphasis: affecting thoughts And dear remembrances, whose presence soothes Or elevates the Mind, intent to weigh The good and evil of our mortal state (II. 6-9) Other phrases also stand out: "melancholy Fear", "intellectual Powers'," "the vacant and the vain" and Humanity's "solitary anguish." Though Wordsworth lists the themes generally in a confident epic-180 sounding tone, my own approach w i l l be to discuss The Excursion i n r e l a t i o n to these themes from the perspective of the poet's passionate personal grappling with d i f f i c u l t human problems. Wordsworth's preference for commonplace truths over recondite truths i s understandable because the deep psychological impetus which informs the s p i r i t of the poem i s the strong urge on the part of the poet to rec o n c i l e himself to the t e r r i b l e r e a l i t i e s of human l i f e . In The Excursion the movement of Wordsworth's thought c e r t a i n l y embraces a range of human experience which extends f a r beyond the early o r b i t of the personal and p a r t i c u l a r which I have discussed i n the l a s t few chapters; but, i n very many ways, The Excursion i s also a very personal poem, and the genesis of thought i n many passages can be traced with astonishing correspondence to the sit u a t i o n s and thoughts i n The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. Dorothy Wordsworth's comments on the reception of The Excursion are relevant here: I know that the good and pure and noble-minded w i l l i n days and when we sleep i n the grave be elevated delighted and bettered by what he has performed i n soli t u d e for the delight of h i s own Soul independent  of l o f t y hopes of being of service to h i s fellow- creatures .18 (my emphasis) Wordsworth's own advice to a correspondent i s also relevant here: "no man can write verses that w i l l l i v e i n the hearts of h i s fellow 19 creatures but through an over-powering impulse i n his own mind." Nevertheless, there are c e r t a i n s i g n i f i c a n t differences between The Excursion and the shorter poems which I have already discussed. In the f i r s t place, The Excursion i s written i n the dramatic or conversational mode i n which the characters represent various 181 philosophical positions. This creates a semblance of distancing of the emotions. Secondly, The Excursion bears a l l the signs of a work to which the years have brought the philosophic mind. There is anguish, sorrow, anxiety and sadness, but there is also the basis for joy in human l i f e . The world of The Excursion is a world of pain and joy, and the attitude toward the one is not merely morbid and querulous just as the attitude toward the other is not merely facile and optimisitc. There is in The Excursion that depression of spirits which disposes one to look on the dark side of things but the poet looks sufficiently out of himself in his exploration of the dark passages. Although my concern is primarily with the exploration of the dark passages, i t is not easy to discuss them in relation to The Excursion without discussing almost a l l of the nine books of the poem. The Excursion is a highly unified poem, and even the seemingly fragmentary portions are closely related to the large theme of the exploration of the baffling questions of human experience. The first book, for example, is nearly always discussed as a self-contained fragment—and i t certainly is self-contained—but its larger relation to the whole design of The Excursion is hardly discussed. Although Coleridge was keenly disappointed with The Excursion, he s t i l l considered "the ruined cottage" (that i s , the first Book) 20 "the finest Poem in our [English] language". It is interesting that Coleridge s t i l l referred to the first Book of The Excursion in 1815 as "the ruined cottage". By that date Wordsworth had already integrated the tale, with significant revisions and additions, into the first Book of The Excursion which he entitled The Wanderer. 182 This i n i t s e l f may not be a l l that s i g n i f i c a n t but a c a r e f u l examination of the f i r s t Book of The Excursion w i l l i l l u s t r a t e the composite nature of the character of the Wanderer and emphasize the q u a l i t i e s of mind which an t i c i p a t e the larger strategy i n the poem. The greater part of the f i r s t Book of The Excursion (11. 52-438) i s devoted to the i l l u s t r a t i o n of the Wanderer's p h i l o s o p h i c a l attitu d e toward human s u f f e r i n g . The focus on the creative power of human p a s s i o n — o f the creative resources i n the mind of man i n the face of human s u f f e r i n g — i s affirmed throughout the f i r s t book and i n the rest of The Excursion. In t h i s connection i t i s h e l p f u l to r e f e r to Wordsworth's own d i s t i n c t i o n between ordinary or popular passion, on the one hand, and meditative passion on the other. Wordsworth describes the fluctuations' of hope and fear i n Margaret's mind as f a l l i n g within ordinary passion but he describes the distress of the S o l i t a r y ( i n Book Two) i n h i s 21 q u a r r e l l with h i s conscience as tending more to meditative passion. This d i s t i n c t i o n i s further elaborated upon i n "Essay, Supplementary to the Preface", where he distinguishes between meditative and human pathos, that i s , between enthusiastic and ordinary sorrow. Under i the p r i n c i p l e of meditative contemplation which emerges from t h i s d i s t i n c t i o n , the story of Margaret for example, i s to be contemplated with "no sadness i n the nerves, no d i s p o s i t i o n to tears, no unconquerable sighs, yet with a melancholy i n the so u l , a sinking inward i n t o our-selves from thought to thought, a steady remonstrance and a high 22 ' i resolve." In other words, the story of the Ruined Cottage as i t stands i n Book I of The Excursion i s important not merely because i t i s an a f f e c t i n g t a l e , but pr i m a r i l y because i t i l l u s t r a t e s the 183 Wanderer's attitude toward human suffering. Therefore the significance of the story is to be found more in its contemplative rather than in its narrative value. The character of the Wanderer is therefore the most important factor in any interpretation of the story. The story itself is a delineation of the human condition, and the human epic overtones evident in the description of the weeds and other aspects of the ruined condition of the cottage (1. 450 ff) are allusions to the Fall; that is, to the reality of human lif e in the world. The Wanderer, I have already suggested, is a composite character. One can discern in him the young poet Wordsworth, as depicted in the first two Books of The Prelude, especially; Wordsworth's sailor-brother, John Wordsworth, as described in the letters, and the prototype of the minstrel. I have stated earlier that one pressing urge in the writing of The Excursion was the need on the part of Wordsworth to reconcile himself to the terrible realities of l i f e . From the evidence of The Letters of William 23 and Dorothy Wordsworth, and from the internal evidence of poems 24 such as The Ode, the last Book of The Prelude and Peele Castle (see Chapter V), i t is only too obvious that the death of John Wordsworth was the most momentous of those terrible realities. And I am inclined to believe that the shock of John Wordsworth's death contributed much toward deepening Wordsworth's concern with the theme of the dark passages of l i f e . The letters of 1805-8 are fu l l of thoughtful reflections by both William and Dorothy on the occasion of John's death. These reflections bear a striking correspondence to the thoughts and themes in The Excursion; for 184 example, Wordsworth, writing to Sir George Beaumont on 11th February 1805 describes his late brother as "loving a l l quiet things, and a Poet in every thing but words". Then he exclaims, "Alas! what is human l i f e ! " This description and the theme which i t raises correspond to the description and theme of lines 76-107 (see below). In his letter to Robert Southey the next day, Wordsworth exclaims in a similar vein of thought! Oh! i t makes the heart groan, that, with such a beautiful world as this to live in, and such a soul as that of man's is by nature.... and ninety-nine of us in a hundred never easy in any road that travels toward peace and quietness! And yet, what virtue and what goodness, what heroism and courage, what triumphs of disinterested love everywhere; and human l i f e , after a l l , what is i t ! Surely, this is not to be forever, even on this perishable planet.^4 Here Wordsworth is trying to grapple with the dark passages in a very personal sense, and I intend to show in my analysis of Books VI and VII of The Excursion how such thematic concerns are transposed into The Excursion. Meanwhile, in another letter to Sir George Beaumont, dated 3 June 1805, Wordsworth speaks of his feelings of gloom rather than of joy at finishing The Prelude. He singles out "dejection" and adds: "above a l l , many heavy thoughts of my poor departed Brother hung upon me." And i f we turn to The Prelude itself, we shall find the same thought expressed in verse. The last and later portions of this gift Have been prepared, not with the buoyant spirits That were our daily portion when we first Together wantoned in wild Poesy, But, under pressure of a private grief Keen and enduring, which the mind and heart, That in this meditative history 185 Have been laid open, needs must make me feel More deeply; yet enable me to bear More firmly; and a comfort now hath risen From hope that thou art near, and wilt be soon Restored to us in renovated health; When, after the first mingling of our tears 'Among other consolations, we may draw Some pleasure from this offering of my love (Book XIV, 415-29) I have quoted this passage at great length because I wish to demonstrate in this chapter that the deepening of Wordsworth's thoughts and feelings from the "pressure of a private grief / keen and enduring" reached its culmination in the exploration of the dark passages in The Excursion. Neither the consolation of friendship nor any other consolation could quieten the poet's heart. The creative energies of his mind became stifled by grief and his mind turned more and more on the dark side of li f e and, especially, on the 23a theme of "the darkness of the grave." It became necessary for Wordsworth to undertake another "labour of love". What this was is stated by Dorothy Wordsworth in her letter to Lady Beaumont of 11th April 1805: It will give you great pleasure to hear that my brother has resumed his old employments, having taken up again the task of his l i f e , though not in the regular way. T i l l he has unburthened his heart of its fetlifeelingsuonlour lossaheocannotngoidh with other things, and i t does him good to speak of John as he was, therefore he is now writing a poem upon him. I should not say a poem for i t is part of the Recluse. I doubt not, when this labour of love is finished, that he will go on with more firmness and devotion than he has ever yet done, and i f i t please God to grant him li f e I trust that he will perform something that may mend many hearts. (her emphasis) 186 The preoccupation with the dark passages in a l l these quotations should be obvious by now, and my point is that a sense of personal urgency informs Wordsworth's exploration of the puzzles of l i f e and death in The Excursion. An awareness of such a personal dimension may illuminate our understanding of Wordsworth's mode of exploration 25 better than references to literary sources and analogues.11 In this regard, i t is valid to suggest that even i f Coleridge's "Ideas respecting the Recluse" had not been "burnt as a Plague-Garment, Wordsworth's deepening contemplation would have led him inevitably to an exploration of the dark passages of l i f e . The poem upon John Wordsworth is a fragment integrated into the first Book of The Excursion. The very opening words recall the lines from the letter to George Beaumont which I quoted above: Oh! many are the Poets that are sown By Nature; men endowed with highest gifts, The vision and the faculty divine. (11. 77 ff.) One question immediately comes to mind: Why did Wordsworth make the Wanderer such a composite character endowed with a l l the ideal qualities of an imaginative mind? Coleridge objected to the elaborate characterization of the Wanderer, arguing that the "invented account of his birth, parentage and education, with a l l the strange and fortunate accidents which had concurred in making him at once poet, philosopher [and pedlar]" did not belong to an elevated 2 6 poem. "Nothing but biography can justify this." And yet the very significance of these details is that they help to make the Wanderer a truly representative character. Wordsworth assigns to the character of the Wanderer the task of offering elevating 187 thoughts both i n t h i s world and beyond the darkness of the grave. The d e t a i l s of h i s l i f e i l l u s t r a t e the experiences and opportunities which the Wanderer's mode of l i f e enabled him to accumulate. He had f e l t the sublime consciousness of the powers of the human mind i n the presence of nature: So the foundations of h i s mind were l a i d . In such communion, not from t e r r o r f r e e , While yet a c h i l d , and long before h i s time, Had he perceived the presence and the power Of greatness; and deep feel i n g s had impressed So v i v i d l y great objects that they lay Upon h i s mind l i k e substances, whose presence Perplexed the bodily sense. (11. 131-139 f f . ) These early impressions became the sustaining remembrances of h i s l i f e and the measure of the value of l a t e r experiences. In t h i s way he developed a sense of the inter-connection of things which endowed his own existence with blessedness and love, so that everything seemed i n f i n i t e ; accordingly, fee l i n g s of l i t t l e n e s s and l i s t l e s s n e s s were not h i s . His education i n books and i n the awful d i s c i p l i n e of nature brought him more than usual advantages. He moved i n the "fellowship" of Humanity and gathered experience from contemplating the s o l i t a r y anguish of mortal men: from h i s native h i l l s He wandered f a r ; much did he see of men, Their manners, t h e i r enjoyments, and pu r s u i t s , Their passions and t h e i r f e e l i n g s ; c h i e f l y those E s s e n t i a l and eternal i n the heart, That, 'mid the simpler forms of r u r a l l i f e , E x ist more simple i n t h e i r elements, And speak a p l a i n e r language. (11. 340-347) The poet goes on to l i s t the Wanderer's other advantages and these include the l i b e r t y of nature, of s o l i t u d e and of s o l i t a r y thought, 188 and of a l l the v a r i e t i e s of place and season: Spontaneously had h i s a f f e c t i o n s t h r i v e n Amid the bounties of the year; there he kept In s o l i t u d e and s o l i t a r y thought His mind i n a j u s t equipoise of lo v e . Serene i t was, unclouded by the cares Of ordinary l i f e ; unvexed, unwarped By p a r t i a l bondage. In h i s steady course, No piteous r e v o l u t i o n s had he f e l t , No w i l d v a r i e t i e s of joy and g r i e f . Unoccupied by sorrow of i t s own, His heart l a y open; and, by nature tuned And constant - disposition of h i s thoughts To sympathy w i t h man, he was a l i v e To a l l that was enjoyed where'er he went, And a l l that was endured. (11. 351-366) This i s "a-highly i d e a l i z e d 1 " though o n o t % i d y l l i c - p o r t r a i t ; ' i t - , i s t h i s i d e a l i z a t i o n which prepares us f o r the r o l e of the Wanderer i n the poem, and p a r t i c u l a r l y d i s t i n g u i s h e s him from both the poet and the S o l i t a r y . The d e s c r i p t i o n of the " j u s t e q u i p o i s e " of h i s mind i s important; i t contrast s v i v i d l y w i t h the doubting d i s -p o s i t i o n of the poet and the thorough-going s c e p t i c i s m of the S o l i t a r y . The Wanderer's mind i s "unvexed", "unclouded by the cares of ordinary l i f e " ; h i s l i f e has been a steady course not subject to the w i l d v a r i e t i e s - of joy and g r i e f . But Wordsworth had, as my references to the evidence of the l e t t e r s and poems of 1805-7 have amply demonstrated, experienced the w i l d v a r i e t i e s of j o y and g r i e f , and h i s heart was heavy w i t h g r i e f of i t s own. The anguish a r i s i n g from the l o s s of h i s br o t h e r had d i s t u r b e d whatever equipoise of mind he had achieved. "The Wanderer could not have w r i t t e n Wordsworth's poetry; i t emerges out of Wordsworth's urgent personal problem; i t i s the answer to the question: How, i n a world that has shown i t s e l f to be l i k e t h i s , i s i t p o s s i b l e to go on 189 l i v i n g ? " 2 7 However, the poet shows that the Wanderer i s not unacquainted with human g r i e f — i n a general sense. His d i s i n t e r e s t e d or rather dispassionate a t t i t u d e i s stressed, but a great deal of observation and r e f l e c t i o n on s u f f e r i n g humanity has been a formative element i n the Wanderer's character: f o r , i n himself Happy, and quiet i n h i s cheerfulness, He had no p a i n f u l pressure from without That made him turn aside from wretchedness With coward fears. He could afford to s u f f e r With those whom he saw s u f f e r . Hence i t came That i n our best experience he was r i c h , And i n wisdom of our d a i l y l i f e . (11. 366-373 [Wordsworth's emphasis]) Vigorous i n health, of hopeful s p i r i t s , undamped By worldly-mindedness or anxious care; Observant, studious, thoughtful, and refreshed By knowledge gathered up from day to day; Thus had he l i v e d a long and innocent l i f e . (11. 392-396) His dispassionate p a r t i c i p a t i o n i s not due s o l e l y £o)the fact that his heart i s unoccupied by sorrow of i t s own but also to the fact that h i s mode of l i f e has c u l t i v a t e d i n him a mind of such f o r t i t u d e that g r i e f cannot e a s i l y destroy h i s equanimity. He has hopeful s p i r i t s — a s contrasted with the languid s p i r i t s of the S o l i t a r y . The range of his experience and the human wisdom which he has gained from such range of experience i s emphasized, and the rest of the poem provides s i t u a t i o n s where the s u f f i c i e n c y or l i m i t a t i o n s of his wisdom are to be tested. His vigorous human-heartedness i s also stressed as a v i t a l element i n the p e c u l i a r l y open d i s p o s i t i o n which has b u i l t up his being and h i s being i s described as "sublime and comprehensive" because he has through the years c u l t i v a t e d the habit 190 of r e f l e c t i o n ; h i s wisdom i s described as that which works through patience "In o f t - r e c u r r i n g hours of sober thought" (1. 240). He i s shown to have weathered even the t r i a l s of time: Time had compressed the freshness of his cheek Into a narrower c i r c l e of deep red, But had not tamed h i s eye; that, under brows Shaggy and grey, had meanings which i t brought From years of youth; which, l i k e a Being made Of many Beings, he had wondrous s k i l l To blend with knowledge of the years to come, Human, or such as l i e beyond the grave. (11. 425-433) In t h i s sketch we are given a sense of the continuity of imaginative growth which enables the Wanderer to maintain that j u s t equipoise which neither ordinary human fears nor the darker thoughts of de a t h — o f the darkness of the grave—can disturb. The weight and sanity of thought and f e e l i n g which i s encompassed i n The Excursion a r i s e from intense pondering on human experience, and i n the opening of the f i r s t Book of the poem Wordsworth c a r e f u l l y delineates the character whose range of exper-ience i n the fellowship of Humanity q u a l i f i e s him to represent a phi l o s o p h i c a l point of view that i s based on the common sympathies of Humanity. My approach to the story of Margaret i s , therefore, to treat i t as the f i r s t i n a serie s of tales designed to i l l u s t r a t e a p r i n c i p l e of imaginative contemplation; the story of Margaret, seen from the point of view of The Wanderer, does not merely provide an i l l u s t r a t i o n of the v i c i s s i t u d e of human l i f e but pr i m a r i l y provides material for contemplating the creative resources of the human heart i n response to human s u f f e r i n g . This i s the Wanderer's mode of contemplating the dark passages of l i f e . This i s why he begins 191 the story with a prefatory p h i l o s o p h i c a l r e f l e c t i o n on the r o l e of nature i n the strong creative power of human passion. After r e f l e c t i n g b r i e f l y on the i n e v i t a b i l i t y of change and loss i n the human condition, the Wanderer declares: The Poets, i n t h e i r elegies and songs Lamenting the departed, c a l l the groves, They c a l l upon the h i l l s and streams to mourn, And senseless rocks; nor i d l y ; f o r they speak In these t h e i r invocations, with a w i l l Obedient to the strong creative power Of human passion. Sympathies there are More t r a n q u i l , yet perhaps of kindred b i r t h , That s t e a l upon the meditative mind, And grow with thought. (11. 475-484) It was not for nothing that Wordsworth added t h i s passage i n the 28 1814 text; i t has a s i g n i f i c a n c e both for the t a l e which follows and for Book IV and subsequent Books of The Excursion. The emphasis i s on the concept of a creative power i n the mind of man and, e s p e c i a l l y , on the concept of imaginative sympathy or i n t e l l e c t u a l love. The story i s occasioned by n a t u r a l reminders: the quiet pool and the "fragment of a wooden bowl, / Green with the moss of years, and subject only / To the soft handling of the elements." And the story of Margaret—and R o b e r t — i s t o l d with c l a s s i c economy: She i s dead, The l i g h t extinguished of her lonely hut, The hut i t s e l f abandoned to decay, And she forgotten i n the quiet grave. (11. 507-510) The d e t a i l s are graphically f i l l e d i n but even though i t i s a deeply moving story, the Wanderer abruptly breaks o f f and breaks out i n a p h i l o s o p h i c a l r e f l e c t i o n : 192 'Tis now the hour of deepest noon. At this s t i l l season of repose and peace, This hour when a l l things which are not at rest Are cheerful . . . Why should a tear be on an old Man's cheek? Why should we thus, with an untoward mind, And in the weakness of humanity, From natural wisdom turn our hearts away; To natural comfort shut our eyes and ears; And, feeding on disquiet, thus disturb The calm of nature with our restless thoughts? The Wanderer's mode of contemplating human suffering is not to allow the human mind to feed on disquiet; i t is rather to weigh the good and evil of our earthly state, in this case to understand the consolations and the creative resources of the human spirit. The point is made by the Wanderer himself. He plays down the narrative by describing the story as "a common tale": An ordinary sorrow of man's l i f e , A tale of silent suffering, hardly clothed In bodily form. (11. 637-639) But such ordinary things of li f e constitute the most perplexing of the dark passages of l i f e ; and they are ample material for the philosophical contemplation of l i f e , especially because i t is the law of human nature that there is often found In mournful thoughts, and always might be found, A power to virtue friendly. (11. 632-634) This is the justification for telling the story for, were it otherwise, were't not so, I am a dreamer among men, indeed An idle dreamer (11. 634-636) The emphasis in the story of Margaret is placed in the exploration of the resources of the human spirit. The Wanderer's attitude toward 193 the influence of nature as one of the consolations of the human spirit in time of grief is very important. Though the story is a poignant one, the spirit in which the Wanderer tells i t produces a salutary tranquility rather than a morbid impression. Even Margaret in her suffering attains a period of insight into human nature which enables her to achieve an equipoise of mind: I have slept Weeping, and weeping have I waked; my tears Have flowed as if my body were not such As others are; and I could never die. But I am now in mind and in my heart More easy. (11. 769-774) In like manner the story produces a sobering impression on the Poet who discovers in reviewing the story that it seemed To comfort me while with a brother's love I blessed her in the impotence of grief. Then towards the cottage I returned; and traced Fondly, though with an interest more mild, The secret spirit of humanity Which, 'mid her plants, and weeds, and flowers, And silent overgrowings, s t i l l survived. (11. 921-930) What is particularly significant here is the way in which the Poet recognizes the common spirit of humanity which operates almost imperceptibly as a bond between a l l human beings; his primal sympathies operate quietly to lead him to a recognition of the natural tendencies in human nature. The Wanderer observes this process of recognition and with great dramatic effect emphasizes the point, stating that 194 consolation springs From sources deeper far than deepest pain For the meek sufferer. Why then should we read The forms of things with an unworthy eye? She sleeps in the calm earth, and peace is here. (11. 936-941) This last line suggests much more than meets the eye. There are more deaths in The Excursion than in any other poem of its kind but a l l the dead sleep in the calm earth. The Wanderer turns from oppressive thoughts of man's mortality to contemplate the condition of man's l i f e ; and what he finds in nature is an image of tranquility (11. 941 ff.) In such mood of contemplation he realizes that What we feel of sorrow and despair From ruin and from change, and a l l the grief That passing shows of Being leave behind, Appeared an idle dream [that could not live Where meditation was].30 What meditation leads to remains the burden of the rest of the poem; but while the Wanderer finds much value and support in the meditative sympathies of man and in the indestructibility of the principle of lif e in the human soul, the Solitary scoffs at them and i t is in the interplay between these two characters in a kind of Socratic dialogue that the poem derives its narrative dramatic force. In Book II the Solitary and the Wanderer are sharply contrasted. The Wanderer is described as endowed with an overflowing spirit of human-heartedness: Rich in love And sweet humanity, he was, himself, To the degree that he desired, beloved. (11. 54-56) We are also told that not even the noblest of ancient minstrels 195 Drew happier, l o f t i e r , more empassioned, thoughts From h i s long journeyings and eventful l i f e , Than t h i s obscure Itinerant had s k i l l To gather, ranging through the tamer ground Of these our unimaginative days. ' (11. 20-24)' Here i s one instance of the sublime egotism of the poet Wordsworth— 31 the kind of pride, egotism and confidence which Keats shared and which both recognized as necessary for the production of great peems i n The Romantic Age. Wordsworth describes h i s age here, as i n Book Five of The Prelude (see Chapter III) , as "unimaginative," and yet he goes on to ind i c a t e p r e c i s e l y how a sense of continuity of imaginative view of the world could be developed i n order to carry on the task of providing i l l u m i n a t i o n f o r the children of the earth. To the young poet whose " f a v o r i t e school / Had been the f i e l d s , the road, and r u r a l lanes," the Wanderer i s a " l i g h t u n f a i l i n g . " The Wanderer represents the sense of l i f e and love; he also possesses a sense of the awe and reverence i n human l i f e . By contrast, The S o l i t a r y has f o r f e i t e d a l l joy i n human nature and, oppressed by the burthen of existence, he i s now steeped i n a s e l f -indulging spleen. Two of the causes of t h i s development are b r i e f l y stated by the Wanderer: the f i r s t i s the loss of h i s family which i s poignantly described with h i s e a r l i e r joy v i v i d l y contrasted with h i s g r i e f : Youth's season yet with him was scarcely past, And she was i n youth's prime. How free t h e i r love, How f u l l t h e i r joy! T i l l , p i t i a b l e doom! In the short course of one undreaded year, Death blasted a l l . Death suddenly o'erthrew Two lov e l y C h i l d r e n — a l l that they possessed! The Mother followed:—miserably bare The one Survivor stood—compelled To hold communion with the grave, and face With pain the regions of e t e r n i t y . „„ (11. 195-205) 196 The anguish of t h i s unmitigated g r i e f l e d to apathy which was, however, broken by the glorious promise of the French Revolution. But t h i s "proud and most presumptuous confidence / In the transcendent wisdom of the age / And her discernment" only led through u t t e r disappointment to a t o t a l r e t r e a t and hardened apathy. His vale of retreat which i s bounded by a dreary p l a i n i s described as Shut out from a l l the world! Urn-like i t was i n shape, deep as an urn. (11. 331-332) The poet would l i k e to think that l i f e here would be exempt from the common penalties of mortal l i f e . Sickness, or accident, or g r i e f , or pain. (11. 367-368) But even here there i s human g r i e f : On these and kindred thoughts intent I lay In s i l e n c e musing by fiymComrade'seside, He also s i l e n t ; when from out the heart Of that profound abyss a solemn voice Or several voices i n one solemn sound, Was heard ascending; mournful, deep, and slow The cadence, as of psalms—a funeral dirge! (11. 370-376) This leads i n the rest of Book II and i n a l l of Book III to a discussion on human l i f e and the causes of despondency. The profound expanse of mountain grandeur excites l o f t y thoughts i n the Wanderer: Some shadowy intimations haunt me here, That i n these shows a chronicle survives Of purposes akin to those of Man But wrought with mightier arm than now p r e v a i l s . — V o i c e l e s s the stream descends into the gulf With timid l a p s e ; — a n d l o ! while i n t h i s s t r a i g h t I s t a n d — t h e chasm of sky above my head Is heaven's profoundest azure; no domain For f i c k l e , s h o r t - l i v e d clouds to occupy, Or pass through; but rather an abyss In which the eve r l a s t i n g stars abide (11. 88-97, Book III) 197 It is a situation in which both littleness and listlessness of 33 mind are banished. Here the mind can be led in its excursive journey of contemplation until the scale Ofi: time and conscious nature disappear, Lost in unsearchable eternity! (Bk. I l l , 11. 110-113) For the Solitary, however, the images in the valley are fraught rather with feelings>o£ depression than with those of delight or exaltation: they are "the sport of Nature, aided by blind Chance / Rudely to mock the works of toiling Man," and they remind him of the ruins of time through a l l ancient civilisations—Grecian, Roman, Egyptian or Syrian. The Solitary's rejoinder to the claim that these grand objects inspire contemplation is What avails imagination high Or questions deep i f nowhere Can be attained, — a better sanctuary From doubt and sorrow, than the senseless grave? (Bk. I l l , 11. 210-224) This argument comes to rest on one of the root causes of the Solitary's Despondency: the fear of the senseless grave. This is one of the aspects of the dark passages which Wordsworth's genius explores. Does human l i f e evolve from darkness and end in the darkness of the grave? Wo-rdsworth raises this question in the elegiac stanzas of 1805 (see Chapter V), and with great force in Ecclesiastical Sonnets, Part I, XV and XVI, where, following Bede, he versifies the thought of the Anglo-Saxon Sage who told Edwin that man's lif e is like the flight of a sparrow, from darkness unto darkness.^ 198 The thought of the darkness of the grave i s one of the main causes of the S o l i t a r y ' s despondency i n Book III of The Excursion. The S o l i t a r y concedes that, l i k e the Wanderer, he too had experienced the dream-like joys of childhood i n a bright and breathing world. The problem i s that he cannot continue to enjoy the v i t a l beams of present sunshine. He would l i k e to muse on what "from oldest time we have been t o l d / Of your bright forms and glorious f a c u l t i e s , / And with the imagination rest content / Not wishing..more." But he can no longer rest s a t i s f i e d upon earth's native energies as simply a c h i l d of earth. His argument gains force from h i s pointed contrast between h i s past joys (11. 421-343) and h i s melancholy r e f l e c t i o n on the r e a l i t y of the human condition: What good i s given to men, More s o l i d than the gilded clouds of heaven?— None! ' t i s the general p l a i n t of human kind In s o l i t u d e : and mutually addressed From each to a l l . (11. 437-442) The s o l i t a r y then goes on, i n t h i s b i t t e r language of the heart, 35 to describe M u t a b i l i t y as Nature's bane, and argues persuasively that hope and joy are both so f r a g i l e that they are a l l too e a s i l y replaced by fea r , doubt and agony. In l i n e s 480-635 the S o l i t a r y describes the operation of mutability as applied to h i s own p a r t i c u l a r case. He r e c a l l s i n glowing terms the seven years of b l i s s when he, with thoughts and wishes bounded to t h i s earth, l i v e d and breathed i n gratitude for human joys t i l l From some dark seat of f a t a l power was urged A claim that shattered a l l — O u r blooming g i r l , Caught i n the gripe of death, with such b r i e f time To struggle i n was conveyed From us to inac c e s s i b l e worlds, to regions 199 Where height, or depth, admits not the approach Of living man, though longing to pursue. —With even as brief a warning—and how soon, With what short interval of time between. I tremble yet to think of—our last prop, Our happy life's only remaining stay— The brother followed; and was seen no more! (11. 636-649) Phrases such as "dark seat of fatal power" and "inaccessible worlds" emphasize the dilemma of man in relation to the forces which govern his l i f e and death. In this and other passages, the Solitary's sense of futility in the face of the dark passages of l i f e is so moving because his scepticism derives from the urgency of personal experience—unlike the Wanderer's philosophy. The note of authenticity in the Solitary's narrative gains its momentum from the personal experience of Wordsworth to which the Solitary's experience corresponds in almost every detail. In his letter to Catherine Clarkson, dated June 11, 1812, Wordsworth says: I write with a f u l l heart; with some sorrow, But most oppressed by an awful sense of the uncertainty and instability of a l l human things. And Dorothy writing to Catherine Clarkson on 5 Jan. 1813 adds: "the history of the last five weeks have been a time of anguish— sorrow—anxiety—hope and sadness." All this refers to the deaths of Catherine and Thomas, children of William Wordsworth. In her letter to Catherine Clarkson, Dorothy adds significantly: "William has begun to look into his poem the Recluse." This reference is to The Excursion, to which Wordsworth now added the passage, which I have quoted above, describing the death of the Solitary's two children. The passage describing the affliction of the Solitary's 200 wife, II lines 650-668, also corresponds almost word for word with the maternal grief of Mary Wordsworth on the occasion of the death of Catherine Wordsworth, as described by Wordsworth in a letter to Christopher Wordsworth, dated 18th June 1818: neither thought nor religion nor the endeavours of friends, can at once quiet a heart that has been disturbed by such affliction She [Mary Wordsworth] suffers more than in the ordinary course of nature from the tender connection and dependence in which this child has long existed with her, or hung upon her maternal care; and I feel that the privation will be a sorrow for l i f e . Wordsworth himself was to express his poignant grief in a sonnet 36 composed in 1812 and published in 1815, of which I will have more to say in my concluding chapter. I have alluded to these correspondences primarily to illustrate more fully the sense of personal urgency which informs the Solitary's position. It is noteworthy that the Wanderer, whose position represents philosophical optimism based on the concept of a superintending benevolence, has not experienced any personal grief as keen as the deprivations of the Solitary. Even the Solitary's wife is taken away from him and he is left miserably bare and deprived, a solitary twig in the st orm of l i f e . This is the basis of his scepticism and despondency: If she, of l i f e Blameless, so intimate with love and joy And.all the tender motions of the soul, Had been supplanted, could I hope to stand— Infirm, dependent, and now destitute? (11. 681-685) With a l l the virtue and goodness, a l l the triumph of disinterested love, the question remains: Human l i f e , after a l l , what is it? The Solitary finally turns to the only other means of consolation for an 201 i n t e l l e c t u a l mind, to poets and other imaginative thinkers who might serve as friends and companions of h i s s o l i t a r y existence and elevate him above h i s poor weak s e l f . The main burden of h i s thought i s the ut t e r f i n a l i t y of death. Is there nothing beyond t h i s l i f e , beyond the darkness of the grave? Do a l l the joys and vir t u e s of humanity end i n the darkness of the grave? Were we made for this? What consciousness does the human s p i r i t r e t a i n 37 of former loves and human int e r e s t s ? Even poets and philosophers f a i l to o f f e r s a t i s f a c t o r y answers to these searching questions on the value and destiny of l i f e : Then my soul Turned inward,—to examine of what s t u f f Time's f e t t e r s are composed; and l i f e was put To i n q u i s i t i o n , long and p r o f i t l e s s ! By pain of heart—now checked—and now i m p e l l e d — The i n t e l l e c t u a l power, through words and things, Went sounding on, a dim and perilous way! (11. 695-700) Discussions of The Excursion which emphasize the f a i l u r e of the French Revolution as the main cause of the S o l i t a r y ' s des-pondency f a i l to recognize the true nature of the dark passages which represent the main reason for the S o l i t a r y ' s despondency. The order i n which the S o l i t a r y h i m s e l f — a n d the Wanderer i n Book I I — l i s t s the causes of h i s fi x e d despondency i s very important, and t h i s order has to be understood i n order to understand the dark passages which the poet i s exploring i n The Excursion. The So l i t a r y ' s unmitigated loss i s the f i r s t and most poignant, cause adduced to account f o r h i s despondency. The second cause i s also personal: h i s languor and depression of mind i s accentuated 202 38 by his want of faith in the great truths of religion. The infallible support of Christians fails him because in the face of his total deprivation it no longer evokes a sufficiently human response from him. He is finally aroused to the great human issue of the French Revolution with a l l its promise of the dawn of a golden age (11. 706-912); but even in that seemingly glorious enterprise the Solitary discovers only "the contradictions of which Man / Is s t i l l the sport." (11. 806-807), and he is left as One by storms annoyed and adverse winds; Perplexed with currents. . . dismayed. S t i l l perplexed by the burthen of the mystery, the Solitary turns toward the New World (11. 913-955) but this adventure also leads to melancholy disappointment, for the golden age could not be found there either; so that at the end of Book III human li f e remains what i t was at the beginning like a stream "from darkness". In Book IV (significantly entitled "Despondency Corrected"), the Wanderer explores the various ways by which support can be found for the calamities of mortal l i f e . His main attempt is to answer the question, How can the human spirit be prevented from drooping when oppressed by "weight / of anguish unrelieved and lack of power / An agonizing sorrow to transmute?" The Wanderer's faith is based on his ability to find "Respose and hope among eternal things", but he realizes the difficult of defining "eternal things". He is compelled therefore to consider first the infirmities of "mortal kind". The first source of this infirmity of mortal kind—and of human sorrow—is that 203 the endowment.of immortal power Is matched unequally with custom, time, And domineering faculties of sense In a l l (11. 204-208; Wordsworth's emphasis) The Wanderer concedes this point, but he points out that the imaginative soul cannot droop if i t is fed by images of meditation and reflection. He turns to the peculiar tendencies of rationalism which have threatened both the sanity of the Romantic Age and the sense of continuity.of imaginative vision. The return to sanity is to understand human nature and the condition of man through a l l time, because there are really no extraordinary and superhuman powers that have been discovered by this generation of human beings. The loss of confidence in mankind has arisen from the unexpected transports of our age Carried so high, that every thought, which looked Beyond the temporal destiny of the kind, To many seemed superfluous. (11. 262-265) It is the overweening pride in the transcending wisdom of the age which has caused such chasm of diappointment. Man should explore a l l natures so that he can understand his own place on the scale of being. If a man explores a l l nature to the end that he may the better understand human nature and its relation to the universe, he shall not f a i l to recognize The vassalage that binds [him] to the earth, [His] sad dependence upon time, and a l l The trepidations of mortality. (11. 421-423) Phrases such as "sad dependence upon time" and " a l l / The trepidations of mortality" remind us that The Excursion is concerned with the 204 exploration of the dark passages of human l i f e . The force of the Wanderer's argument i s directed however not toward acceptance and endurance only but also toward the process of the regeneration of s p i r i t s . The process here, as i n The Prelude, i s to d i r e c t attention toward the source of strength i n the human mind. As Wordsworth himself put i t to Mrs. Clarkson, The Soul . . . may be re-given when i t had been taken away, my own S o l i t a r y i s an instance of this.39 40 What i s involved i s the task of imaginative regeneration. The move-ment of argument i s from the empirical range of the senses to the extension of imaginative perception into the realm of the s p i r i t . This i s why the Wanderer, i n the midst of the r e a l i t y of external things, d i r e c t s the S o l i t a r y ' s attention to the beauty and harmony, and the joy and happiness of l i v i n g creatures. He points out that the images of nature have the power of moving the a f f e c t i o n s of those who have the deepest perception of the Beauty of Nature, and t h i s of course harks back to the Wanderer's own formative years as described i n Book I I . The Wanderer maintains that he who thinks, and f e e l s , And recognizes ever and anon The breeze of nature s t i r r i n g i n h i s s o u l , Why need such man go desperately astray And nurse "the dreadful appetite of death"? I f u n r e l i g i o u s , l e t him be at once Among ten thousand innocents, e n r o l l e d A p u p i l i n the many-chambered school, Where s u p e r s t i t i o n weaves her a i r y dreams. (11. 597-610) The thought here i s very important f o r our appreciation of the s i g n i f i c a n c e which Wordsworth places on the regeneration of the imaginative mind. The same point of view i s expressed i n two sonnets; i n one of these sonnets the poet exclaims with firmness: 205 Great God! I'd rather be A pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;^ Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. In both the Sonnets and in the passage from The Excursion, superstition is better than apathy or disillusioned scepticism because a review of patterns of imaginative vision in a l l human cultures!'reveals that even in the supposedly superstitious mythologies, The imaginative faculty was lord Of observations natural (11. 707-708) Superstition was therefore a symbolic representation of a sense of an enduring spirit that was felt in the beautiful region of the human heart. The ancients had a sense of the interconnection and eternality of a l l things and they had "hopes that overstepped the Grave" (1. 940), so that though bewildered in those days, the "pagans of old time" recognized a sense of value in human lif e within the light of common day. (11. 925-940). Book IV of The Excursion is often singled out as interesting because of its account of the origins of mythology; surely this account is very interesting but even more significant is the use to which Wordsworth puts his knowledge of such origins. My point is that the origins of mythology is only a preliminary step in the poet's strategy of regenerating the human heart by re-establishing the powers of the imagination. He wishes to reduce the calculating intelligence to its proper level so as to re-assert the imaginative faculty as the supreme faculty which embraces and transcends a l l other faculties of man and which can suggest value in human lif e beyond the reaches of the 206 pure a n a l y t i c i n t e l l e c t . For Wordsworth, Imagination i s , a f t e r a l l , Reason i n her most exalted mood. The movement of the verse argument from l i n e s 941-1274 supports my p o s i t i o n that what i s p a r t i c u l a r l y s i g n i f i c a n t i n Book IV i s the use to which Wordsworth puts his knowledge or concept of the.origins of mythology. The poetic d e s c r i p t i o n of the or i g i n s of mythology ends on l i n e 940 and the poet signals a turn i n h i s argument on l i n e 941. This turn of argument i s indicated by the break i n stanzaic structure and by s y n t a c t i c and other r h e t o r i c a l devices which force on us the purpose of the poet's long discussion on the or i g i n s of mythology: Now, s h a l l our great Discoverers obtain From sense and reason less than these obtained, Though f a r misled? S h a l l men for whom our age Unbaffled powers of v i s i o n hath prepared, To explore the world without and world wi t h i n , Be joyless as the blind? And they whose pains Have solved the elements, or analysed The thinking p r i n c i p l e — s h a l l they i n fact Prove a degraded Race? Enquire of ancient Wisdom; go, demand Of mighty Nature, i f 'twas ever meant That we should pry f a r off yet be unraised. (11. 941-959, and following) In the reference to "sense and reason" and to s c i e n t i s t s who have "solved the elements", or "analysed the thinking p r i n c i p l e , " Wordsworth has the best of the empirical philosophers i n mind—such as Newton, Locke, and Berkeley, as I have e a r l i e r suggested i n my introductory chapters. But i n phrases such as "joyless as the b l i n d " and "pry far o f f yet be unraised, he has the worst tendencies of r a t i o n a l i s t i c science i n mind. The Wanderer's point i s that narrow and cold r a t i o n a l i s m f a i l s to recognize that the human soul i s composed of a thousand 207 f a c u l t i e s and has more comprehensive i n t e r e s t s than the a n a l y t i c i n t e l l e c t alone could s a t i s f y , or even account f o r . That pseudo-s c i e n t i f i c r ationalism which pores over and presents everything as dead and s p i r i t l e s s r e a l l y misses the s p i r i t of things and f a i l s to present a truth which can be subjected to the medium of the human heart as the touchstone of experience. Human beings need better l i g h t s and guides than those offered by dead and s p i r i t l e s s pseudo-science f o r even among "pagan" Greeks, a thought arose Of L i f e continuous, Being unimpaired; That hath been, i s , and where i t was and i s There s h a l l endure, — existence unexposed To the b l i n d walk of mortal accident; From dimunition safe and weakening age; While man grows o l d , and dwindles, and decays; And countless generations of mankind Depart, and leave no vestige where they trod ( 1 1 . 7 5 4 - 7 6 1 ) The l a s t three l i n e s are part of what constitutes the dark passages which The Excursion i s designed to explore, and i t i s not fortuitous 4 2 that Keats adapted thse l i n e s i n two of h i s odes. For the S o l i t a r y the one unmitigated r e a l i t y i s the sense of mortality and f u t i l i t y . He cannot f i n d any consolation beyond the fact that t h i s i s a world i n which man grows o l d , and dwindles, and decays; And countless generations of mankind Depart, and leave no vestige where they trod Yet, the Wanderer's point i s that a r e a l i z a t i o n of the sense of continuity of l i f e , a f e e l i n g of the imperishable elements of the human soul, together with a b e l i e f i n a superintending Providence sustained i n the pagan Greeks hopes which overstepped the Grave. The Wanderer's argument at t h i s point tends to turn very much on f a i t h i n Benevolence and i n the freedom of the w i l l . The S o l i t a r y 208 then r a i s e s r e l a t e d questions concerning freedom of the w i l l , necessity and Benevolence. The S o l i t a r y questions the very absolute bounty which the Wanderer ascribes to p r o v i d e n t i a l Benevolence, and the force of h i s argument (11. 1077-1100) denies a l l the 43 claims of orthodox b e l i e f s . Even the poet confesses that h i s doubts have been strengthened rather than allay e d : Back to my mind rushed a l l that had been urged To calm the Sufferer when his story closed. (11. 1102-1103) The Wanderer cannot deal with these objections e i t h e r , and he turns instead to the empirical l e v e l of the senses i n r e l a t i o n to the feelings of the heart: The estate of man would be indeed f o r l o r n I f f a l s e conclusions of the reasoning power Made the eye b l i n d , and closed the passages Through which the ear converses with the heart. (11. 1152-1155) Nature provides impulse and utterance i n natural phenomena such as the haunting voice of the s o l i t a r y raven (and the b l e a t i n g lamb of Book I I ) . These operate imperceptibly upon man (11. 1151 f f . ) . The voice of the s o l i t a r y raven,which, a f t e r the b i r d i t s e l f has flown away, "yet from the abyss i s caught again, / And yet again recovered," i s advanced as one of those instances of the interworking of p h y s i c a l with mental phenomena, of the world of sense with the hidden inner world which i s revealed to man at c r u c i a l moments of s o l i t a r y contemplation. The l i n k i n g of the inner and outer senses i s an instance of those imaginative experiences which y i e l d f a r - s t r e t c h i n g views i n t o e t e r n i t y . The Wanderer then follows up this argument by pointing out further how l i v i n g things "and things inanimate" 209 Do speak to eye and ear And speak to social reason's inner sense, With inarticulate'language. (11. 1205-1207) And here we see the proof of that claim which Wordsworth made in a letter to Catherine Clarkson: Mere error of opinion, mere apprehension of i l l consequences from supposed mistaken views on my part, could never have rendered your correspondent blind to the innumerable analogies and types of infinity, insensible to the countless awakenings to noble aspiration, which I have transfused into that Poem from The Bible of the Universe as i t speaks to the ear of the intelligent, as i t lies open to the eyes of the humbleminded.^4 Wordsworth here refutes both the orthodox view and the Deistic analogy, the latter of which argues that the Supreme Being bears the same relation to the universe as a watch-maker bears to a watch. The point is that Wordswroth is not at a l l concerned with proving the existence of God necessarily. In the passage of The Excursion under consideration, the emphasis is on the "shock of, awful. consciousness" which the mind receives in a calm season of contemplation. He is concerned with the imaginative heights which the mind of man can achieve, and in this metaphor, "the shadowy heights, / And blind recesses of the caverned rocks" correspond to the external landscape as well as to the inner landscape of the mind. For Wordsworth the human heart is the touchstone for the value of experience, and i t is not for nothing that he proclaims in The Prelude and The Excursion that his theme is No other than the very heart of man, ^ As found among the best of those who live. For any argument to have absolute human truth i t must be subjected ultimately to the medium of the heart. The groundswell 210 of the argument under discussion (in Book IV) can be traced to Book I of The Excursion where the creative powers of the human mind are insisted upon. In Book IV the subtle nature of the creative interchange between the human mind and external nature is demonstrated; this is what Blake dismisses as "pagan" philosophy of "fitting and fitted", and Coleridge as "compounding the mind 47 from the senses." This relation of creative interchange between the human mind and the external world is central to Wordsworth's concept of the imaginative process. This process is used by the Wanderer to back up his argument: For, the Man— Who in this spirit, communes with the forms Of nature, who with understanding heart Both knows and loves such objects as excite No morbid passions, no disquietude, No vengeance, and no hatred—needs must feel The joy of that pure principle of Love So deeply, that, unsatisfied with aught Less pure, and exquisite, he cannot choose But seek for objects of a kindred love In fellow-natures and a kindred joy. (11. 1207-1217) This is the love of nature working imperceptibly toward the love of man. The sensations which the contemplative mind experiences in nature create a state of joy in which a man is likely to be a kindly and more moral person. Feelings of apathy are banished in this state of imaginative restoration: Accordingly he by degrees perceives His feelings of aversion softened down; A holy tenderness pervade his frame. His sanity of reason not impaired, Say rather, a l l his thoughts nowfflowingcclear5 From a clear fountain flowing, he looks round And seeks for good. (11. 1219-1224) 211 This argument i s based on a fusion of thought and f e e l i n g and i t emphasises the place of the a f f e c t i o n s i n restoring the languid s p i r i t s of the d i s i l l u s i o n e d s c e p t i c . However, when the Wanderer traces t h i s scale of love i n i t s s p i r i t u a l ascent h i s argument becomes more of a hazy expression of a quasi-mystical f a i t h than a persuasive point of view. For h i s authority he can only say "Trust me" (1. 1235). His optimism that a time w i l l come when man s h a l l cease to deplore the burthen of existence i s not shared, j u s t as i t was not shared by Margaret i n Book I. His f a i t h i s not e a s i l y shared because i t i s such a personal f a i t h ; i t i s the f a i t h of one i n whom persuasion and b e l i e f Had ripened i n t o f a i t h , and f a i t h become A passionate i n t u i t i o n . (11. 1292-1294) The Despondency of the S o l i t a r y i s not removed; nor are the doubts of the poet. This i s obvious i n the n a r r a t i v e tone: Here closed the Sage that eloquent harangue, ^g Poured f o r t h with fervour i n continuous stream. By contrast, the narrator had s a i d i n deep and solemn tones of the S o l i t a r y ; Here closed the Tenant of that lonely vale His mournful narrative—commenced i n pain In pain commenced, and ended without peace. (Book IV, 11. 1-3) The introduction of the Pastor i n Book V i s designed to resolve the impasse. The t r a v e l l e r s depart from the vale of meditation, which the narrator describes appropriately as the " f i x e d centre of a troubled world", to t r a v e l "near the t r i b e s / And 49 fellowships of men," as indicated i n the preface. This i s both a 212 l i t e r a l and a metaphoric descent, and the metaphoric i s t r u l y symbolic: i t i s the descent from abstract though l o f t y meditation to the r e a l i t y of the dark passages as experienced among human beings. And t h e i r f i r s t encounter i s i n a churchyard where they read The ordinary chronicle of b i r t h , O f f i c e , a l l i a n c e , and p r o m o t i o n — a l l Ending i n dust. (11. 172-174) This leads to the S o l i t a r y ' s observations on the animal v i v a c i t y of the sexton, Death's h i r e l i n g : Did you note the mien Of that s e l f - s o l a c e d , easy-hearted c h u r l , Death's h i r e l i n g , who scoops out h i s neighbour's grave, Or wraps an old acquaintance up i n clay, A l l unconcerned as he would bind a sheaf, Or plant a tree. (11. 233-238) This observation enables the S o l i t a r y to proceed to o f f e r further evidence i n support of h i s s c e p t i c a l p o s i t i o n : Much, yesterday, was said i n glowing phrase Of our sublime dependencies, and hopes For future states of being; and the wings Of speculation, j o y f u l l y outspread, Hovered above our destiny on earth: But stoop, and place the prospect of the soul In sober contrast with r e a l i t y , And man's su b s t a n t i a l l i f e . (11. 243-250) The S o l i t a r y goes on to argue that instead of t h i s l i f e of doubt and weariness, pain and death, which ends with one bound up l i k e a sheaf and cast into the darkness of the grave, i t were f a r better to graze the herb i n thoughtless peace By f o r e s i g h t , or remembrance, undisturbed! (11. 329-330) Neither Philosophy nor the "more vaunted name [of] R e l i g i o n " can 213 preserve man from " p a i n f u l and d i s c r e d i t a b l e shocks / Of con t r a d i c t i o n " , or s h e l t e r him from the e v i l and sorrow which dominate the human condition. The poet i s swayed by the general tenor of the S o l i t a r y ' s p h i l o s o p h i c a l complaint about the v i c i s s i t u d e of things, and the rest of the poem i s devoted to t h i s p h i l o s o p h i c a l problem; the Pastor's contribution to the dialogue brings to i t a more balanced perspective than i t has had i n the l a s t few books and i t i s an error of i n t e r p r e t a t i o n to regard the Pastor as a spokesman for a point of view n e c e s s a r i l y . The des c r i p t i o n of the Wanderer and the Pastor i s very i n t e r e s t i n g : they are described through tree imagery and i n t h i s and subsequent books tree imagery becomes the dominant metaphor of thought i n The Excursion; I hope to e s t a b l i s h the f u l l s i g n i f i c a n c e of t h i s presently. The Wanderer and the Pastor are described as Nature's favourite specimens: Nature had framed them both, and both were marked By circumstance, with intermixture f i n e Of contrast and resemblance. To an oak Hardy and grand, a weather-beaten oak, Fresh i n the strength and majesty of age, One might be likened: f l o u r i s h i n g appeared, Though somewhat past the fulness of h i s prime, The o t h e r — l i k e a s t a t e l y sycamore, That spreads, i n gentle pomp, i t s honied shade. (11. 453-461) The sycamore i s a shade tree, and there i s perhaps the hint of a suggestion here that both the despondent and the o p t i m i s t i c points of view can seek umbrage within the Pastor's comprehensive view of l i f e . The nature of the appeal to him tends to support t h i s suggestion: 214 <?< The mine of r e a l l i f e Dig f o r us; and present us, i n the shape Of v i r g i n ore, that gold which we, by pains F r u i t l e s s as those of aery alchemists, Seek from the t o r t u r i n g c r u c i b l e . (11. 630-634) The " t o r t u r i n g c r u c i b l e " i n t h i s case i s the mind—the minds of the Wanderer and the S o l i t a r y which have been subjected to the harsh a n v i l of p h i l o s o p h i c a l speculation on the human condition. The Pastor i s intimately acquainted with the s o l i d facts of human experience i n the v a l l e y — a v a l l e y which i s a symbol of the human universe—and the concrete basis of h i s references might be more convincing than the abstract g e n e r a l i t i e s of the Wanderer's o p t i m i s t i c philosophy or of the S o l i t a r y ' s extreme Despondency. I t i s very s i g n i f i c a n t that the appeal i s to the Pastor's experience, not to h i s theology. The questions put to the Pastor emphasize the theme of the dark passages of l i f e . "Is Man a c h i l d of hope?" "Are the pains and penalties of miserable l i f e doomed to decay, and then expire i n dust?" What the perambulators request from the Pastor i s stated by the Wanderer: Accord, good s i r ! the l i g h t Of your experience to d i s p e l t h i s gloom: By your persuasive wisdom s h a l l the heart That f r e t s , or languishes, be s t i l l e d and cheered. (11. 481-484) The Pastor does not share the Wanderer's confidence because man cannot weigh and fathom hi s own nature, or perceive i t "with undistempered and unclouded s p i r i t " : That speculative height we may not reach. The good and e v i l are our own; and we Are that which we would contemplate from afar. Knowledge for us, i s d i f f i c u l t to gain-^ Is d i f f i c u l t to gain and hard to keep. (11. 489-491; Wordsworth's emphasis) 215 Man's contemplation of his own nature is clouded by doubts and anxieties which arise from the contradictions inherent in human nature. Even the Faculty of Reason often fails man and brings on "darkness and delusion" (1. 511). The Pastor's view brings to the contemplation of l i f e a double perspective; life can be seen as A forbidding tract of cheerless view An unillumined, blank, and dreary, plain, With more than wintry cheerlessness and gloom Saddening the heart; (11. 529-539) or as a fair and tempting, a soft scene Grateful to sight, refreshing to the soul. (11. 523-524) The first story which the Pastor tells refers to the living, and it narrates of the austere dignity and enduring spirit of the childless couple for whom each evening hath its shining star, And every sabbath-day its golden sun. They are an example of those most in touch with the sources of the wisdom of human experience. The Solitary, however, maintains that rare, at least, The mutual aptitude of seed and soil That yields such kindly product, (11. 878-880) and he advances the misery of the recently deceased Pensioner as an example of the cruelty and lack of consolation that is in l i f e . The Pastor then goes on to make observations on the place of the affections in human l i f e : To a mysteriously-united pair This place is consecrate; to Death and Life, And to the best affections that proceed From their conjunction. (11. 902-906) 216 The Pastor emphasizes the bond of humanity as the common impulse which makes the churchyard "a visible centre of a community of the living and the dead; a point to which are habitually referred the nearest concerns of both", 5 0 so that even the destitute Pensioner received the common sympathy of humanity in this connection. (11. 902 f f . ) . He then proceeds to elaborate on the common sympathies of humanity and the sources of humanity's regard for the dead: And whence that tribute? Wherefore these regards? Not from the naked Heart alone of Man 'tis not in the vital seat Of feeling to produce them, without aid From the pure soul, the soul sublime and pure; With her two faculties of eye and ear. (11. 978-987; Wordsworth's emphasis) The Poet here presents a highly philosophical, even metaphysical position. He speaks of the senses and motions of the soul and establishes a linkage between the empirical senses and the inner senses. The poet is not interested in a mere dogma, of faith or in mystical intuition, for he seeks to establish his. concept of immortality on the extension of the empirical and physiological experience. Wordsworth's own prose comments in a letter to the Reverend Francis Wrangham, dated 5 June 1808, are particularly relevant here: in Gilbert Burnsl collection there may be too l i t t l e religion; and I should fear that you like a l l other Clergymen, may confine yourself exclusively to that concern which you justly deem the most important, but which by being exclusively considered can never be thoroughly understood. I will allow you that Religion is the eye of the Soul, but i f we would have successful soul-oculists, not merely that organ, but the general anatomy and constitution of the intellectual frame must be studied My meaning is , that piety and religion will be best understood by him who takes the most comprehensive view of the human mind, and that for the most part, they will strengthen with the general strength of the mind.51 (emphasis mine) 217 I t i s the same p o s i t i o n which i s i n s i s t e d upon by the Pastor i n the passage from Book V of The Excursion. The concept of immortality i s founded on the consciousness of an imperishable element i n the human being; that i s , i n the awareness or experience of a correspondence between the external senses and t h e i r v i t a l functions with the senses and motions of the human soul. Human affec t i o n s (founded on the heart) and the recognition of an i n d e s t r u c t i b l e element i n man (founded on the soul) are two factors which foster and maintain our sense of l i f e . And Wordsworth c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y establishes not only a sense of continuity of l i f e but also of continuity of v i s i o n ; he finds i n the wisdom of a l l ages a recognition-of the p r i n c i p l e s of aff e c t i o n s and Immortality, and t h e i r i n t e r r e l a t i o n s h i p : And by the care prospective of our wise Forefathers, who, to guard against the shocks The f l u c t u a t i o n and decay of things, Embodied and established these high truths In solemn i n s t i t u t i o n s : — m e n convinced That l i f e i s love and immortality, The being one, and one the element. (11. 996-1003) The texture of thought here, and i n the regaining t h i r t e e n l i n e s of Book V, i s very dense, but Wordsworth has fortunately provided a gloss i n the "Essay upon Epitaphs"; i t i s a passage which deserves to be quoted as f u l l y as po s s i b l e : Add to the p r i n c i p l e of love which exists i n the i n f e r i o r animals the f a c u l t y of reason which ex i s t s i n Man alone; w i l l the conjunction of these account f o r the desire to be remembered a f t e r death? Doubtless i s i t a necessary consequence of t h i s conjunction; yet not I think as a d i r e c t r e s u l t , but only to be come at through an intermediate thought, v i z . that of an intimation or assurance within us, that some part . of our nature i s imperishable i f we had no d i r e c t 218 external testimony that the minds of young children meditate feelingly upon death and immortality, these enquiries, which we a l l know they are perpetually making concerning the whence, do necessarily include correspondent habits of interrogation concerning the whither. Origin and tendency are notions inseparably co-relative i t is to me inconceivable, that the sympathies of love towards each other, which grow with our growth, could even attain any new strength, or even preserve the old, after we had received from the outward senses the impression of death, and were in the habit of having that impression daily relived and its accompanying feeling brought h°me to ourselves, and to those we love'} i f the same were not counteracted by those communications withrotir internal Being, which are anterior to a l l these experiences, and with which revelation coincides, and has through that coinci-dence alone (for otherwise i t could not possess it) a power to affect us were we to grow up unfostered by this genial warmth, a frost would chill the spirit, so penetrating and powerful, that there could be no motions of the' li f e of love; and infinitely less could we have any wish to be remembered after we had passed away from a world in which each man had moved about like a shadow.52 What Wordsworth has done in the passage at the end of Book V, and in.the prose gloss, is to derive the origin of a l l religion from the universal need of the human heart; he has also supplied an intellectual principle for that need; finally, he establishes a coincidence, or rather identity of thought and feeling^common to a l l imaginative beliefs. With this imaginative concept of death and immortality firmly established, Wordsworth then goes on to grapple in Books VI and VII with the many shapes of death. CHAPTER VI Footnotes The orthodoxy of The Excursion i s s t i l l a factor f o r the general neglect of the poem. 2 Dorothy Wordsworth makes an i n t e r e s t i n g comparison between Montgomery's a r t i c l e and h i s private views to Wordsworth; see D. Wordsworth to Cather ine Clarkson, 16th March 1815, The Middle Years, p. 213. 3 John Wilson, BlackWoods Edinburgh Magazine, No. 21, Vol. IV (December, 1818), 257-263. 4 William Blake i n The Diary of Henry Crabb Robinson: An  Abridgement, ed. Derek Hudson (Ocford, 1962), p. 86. ~*The Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. E a r l L e s l i e Griggs, Vol. IV, 1815-1819, 570-576. Wordsworth's l e t t e r to which Coleridge r e p l i e s i s reprinted on p. 570 of t h i s volume. See also Coleridge's l e t t e r to Lady Beaumont on p. 564 of t h i s volume. Specimens of the Table Talk of the l a t e Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. H.N. Coleridge, 2 v o l s . , 1835, i i . 70-71. Reprinted on p. 575 of Coleridge's L e t t e r s , Vol. IV. 7"My Ideas respecting your Recluse were burnt as a Plague-Garment and a l l my long l e t t e r s to you and Sir"George Beaumont sunk to the bottom of the sea!" i n The Letters of William and Dorothy  Wordsworth; The Early Years, p. 607. g Helen Darbishire, The Poet Wordsworth, 1960, p. 90. Quoted i n The Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, pp. 575-6, footnote. 9 William Wordsworth to S.T. Coleridge, 22nd May 1815, i n The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, The Middle Years, Part I I , 1812-1820, p. 238. " ^ L i t e r a r y C r i t i c i s m of William Wordsworth, p. 185. 220 "^Biographia L i t e r a r i a , Vol. 2, Chapt. XXII, p. 109. 12 The L i b e r a l Imagination, p. 152. 1 3 T h e Letters of John Keats, pp. 78, 79, 327-329. In t h i s l a s t reference Keats speaks of h i s reverence f or the "sublimer muse" of The Excursion. 14 Mathew Arnold, Essays i n C r i t i c i s m , Series 2. London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1905, p. 149. "^David Ferry, The Limits of M o r t a l i t y : An Essay On  Wordsworth's Major Poems. Wesleyan University Press: Middletown, Connecticut, 1959, p. x i . i f\ William Wordsworth to S.T. Coleridge, A p r i l 19th 1808, i n The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Middle Years, Vol. I, pp. 222-223. "^Wordsworth himself established t h i s d i s t i n c t i o n between "the pathos of humanity" and "Ja c o b i n i c a l pathos." See William Wordsworth to John Taylor, A p r i l 9th 1801, i n The Letters of  William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. I, 1787-1805, p. 325. 18 Dorothy Wordsworth to Catherine Clarkson, Dec. 1814, i n The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Middle Years, 2, p. 182. See also p. 247 of t h i s volume. 19 The correspondent was Mr. Faber. The quotation i s from William Wordsworth to I s a b e l l a Fenwick, 5th October 1844, i n The  Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Later Years, p. 1230. 20 The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Vol. IV, p. 564. 2'Hjilliam Wordsworth to Catherine Clarkson, Jan. 1815, i n The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Middle Years, 2, p. 190. 22 "Essay, Supplementary to the Preface," i n L i t e r a r y C r i t i c i s m  of William Wordsworth, p. 185. 23 See e s p e c i a l l y the Letter to the Beaumonts, and to Southey, of 1805. 23a This phrase occurs i n "George and Sarah Green" (1808) and i n The Excursion, the " e c c l e s i a s t i c a l " and "miscellaneous" sonnets. In the Ode i t has an appropriately Platonic connotation. 221 24 William Wordsworth to S i r George Beaumont, March 12, 1805, 25 For l i t e r a r y sources and analogues for The Excursion, see chapter three of The Excursion: A Study, by Judson Stanley Lyon. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950. 26 S.T. Coleridge, Biographia L i t e r a r i a , Vol. I I , Chapter XXII, p. 106. 27 F.R. Leavis, Revaluation: T r a d i t i o n and Development  in English Poetry, Penguin, 1936, p. 148. 2 8 This passage was absent i n the 1799 manuscript text as transcribed by Dorothy Wordsworth to Mary Hutchinson. See The Early  Years, pp. 199-209. 29 Cf. Keats's v a r i a t i o n on t h i s i n 11. 162-190 of The F a l l of Hyperion. 30 I have substituted the o r i g i n a l version here because i t i s more precise than the revised and more orthodox version of 1845. See Lyon, op. c i t . , pp. 25-27 for the variant readings. 31 See p. 329 of The Letters where Keats says of himself, "my Solitude i s sublime" and p. 372 for t h i s : "This Pride and egotism w i l l enable me to write f i n e r things than any thinge else could." This passage bears an astonishing correspondence to Wordsworth's observations on h i s wife's g r i e f following the loss of Catherine and Thomas Wordsworth. That g r i e f provided material for The Excursion, Maternal G r i e f , and "Surprised by Joy—impatient as the wind." Cf. the lake scene at the end of The Excursion, and the poem e n t i t l e d "A Night-Piece". 34 See Sonnets XV, XVI, and XVII of E c c l e s i a s t i c a l Sonnets. Sonnet XVI i s a close paraphrase of the Anglo-Saxon passage. 35 Cf. Sonnet XXXIV of E c c l e s i a s t i c a l Sonnets e n t i t l e d "Mutability". 3 6 "Surprised by j o y — i m p a t i e n t as the wind". 222 37 The challenge of Immortality was the greatest of the dark passages for both Wordsworth and Keats. See pp. 245, 501 of The Letters of John Keats for the younger poet's agonized cry on t h i s theme. 38 It i s s i g n i f i c a n t that the loss of f a i t h i n the great truths of r e l i g i o n i s what leads Keats to the consideration of Wordsworth's genius as a help and to the recognition of the elder poet's exploration of the dark passages. 3 9 Wordsworth to Catherine Clarkson, Jan. 1815, i n The Let t e r s : The Middle Years, Part I I , p. 188. 40 For a s i m i l a r emphasis on imaginative regeneration, see the process described i n The Prelude: "So f e e l i n g comes i n aid / Of f e e l i n g , and d i v e r s i t y of strength attend us, i f but once we have been strong." Book XII, 11. 269-271, and f f . 41 Sonnet XXXIII of miscellaneous Sonnets; compare also Sonnet XXII of E c c l e s i a s t i c a l Sonnets. See "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn"; see also "The F a l l of Hyperion". Alwyn Berland's b r i e f a r t i c l e , "Keats's Dark Passages and the Grecian Urn," i n Kansas Magazine (1956) pp. 78-82 i s useful here though Berland does not trace the genesis of the dark passages to Wordsworth. 43 Compare Wordsworth's passionate questioning of "The great Cause and r u l e r of things i n h i s l e t t e r to S i r George Beaumont, March 12th 1805, i n The Letters of Dorothy and William Wordsworth: The Early Years, p. 556: "Why have we sympathies that make the best of us a f r a i d of i n f l i c t i n g pain and sorrow, which yet we see dealt about so l a v i s h l y by the supreme governor, etc. e t c . " 44 Wordsworth to Catherine Clarkson, January 1815, i n The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Middle Years, 2, p. 188. 45 This analogy i s used i n William Paley's Natural Theology: Evidence of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (1802). 46 The Prelude, Book XIII, 11. 241-242. 47 William Blake, "Annotations to Wordsworth's Preface to The Excursion", i n Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, New York, 1965, p. 656: "You s h a l l not bring me down to belie v e such f i t t i n g and f i t t e d I know better and Please your Lordship". For Coleridge's statement, see Specimens of the Table Talk of the l a t e Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. H.N Coleridge, 2 v o l s . 1835, i i , 70-71. Reprinted i n The Collected L e t t e r s , p. 575. 223 48 I have chosen not to pursue the rest of t h i s extended analogy because of i t s r a c i s t connotation. 49 There i s s i g n i f i c a n t correspondence between the claims advanced i n the preface and the themes explored i n The Excursion. The point i s noteworthy because there i s a tendency among c r i t i c s to dismiss The Excursion on the grounds that Wordsworth abandoned the plan announced i n the preface. "^"Essay upon Epitaphs" i n The Poems of William Wordsworth, p. 730. See also Sonnet XLI of E c c l e s i a s t i c a l Sonnets. "'"'"The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Middle Years, I, 251. See also Wordsworth to Walter Savage Landor, January 21, 1824, i n The Later Years, I, 134. Wordsworth's emphasis is.on an imaginative view of l i f e which i s comprehensive of a l l the f a c u l t i e s of man. 52 "Essay upon Epitaphs" i n The Poems of William Wordsworth, pp. 728-733. It i s important to bear i n mind that Wordsworth himself c a l l s attention to the unity of thought i n The Excursion and the "Essay upon Epitaphs". See also the l e t t e r to Walter Savage Landor (footnote 51) , where Wordsworth quotes " V i r g i l s 6th Aeneid" as a source of uni v e r s a l authority. CHAPTER VII The Vale of F i n a l Eminence H a z l i t t described the l i f e - s t o r i e s i n Books VI and VII as a dead weight upon the poem,^" and the s i g n i f i c a n c e of these narratives has not been s u f f i c i e n t l y recognized. Yet Wordsworth himself was always very c a r e f u l to indic a t e the s p i r i t and range of h i s poetic i n t e r e s t . In a l e t t e r to R.P. G i l l i e s , dated Dec. 22, 1814, he s a i d : the range of poetic f e e l i n g i s far wider than i s o r d i n a r i l y supposed, and the furnishing new proofs of t h i s f a c t i s the only i n c o n t e s t i b l e demonstration of geniune poetic genius. I f we bear i n mind the poet's emphasis on the comprehensive range of human thought and f e e l i n g , weswill be able to see that the suppose i r r e l e v a n t narratives are an i n t e g r a l part of the dark passages which Wordsworth explores i n The Excursion. The S o l i t a r y , speaking of the theme of the dark passages through a l l ages, alludes to the ancient story of Prometheus, the woes of Tantalus and h i s race, and the dark sorrows of the l i n e of Thebes; he then goes on to argue that the human condition i s s t i l l the same, even i n t h i s r u r a l s e t t i n g : 225 and here the t r a g i c Muse S h a l l f i n d apt subjects for her highest a r t . Amid the groves , under the shadowy h i l l s , The generations are prepared; the pangs, The i n t e r n a l pangs, are ready; the dread s t r i f e Of poor humanity's a f f l i c t e d w i l l Struggling i n vain with ruthless destiny. (11. 551-557) In t h i s passage, the closed s y l l a b l e s and harsh consonantal sounds i n "dread," " s t r i f e , " " s t r u g g l i n g " and " r u t h l e s s " l i t e r a l l y enact the weight of anguish i n the contemplative mind. Humanity i s depicted as caught i n the throes of an uneven struggle. The detour i n Book V i n which the Pastor delays the s t o r i e s and turns to a discourse on mortality and immortality i s a t a c t i c a l preparatory act designed to e s t a b l i s h f o r t i f y i n g thoughts and p r i n c i p l e s which may function as shock-absorbers for the dark passages which are to be explored i n Books VI and VII. This s t r a t e g i c t r i b u t e to the s p i r i t of man i s necessary for the under-standing of those heart-mysteries which enable men to bear up even i n the face of overpowering f a t a l i t y . The Pastor's int e n t i o n i s to dwell on narratives whose subjects are consonant with love, esteem and admiration for the s p i r i t of man but he must also s a t i s f y the S o l i t a r y by dwelling on "a more forbidding way". It i s to t h i s more forbidding way that the preparatory discourse p a r t i c u l a r l y r e l a t e s . The f i r s t t a l e i s about a rejected lover whose morbid s e n s i b i l i t i e s derived from the fact that i n h i s adversity he allowed his mind to turn so much upon his p e c u l i a r i n t e r n a l f e e l i n g s that he shunned a l l the wisdom of the ages concerning human affe c t i o n s and the consolations and r e s t o r a t i v e processes that are a v a i l a b l e i n 226 Nature. When he did eventually turn to those means of human support, he was gradually restored to f l o u r i s h i n g health and h i s j a r r i n g thoughts were restored to harmony. This would seem to j u s t i f y the e f f i c a c y of the regenerative process recommended by the Wanderer to the S o l i t a r y i n Book IV, but the S o l i t a r y ' s point about an overpow