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William Wordsworth


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Title: William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • - Wordsworths Coleridges biographies
  • - Philosophical concepts
  • - Major works

William Wordsworths biography
  • William Wordsworth was a major English
    romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
    helped launch the Romantic Age in English
    literature with their 1798 joint publication,
    Lyrical Ballads.
  • The second of five children, Wordsworth was
    born on 7, Apritl,1770 in Cockermouth in
    Cumberland. With the death of his mother in 1778,
    his father sent him to Hawkshead Grammar School.
    In 1783 his father, who was a lawyer and the
    solicitor for the Earl of Lonsdale, died. After
    their fathers death, the Wordsworth children
    were left under the guardianship of their uncles.
    Although any aspects of his boyhood were
    positive, he recalled bouts of loneliness and
    anxiety. It took him many ears to recover from
    the death of his parents and his separation from
    his siblings. Wordsworth began attending St.
    Johns College, Cambridge in 1787. In 1790, he
    visited Revolutionary France and supported the
    Republican movement. The following year, he
    graduated from Cambridge without distinction.
  • In November of 1791, Wordsworth returned to
    France and took a walking tour of France that
    included the Alps and Italy. He fell in love with
    a French woman, Annette Vallon, who in 1792 gave
    birth to their child, Caroline. Because of lack
    of money and Britains tensions with France, he
    returned to England that year, but he supported
    Vallon and his daughter as best he could in later
  • 1793 saw Wordsworths first published
    poetry with the collections An Evening Walk and
    Descriptive Sketches. He received a legacy of
    900 from Raisley Calvert in 1795 so that he
    could pursue writing poetry. That year, he also
    met Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Somerset. The two
    poets quickly developed a close friendship. In
    1797, Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, moved
    to Somerset, just a few miles away from
    Coleridges home in Nether Stowey. Together,
    Wordsworth and Coleridge produced Lyrical Ballads
    (1798), an important work in the English Romantic

  • The volume had neither the name of
    Wordsworth or Coleridge as author. One of
    Wordsworths most famous poems, Tintern Abbey,
    was published in the work, along with
    Coleridges The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
    The second edition, published in 1800, had only
    Wordsworth listed as author. A third edition of
    Lyrical Ballads, published in 1802, contained
    more poems by Wordsworth, including a preface to
    the poems. This Preface is considered a central
    work of Romantic literary theory.
  • Wordsworth, Dorothy, and Coleridge then
    travelled to Germany. During the harsh winter of
    1798-1799, Wordsworth lived with Dorothy in
    Goslar, and despite extreme stress and
    loneliness, he began work on an autobiographical
    piece later titled The Prelude. He and his sister
    moved back to England, now to Dove Cottage in
    Grasmere in the Lake District, and this time with
    fellow poet Robert Southey nearby. Wordsworth,
    Coleridge, and Southey came to be known as the
    Lake Poets. Through this period, many of his
    poems revolve around themes of death, endurance,
    separation and grief.
  • In 1802, he and Dorothy travelled to France
    to visit Annette and Caroline. Later that year,
    he married a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson.
    Dorothy did not appreciate the marriage at first,
    but lived with the couple and later grew close to
    Mary. The following year, Mary gave birth to the
    first of five children, John.
  • Both Coleridges health and his
    relationship to Wordsworth began showing signs of
    decay in 1804. That year Wordsworth befriended
    Robert Southey.
  • Two of his children, Thomas and Catherine,
    died in 1812. The following year, he moved to
    Rydal Mount, Ambleside where he spent the rest of
    his life.
  • Dorothy suffered from severe illness in
    1829 that rendered her invalid for the reminder
    of her life. In 1835, Worsworth gave Annette and
    Caroline the money they needed for support. The
    government awarded him a civil list pension
    amounting to 300 a year in 1842.
  • With the death in 1843 of Robert Southey,
    Wordsworth became Poet Laureate. William
    Wordsworth in Rydal Mount in 1850.

Samuel Taylor Coleridges biography
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on October
    21, 1772 in Ottery St. Mary in Devonshire. His
    father, the Reverend John Coleridge, was a vicar.
    After the death of his father in 1781, he was
    sent to Christs Hospital, a boarding school in
    London. In later life, Coleridge idealised his
    father as a pious innocent, but his relationship
    with his mother was difficult. His childhood was
    characterised by attention-seeking, which has
    been linked with his dependent personality as an
    adult, and he was rarely allowed to return home
    during his schooldays. From 1791 until 1974
    Coleridge attended Jesus College at the
    University of Cambridge. In 1792 he won the
    Browne Gold Medal for an Ode that he wrote on the
    slave trade. In November, 1793, he left college
    and enlisted in the royal dragoons, perhaps
    because of debt or because the girl he loved had
    rejected him. His brothers arranged for his
    discharge a few months later and he was
    readmitted to Jesus College, although he left
    Cambridge without a degree. At the university he
    was introduced to political and theological ideas
    then considered radical, including those of the
    poet Robert Southey. Coleridge joined Southey in
    a plan, soon abandoned, to find a utopian
    communist-like society, called pantisocracy, in
    the wilderness of Pennsylvania. In 1795 the two
    friends married sisters Sarah and Edith Fricker,
    but Coleridges marriage proved unhappy. Southey
    departed for Portugal, but Coleridge remained in
    England. In 1796 he published Poems on Various
    Subjects. In 1795 Coleridge met poet William
    Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. They became
    immediate friends. Around 1796, Coleridge started
    using opium as a pain reliever. His and Dorothy
    Wordsworths notebooks record that he suffered
    from a variety of medical complains, including
    toothache and facial neuralgia. There appears to
    have been no stigma associated with taking opium
    then, but also little understanding of the
    physiological or psychological aspects of
    addiction. The years 1797 and 1798, during which
    the friends lived in Nether Stowey, Somerset,
    were among the most fruitful of Coleridges life.
    Besides the Ancient Mariner, he composed the
    symbolic Kubla Khan, written- Coleridge himself
    claimed- as a result of an opium dream.

  • During this period he also produce his
    much-praised conversation poems This Lime-Tree
    Bower My Prison, Frost at Midnight, and
    Nightingale. In the autumn of 1798 Coleridge and
    Wordsworth left for a stay in Germany Coleridge
    soon went his own way and spent much of his time
    in university towns. During this period he became
    interested in German philosophy, especially the
    transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant. In 1800
    he returned to England and shortly thereafter
    settled with his family and friends at Keswick in
    the Lake District of Cumberland to be near
    Grasmere, where Wordsworth had moved. Soon,
    however, he was beset by marital problems,
    illnesses, increased opium dependency, tensions
    with Wordsworth, and a lack of confidence in his
    poetic powers, all of which fuelled the
    composition of Dejection An Ode and
    intensification of his philosophical studies.
    From 1804 to 1806, Coleridge lived in Malta and
    travelled in Sicily and Italy, in hope that
    leaving Britains damp climate would improve his
    health and thus enable him to reduce his
    consumption of opium. For while he had a
    civil-service job as the Public Secretary of the
    British administration in Malta, assisting
    governor Sir Alexander John Ball. Between 1808
    and 1819 this giant against dwarfs, as he was
    often considered by his contemporaries, gave a
    series of lectures in London and Bristol- those
    on Shakespeare renewed interest in the playwright
    as a model for contemporary writers.
  • In 1816 Coleridge, his addiction worsening,
    his spirits depressed, and his family alienated,
    took residence in the home of the physician James
    Gillman, in Highgate. In Gillmans home he
    finished his major prose work, the Biographia
    Literaria (1817), a volume composed of 25
    chapters of autobiographical notes and
    dissertations on various subjects, including some
    incisive literary theory and criticism.
  • He died of heart failure in Highgate on July
    25, 1834.

Philosophical concepts
  • The publication of Lyrical Ballads in 1798
    introduced some new literary ideas. Wordsworth
    and Coleridge both had strong, and sometimes
    conflicting opinions about what constituted
    well-written poetry. Their ideas were centred
    around the origins of poetry in the poet and the
    role of poetry in the world.

Wordsworth wrote a preface to Lyrical Ballads in
which he puts forth his ideas about poetry. His
conception of poetry hinges on three major
premises. Wordsworth asserts that poetry is the
language of the common man To this knowledge
which all men carry about with them, and to these
sympathies in which without any other discipline
than that of our daily life we are fitted to take
delight, the poet principally directs his
attention. Poetry should be understandable to
anybody living in the world. Wordsworth eschews
the use of lofty, poetic diction, which in his
mind is not related to the language of real life.
He sees poetry as acting like Nature, which
touches all living things and inspires and
delights them. Wordsworth calls for poetry to be
written in the language of the "common man," and
the subjects of the poems should also be
accessible to all individuals regardless of class
or position. Wordsworth also makes the points
that "poetry is the spontaneous overflow of
powerful feelings it takes its origin from
emotion recollected in tranquility". These two
points form the basis for Wordsworth's
explanation of the process of writing poetry.
First, some experience triggers a transcendent
moment, an instance of the sublime. The senses
are overwhelmed by this experience the
"spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings"
leaves an individual incapable of articulating
the true nature and beauty of the event. It is
only when this emotion is "recollected in
tranquility" that the poet can assemble words to
do the instance justice. It is necessary for the
poet to have a certain personal distance from the
event or experience being described that he can
compose a poem that conveys to the reader the
same experience of sublimity. With this distance
the poet can reconstruct the "spontaneous
overflow of powerful feelings" the experience
caused within himself.

  • In "I wandered lonely as a cloud,"
    Wordsworth uses the sonnet form to express his
    ideas about poetry being the spontaneous overflow
    of emotion recollected in tranquility
  • For oft when on my couch I lie In vacant
    or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward
    eye Which is the bliss of solitude And then my
    heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the
  • While Wordsworth's critical ideas
    obviously worked for his poetry, Coleridge
    differed in his take on the art. Coleridge did
    not agree that poetry is the language of the
    common man. He thought that lowering diction and
    content simply made it so that the poet had a
    smaller vocabulary of both words and concepts to
    draw from. Coleridge focused mainly on
    imagination as the key to poetry. He divided
    imagination into two main components primary and
    secondary imagination. In Biographia Literaria,
    one of his significant theoretical works, he
  • The primary imagination I hold to be the
    living power and prime agent of all human
    perception, and as a repetition in the finite of
    the eternal act of creation of the infinite I AM.
    The secondary I consider as an echo of the
    former, coexisting with the conscious will, yet
    still identical with the primary in the kind of
    its agency, and differing only in degree, and in
    the mode of its operation.
  • It is the imagination involved in the
    poetry that produces a higher quality verse. The
    primary imagination is a spontaneous creation of
    new ideas, and they are expressed perfectly. The
    secondary imagination is mitigated by the
    conscious act of imagination therefore, it is
    hindered by not only imperfect creation, but also
    by imperfect expression. To further subdivide the
    act of imagination, Coleridge introduces his
    concept of fancy. Fancy is the lowest form of
    imagination. With fancy there is no creation
    involved it is simply a reconfiguration of
    existing ideas. Rather than composing a
    completely original concept or description, the
    fanciful poet simply reorders concepts, putting
    them in a new and, possibly, fresh relationship
    to each other.

  • Coleridge also writes that poetry "reveals
    itself in the balance or reconciliation of
    opposite or discordant qualities". Through
    juxtaposition ideas, concepts, and descriptions
    are made clear. The more imaginative the
    juxtaposition is, the more exciting the poem
  • As with Wordsworth, Coleridge also combines
    his theoretical ideas in his poetry. He abandons
    Wordsworth's notion of poetry for the common man,
    and uses lofty language, poetic diction, and
    subject matter that is specialized. While he
    still holds a reverence for Nature inherent to
    romantic literature, his poems are not
    exclusively based around the natural. He makes
    use of primary imagination in his work, because
    it is the kind of imagination he values most, and
    avoids secondary imagination or fancy as much as
    possible. "Kubla Kahn" illustrates his use of
    primary imagination
  • In Xanadu did Kubla KahnA stately pleasure
    dome decreeWhere Alph, the sacred river,
    ranThrough caverns measureless to manDown to a
    sunless sea.
  • The poem is the manifestation of a
    drug-induced vision. The lines have come to
    Coleridge unbidden, and represents the creation
    of a previously nonexistent setting. Coleridge
    also uses highly imaginative images to create
    juxtaposition in the poem. He writes, "A sunny
    pleasure dome with caves of ice!", and uses this
    image twice in the poem.
  • Coleridge and Wordsworth valued artful
  • Both poets pay close attention to form and
    diction in their work, and create poems that are
    independent units of thought.

Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  • -plot
  • -comment

  • Three young men are walking together to a
    wedding, when one of them is detained by a
    grizzled old sailor. The young Wedding-Guest
    angrily demands that the Mariner let go of him,
    and the Mariner obeys. But the young man is
    transfixed by the ancient Mariner's "glittering
    eye" and can do nothing but sit on a stone and
    listen to his strange tale. The Mariner says that
    he sailed on a ship out of his native
    harbour--"below the kirk, below the hill, / Below
    the lighthouse top"--and into a sunny and
    cheerful sea. Hearing bassoon music drifting from
    the direction of the wedding, the Wedding-Guest
    imagines that the bride has entered the hall, but
    he is still helpless to tear himself from the
    Mariner's story. The Mariner recalls that the
    voyage quickly darkened, as a giant storm rose up
    in the sea and chased the ship southward.
    Quickly, the ship came to a frigid land "of mist
    and snow," where "ice, mast-high, came floating
    by" the ship was hemmed inside this maze of ice.
    But then the sailors encountered an Albatross, a
    great sea bird. As it flew around the ship, the
    ice cracked and split, and a wind from the south
    propelled the ship out of the frigid regions,
    into a foggy stretch of water. The Albatross
    followed behind it, a symbol of good luck to the
    sailors. A pained look crosses the Mariner's
    face, and the Wedding-Guest asks him, "Why
    look'st thou so?" The Mariner confesses that he
    shot and killed the Albatross with his crossbow.
  • At first, the other sailors were furious
    with the Mariner for having killed the bird that
    made the breezes blow. But when the fog lifted
    soon afterward, the sailors decided that the bird
    had actually brought not the breezes but the fog
    they now congratulated the Mariner on his deed.
    The wind pushed the ship into a silent sea where
    the sailors were quickly stranded the winds died
    down, and the ship was "As idle as a painted ship
    / Upon a painted ocean." The ocean thickened, and
    the men had no water to drink as if the sea were
    rotting, slimy creatures crawled out of it and
    walked across the surface. At night, the water
    burned green, blue, and white with death fire.
    Some of the sailors dreamed that a spirit, nine
    fathoms deep, followed them beneath the ship from
    the land of mist and snow. The sailors blamed the
    Mariner for their plight and hung the corpse of
    the Albatross around his neck like a cross.
  • A weary time passed the sailors became
    so parched, their mouths so dry, that they were
    unable to speak. But one day, gazing westward,
    the Mariner saw a tiny speck on the horizon. It
    resolved into a ship, moving toward them. Too
    dry-mouthed to speak out and inform the other
    sailors, the Mariner bit down on his arm sucking
    the blood, he was able to moisten his tongue
    enough to cry out, "A sail! a sail!" The sailors
    smiled, believing they were saved. But as the
    ship neared, they saw that it was a ghostly,
    skeletal hull of a ship and that its crew
    included two figures Death and the Night-mare
    Life-in-Death, who takes the form of a pale woman
    with golden locks and red lips, and "thicks man's
    blood with cold." Death and Life-in-Death began
    to throw dice, and the woman won, whereupon she
    whistled three times, causing the sun to sink to
    the horizon, the stars to instantly emerge. As
    the moon rose, chased by a single star, the
    sailors dropped dead one by one--all except the
    Mariner, whom each sailor cursed "with his eye"
    before dying. The souls of the dead men leapt
    from their bodies and rushed by the Mariner.

  • The Wedding-Guest declares that he fears the
    Mariner, with his glittering eye and his skinny
    hand. The Mariner reassures the Wedding-Guest
    that there is no need for dread he was not among
    the men who died, and he is a living man, not a
    ghost. Alone on the ship, surrounded by two
    hundred corpses, the Mariner was surrounded by
    the slimy sea and the slimy creatures that
    crawled across its surface. He tried to pray but
    was deterred by a "wicked whisper" that made his
    heart "as dry as dust." He closed his eyes,
    unable to bear the sight of the dead men, each of
    who glared at him with the malice of their final
    curse. For seven days and seven nights the
    Mariner endured the sight, and yet he was unable
    to die. At last the moon rose, casting the great
    shadow of the ship across the waters where the
    ship's shadow touched the waters, they burned
    red. The great water snakes moved through the
    silvery moonlight, glittering blue, green, and
    black, the snakes coiled and swam and became
    beautiful in the Mariner's eyes. He blessed the
    beautiful creatures in his heart at that moment,
    he found himself able to pray, and the corpse of
    the Albatross fell from his neck, sinking "like
    lead into the sea." The Mariner continues telling
    his story to the Wedding-Guest. Free of the curse
    of the Albatross, the Mariner was able to sleep,
    and as he did so, the rains came, drenching him.
    The moon broke through the clouds, and a host of
    spirits entered the dead men's bodies, which
    began to move about and perform their old
    sailors' tasks. The ship was propelled forward as
    the Mariner joined in the work. The Wedding-Guest
    declares again that he is afraid of the Mariner,
    but the Mariner tells him that the men's bodies
    were inhabited by blessed spirits, not cursed
    souls. At dawn, the bodies clustered around the
    mast, and sweet sounds rose up from their
    mouths--the sounds of the spirits leaving their
    bodies. The spirits flew around the ship,
    singing. The ship continued to surge forward
    until noon, driven by the spirit from the land of
    mist and snow, nine fathoms deep in the sea. At
    noon, however, the ship stopped, then began to
    move backward and forward as if it were trapped
    in a tug of war. Finally, it broke free, and the
    Mariner fell to the deck with the jolt of sudden
    acceleration. He heard two disembodied voices in
    the air one asked if he was the man who had
    killed the Albatross, and the other declared
    softly that he had done penance for his crime and
    would do more penance before all was rectified.

  • In dialogue, the two voices discussed the
    situation. The moon overpowered the sea, they
    said, and enabled the ship to move an angelic
    power moved the ship northward at an
    astonishingly rapid pace. When the Mariner awoke
    from his trance, he saw the dead men standing
    together, looking at him. But a breeze rose up
    and propelled the ship back to its native
    country, back to the Mariner's home he
    recognized the kirk, the hill, and the
    lighthouse. As they neared the bay,
    seraphs--figures made of pure light--stepped out
    of the corpses of the sailors, which fell to the
    deck. Each seraph waved at the Mariner, who was
    powerfully moved. Soon, he heard the sound of
    oars the Pilot, the Pilot's son, and the holy
    Hermit were rowing out toward him. The Mariner
    hoped that the Hermit could shrive (absolve) him
    of his sin, washing the blood of the Albatross
    off his soul.
  • In dialogue, the two voices discussed the
    situation. The moon overpowered the sea, they
    said, and enabled the ship to move an angelic
    power moved the ship northward at an
    astonishingly rapid pace. When the Mariner awoke
    from his trance, he saw the dead men standing
    together, looking at him. But a breeze rose up
    and propelled the ship back to its native
    country, back to the Mariner's home he
    recognized the kirk, the hill, and the
    lighthouse. As they neared the bay,
    seraphs--figures made of pure light--stepped out
    of the corpses of the sailors, which fell to the
    deck. Each seraph waved at the Mariner, who was
    powerfully moved. Soon, he heard the sound of
    oars the Pilot, the Pilot's son, and the holy
    Hermit were rowing out toward him. The Mariner
    hoped that the Hermit could shrive (absolve) him
    of his sin, washing the blood of the Albatross
    off his soul.
  • The church doors burst open, and the
    wedding party streams outside. The Mariner
    declares to the Wedding-Guest that he who loves
    all God's creatures leads a happier, better life
    he then takes his leave. The Wedding-Guest walks
    away from the party, stunned, and awakes the next
    morning "a sadder and a wiser man."

  • "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is unique
    among Coleridge's important works-- unique in its
    intentionally archaic language, its length, its
    bizarre moral narrative, its strange scholarly
    notes printed in small type in the margins, its
    thematic ambiguity, and the long Latin epigraph
    that begins it, concerning the multitude of
    unclassifiable "invisible creatures" that inhabit
    the world. Its peculiarities make it quite
    atypical of its era it has little in common with
    other Romantic works. Rather, the scholarly
    notes, the epigraph, and the archaic language
    combine to produce the impression that the "Rime"
    is a ballad of ancient times, reprinted with
    explanatory notes for a new audience.

  • But the explanatory notes complicate, rather
    than clarify, the poem as a whole while there
    are times that they explain some unarticulated
    action, there are also times that they interpret
    the material of the poem in a way that seems at
    odds with, or irrelevant to, the poem itself.
    first segment of the poem takes the Mariner
    through the worst of his trials and shows, in
    action, the lesson that will be explicitly
    articulated in the second segment. The Mariner
    kills the Albatross in bad faith, subjecting
    himself to the hostility of the forces that
    govern the universe (the very un-Christian-seeming
    spirit beneath the sea and the horrible
    Life-in-Death). It is unclear how these forces
    are meant to relate to one another--whether the
    Life-in-Death is in league with the submerged
    spirit or whether their simultaneous appearance
    is simply a coincidence.
  • After earning his curse, the Mariner is
    able to gain access to the favour of God--able to
    regain his ability to pray--only by realizing
    that the monsters around him are beautiful in
    God's eyes and that he should love them as he
    should have loved the Albatross. This second
    segment of the "Rime" concludes the Mariner's
    narrative here he meets the host of seraph-like
    spirits who (rather grotesquely) rescue his ship
    by entering the corpses of the fallen sailors,
    and it is here that he earns his moral salvation
    through his confession to the Hermit and the
    subsequent confessions he must continue to make
    throughout his life--including this one, to the
    Wedding-Guest. This second segment lacks much of
    the bizarre imagistic intensity found in the
    first section, and the supernatural powers even
    begin to seem sympathetic (the submerged spirit
    from the land of mist and snow is now called "the
    lonesome spirit" in a side note). The more
    gruesome elements still surface occasionally.

The Nightingale
  • After twilight, the speaker, the speaker's
    friend, and the friend's sister sit and rest on
    an "old mossy bridge," beneath which a stream
    flows silently. Hearing a nightingale's song, the
    speaker remembers that the nightingale has been
    called a "melancholy bird" and thinks that such
    an assignation is ridiculous While a melancholy
    human being might feel that a natural object
    expresses his present mood, nature itself cannot
    be melancholy. The speaker regrets that so many
    poets have written about the "melancholy" song of
    the nightingale, when they would have been better
    off putting aside their pens and simply listening
    to this natural music. The speaker tells his
    companions that they are not like those "youths
    and maidens most poetical," for to them, nature's
    voices are full of love and joy. He says that he
    knows of a neglected grove near a huge castle,
    which is visited by more nightingales than he has
    ever heard in his life at night, they layer the
    air with harmony. He says that a "most gentle
    Maid" has been known to walk through the glade.
    Sometimes, the moon passes behind a cloud, and
    the nightingales grow quiet, but then it comes
    out again, and they burst forth into song.
  • The speaker bids "a short farewell" to his
    companions and to the nightingale but says that
    were the bird to sing again now, he would still
    stay to listen. Even his infant child, he says,
    loves the sound and is often soothed by the
    moonlight. The speaker hopes his son will learn
    to associate night time with joy. Then, he again
    bids farewell to his friends and the nightingale.

  • One of the several Conversation Poems
    written by Coleridge during the last part of the
    1790s is "The Nightingale. In it, Coleridge
    again visits the characteristically Wordsworthian
    themes of childhood and its relationship to
    nature. The success of "The Nightingale" depends
    on its evocation of a dramatic setting--in this
    case, the mossy bridge where the speaker and his
    friends (clearly modelled on Wordsworth and his
    sister Dorothy) rest and the grove where the
    nightingales sing. The poem utilizes a language
    of immediacy ("And hark! the Nightingale begins
    its song!") to create their scenes, and relies on
    a central metaphor--in this case, the nightingale
    and its song--to impart their ideas about nature.
    The poem's conclusion witnesses the speaker
    turning his discussion to his young son and
    expressing his desire to see the child grow up
    among the objects of nature, which will install
    an essential joy in him. In fact, "The
    Nightingale" celebrates the melodious, expressive
    song of the nightingale.
  • The most important thematic idea of this
    poem is that nature should not be described as an
    embodiment of human feelings--that is, the fact
    that a melancholy man seems to recognize his own
    feelings in the song of the nightingale does not
    mean that the nightingale's song is melancholy.
    "Philomela's pity-pleading strains" (a reference
    to the Greek myth that describes the nightingale
    as a transformed maiden) is not, for Coleridge,
    an accurate way to describe the nightingale's
    song instead, nature has its own "immortality,"
    and to project human feeling onto that
    immortality is to "profane" it.
  • Nature is essentially joyous and should
    inspire joy it must not be made to serve simply
    as a screen upon which all of human feelings are
    indiscriminately projected. It is this lesson
    that Coleridge hopes to install in his child
    those poets who describe the nightingale as
    melancholy have yet to learn it.

Kubla Khan
  • Plot
  • The speaker describes the "stately
    pleasure-dome" built in Xanadu according to the
    decree of Kubla Khan, in the place where Alph,
    the sacred river, ran "through caverns
    measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea."
    Walls and towers were raised around "twice five
    miles of fertile ground," filled with beautiful
    gardens and forests. A "deep romantic chasm"
    slanted down a green hill, occasionally spewing
    forth a violent and powerful burst of water, so
    great that it flung boulders up with it "like
    rebounding hail." The river ran five miles
    through the woods, finally sinking "in tumult to
    a lifeless ocean." Amid that tumult, in the place
    "as holy and enchanted / As e'er beneath a waning
    moon was haunted / By woman wailing to her
    demon-lover," Kubla heard "ancestral voices"
    bringing prophesies of war. The pleasure-dome's
    shadow floated on the waves, where the mingled
    sounds of the fountain and the caves could be
    heard. "It was a miracle of rare device," the
    speaker says, "A sunny pleasure-dome with caves
    of ice!"
  • The speaker says that he once saw a "damsel
    with a dulcimer," an Abyssinian maid who played
    her dulcimer and sang "of Mount Abora." He says
    that if he could revive "her symphony and song"
    within him, he would rebuild the pleasure-dome
    out of music, and all who heard him would cry
    "Beware!" of "His flashing eyes, his floating
    hair!" The hearers would circle him thrice and
    close their eyes with "holy dread," knowing that
    he had tasted honeydew, "and drunk the milk of

  • Along with "The Rime of the Ancient
    Mariner," "Kubla Khan" is one of Coleridge's most
    famous and enduring poems. The story of its
    composition is also one of the most famous in the
    history of English poetry. As the poet explains
    in the short preface to this poem, he had fallen
    asleep after taking "an anodyne" prescribed "in
    consequence of a slight disposition" (this is a
    euphemism for opium, to which Coleridge was known
    to be addicted). Before falling asleep, he had
    been reading a story in which Kubla Khan
    commanded the building of a new palace Coleridge
    claims that while he slept, he had a fantastic
    vision and composed simultaneously--while
    sleeping--some two or three hundred lines of
    poetry, "if that indeed can be called composition
    in which all the images rose up before him as
    things, with a parallel production of the
    correspondent expressions, without any sensation
    or conscious effort."
  • Waking after about three hours, the poet
    seized a pen and began writing furiously
    however, after copying down the first three
    stanzas of his dreamt poem--the first three
    stanzas of the current poem as we know it--he was
    interrupted by a "person on business from
    Porlock," who detained him for an hour. After
    this interruption, he was unable to recall the
    rest of the vision or the poetry he had composed
    in his opium dream. It is thought that the final
    stanza of the poem, thematasing the idea of the
    lost vision through the figure of the "damsel
    with a dulcimer" and the milk of Paradise, was
    written post-interruption. The mysterious person
    from Porlock is one of the most notorious and
    enigmatic figures in Coleridge's biography no
    one knows who he was or why he disturbed the poet
    or what he wanted or, indeed, whether any of
    Coleridge's story is actually true. But the
    person from Porlock has become a metaphor for the
    malicious interruptions the world throws in the
    way of inspiration and genius, and "Kubla Khan,"
    strange and ambiguous as it is, has become what
    is perhaps the definitive statement on the
    obstruction and thwarting of the visionary
  • Regrettably, the story of the poem's
    composition, while thematically rich in and of
    itself, often overshadows the poem proper, which
    is one of Coleridge's most haunting and
    beautiful. The first three stanzas are products
    of pure imagination The pleasure-dome of Kubla
    Khan is not a useful metaphor for anything in
    particular (though in the context of the poem's
    history, it becomes a metaphor for the unbuilt
    monument of imagination) however, it is a
    fantastically prodigious descriptive act.
  • The fourth stanza states the theme of the
    poem as a whole (though "Kubla Khan" is almost
    impossible to consider as a unified whole, as its
    parts are so sharply divided). The speaker says
    that he once had a vision of the damsel singing
    of Mount Abora this vision becomes a metaphor
    for Coleridge's vision of the 300-hundred-line
    masterpiece he never completed. The speaker
    insists that if he could only "revive" within him
    "her symphony and song," he would recreate the
    pleasure-dome out of music and words, and take on
    the persona of the magician or visionary.

Works of William Wordsworth
  • Tintern Abbey
  • -Plot
  • -Comment

  • The full title of this poem is "Lines
    Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on
    Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour.
    July 13, 1798." It opens with the speaker's
    declaration that five years have passed since he
    last visited this location, encountered its
    tranquil, rustic scenery, and heard the murmuring
    waters of the river. He recites the objects he
    sees again, and describes their effect upon him
    the "steep and lofty cliffs" impress upon him
    "thoughts of more deep seclusion" he leans
    against the dark sycamore tree and looks at the
    cottage-grounds and the orchard trees, whose
    fruit is still unripe. He sees the "wreaths of
    smoke" rising up from cottage chimneys between
    the trees, and imagines that they might rise from
    "vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods," or
    from the cave of a hermit in the deep forest.
  • The speaker then describes how his memory
    of these "beauteous forms" has worked upon him in
    his absence from them when he was alone, or in
    crowded towns and cities, they provided him with
    "sensations sweet, / Felt in the blood, and felt
    along the heart." The memory of the woods and
    cottages offered "tranquil restoration" to his
    mind, and even affected him when he was not aware
    of the memory, influencing his deeds of kindness
    and love. He further credits the memory of the
    scene with offering him access to that mental and
    spiritual state in which the burden of the world
    is lightened, in which he becomes a "living soul"
    with a view into "the life of things." The
    speaker then says that his belief that the memory
    of the woods has affected him so strongly may be
    "vain"--but if it is, he has still turned to the
    memory often in times of "fretful stir."
  • Even in the present moment, the memory of
    his past experiences in these surroundings floats
    over his present view of them, and he feels
    bittersweet joy in reviving them. He thinks
    happily, too, that his present experience will
    provide many happy memories for future years.

  • The speaker acknowledges that he is
    different now from how he was in those long-ago
    times, when, as a boy, he "bounded o'er the
    mountains" and through the streams. In those
    days, he says, nature made up his whole world
    waterfalls, mountains, and woods gave shape to
    his passions, his appetites, and his love. That
    time is now past, he says, but he does not mourn
    it, for though he cannot resume his old
    relationship with nature, he has been amply
    compensated by a new set of more mature gifts
    for instance, he can now "look on nature, not as
    in the hour / Of thoughtless youth but hearing
    oftentimes / The still, sad music of humanity."
    And he can now sense the presence of something
    far more subtle, powerful, and fundamental in the
    light of the setting suns, the ocean, the air
    itself, and even in the mind of man this energy
    seems to him "a motion and a spirit that impels /
    All thinking thoughts.... / And rolls through all
    things." For that reason, he says, he still loves
    nature, still loves mountains and pastures and
    woods, for they anchor his purest thoughts and
    guard the heart and soul of his "moral being."
  • The speaker says that even if he did not
    feel this way or understand these things, he
    would still be in good spirits on this day, for
    he is in the company of his "dear, dear (d)
    Sister," who is also his "dear, dear Friend," and
    in whose voice and manner he observes his former
    self, and beholds "what I was once." He offers a
    prayer to nature that he might continue to do so
    for a little while, knowing, as he says, that
    "Nature never did betray / The heart that loved
    her," but leads rather "from joy to joy."
    Nature's power over the mind that seeks her out
    is such that it renders that mind impervious to
    "evil tongues," "rash judgments," and "the sneers
    of selfish men," instilling instead a "cheerful
    faith" that the world is full of blessings. The
    speaker then encourages the moon to shine upon
    his sister, and the wind to blow against her, and
    he says to her that in later years, when she is
    sad or fearful, the memory of this experience
    will help to heal her. And if he himself is dead,
    she can remember the love with which he
    worshipped nature. In that case, too, she will
    remember what the woods meant to the speaker, the
    way in which, after so many years of absence,
    they became more dear to him--both for themselves
    and for the fact that she is in them.

  • The subject of "Tintern Abbey" is
    memory--specifically, childhood memories of
    communion with natural beauty. Both generally and
    specifically, this subject is hugely important in
    Wordsworth's work. "Tintern Abbey" is the young
    Wordsworth's first great statement of his
    principle theme that the memory of pure
    communion with nature in childhood works upon the
    mind even in adulthood, when access to that pure
    communion has been lost, and that the maturity of
    mind present in adulthood offers compensation for
    the loss of that communion--specifically, the
    ability to "look on nature" and hear "human
    music" that is, to see nature with an eye toward
    its relationship to human life. In his youth, the
    poet says, he was thoughtless in his unity with
    the woods and the river now, five years since
    his last viewing of the scene, he is no longer
    thoughtless, but acutely aware of everything the
    scene has to offer him. Additionally, the
    presence of his sister gives him a view of
    himself as he imagines himself to have been as a
    youth. Happily, he knows that this current
    experience will provide both of them with future
    memories, just as his past experience has
    provided him with the memories that flicker
    across his present sight as he travels in the
    woods. "Tintern Abbey" is a monologue,
    imaginatively spoken by a single speaker to
    himself, referencing the specific objects of its
    imaginary scene, and occasionally addressing
    others--once the spirit of nature, occasionally
    the speaker's sister. The language of the poem is
    striking for its simplicity the young poet is in
    no way concerned with ostentation. He is instead
    concerned with speaking from the heart in a
    plainspoken manner. The poem's imagery is largely
    confined to the natural world in which he moves,
    though there are some castings-out for metaphors
    ranging from the nautical (the memory is "the
    anchor" of the poet's "purest thought") to the
    architectural (the mind is a "mansion" of
    memory). The poem also has a subtle strain of
    religious sentiment though the actual form of
    the Abbey does not appear in the poem, the idea
    of the abbey--of a place consecrated to the
    spirit--suffuses the scene, as though the forest
    and the fields were themselves the speaker's
    abbey. This idea is reinforced by the speaker's
    description of the power he feels in the setting
    sun and in the mind of man, which consciously
    links the ideas of God, nature, and the human

I wandered lonely as a cloud
  • The speaker says that, wandering like a
    cloud floating above hills and valleys, he
    encountered a field of daffodils beside a lake.
    The dancing, fluttering flowers stretched
    endlessly along the shore, and though the waves
    of the lake danced beside the flowers, the
    daffodils outdid the water in glee. The speaker
    says that a poet could not help but be happy in
    such a joyful company of flowers. He says that he
    stared and stared, but did not realize what
    wealth the scene would bring him. For now,
    whenever he feels "vacant" or "pensive," the
    memory flashes upon "that inward eye / That is
    the bliss of solitude," and his heart fills with
    pleasure, "and dances with the daffodils."

  • Comment
  • This simple poem, one of the loveliest and
    most famous in the Wordsworth canon, revisits the
    familiar subjects of nature and memory, this time
    with a particularly (simple) spare, musical
    eloquence. The plot is extremely simple,
    depicting the poet's wandering and his discovery
    of a field of daffodils by a lake, the memory of
    which pleases him and comforts him when he is
    lonely, bored, or restless. The characterization
    of the sudden occurrence of a memory--the
    daffodils "flash upon the inward eye / Which is
    the bliss of solitude"--is psychologically acute,
    but the poem's main brilliance lies in the
    reverse personification of its early stanzas. The
    speaker is metaphorically compared to a natural
    object, a cloud--"I wandered lonely as a cloud /
    That floats on high...", and the daffodils are
    continually personified as human beings, dancing
    and "tossing their heads" in "a crowd, a host."
    This technique implies an inherent unity between
    man and nature, making it one of Wordsworth's
    most basic and effective methods for instilling
    in the reader the feeling the poet so often
    describes himself as experiencing.
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